Last May, I went on my very first cruise with Sean and his parents.
I was extremely excited, but I was a bit nervous because the three of theme were cruise veterans, while I was a newbie.
I’m hoping to alleviate some of your apprehensions with my list of things I knew before going on my first cruise.
Be Open Minded, Because Your Expectations Will Probably Be Wrong
When I found out I was going on a cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean, I had a ton of expectations. But it turns out a lot of them were wrong.
I was really excited to visit Athens, but my hopes were so high that I was a bit bummed when we actually got there. It was the off-season, so I wasn’t expecting so many people. But it’s a hugely popular tourist destination, so why wouldn’t there be a ton of people around?
However, it wasn’t always a bad thing that my expectations were wrong.
I had absolutely nothing in mind for Dubrovnik, Croatia, and it turned out to be my absolute favorite city on the cruise.
So keep an open mind, because you never know what will end up surprising you.
Arrive the Day Before the Ship Departs
Sean and I ended up taking different flights out to Venice than his parents did, but all four of us were planning on arriving the day before the ship was to depart. It turns out this was for the best.
The flights Sean and I took went relatively smoothly, but his parents’ flights, well, didn’t.
Long story short, they got stuck in New York City overnight and therefore weren’t going to be able to spend the night in Venice with us.
Luckily we planned had that day as a cushion, because otherwise they would have missed the ship completely.
Always Research the Port Cities and Excursions
Research gives me really bad anxiety. Thankfully, Sean loves research.
It was absolutely crucial to research all of the port cities and excursion opportunities so we knew what the best options would be.
This includes going to the preview event they had the first night of the cruise where they gave a brief overview of each port city and excursion package.
I’m glad we went to the preview event, because despite doing diligent research, we still changed our minds about one of the excursions.
Do more research than you think you have to, because you just never know.
You Don’t Always Have to Do the Excursions
That being said, it’s okay to not do an excursion every time.
This doesn’t mean staying on the ship, mind you. It just means exploring the port city on your own.
When we were researching Dubrovnik, most of the reviews said to not bother with the excursions, and to just experience the city on your own.
This was an awesome recommendation, because we got to go at our own pace and see what we wanted to see.
It’s Not Always Going to Be Warm
Depending on the time of year and your destination, the weather may or may not be warm.
All of Sean’s previous cruising experience had been in the Caribbean, so he kept saying we would spend our days at sea hanging out by the pool in bathing suits.
Yes, I’m going to blame my packing mistakes on Sean.
Our two days at sea were actually quite cold. One of them was cloudy and windy, while the other was sunny and windy.
I ended up wearing the one sweatshirt I packed both days, and we spent a lot of time inside.
It was fine that it wasn’t warm, but I wish I had packed warmer clothes so I could have enjoyed it a bit more.
Walk Around the Entire Boat Once You Get On Board. No, Really.
This was the number one tip Sean’s dad gave us. Due to their travel mishaps, we got on the ship a few hours before them, so we took that opportunity to explore the entire ship.
At least, we thought it was the entire ship.
There was one lounge we didn’t find until the very last night, and man, were we bummed.
It was right at the front of the ship, and had giant windows looking out over the Mediterranean.
It would have been the perfect place to be on the cloudy day at sea, had we only known it existed.
However, our exploration still paid off, because we knew the perfect place to be on the sunny-yet-windy day at sea. There was one sun deck on a remote part of the ship that blocked the wind. It was probably the only warm outdoor part of the ship that day.
So explore the ship, and when you think you’ve seen it all, keep looking.
Wi-Fi Won’t Always Be Available, and That’s Okay
I was expecting I wouldn’t have much Wi-Fi, but I wasn’t aware of how little access I would actually have.
You had to pay for Wi-Fi access, and it was quite pricey.
We didn’t end up using it until our very last night, and even then, we only used it to check into our flight.
And you know what? I survived.
The Customer Service Desk Will Always Be Busy
There will most likely be at least one reason you’ll have to visit the Customer Service Desk.
I always get turned off by long lines, figuring I can just come back later and the line will be shorter.
You’re going to have to wait in line. Accept it and wait your turn.
You Won’t Spend Much Time in Your Room, So You Don’t Need a Window or Balcony
This one was hard for me to accept.
I seriously considered paying an extra $1,000 for Sean and I to upgrade to a room with a balcony rather than an inside room with no windows, let alone a balcony.
But with the exception of the cloudy day at sea, basically the only time we spent in our room was when we were sleeping.
You’re paying a lot of money to be on the ship, so use the ship.
Eat lots of food, go to the trivia nights, and have fun! Don’t waste your time in your room.
Mind you, there are plenty of times when the balcony is worth it. When we were pulling out of port, for example, we were able to use Sean’s parents’ balcony, so we didn’t have to stand up on the busy decks to see Venice as we floated away.
And if you’re going to a destination like Hawaii, where there are active volcanoes with stunning night-time views, get a balcony.
But if not, or if you’re strapped for cash, don’t worry about it! You’ll still have an amazing time without the view.
This is the Best Time to Treat Yo’ Self
Cruising is a big investment already. But if you have the ability, take this opportunity to treat yo’ self.
Sean’s mom and I used one of our days at sea to visit the on-board spa, and it was wonderful.
We didn’t do anything too outrageous, but getting a little bit of pampering was well worth the extra cost.
You’re on vacation, after all. Just add a bit into your budget for extras. Your cruising self will thank you.
Have you been on a cruise before? What do you wish you knew beforehand?
Sarah Hensler Luetjen says
I love this! I am going on my very first cruise with my husband’s family (all are previous “cruisers”) in June. I have been scouring YouTube and forums for tips like these and I was coming up empty handed! Thank you!!
I’m so glad you found this helpful! Let me know if you have any questions before you go 🙂