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8 Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Cruise

Overlooking These Basics Could Ruin Your Cruise

Congratulations! You’ve finally decided to take the proverbial plunge and go on that cruise you’ve always wanted to take. Still, being on vacation doesn’t mean being unprepared.

If you are a first-time cruiser, it always pays to know the dos and don’ts so you don’t fall prey to some common mistakes. Here are eight things to avoid to make sure you stay ship shape from the moment you embark to the second your feet are back on dry land.

1. Don’t Arrive Too Late

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Ever miss a flight because your connecting flight was late? Think of the damper on your holiday if a delayed flight makes you miss your cruise altogether. What if the airline loses your luggage? You’ll want some buffer time for them to find it before you have to embark. To avoid this hassle and stress, don’t get to your port of embarkation on the same day your cruise starts. Instead, arrive a day early and enjoy the down time.

2. Don’t Ignore Visa and Passport Requirements

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As with any overseas travel, make sure you have the right credentials with you on your trip. Yes, you may not need a passport for a domestic voyage. And most cruises beginning and ending in the same U.S. port are considered “closed loop” cruises, meaning you’ll be able to use alternate forms of ID to visit foreign ports of call. In many popular cruise destinations, in fact, cruise lines provide “blanket visas” for guests to visit ports. But requirements vary from place to place, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Otherwise, the cruise line may not have a choice but to keep you from boarding or to restrict you from visiting a specific port.

3. Don’t Neglect Your Port Days

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One of the benefits to cruising is visiting several ports of call in one trip, and some of the best parts of your cruise may be when you’re not on the ship itself. Remember, however, that the ship only stays docked at each port so long, and organized ship excursions often sell out well in advance. Always review your cruise’s port tour options beforehand and book early so you’re not left in the lurch. If you’re opting for unescorted adventures, make sure you plan for time so that you’re not stuck at busy, tourist-trap attractions too long and run the risk of missing the boat. In addition, take note of any cruise resources that can help you get around, from free maps to a shuttle from the ship to any tourist areas.

4. Don’t Forget to Bring Cash

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Although some ships have a small bureau de change onboard, it’s always handy to have some local currency on hand, if you’re traveling internationally. You have limited time at each port, so there’s no sense wasting it looking for a bureau de change or an ATM. Cash also helps for tipping purposes, as you’ll encounter several service staff who’ll assist you in each port city. Having said that, it is inevitable that you will use a credit card for some of the expenses. So before you go, check if your credit card issuer charges you for using your card when you’re on foreign soil. Some do and some don’t. AAA Visa card, for example, has no foreign-transaction fees. 

5. Don’t Ignore the Weather

ftc planning weather

Check. The. Weather. It’s great advice regardless of what kind of vacation you take, but especially so on a cruise. You’d be surprised how many people pack for a completely different part of the world without actually doing research. Take a look how warm or cold (or wet or dry) it will be where you’re going, and you’ll save quite a bit of regret. Perhaps even more important, keep in mind that off-peak seasons are usually off-peak for climate reasons. Caribbean cruises are cheaper during hurricane season for obvious reasons, for example, while Alaskan excursions are cheaper during times that can be colder or wetter.

6. Don’t Book the Wrong Cabin

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Some people think that all cruise cabins are equal. It’s a nice thought, but it’s far from the truth. Economically priced cabins can be had in the middle of the ship, but won’t offer you an ocean view — or, in some cases, any view at all. If you want to enjoy sea views during your stay onboard, make sure your cabin (a) has a window in the first place, and (b) that window looks out to the ocean and not into an interior area.

Your view may not be your only consideration, however. If motion sickness is an issue, stay as low and as central as possible. The higher and further from midship you are, the more you’ll feel the ship sway and roll with the waves. In addition, if you’re looking for peace and quiet during your cruise, stay away from the pool deck, any show areas, or the engine noise near the back of the ship.

7. Don’t Stay in Your Cabin for Too Long

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Cruises are hubs of activity, so unless you’re taking a cruise specifically for some peace and quiet, don’t make the mistake of sequestering yourself too long. There will be plenty of onboard activities, and they happen at every hour of the day. Don’t miss out! And don’t be afraid to try anything new, either. Cruise activities may sound cheesy, but you might find that watching or even participating in some of them might just make your onboard experience.

8. Don’t Wear Yourself Out on the First Day

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A cruise ship is pretty much a giant floating resort — in other words, huge. Even the smaller ones are still large. Although the excitement and temptation exist to want to see and do it all on the first day, avoid falling victim to the urge. The last thing you want to do is wear yourself out before your cruise really even gets started.

– Written by Arnie Aurellano 

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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