15+ Cruise Tips for First-Time Cruisers

15+ Useful Cruise Tips for First Time Cruisers

It seems like just yesterday that my family and I were first-time cruisers. I was personally skeptical about taking a cruise in the beginning. I’ve never really understood the logic in taking a cruise (which takes days) when I can just fly where I want to go. 

Well, after this first-time cruise, I must say that I am a true believer!! I’m gonna share with you everything you need to know as first-time cruisers.

With so many options, we ended up taking the Paradise with Carnival Cruise Line. It was a short cruise and the stops were the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico. 

Cruise Tips for First-Time Cruisers: Things to Do Prior to Boarding a Cruise

To be honest, there are so many things you want to do when you’re preparing to take a cruise.

  • After your initial deposit, you will have a deadline to purchase your tickets. I recommend you wait until the last to pay the balance in full. The reason for this is that you can possibly get a lower fare. Keep an eye out for this!
  • I would definitely recommend you start by checking out the cruise line’s website for details about what to expect.
  • Be sure to use the Ultimate Cruise Checklist so that you prepare accordingly and make the most of your cruise.
  • You are given the option to check-in months before embarkation day. So, do just that . . . check-in and print out your luggage tags.
  • If you are traveling in a group, I highly recommend that you and everyone in your party download the App prior to boarding the ship. The group text package is $5/day. It’s not required however it makes it so much easier when trying to keep up with everyone.
  • Research and find affordable parking if you will be driving to the port. There are a ton of park-n-ride lots and parking options right at the port. We were able to find a lot 2 mins away and ended up costing us only $7/day.

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Cruise Tips & Tricks Every First-Time Cruiser Should Know

  • Sign and sail card. This is basically what you will use for everything. Make sure you keep it close and don’t lose it! Even when you leave the ship and dock at each port.
  • Lanyards (preferably w/ a cardholder). Depending on what you want and how much you want to spend, you bring one from home. They can also be purchased once you board or you can grab a free one from the casino. If you decide to grab one at the casino just know they’re plastic and not as durable as the ones that you purchase. I recommend bringing them with you.
  • Need help? If you have any issues and/or concerns, go to guest services.
  • Take a tour. of the ship when you get there. It’s big and there might be things or areas you will want to explore during the cruise.
  • Drinks. Bring canned drinks and bottles of wine.
  • Food. There are a ton of different food options on the ship however there are some. options that come with an additional fee. Also, if you have a picker eater, I highly recommend bringing snacks for them.

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  • Keeping Up w/ the Time. Be sure to use the ships‘ time when you’re at the destinations – not local time. You will also want to make sure that you keep your phone on airplane mode from the time you leave the States until you arrive back into the States.
  • Can you feel the ship moving? Of course, this will vary and it was a big concern of mine. It was absolutely ok!! Of course, you feel the ship moving a little here and there. Some days/nights worst than others but it wasn’t to the point where any of us got sick. Have Duromine just in case you need it. There’s a medical clinic on board that you can go to if needed.
  • Booze! . . . Sneaking booze in! So, this is something a lot of people do because most people feel they don’t want to have to pay for every alcoholic drink – cause it can add up. There’s an option you can pay $50+ for a package but it MUST be applied to all the adults in that room. So, even if only one person wants to drink, the other person has to pay too! It sounds crazy but they want to prevent guests from getting over.🤣

  • Consider using an over the door storage hanger. The ship is made out of metal so it makes it convenient if you have things that can be hung with magnets. It saves space if you opt to hang things up. I didn’t use anything but others do.
  • Discounted services. Look into what services you may want. Check with the cruise line prior to departing because they usually offer most services at a discounted rate if you pay before embarkation.

Side note: If you still end up needing something, check with the store onboard. Just keep in mind, it’s expensive and the store onboard is only open when the ship is at sea.

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15+ Cruise Tips for First-Time Cruisers

Cruise Tips for First-Time Cruisers


Be sure to consider all expenses when cruising. For me, it seemed like EVERYTHING was an additional charge.

Side note: Make sure you keep the beach towels in the room or bring them back to your room after you use them – otherwise you’ll be charged.

Traveling w/ Kids

Kiddie Camps for all ages. On the Paradise, it’s called Camp Ocean for the kids under 10. The camp is free until 10P. You’re then charged about $8-$10/hr between 10P and 1A (when they close).

They will have snacks and drinks for them. They normally let them take their shoes off so be sure to send them with socks and shoes.

At first, I wasn’t ok with leaving my child at the kiddie camp but on the 2nd night, my aunt told me she was dropping my niece off for a few hours. I took my little one as well and I’m so glad that I did because they ended up having a blast!

Just in case they need to contact you while your child is in their care, they give you a cell phone to keep with you (if your child is under 3 or 4).


Bring something nice to wear! There’s a captain’s dinner night and everyone dresses up for a formal dinner.


Gratuities are not required but if you’re gonna tip, it’s cheaper to pay the set $13.99/day per person fee. They gratuities go to the wait staff and the housekeepers.

Room Accommodations

I was looking for our room and bathroom to be tiny with no room to barely move. There were 3 of us (2 adults & one child). It was actually roomy and plenty of closet space. I have no complaints. We were on the 7th deck with an ocean view. I will definitely opt for a balcony next time because it would have been nice to relax outside our room instead of going to the deck every time you want to get fresh air.

Things to Do

Entertainment is available during the entire cruise. Use the App or the schedules they leave outside your door. There are nightclubs/bars, activities for adults and kids throughout the day & night. Note: The movie/TV selections weren’t good or always available so have your own. Some activities may cost additional fees – like build-a-bear for the little ones.

Discounts and Rewards

The cruise lines reward customers with loyalty. So you will want to sign up for the Reward program (known as VIP with Carnival).


Taking a cruise for the first time is really exciting! You definitely want to be sure that you prepare and know what to expect to make your experience that much more enjoyable.

I would love to hear from you . . . Leave a comment below and let me know which cruise you will be taking.

Happy travels! 

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