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cruise advice for first timers

Going On Your First Cruise? Here Are 8 Tips You’ll Need

Cruises give families opportunities to explore new places and experience new things in an all-inclusive way, but vacations at sea are unique. Oftentimes, cruise goers forget they’re not on dry land, until they feel some movement or realize they’re surrounded by water. It will definitely hit you when the Wi-Fi package you purchased runs out or you miss out on a fun excursion you wish you would have booked in advance! You can’t necessarily wing it the way you can on some other vacations, so follow cruise advice for first timers to ensure smooth sailing!

cruise advice for first timers
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
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1. Pack light

I’m a big fan of traveling carry-on only. If you’re worried about needing to rewear outfits, cruise lines make this easy by providing self-service laundry facilities that include detergent for purchase and often ironing equipment as well. You can always pay for full-service laundry and dry cleaning, if you’d rather not do laundry while you’re on vacation. Whichever way you go, you’ll be glad to have fewer belongings to lug around while traveling (and more room in your suitcase for souvenirs). That’s why I always include this tip in my cruise advice for first timers!

2. Aim high

Always book a stateroom on as high of a floor as you can. It definitely matters! Not only are the views better, but you’ll feel less of the ocean’s motion the higher your floor, which is important if you’re prone to motion sickness.


Alcohol is not always included in the price of your cruise, so one piece of cruise advice for first timers is to bring your own! Each cruise line is different, so check the policies on booze beforehand. On Disney Cruise Line, for example, each guest age 21 and up can bring two unopened bottles of wine or champagne, or six beers at the beginning of the voyage and also at each port of call. Keep in mind, they must be packed in your carry-on luggage.

4. Keep Wi-Fi turned off on your devices

You probably already know to make sure your cellular and roaming are off when at sea, but if you purchase a Wi-Fi package from your cruise line, be aware that it gets used up quickly. So take it from me: an important piece of cruise advice for first timers is to buy the largest possible package of Wi-Fi, and always keep Wi-Fi on all devices turned off until you’re ready to post a photo or check a quick email.

5. Don’t wait to book shore excursions

As soon as your cruise reservations are paid in full and you’ve entered into your advance booking window, you can book various port adventures. If you want to get off the boat at port and explore (who doesn’t?), these adventures will ensure your vacation is full of memorable moments! Zip lining, anyone? Horseback riding on the beach? These opportunities cost extra, and have to be reserved separately. If you wait, you might miss out. That’s why when I share cruise advice for first timers, I encourage people to book as early as possible.

6. Bring an analog watch

If you enter into a different time zone, your phone may not always update automatically. This matters especially if you’ve made special, time-sensitive reservations. So one piece of cruise advice for first timers is to bring an analog watch. It will help you track what time it is in your original time zone, and reduce confusion.

7. Bring a water bottle for each member of the family

It’s more convenient to fill up a large water bottle and carry it with you throughout the day than to keep running back to the fountains to refill a small cup. If you’re sailing in Mexico and the Caribbean, it can get very hot on the deck of a cruise ship. One very important piece of cruise advice for first timers is to remember to stay hydrated so you don’t end up in the clinic!

8. There’s an app for that!

Most cruise lines have apps so you never miss a thing! These apps let you know everything that’s going on any given day, and often allow you to favorite the things you plan on doing. Sometimes you can even message other cruise guests through the apps, which is awesome for communicating with your party if you split up.

And that’s my cruise advice for first timers!

With a little bit of advanced planning, your cruise vacation can be carefree! Beforehand, book a room on a high floor and as soon as possible, reserve your port excursions. Pack only the basics, which include a watch, whatever alcohol the ship will allow, and a water bottle for each family member. Turn off your Wi-Fi and download the app for your respective cruise line to get your money’s worth!

Did I forget anything? What piece of cruise advice for first timers would you share?


About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel content creator at Top Flight Family, named a top 10 family travel Instagram account by Time Out New York and Brit + Co. Her insights on travel have been featured in The Washington Post, INSIDER, Huffington Post, Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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About to go on your first-ever cruise? Here's my best cruise advice for first timers so you can make the most of your cruise vacation!

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