Whether you’re new to cruising or you’ve sailed many times, there’s always something you don’t know. We’ve put together a massive list of cruise tips and tricks to help make the most of your vacation.
Cruise Tip 1 – Bring Your Own Wine Onboard
Most cruise lines allow alcohol to be bought onboard in your carry-on baggage, not checked baggage.
Carnival allows one 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne per person age 21 or older to be brought on during embarkation.
Royal Caribbean allows two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom to be brought on during embarkation.
Cruise Tip 2 – Bring your cruise-approved power strip for extra outlets
Most cruise staterooms have two power outlets. With all our modern electronics and accessories competing for a charge, two outlets are never enough. Surge protectors are forbidden on most cruise ships, so a special power outlet without surge protection is needed.
Cruise Tip 3 – Some hotels near the port offer free or discounted cruise parking and shuttles
Hotels near cruise terminals are competing for your business and many offer competitive parking and hotel package rates for cruisers. Don’t be shy about calling area hotels and asking for a deal.
Cruise Tip 4 – The “All You Can Drink” alcohol packages aren’t a good deal
…you drink more than 9 or 10 alcoholic beverages per day, every day of your sailing. Do the math to compare the purchase price of drinks a la carte versus the package price. Remember gratuity will be added to the package price and the a la carte drinks purchased.
Cruise Tip 5 – Cheap rubber foam flip-flops are slippery around the wet pool decks
You’ll be safer with rubber-soled flip flops with grip or water shoes that will also be useful for excursions in port.
Cruise Tip 6 – Pack all your first-day essentials in a carry-on bag
You may not have access to your stateroom and checked luggage until late on the first day. If your embarkation port will have warm weather on day one, it’s a great idea to pack a swimsuit to take advantage of the pools, hot tubs and water slides. Day one is a great time to try out the great onboard features without huge crowds, but you’ll need your day one essential in your carry-on.
Cruise Tip 7 – Luggage tags for specific cruise lines should be used to mark luggage not being carried on
Ensure your checked luggage stays labelled while making its way through security checks, baggage handlers, and onto the ship. Losing luggage at the beginning of a trip can make for an awful experience. Utilizing a cruise line-specific luggage tag to protect your printed luggage tag will help the staff get your luggage to your room.
Cruise Tip 8 – Swimsuit cover-ups are required in indoor public areas
All major cruise lines need you to cover up swim attire when in public indoor areas like buffets and restaurants. For a man, a T-shirt and dry swim trunks are fine. For women, a bathing suit coverup is appropriate. Find some great ones on Amazon!
Cruise Tip 9 – Don’t overtip
Automatic gratuities are applied to your onboard account for your room steward and dining staff. A gratuity is also added to every beverage and spa purchase you make onboard. Carnival and Royal Caribbean print “additional gratuity” lines on purchase receipts and will pass out envelopes for extra gratuity at the end of your cruise. Tipping extra for great service is a great idea, but not compulsory.
Cruise Tip 10 – Wrinkle release spray is a lifesaver
On your first day onboard, you’ll unpack your suitcase to find all your nice clothes wrinkled. It’s always been handy to have Downy Wrinkle Release to help get the wrinkles out. Mist your clothing and wipe the wrinkles away with your hand or give it a few gentle tugs.
Cruise Tip 11 – Mention a special occasion and you may get free stuff
Celebrating a birthday or anniversary or other special occasion while onboard? Be sure to let your waitstaff and room attendant know. Sometimes you’ll get great freebies like chocolate-covered strawberries or a bottle of champagne. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
Cruise Tip 12 – Allow people to exit the elevator before you enter it
It’s common courtesy to allow people to exit the elevator before anyone enters.
Cruise Tip 13 – Dry bags are a good idea if you plan to spend time by the pool or at the beach
Keep your phone, wallet, electronic car keys and other items safe from water damage by storing them in a waterproof “dry bag” when you’re by the pool, at the beach, or in port.
Cruise Tip 14 – Hooking up with the crew is off limits
Don’t think you’re going to get lucky with anyone on staff. They’ll lose their job and you may be ordered off at the next port. It’s not a good idea.
Cruise Tip 15 – Your itinerary isn’t set in stone
Sometimes your itinerary will be changed because of weather or other problems in one of your ports of call. Be flexible when this happens. The cruise line works hard to make your vacation great and keep everyone out of harm’s way.
Cruise Tip 16 – If flying, always arrive the day before your sailing
Flying delays cause a lot of would-be cruisers to miss their ship. Arrive at your embarkation port city the day before your sailing to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
Cruise Tip 17 – If you get seasick, book a cabin in the back of the ship on a lower-level deck
If you’re prone to seasickness, the best part of the ship is the lower levels toward the back of the ship. It’s also a good idea to book a stateroom with a window so you can look out to the horizon.
Cruise Tip 18 – Sound travels within the cabins from loud “activities”
Loud noises from your stateroom may travel to neighbouring staterooms. Keep this in mind if you engage in loud “activities.”
Cruise Tip 19 – The gold and silver sold by the inch may be plated, not solid
You might be able to snag a deal on a great watch or name-brand piece of jewellery, but the gold and silver sold by the inch might be plated, not solid. Don’t be misled.
Cruise Tip 20 – There’s free champagne at the art auctions
If you’re looking for an opportunity to drink for free, attend an art auction. They serve champagne to attendees free of charge and you can see some great pieces of art. Bidding is optional.
Cruise Tip 21 – Make restaurant reservations online before sailing
All the major cruise lines have websites that allow you to book restaurant reservations online before your sailing. Prime times at the best restaurants fill up quickly, so book in advance of your cruise.
Cruise Tip 22 – Take part in onboard game shows to get free stuff
Do you want a Royal Caribbean keychain or a Carnival pen? Participate in the onboard game shows to get free loot. Sometimes the freebies are alcohol or gift baskets of cruise gear.
Cruise Tip 23 – Breakfast and lunch are available in the main dining room, too
Don’t think you’re limited to the buffet except at dinner. The main dining room on most ships is open for breakfast and lunch. Other dining options may be available throughout the ship – check your daily planner onboard for restaurant hours.
Cruise Tip 24 – Cameras are constantly watching you
Every inch of public space is under surveillance on modern cruise ships. Security staff is monitoring for drunkenness, misbehaviour, and casino cheats.
Cruise Tip 25 – Check your onboard bill from your stateroom TV
Guest Services is a busy place on the cruise ship. Avoid having to visit them by monitoring your onboard account from your stateroom TV. You can see all your onboard purchases from the comfort of your bed.
Cruise Tip 26 – Marijuana isn’t allowed onboard, regardless of state laws
Even sailings from Washington or California aren’t exempt. Cruise lines follow federal law about marijuana usage onboard. Don’t bring it or you could find yourself in trouble.
Cruise Tip 27 – Guest Services may have free motion sickness pills
Before paying hefty onboard prices for motion sickness pills, check with Guest Services to see if they have free ones available.
Cruise Tip 28 – The onboard shops have sales and promotions later in the sailing
The deals get better as the cruise sails on. The first couple of days onboard should be used for scoping out potential purchases, but hold off until the sales happen later in the sailing.
Cruise Tip 29 – American dollars are accepted in cruise ports throughout the Caribbean
Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Mexico, Honduras, Belize and other popular ports accept American dollars. Don’t bother with currency exchange. Ask vendors in advance of a purchase if they can give change in US dollars.
Cruise Tip 30 – Shops at the cruise pier are expensive
The most expensive souvenirs in town can be found at the cruise ship pier. Walk a few blocks into town when in port and you’ll score much better deals. Don’t be shy about haggling, too.
Cruise Tip 31 – Parking at official port parking lots is the most expensive
The most expensive parking for cruises is usually that offered by the port authority. Look for independent parking companies in the terminal area that offer cruise parking. Many hotels near cruise terminals offer parking packages in combination with your hotel stay.
Cruise Tip 32 – Larger ships have a morgue
With so many cruisers, inevitably, someone dies onboard. The morgue is located in areas in the far depths of mega-ships.
Cruise Tip 33 – Learn the Local Language
Cruise ship trips typically have 1 day drop off. So, we recommend learning the basics of local language
Cruise Tip 34 – Don’t show up to the port early on embarkation day
If you hate waiting in lines, don’t show up at the cruise ship terminal early on embarkation day. Arrive mid-day or a couple of hours before sailing for the quickest boarding time.
Cruise Tip 35 – Premium brand coffee isn’t free – opt for generic
Starbucks is a premium item. Opt for generic coffee to save some money. Royal Caribbean offers Seattle’s Best as their house brand. Carnival has JavaBlue Cafes on many ships offering premium Joe.
Cruise Tip 36 – The drink of the day isn’t a good deal
The drink of the day is usually served in a souvenir cup and not even discounted. There’s nothing special about the drink of the day.
Cruise Tip 37 – You can order more entrees for no charge
Cruise lines know you’re on vacation and want to splurge by trying different cuisines. Don’t be shy about ordering many entrees in the Main Dining Room or speciality restaurants.
Cruise Tip 38 – Turn your phone to aeroplane mode as soon as you board the ship
We hate hearing cell phone bill horror stories. Turn your phone to aeroplane mode as soon as you board the ship. This will avoid your phone from pinging the onboard cell tower, which comes with hefty pricing.
Cruise Tip 39 – It’s much cheaper to drink in port
A captive audience pays a premium. It’s always cheaper to drink in port at local establishments. Margaritaville, Carlos & Charlie’s, and Señor Frogs aren’t much cheaper than drinking onboard. Find a nice local dive bar for the cheapest drinks.
Cruise Tip 40 – Casino payouts are way worse than on land
Casinos at sea offer worse odds and lower payouts than casinos in Vegas. Don’t expect to hit the jackpot.
Cruise Tip 41 – Cruise port security is nothing like the airport
You can keep your shoes on and you’ll go through a much less stringent search than you’re accustomed to at the airport.
Cruise Tip 42 – Bring drink flavouring powder or drops onboard to avoid sodas and soda charges
Mio and Crystal Light are easy to add to tap water onboard to avoid racking up soda charges. Try something tropical! We recommend:
Cruise Tip 43 – Take everything out of the minibar to have an in-room fridge
Tell the room steward to empty your mini bar fridge and you’ll have an in-room refrigerator to keep beverages cool.
Cruise Tip 44 – Your ship could pick up refugees
Maritime laws must cruise ships to render aid to struggling vessels. Refugees fleeing Cuba for Florida are often picked up by various cruise ships in the area.
Cruise Tip 45 – Ask your room steward for an egg crate mattress topper
Your room steward can provide a mattress topper for the bed to make your slumber more comfortable.
Cruise Tip 46 – Don’t bring your hair dryer
Hair dryers are bulky and take up a lot of valuable space in your suitcase. Your stateroom will be stocked with a hair dryer, so this is one item you can leave at home.
Cruise Tip 47 – Cruise ships are great places for viruses to spread
Norovirus is a spreading virus on cruise ships. The warm humid weather provides the best environment for it to spread. Combine that with the thousands of people onboard touching handrails and door handles and it can turn into a major outbreak. Use hand sanitiser and wash your hands with soap and warm water and keep your hands away from your face.
Cruise Tip 48 – The ship is just as important as the price
Selecting the right cruise ship is just as important as finding a bargain. The newer, larger ships have more onboard activities than the older, smaller ships.
Cruise Tip 49 – You can win serious cash playing bingo
Bingo might seem pretty lame, but it’s not uncommon for someone to win upwards of one thousand dollars in a bingo game.
Cruise Tip 49 – Cheaper interior cabins mean you have more money for more cruises
Spending less money on each cruise means you’ve got more money for more cruises. Don’t be afraid to book a cheaper interior cabin to save money for more trips.
Cruise Tip 50 – Go to guest services early in the morning or late at night to avoid lines
If you need to speak with Guest Services, the best time is in the morning or late in the evening to avoid long lines. The last day of the cruise is usually the busiest, so if you notice a problem with your onboard spending account it’s best to bring it to their attention as soon as possible.
Cruise Tip 51 – Green apples are a natural seasickness remedy
It’s no coincidence that the buffet is always stocked with green apples. They’re a natural seasickness remedy.
Cruise Tip 52 – Credit cards are accepted, but call your bank first
Alert your bank to all the countries you’ll be using your credit card in to avoid a block being placed on your account.
Cruise Tip 53 – Towel clips are a must-have
Towel clips will keep your towel from flying away on the windy pool deck. Every experienced cruiser has them. They’re a must-have if you plan on spending time lounging by the pool.
Cruise Tip 54 – Wear walking shoes in port
Most ports of call involve a long walk from the ship to the beach or town. Be prepared by wearing walking shoes.
Cruise Tip 55 – Book early to save money
The early bird gets the worm. Well, the early bird gets the best price on cruise fare. Booking early offers the best prices.
Cruise Tip 56 – Pack a night light if you’re in an interior stateroom
Interior staterooms offer no light from the outside. They’re dark when the lights are off. Really dark. Bring a night light.
Cruise Tip 57 – Your balcony isn’t as private as you think
Don’t expect complete privacy on your balcony. Most ship balconies are divided by the frosted glass with large gaps, allowing neighbours to see what you’re up to.
Cruise Tip 58 – Get a free spa treatment
Attending info sessions and volunteering to be the guinea pig will get you a free spa treatment.
Cruise Tip 59 – Use the Free Coffee in the Room
Many cruise lines rooms will include free coffee and tea in your room. So dont waste money on coffee outsisde and get your free caffeine hit in your room.
Your wait staff aims to please. They take special requests. Sometimes they’ll even have an off-menu dish prepared for you if you ask.
Cruise Tip 61 – Cruise line transfers from the airport are a terrible deal
Opt for Uber or Lyft to save money.
Cruise Tip 62 – Take a photo of the ship’s daily planner to have it on your phone all day
The daily planner has information about activities around the ship throughout the day. Take a picture of it with your phone so you’ll have it with you all day.
Cruise Tip 63 – Do the newest onboard attractions on port days during the day for the shortest lines
The newest water slides, ropes courses, trampoline parks, laser tag, bumper cars, and other new onboard activities are usually the most popular. The lines are usually a lot shorter on port days when a lot of people disembark. Also, take advantage of the first day by packing swimsuits in your carry-on to get started with the fun popular attractions as soon as you board.
Cruise Tip 64 – Use walkie-talkies to keep in touch while onboard
Walkie-talkies are a great way to stay in touch with other people you’re cruising with.
Cruise Tip 65 – Always use your cabin safe
Keep your money, passport and valuables secure by using the cabin safe. It’s usually located inside the closet in your stateroom.
Cruise Tip 66 – Older ships are a lot cheaper to cruise on
If you’re looking for a bargain, the best deals can be had on older, smaller ships. Most older ships have been updated and upgraded with great features.
Cruise Tip 67 – Cruise while school is in session for a cheaper fare
When public school is out, prices are higher because demand from families is higher. If you can, cruise while school is in session and you’ll find lower fares.
Cruise Tip 68 – Even if you don’t show up at your assigned dinner time, they’ll accommodate you
The cruise staff aims to please. If you laid down for an afternoon nap and missed your early dinner seating, show up for a later seating and they’ll ensure you’re taken care of.
Cruise Tip 69 – The sun is more powerful closer to the equator – use sunblock, hats and cover-ups.
The sun is more powerful in the Caribbean. Sunblock is essential. Look for a high SPF rating and broad spectrum protection. Also, make sure your sunblock is waterproof/sweat-proof. Here’s a great one:
Cruise Tip 70 – Take the stairs if only going a few floors – it’s faster
The elevators are in high demand on a cruise ship with 3,000 or more passengers. If you’re only going up or down a few floors, opt for the stairs. It will save you time, as the crowded elevator stops on every floor.
Cruise Tip 71 – Make a copy of your passport instead of carrying the real thing
Take your actual passport with you, but leave it on the ship. Bring a copy of your passport with you into the ports of call. That will provide identification until you can get the real passport from the ship if you need it.
Cruise Tip 72 – Ask your room steward for extra towels, blankets, pillows, etc.
They want to make you happy. Let them know what will make your stay more comfortable.
Cruise Tip 73 – Pack a wad of $1 bills for tipping
There are plenty of people to tip on a cruise. From drivers in ports to shoreside waitstaff, you’ll need quite a few $1 bills to tip various people.
Cruise Tip 74 – Get a stamp on your passport when in port for a cheap souvenir
Ask the port authorities to stamp your passport for a cheap souvenir.
Cruise Tip 75 – Buy gift cards for your cruise to rack up rewards
Carnival gift cards can be purchased at many Kroger and other stores. Purchase them with a credit card and Kroger Plus card to score gas rewards and credit card points.
Cruise Tip 76 – Don’t buy cruise line trip insurance
Shop around for travel insurance. The cruise lines don’t offer the best rates.
Cruise Tip 77 – Cruises can cover your dietary restrictions
Let your waitstaff know of your unique dietary needs. They can accommodate gluten-free, kosher, and vegetarian diets if you let them know.
Cruise Tip 78 – Some cruise lines allow you to pay to skip the lines
Carnival offers Faster to the Fun passes that put you at the front of the line on embarkation day.
Cruise Tip 79 – Pack Ziploc bags – they have a million uses
Want to keep your phone dry by the pool or at the beach? Ziploc. Need snacks from the buffet to save for a snack later? Ziploc. Q-Tips? Ziplock. Keep jewellery together in your suitcase? Ziploc.
Cruise Tip 80 – Pack a jacket
It’s chilly at night on the ocean and in some public spaces onboard. Pack a light jacket so you’re prepared.