9 Boneheaded Blunders Made by First-Time Cruisers

rookie mistakes first time new cruisers
These mistakes are easily avoided if you do your homework. - Photo by Shutterstock

If you’re new to cruising, don’t fall prey to these potential pitfalls. Here are the top nine mistakes cruise newbies make and how to avoid them for smooth sailing, from the minute you walk up the gangway for the first time to the moment you disembark:

1. Not Prebooking Special Shore Excursions

mendenhall glacier rookie cruise mistakes aerial

If you want an aerial view of the Mendenhall glacier, book a flightseeing tour early. - Photo by SIME / eStockPhoto

If you know you really want to do the ship’s flightseeing excursion over the Mendenhall Glacier or tour the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, sign up online before your cruise, or the tour may be sold out once you get onboard. Just remember: Some cruise lines will issue a refund if you change your mind, but others won’t — so read the fine print. 


2. Packing Oversized Suitcases

cruise packing overstuffed suitcase rookie mistake

Packing smart can save you a lot of room in your cabin. - Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLTD / Thinkstock

Standard suitcases and duffel bags can be stowed under the beds, but oversized suitcases are too thick to fit there, or in the slim closets. You’ll have no place to stow them except out in the open.


3. Not Bringing Body Lotion or Hair Conditioner

toiletries packing cruise rookie mistakes

Most lines will give you the bare essentials, which doesn't include lotion or conditioner. - Photo by PhotoEstelar / Thinkstock

Luxury lines stock all bathrooms with lots of decadent toiletries, but most major mainstream lines only provide a shampoo dispenser in the shower and a bar of soap in the bathroom. It’s up to you to pack any other products you’ll need.


4. Going for the Deal Without Considering the Weather

rough seas weather caribbean cruise

Cruising during hurricane season isn't dangerous, but you do run the risk of missed ports and rough seas. -  Photo by egd / Shutterstock

Cruises to the Caribbean are cheaper between September and early December … for a reason. It’s hurricane season, and there’s a greater chance of rain. In Alaska, fares are lower at the beginning and end of the season — May and September — but it can be snowy and muddy in May and rainy in September. Cruising Europe during the off-season might mean fewer tourists and lower prices, but be prepared for cool temps and rougher seas


5. Booking a Weekend Cruise for Peace and Quiet 

weekend cruise rookie mistake peace quiet

If you want to take a weekend cruise, be sure to the right line. - Photo by Rawpixel / Shutterstock

Short three- to four-night cruises to warm-weather destinations like the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean attract lots of 20-somethings looking for a party. That said, shorter cruises in Europe and Asia — or on the Disney ships — won’t have the same party vibe.


6. Flying in the Same Day a European Cruise Starts

venice fly in cruise same day

Leave yourself some time between arriving and embarking. - Photo by Sergey Novikov / Shutterstock

If your flight is delayed or your luggage is lost, you’ll be in a real bind if you book a night flight to Europe intending to start your cruise a few hours later. Fly in the day before to be on the safe side, and enjoy a day and night of sightseeing in the port of embarkation.


7. Expecting to Stay Dry in Alaska

alaska clouds rain cruise

The Alaskan wilderness can be unforgiving. - Photo by Svetlana Foote / Shutterstock

It rains a lot in Southeast Alaska, especially in Ketchikan, so bring an umbrella and raincoat and be prepared to do your excursions — whether hiking, kayaking, biking, or flightseeing — even in a downpour. The locals are used to the wet weather, and activities are rarely canceled. June is the driest month, but some rain is still likely.


8. Booking a Cruise During School Holidays

cruise school holidays rookie mistake

On school holidays, Disney isn't the only line with a high percentage of children. - Photo by Disney Cruise Line

If you don’t have kids of your own — or aren’t traveling with them — avoid summer and holiday cruises, when one-third of a ship’s passengers can be children. On the biggest ships, that means more than 1,000 kids filling the pools and hot tubs, packing playrooms, running in the hallways, and making mealtime a loud and chaotic experience.


9. Assuming Everything Is Included Onboard 

fitness class celebrity rookie mistake cruise

While gyms are generally free, guided classes will cost extra. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Even if you book your own tours and don’t plan to use the specialty restaurants, you can still expect to run a bill over the course of your cruise. For example: Except on the all-inclusive, high-end cruise lines, you’ll be charged for what you drink in your cabin, whether it’s in the mini-fridge or on your dresser. (Depending on the size, sodas and bottled water will run you about $2 to $4 each.) Some onboard activities also incur fees. Case in point: fitness classes. Years ago, they were free, but no more. Zumba dance, spinning, boot camp, and yoga will cost you an extra $10 to $15 per session. 



Join the discussion

What was the worst mistake you made as a first-time cruiser?

Posted by cruisernew

November what are the chances of a ship full of kids on the royal carribean this year November?

Posted by rohrbethany

I just got back from my cruise. Dates Mar 28- April 2. So many kids. Everyone said spring break. It was the best dates for us but NUTS. All the kiddos took over every area possible.

Posted by DebbieVi

Using a "Wheeled Duffle Bag" or "Too Many Carry-on Bags" if you are disembarking on your own. Took the huge wheeled bag thinking no room to store hard sided luggage - checked luggage embarking but had to lug off when disembarking and way too cumbersome to manage. Meanwhile on both Crown Princess and Ruby Princess, there is ample room for storing empty suitcases so stuffing under the bed is unnecessary.

Closets on Princess Cruises are more than adequate - just traveled in a group of 3 women and we had plenty of room even though we way overpacked!

Posted by SimonCommunity

Hi cruisernew... It depends on a lot of factors, including the specific sail date, itinerary, port of embarkation, etc. Unless it's a long (10+ night) exotic itinerary, chances are there will be plenty of kids onboard.

Posted by GeckoHiker

Great tips! I'm always happier when I pack only what I need, and pack everything I need. That's a hard fence to balance on. We are planning an Alaska cruise, and plan to take rain pants, rain jackets, small umbrellas, and wear waterproof hiking boots for our excursions. Carrying a small, collapsible, lightweight backpack is a good idea for carrying items with you on excursions. Since we are from Missouri where the weather changes every hour, it doesn't hurt to dress for 55 degree weather, but be prepared for either 75 or 35 degree weather.

Posted by sfbay

Oh! You mean on ships.

Posted by Snoozecruzer

Bring an inexpensive "water bottle" for water,juice,lemonade,iced tea etc.....but always use a cup to fill your bottle,not directly from the dispensers as "most" everyone does.Also although tips are prepaid,some well placed small bills ($1-$5) do wonders for your service.In addition,"high tech" nylon material,tee shirts,gym shorts and walking shorts,pack light and are easy to wash,dry and re-wear,cutting down on packing.Also "travel underwear" both mens and womes available at places like "ex -officio" allow light packing...just a few things that have really enhanced our many cruises...Bon Voyage...S

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