Fully Prepare for Your Cruise in 15 Steps
You've booked your cruise, made the last payment, and now you're good to go, right? Not quite. There are plenty of things you can — and should — do in advance to assure smooth sailing on your cruise vacation:
30 Days Prior
1. Get to know your ship.
Read reviews, peruse passenger chat boards, see what people are saying on social media sites, and look at the deck plans on our site. Find all of this and more on our ship pages, or our app, Ship Mate .
2. Sign up for a roll call.
Roll calls are forums for passengers on the same sailing. It's a great opportunity to ask questions about the ship or to meet other cruisers with shared interests. Want to organize a group scuba diving excursion or ziplining tour? Just sign up, make a post, and start recruiting your fellow sailors!
3. Make any special requests.
If you have an allergy, a particular diet, or another special need, make sure the cruise line has that information. We recently read of someone who called room service on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship and requested 20 bananas for a special diet. This is the type of thing the lines like to prepare for in advance.
4. Check your paperwork.
Review all of your cruise documents to make sure your name is spelled correctly and that it exactly matches what's on your ID; if it's wrong, alert your travel agent or the cruise line immediately. Check that your birth date is correct, too. Now is also a good time to locate your passport and make sure it's not expired. If it is, here are your options.
5. Decide what you want to see in port and on the ship.
If you aren't doing organized shore excursions, start researching ideas of what to do in ports — including looking at transportation options. Wandering around aimlessly is not recommended. If you have your heart set on a meal at a "hot" island restaurant, book it now.
Be sure to prep for your time on board too since plenty of shows, activities and restaurants require advanced reservations. If you wait until you're already on the ship, you might be out of luck.
6. Plan a budget.
Don't forget to allow for souvenirs and gratuities for the crew (the suggested amount is listed on your cruise line's website). Also, determine how much cash you'll want to have on hand. Here's a breakdown of how much you can expect to spend on your cruise.
7. Get out your luggage.
When's the last time you used your suitcase? If it’s been a while, pull it out of the attic or cellar and check the condition. If you see tears, it's time for a new one. Keep in mind that a soft-sided is easiest to tuck away under cruise ship beds.
8. Peruse your wardrobe.
Check out our roundup of cruise lines dress codes so you won't look out of place on formal night. Cruises essentials boil down to beach attire, semi-casual dinner wear, and sneakers for on board activities or more demanding excursions.
9. Make a list of your medications.
Ensure your prescriptions are updated and that you’ll have a sufficient supply to pack for the duration of your trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind when bringing prescription meds on a cruise.
7 Days Prior
10. Complete and print any important paperwork.
First, make sure you have a good supply of printer ink — you’ll need it so you can print out any required boarding documents or other information about your cruise. While you're at it, complete any required paperwork online or in the packet from your travel agent.
11. Start gathering key items.
Choose a place in your house —a box, bed, dresser-top or corner — as a collection site for cruise items, such as your camera and extra batteries. When you have an idea of, "Oh, I need to take that…" you'll know exactly where to put it.
12. Contact your banks and credit card companies.
If you’re planning to use your credit card, contanct your company and bank to advise the staff of the countries you’ll be visiting. You don't want your card flagged as a security risk because you’re in Florida one day and Nassau the next.
13. Track the weather.
Check the forecast for your day of departure, embarkation destination, and ports on weather.com, so you can pack accordingly.
14. Review your packing checklist.
15. Finalize plans for getting to the airport.
Call a car service if necessary, and recheck flight times.
Join the discussion
What do you do to prep for your cruise?