No matter how well prepared you were before your first cruise, there was a moment where everyone could tell that you had never sailed before. In fact, we would be shocked if there was a single cruiser out there who hadn’t outed themselves on their first sailing with at least one of these obvious tells:
1. Only ordering one dish at dinner.
The only place you'll see people ordering one plate is the line's stock photos. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line
“Well yes, the food is free, but surely ordering more than one item of the menu would be excessive and gluttonous”... Said no experienced cruiser ever. The only time you’ll get confused looks from your table mates is when you don’t order multiple entrees.
2. Trying to pay with cash.
"Cards only" is something you'll only hear on a cruise ship. - Photo by Brent Reeves
Pulling out a wad of bills at the bar is an instinctive reaction, but while cash is universally accepted on land, cruise ships operate on a card system. It’s nice not having to carry cash, but it does make it difficult to keep track of your spending, and you could be in for a rude awakening when you get your bill on the last day of your cruise.
3. Looking confused (or way too serious) at the muster drill.
Muster drills are really just about following these signs. - Photo by lejzo / Shutterstock
Once you’ve sat through a muster drill or two, you know it’s not that big of a deal. But to nervous first-time cruisers, especially those who’ve never been at sea before, it can feel like a matter of life-and-death.
4. Not knowing about gratuities.
You can tip if you want, but tips are already included in your fare. - Photo by Seabourn
If you see someone leaving a cash tip after dinner, odds are you’ll also see them in line at the Purser’s Desk on the final morning of the cruise asking why they were charged $12/day. Gratuities for the ship’s staff are charged automatically to your room, so there's no need to leave a tip unless the service was truly exceptional.
5. Being shocked at the size of the shower.
It's a tight squeeze.
A classic cruise ship comedian joke is “the shower is so small, I soaped up the walls and rotated”. Laughing too hard at this joke can be just as much of an indication you're new to cruising, but that doesn't make it inaccurate. Unless you’re from a city like New York or San Francisco where the bathrooms are so tiny you’re used to using the toilet with one foot in the bathtub, the first time you see a cruise ship shower can come as something of a surprise.
6. Forgetting (or not knowing) to put phones on airplane mode.
Don't use your phone like you would at home unless you have a travel plan. - Photo by RossHelen / Shutterstock
You may not be able to tell this one on sight, but you may hear their screams across state lines once they get their next phone bill. Make sure your phone is on airplane mode (or off), or you’ll get slapped with astronomical roaming charges.
7. Being unsure how port stops work.
Get off the ship, do an excursion, wander around, get back on the ship. - Photo by Romolo Tavani
Strange as it may sound, it’s not uncommon to overhear people asking if they can still get off the ship even if they didn’t buy an excursion. Another point of confusion comes from tender boats, the shuttles that ferry passengers to and from shore on port stops where there isn’t a dock. Look no further than the comments on this picture of a tender boat to see how some people think that they’ll have to go ashore in a paddleboat.