Club Traveler

Cruise Tips for First-Timers

Embarking on your first cruise is an exciting experience. But without preparation, it also might turn into a stressful one. Check out Club Traveler’s tips below to ensure your first cruise adventure is nothing but fun.

Prepare for the Boarding Process

You can’t start your maiden voyage if you can’t get on the ship! To board, you’ll need a variety of documents and materials, which could potentially include a boarding pass, passport, government-issued photo ID (like your driver’s license), birth certificate and a credit card to set up an onboard spending account. Exact documentation may differ based on the cruise line and even the destination, so contact your cruise carrier or check its website to know exactly what’s required.

Save Time With Online Check-In

As you check in, you’ll need to fill out paperwork—including items like cruise contracts, guest and health information forms, and emergency contact information. Online check-in, which is offered by many cruise lines, allows you to save time by completing these forms in advance instead of at the check-in counter.

Usually, online check-in also lets you set up an arrival appointment, meaning you can pick a specific time to board the ship and reduce your time in line.

Determine if a Departure Port Is Near You

With major cruise ports spread around the country, there’s a chance you won’t need to travel too far to get to one. Skip the long flights and the travel expenses by booking a cruise that departs from a port within driving distance of your home.

Live in the Northeast? You don’t need to fly to Miami—choose an itinerary that departs from New York City, Boston or Baltimore. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, skip the drive to Los Angeles and embark at ports in Seattle or San Francisco.

Stay in the Middle of the Ship to Avoid Seasickness

If you’re heading out on your first cruise, you may not have your sea legs yet. Book a cabin near the middle of the ship where the effects of the ship’s movement can be felt the least. Check out eClubTraveler for more Steady Cruising Tips.

Plan Shore Excursions in Advance

Make the most of your shore excursions by planning activities ahead of time. Most cruise lines offer a wide range of official excursions, from sightseeing tours and relaxing beach days to ziplining, snorkeling and other active adventures. If you don’t want to partake in an official excursion through your cruise line, plan your own port city experiences before you disembark to make the most of your time at each destination.

But remember: If you’re on your own and not on an official trip planned through your cruise (or its partner vendors), your ship is not guaranteed to wait for you. Keep in mind when you need to head back to the ship and give yourself ample time to do so. Also, always have a copy of the ship’s itinerary and contact information on you.

What to Do if You Miss Your Ship

If you do somehow wind up a “pier runner” and miss your ship, don’t panic—you won’t be stranded alone in an unfamiliar place. Cruise lines have agents stationed in port who can help you with impromptu travel and sleeping arrangements. Though the cruise line’s agents can assist you, know that passengers are usually responsible for these extra costs.

Have you been cruising? Share your cruising tips, photos and experiences with eClubTraveler for a chance to be featured in a future article. Email your tip to us at [email protected].

*Photo at top by AscentXmedia/Getty Images