7 Tips To Make Your First Cruise A Success
When Kevin and I were talking about honeymoon ideas, we were pretty sure that we were going to end up going to Europe or spend some time exploring the PNW. I don't really remember how, but we decided to go on a cruise - a first for both of us. We found a good deal, booked our flights, and found ourselves on a plane to Miami for a cruise around the Bahamas the day after we got married.
Now, vacations that are centered around relaxing aren't usually my thing. I love spending time on the water (I spent all my summers growing up on a mountainside lake in Canada), but I would almost always rather explore a new city or go on a hike instead of lay in a lounge chair and bake in the sun. But together we decided that we wanted our first week of marriage to just be about us and not have to worry about the logistics of finding a place to stay or being too tired from exploring to spend any time together.
Ultimately, my first cruise experience wasn't negative at all. I had no idea what to expect and learned a lot very quickly. We tried to do our own research before going, but didn't know what was relevant to all cruises versus the cruise line we were using (Carnival).
It was so different for me to spend a week laying on beaches, eating real food for every meal, and not having to worry about anything except sunstroke. I had gotten so used to carrying around luggage, doctoring my blisters each night and navigating new cities and countries without any guides that there were times I almost didn't know what to do with myself. That being said, it's just as enjoyable when you get used to it.
Given the chance, I would be up for going on a cruise again, and I'm positive I would have an even better experience after learning these lessons!
Pick the ship, not the destination
A cruise around Europe or Mexico sounds incredible....until you realize that you spend 90% of your time on the ship and only have very few hours to explore port cities before you need to get back on.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from our cruise was that while the destinations can be fun and should be taken into consideration, you'll have the best time if you pick your cruise based on the ship and its amenities instead. If you're on an older boat that doesn't have a big enough pool or any activities, shows, or restaurants that you're interested in then the majority of your cruise is going to be pretty boring.
Fun ship = fun trip.
Pack a daypack
This tip will make sure your first day cruising isn't a waste of time!
Your luggage will most likely not arrive at your cabin until well into the afternoon. If you're like me, you probably want to change out of your travel clothes and start exploring the ship and enjoying the sun. But it's kind of hard to do that if you don't have access to your swimsuit, towel, or anything else you might need until your luggage arrives.
Pack a swimsuit, change of clothes, towel and whatever else you might want for the day in a separate backpack or bag that you carry on the ship with you. I brought face wash, sunscreen and a little cosmetic bag as well since we'd just gotten off a Red Eye flight and I wasn't looking or feeling too great.
We also weren't able to get into our cabin for at least three hours after we got on the ship, so it helps to bring a book or something to do while you wait and before everything starts going.
When I asked Kevin what his tip for having a successful cruise experience was, he immediately said, "Do everything."
He's right. Don't be picky about what activities you choose to participate in while on the ship. The list of events and nightly events might seem a little overwhelming, but the more you're able to do and try out, the more fun you'll have. It gets pretty boring just sitting in your (tiny) cabin or in a lounge chair all day.
We did every activity we could. We sat by the pool, tried all the different restaurants and foods, played mini-golf in the middle of a windstorm, and I even went to the gym a couple times (the views were amazing). In the evenings we went to the comedy shows (both family friendly and adult), went to the Marriage show, stopped in to listen at the piano bar, and even tried our hands at the slot machines once or twice even though we're not gamblers.
Time was also spent just relaxing, checking out the spa options, and getting cheesy pictures taken during the fancy dress night. It was also a lot of fun to take night walks around the deck and just feel the ocean breeze at night.
Do everything and you won't be bored!
Remember formal night
Even though I had heard about it, I just about forgot about the fancy dress night.
Sure, it might seem a little cheesy, but what part of going on a cruise isn't? It's all about letting go and just embracing it. So don't be afraid to go all out. Buy a special dress. Wear a bow tie. Take pictures in front of a cheesy Titanic staircase background. Enjoy the evening and this opportunity to live a little fancier and nicer than you normally would.
I didn't know just how much people would dress up, and I ended up wishing that I'd brought something nicer than the sandals and summery dress I wore. It was actually a lot of fun to see people walking around that were sometimes dressed up in tuxes and ballgowns.
Try an Excursion
Shore excursions are one of the things that will make your cruise experience stand out. Whether it's the ever awesome and popular swimming with dolphins or riding horses along the beach, you have the opportunity to make your trip a little more adventurous and unique.
Kevin surprised me with a food tour of the Bahamas while we were stopped in Nassau. Even though it didn't go perfectly, it was so much fun to see more of the island and get to try a few new things. Our group was small and it made the tour even a little more unique. There are so many excursion options that everyone is bound to find something that peaks their interest. Try something out and see what happens!
Don't worry about the weather
Our entire trip was cloudy. It didn't rain, but that famous Bahamas sunshine was lacking. The sun peaked out here and there, but for the most part there was steady cloud cover every day.
At first I was kind of sad about the weather since I just wanted lots of sunshine to bathe in, but once I decided to just enjoy the trip no matter what happened it didn't matter. There's so many activities and even though it wasn't extremely sunny, it was still warm and we could enjoy the warm Caribbean water without getting terribly sunburned!
If it's too hot, rainy, or humid - don't worry about it! The staff is there to make sure you have a great time and there are so many things you can do to make sure you still have an excellent experience. I'm not usually one who agrees with humidity - hence why my hair was tied up 99% of the time - but from the food to the spa and the gorgeous water, there's a lot that will make your cruise a great vacation regardless of the weather.
Know what's included
When you go to buy your cruise ticket, do some research about what's included. Of course there's going to be food and other necessities, but there's a good chance you might miss opt not to do something on the ship without realizing that it was free all along.
Check just what food and drinks you can have, what facilities you have access to, and some of the different performances. As well as missing you, you don't want the opposite to happen, either. Like when you order a soda only to realize that it's $2 and you should've just bought the drink plan when originally booking the trip because living without Coke for a week isn't an option....at least that was my experience.
There's a lot that's included, but what's NOT included is where the cruise line will get you. If you do your research before hand, you'll avoid the shock of seeing what your bill looks like at the end of the trip.
Cruises are definitely a unique type of vacation that are extremely popular for a reason! All your needs are taken care of, you eat nothing but delicious food (and as much of it as you want), and you still get to check out a new city here and there.
It was a huge change from the sort of travel I'm used to, but a good change. I learned how to relax and enjoy filling my time with just....being. I got to meet some new people from all over the country, and most importantly I was able to spend some quality time with my then-new husband. While I don't think that I've been converted to cruising as my only type of vacation, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to enjoy one again someday!