• Elizabeth Perry (The Nerd Travel Pro)

What First-Timers Don't Know about Cruising


I'll admit that when I took my first cruise, I wasn't sure if it was something I would enjoy - but now, with much more cruising experience, I'm so glad that I decided to give it a try! Still, looking back, there are quite a few things that I didn't know when I took my first cruise that would've helped make my first cruise experiences even better. Here are 5 things I didn't know before my first cruise!

Unlike booking a hotel room on land, guests get to choose their exact stateroom in advance in most cases. Once you book, you can choose your stateroom, and location does matter. For quieter locations, it's best to avoid staterooms located above or underneath popular venues like the pool deck, night clubs, or kids' clubs. For those looking to avoid the feeling of motion on the ship, it's often a bit more stable mid-ship than aft or forward. There are also other things to consider, like if you want to be close to the nearest elevator, to the nearest laundry, to the kids' club, and so on.

One thing that I didn't realize before I took my first cruise is that ships don't necessarily dock at every port. In most ports, your ship will dock and guests can easily walk down a gangway to access the port. But, in some ports, ships are unable to dock and guests need to take a boat to shore instead. This can take longer than simply exiting the ship via the gangway, so taking a tender can require extra time and planning. Your ship's itinerary will show whether the ship is docking or tendering at each port.

Another thing I see many new cruisers concerned about is motion sickness. Most larger cruise ships with modern stabilizers often experience minimal motion while sailing, especially in calmer destinations like the Caribbean, but there is always the possibility that you'll experience motion while sailing - and possibly, motion sickness. If you're prone to motion sickness in other situations, or think you may get motion sick on your cruise, it's best to be prepared. There are a variety of motion sickness medications and remedies available, and I recommend having your preferred remedies with you when you sail. In particular, one of the things that works for me is to start taking my preferred remedy (dramamine and ginger) before I board, and continuing to take it while sailing, even if I don't feel sick. It's often easier to prevent motion sickness than it is to stop it once it's happening, so start your preferred remedy before you board.

Although it's not the most exciting thing about starting your cruise, you need to go to a mandatory lifeboat drill. These are held on embarkation day before sailing, often around 4PM or so, depending on the departure time. This is held so that guests can be familiar with where their lifeboat station is and how to use a life jacket. You'll also want to be sure to eat lunch before the lifeboat drill starts - all the onboard dining, bars, pools, and entertainment shut down during the drill.

Lastly, a mistake I made on my very first cruise was to head straight to the buffet for lunch on embarkation day. As long as you're not boarding late in the afternoon, it's typically best to head to one of the dining rooms on your ship, rather than the buffet. The buffet tends to be quite crowded on embarkation day, whereas you can often have a more relaxed lunch in one of the ship's dining rooms, with table-service, to start off your cruise.

There are a lot more things to talk about when taking your first cruise, so to get the full scoop on what to do - and what not to do - contact our travel pros!

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