Are you heading away on a cruise and are looking for the best tips for how to do it without stuffing things up?
I’ve been on about 12 cruises now and I’ve put together this list after having learned a few of these tips for what to avoid doing the hard way!
Here are my top 11 pieces of advice for what to avoid doing on your cruise (and a bonus 12th point that I embarrassingly learned on my last cruise) 😉
Oh, and if a Christmas Markets river cruise in Europe is on your Bucket List, I’m hosting a small group this December from Frankfurt to Paris with 7 nights on the Danube, and you are welcome to come along. Click here for the itinerary and costs >>
1. Don’t leave your data plan on when cruising
I live in New Zealand and am on Vodafone, which is great when I travel as I can pay $5 a day to access my data plan from home – and that’s pretty much all-I-can-eat. It gives me internet access in something like 70 countries. Until I’m out at sea!
Suddenly I was racking up data by the minute thanks to updating apps in the background that I wasn’t aware of (looking at you Facebook!). I only did it twice. An unnecessary $150 on my bill hurt a bit.
So, note, even if your plan covers you for Spain and France and Italy (as mine did), sailing between them technically puts you into international waters and all plans are off! Turn your mobile data roaming off.
2. Don’t take an organised excursion every day
In some cases the ship excursions are a good idea as you can get to skip the lines in places like the Vatican Musuems by going on an organised tour.
You’ll also have all your transport taken care of, which is handy if you’re docked an hour’s drive away from Rome or Florence and you are also guaranteed that the ship will wait for you if your authorised excursion runs late.
But there are days when just wandering around, going off-piste, having a beer in the sun at a seaside a bar in Cannes or wandering through a flea market in Ephesus and finding a local taxi driver who will drive you around for two hours is just brilliant.
And also, if you don’t fancy getting off the ship, staying onboard for a day means you pretty much get the whole ship to yourself! What you will find though is that onboard shops are likely to be closed, but you can use the gym, the pool and have a spa treatment. An especially good idea if it’s rainy out and you can just settle back and relax!
3. Don’t eat all day on your cruise 🙂
Believe me, you will be tempted to over eat on a cruise – it’s all included so why not, right?
Fancy swinging by the sno-freeze ice cream machine on your way to the pool? Nip up to see what’s on the buffet and grab a little plate for a nibble? How about a bowl of nachos in the sun? Some people even order all three courses in the dining room and then ask for seconds!
But if you do find you’ve overeaten, here’s the antidote below.
4. Don’t use the lift!
If you’ve indulged in point 3, don’t worry. Just make sure you don’t be a fatty boomba and take the lift (elevator!) all the time. Make it your resolution to take the stairs to make up for all that eating – or give yourself permission to eat more!
Even better, wear your fit bit and count your steps. A few laps around the funnel on the top deck is surely worth an extra cocktail?
5. Don’t forget your travel insurance!
I got a terrible respiratory illness on our Europe cruise. Maybe even flu, although I’m always reluctant to be so dramatic. It was not influenza, but it did require me making two trips to the basement to visit the doctor and spend an hour each time sucking air through a nebulizer and leaving with a bottle of cough mixture and some other remedies.
Total cost US$300. I have insurance and will put in a claim, phew!
6. Don’t lose your ID card
I came back onboard after a day out in another great port and put my handbag through the scanner, but as I was holding my ship’s ID card for them to manually scan when I stepped off the gang plank, I popped it in my hat and shoved them through the x-ray machine while I walked past.
It flipped over in the depths of the machine and my card fell out on the floor underneath it. Only I didn’t know that until later.
Without your ID card you cannot get on or off the ship nor buy a drink. Good Lord! It was found and I had a call to scamper down and retrieve it.
See my 4 days crossing the Tasman Sea on Silversea condensed into 2 minutes on this video:
7. Don’t wait too long to book extras
If you do plan on some shore excursions, spa treatments, exclusive restaurants or anything else that you need to pay extra for, do that licketty split. As soon as you get onboard ideally, or even from home online, lest you miss out.
The line at the excursion desk was long so I opted to swing by the booking desk after dinner and nab a few things. Even then I was on a wait-list for my Rome excursion.
8. Don’t miss the boat!
Unless you have an insurer who will understand that you got held up in the cute shop in Santorini and pay for a private jet to take you to the next port, whatever you do, don’t miss the boat. I can’t imagine how I’d figure out what to do actually as your passport will be sailing away with the ship.
(Here’s a reader tip: keep a photograph of your passport picture page on your phone for a worst case scenario like this!)
Ships are punctual and they leave within a few minutes of when they say they will. The only exception is if your ship’s organised excursion is running late. Then they will wait for you. And that is a good reason to book an excursion (contradicting point 2 🙂
9. Don’t forget to check in on online
If your ship offers this, it saves a whole lot of time when you’re lined up with thousands of your fellow travellers ready to embark.
Print out your ID cards, barcoded tickets and baggage tags at home and you’ll skip through like a gazelle.
10. Don’t overpack
This is a general rule I try and apply every time I travel. There’s nothing that frustrates me more when I’m trying to squeeze my new purchases into my luggage and I have clothes in there I didn’t wear.
Also your storage space may be limited, so leave your tuxedo at home and rent one onboard for formal night if you really want to be suave.
11. Don’t pack everything into one bag
Your bags may not arrive for a couple of hours (or more) after you board, so remember to keep out your essentials, but also maybe a book, your hat and sunglasses, swimsuit if you fancy getting your kit off and lying poolside until the captain parps the horn three times and you’re backing out.
(Update: some cruise ships allow you to take your own luggage on. If so, this is a much quicker way to get yourself settled in to your cabin than wait for it to be delivered).
You will also need to leave your luggage outside your cabin the night before your final destination, so you’ll need a day pack or smaller bag to put your pyjamas and toiletries in – unless you want to carry them under your arm to disembark! (Or unless you can take your own luggage off again too).
12. And one final, highly embarrassing Don’t Do which I did on my last cruise… ladies, don’t put tampons in the toilet. You will block the vacuum pump and an engineer will have to come and unblock it (and everything else that is in there) and then tell you not to put them down there. *oh the shame!
If you found this post helpful, you really need to read my post on 10 things to know BEFORE you cruise!
It’s filled with tips on how to choose the right ship for you and some handy money-saving ideas so you don’t break the bank on your amazing trip.
And this post on How to Pack for a Cruise will also provide some really practical advice so your cruise is smooth sailing (see what I did there?)
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful!