22 Cruising Tips Only Insiders Will Tell You

Whether you’ve been on one cruise or fifty, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to planning, packing and preparing for your time at sea. For that, we’ve tapped our group of resident cruise experts — which includes former cruise line and cruise ship employees, from captains to shopping guides to former execs  — who’ve collectively sailed on 2,000-plus cruises. They’re spilling their secrets on everything from must-have items to pack and ways to find the best local foods in port to making sure you disembark relaxed and refreshed (hint: it takes more than a massage on sea days).

What Few Cruisers Know

Woman and her partner enjoying the morning scenery from their balcony while drinking tea on a cruise

1. You can order your breakfast by putting the provided menu on your door before you go to bed just like in a hotel. But here's the secret: you don't have to order a full breakfast.  You can just order coffee so that you don't have to leave your room in the morning just to grab a cup of Joe.  And this way, you don't have to wait for it; you pre-select the time you want it to be delivered.  If you wait to call for coffee in the morning, you'll be waiting a long time. This is what all 2000+ other guests are going to do! — Tasha, sailed on 200 cruises

2. Get Botox on board — people will think you had a restful vacation. — Sarah, sailed on 300+ cruises

3. Cruising is the perfect icebreaker for a new couple. It forces you to get to know each other — figuring out what to do together on sea days, what you have in common and what your interests are. Are you a lay-by-the-pool person or someone who likes the spa or hitting the casino? You’re forced to figure out your mutual interests. — Kallie, sailed on 5 cruises

4. Talk to everyone. You get the opportunity to meet so many people from so many walks of life and such different parts of the world. I feel fortunate that I can look through my contacts and find someone I know almost everywhere in the world. If I want to travel somewhere new, I probably have a friend there whom I can visit. — Victoria, sailed on 200 cruises

5. As you're leaving the ship heading out into port, take a picture of the “All Aboard Time” with your phone or camera — just in case you have a few too many cocktails and can't remember. — Anna, sailed on 200+ cruises

What to Pack for a Cruise

Black notebook and a #2 pencil sit on a table

6. Pack a notebook or bring pen and paper. I always take a camera but I’ll probably forget why I took a picture. I always want to take lots of pictures, so with a notebook I can take notes and remember everything about the moment. — Wes, sailed on 1296 cruises

7. I recommend bringing a wrap and a couple of light sweaters/cardigans. Even if you’re in the Caribbean, the AC is turned up so high inside the ship that you'll wish you had a little something to keep you warm. — Tasha, sailed on 200 cruises

8. Always take a bathing suit. It doesn’t matter if it’s an Alaskan cruise or a winter cruise with falling snow. You’ll be sorry if you leave it at home. — Jeff, sailed on 3 cruises

9. Take a sarong to wear in your stateroom when you’re out of the shower and putting on makeup/doing your hair.  It’s a great way to cover up if your room steward comes to the door. — Sarah, sailed on 300+ cruises

A baby sits comfortable inside a baby carrier

10. An Ergo baby carrier is a lifesaver as you explore in port. I trekked up Mayan ruins in Mexico with my daughter strapped to my back. We never would have been able to do that without a baby backpack! My kids napped on my back when we travelled and I enjoyed walking around. — Robin, sailed on 30 cruises 

11. Traveling with a baby? Bring dish soap and a bottle brush. It's the only way to clean bottles in your stateroom sink without having to a) ask the kitchen staff for supplies or b) track down your empty bottles after entrusting the staff to clean them for you. — Mary, sailed on 10 cruises 

12. Pack an empty, mid-sized nylon bag for packing clothes/non-breakable items for your return trip. No matter how often I think I couldn’t possibly need one more item than I’ve packed for the cruise, I always end up buying more clothes, or bulky gifts, that need to be packed for my return trip. — Nadine, sailed on 10 cruises

A pair of walkie talkies to take on your next cruise

13. The not so obvious (especially when cruising with teenagers) is to bring Walkie Talkies in order to communicate with each other while on the ship. That way, the adults can do their thing and so can the kids while keeping in touch. — Virginia, sailed on 4 cruises

14. I always take face wipes because it’s the easiest way to stay clean. I can bring them with me off the ship and look refreshed even after excursions. And on formal nights, pack a pair of flats in your bag. That way you won’t have to go back to your cabin to change your shoes if your feet hurt. — Raquel, sailed on 5 cruises

15. Always take a wrinkle releaser. A lot of ships don’t have irons or they have them all the way at the end of the ship, which is really inconvenient. I always take a coat hanger, spray the garment and hang whatever I need to steam in the shower. Turn the hot water on and in a minute — air presto! — It’s ironed. — Carrie, sailed on 450 cruises 

16. Before you start packing, find out the number of formal nights on your cruise since this is essentially what differentiates a cruise from a regular vacation. You may need to bring dinner jackets, suits, dresses, etc., so plan head. — Jeff, sailed on 25 cruises

Avoiding Sea Sickness

Fresh green apples from the farm. A great remedy for motion  sickness.

17. If you feel sickness coming on, eat a green apple —and the sickness will go away almost immediately. Sucking on a lemon slice will quickly remedy seasickness, too. — Leanne R., sailed on 200+ cruises

18. Don’t wait until you need it because once you’re already sick, the majority of patches won’t work. So if you think you’re prone to seasickness, just take it from the beginning. And if you do get sick, try to get something in your stomach — ginger ale, crackers, etc. It’ll make all the difference in the world. — Carrie, sailed on 450 cruises

What To Do in Port

19. Have a game plan when you’re in port. You can meander in the stores and get lost doing that, but there are so many other things to experience, like walking through alleyways or small side streets to get a little bit more of a cultural feel for what the locals do. — Kevin, sailed on 1 cruise

20. If your excursion wraps up early, step off the beaten path and find a local to show you around. Once on a cruise in Grand Cayman, my family and I found some people who took us out on their boat and showed us a different side of the island. — Lauramay, sailed on 5 cruises

Man and woman both look at several books at a bookstand found in a cruise port

21. Ask the locals for recommendations. The best places [to eat and drink] aren’t typically advertised. Once I went to Nassau and we asked the locals where we should have lunch and they steered us to these hidden huts that served the best conch I’ve ever had. — Robert, sailed on 2 cruises

22. Plan out your days prior to boarding, as it makes the cruise itself seamless. The second the cruise is booked, map out how much time you’ll have in port, and decide what ports leave enough time for a shore excursion, and which ones you want to explore on your own. The second you get on the ship, find a map and take a tour of the vessel. You’ll learn the quickest way to get around and find the areas you’ll plan to spend the most time in. — Vikki, sailed on 200+ cruises

*Our pool of cruise experts and insiders include former cruise ship and cruise line employees


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