100 Essential Tips for First-Time Cruisers

Embarking on your first cruise can be an exciting and memorable experience. However, the sheer size and complexity of cruise ships can be overwhelming for newcomers. To ensure you make the most of your voyage, I've compiled a comprehensive list of 100 essential tips for first-time cruisers.


From planning and packing to onboard activities and disembarkation, these tips will help you navigate your way through your maiden cruise with ease.

1. Research and choose the right cruise line and ship that suits your preferences and budget. We went with P and O for our first cruise as they are a UK line, they had a lot of choice sailing from the UK and they are very well priced in our opinion.

2. Consider a shorter cruise to get a taste of a cruise line for the first time.

3. Check out cruiser vloggers like Paul and Carole Love To Travel, Emma Cruises and our YouTube Channel Fly Drive Explore for an insight into what to expect on a cruise.

4. Book your cruise well in advance to secure the best deals and cabin options. Or if you don't mind taking a chance then a last-minute deal can be more affordable although you may not get to choose your cabin.

5. If you are worried about seasickness then a cabin mid-ship and low down is the ideal location. Also, it’s wise to pack travel sickness tablets like Kwells, Sturgeon or Avomine. We take a tablet the day before a cruise and for the first couple of days. This can help you find your ‘sealegs’. 

6. Familiarise yourself with the cruise itinerary and port stops to plan your shore excursions. Excursions with the cruise line can be more expensive however the cruise ship will wait for you if your return gets delayed. If you are going to book an independent tour book it for the morning so you allow plenty of time to return to the ship if delayed. 

7. Don't forget to inform the cruise line of any mobility restrictions, dietary restrictions or allergies in advance.

8. Most cruise lines ask for proof of travel insurance with cruise cover that covers medical treatment. If you have a medical emergency (and I hope you don't!) being airlifted off ship can be extremely expensive. 

9. Arrive at the embarkation port a day before your cruise to avoid any travel delays if at all possible. Budget for an overnight stay to avoid the stress of travel delays. 

10. Pack a carry-on bag with essentials like medications, travel documents, and a change of clothes. You will leave your suitcase at bag drop and may not get it back until later that night. 

11. Check what items are restricted on board. Items with a heating element like clothes steamers are often restricted but most allow hair stylers and straightening irons.

12. Utilise luggage tags provided by the cruise line to easily identify your bags, and make sure they are stuck on well. We used some clear sellotape to secure ours. You can clear luggage label pouches online in places like Amazon if you are interested.

13. Attend the mandatory safety drill upon boarding the ship, also called a Muster drill. Many are done via an app these days but you will need to check in with safety staff to be aware of where your evacuation point is.

14. Pack a swimsuit in your carry-on for immediate access to the pool or hot tub.

15. Bring a small first-aid kit with basic medications and remedies. If you forget travel sickness tablets you can buy these on board but they may be expensive. If you feel really ill you can have a travel sickness injection but these are very pricey. 

16. Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated onboard and to carry during excursions. Many cruise lines have free water stations to fill up your bottle.

17. Consider packing a small collapsible cooler for keeping drinks cool during shore excursions.

18. Opt for wrinkle-resistant clothing to minimise ironing needs. You can also buy a spray called Crease Release to help the creases fall out. On Ocean cruises there will often be washing machines and irons on board the ship. Most ships have a laundry service too at a fee.

19. Bring a waterproof phone case for beach and water activities.

20. Pack travel-sized laundry detergent for quick hand washing. 

Us in Norway
Stavanger Norway 

21. Familiarise yourself with the ship's layout and facilities upon arrival. The cruise company will provide you with a map of the layout of the ship, either on a paper map or you will find it on their app.

22. Download the cruise line's mobile app or use its website for access to daily schedules, onboard activities, and reservations. Most also still print out a daily newsletter of what’s going on day to day. 

23. Make dining reservations as soon as possible
 to secure preferred dining times and speciality restaurants.

24. Pack a small amount of cash for purchases at ports that may not accept cards.

25. Pack a collapsible tote bag or backpack for carrying items during port visits or to the beach.

26. Check what the weather will be like and pack sunscreen and insect repellent for outdoor activities if applicable. Again you may be able to buy these on board but they will be expensive.

27. Bring a universal power adapter if travelling internationally, however, P and O have UK plugs on their ships.

28. Participate in the embarkation day activities and explore the ship. Many ships have a sailaway party and it can be fun to participate.

There are some items that may be useful to pack, like towel clips to keep your towels on the sunbeds in windy weather, metallic hooks for extra storage and binoculars to view sealife. 

30. Check the daily newsletter or app for a schedule of onboard activities and entertainment. It can be useful to take photos of the newsletter so you have the itinerary on your phone at any time. 

31. Explore the ship's onboard amenities such as the spa, gym, and sports facilities. The spa sometimes has special offers later on in the cruise. 

32. Try out different dining venues and take advantage of 24-hour room service. Some room service offerings may be complimentary and without service charge, so check.

33. Use hand sanitisers frequently and wash your hands on a regular basis to maintain good hygiene onboard. As well as helping to minimise the risk of COVID it also helps prevent Norovirus from spreading.

34. Don't skip the evening shows and live performances—cruise entertainment can be top-notch. Some have West-End style shows and performers ranging from professional singers to comedians and magicians.

35. Enjoy the various swimming pools and hot tubs available on board. Some of the bigger and newer ships even have water slides and water sports activities. We found it was lovely relaxing in one of the hot tubs when we got back from an excursion. They are much less busy on a port day than on a sea day.

36. Attend the themed parties and deck events organised by the cruise line. Some of the common themes on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean can be 'White night' '80's night', or 'Masquerade ball'. These differ depending on the cruise line and ship.

37. Take advantage of the duty-free shops onboard for souvenirs and essentials. Some cruises offer incentives of free on-board credit when you book. A top tip is don't leave it to the last day to use it up as they may sell out of what you want and it will be super busy the day before departure. 

38. Avoid overpacking—cruise cabins tend to have limited storage space. However, you can often take as many cases as you want if you are not flying. There is usually a weight restriction on each bag for health and safety reasons, usually 23 kg. 

39. Stay organised by using packing cubes or zip-lock bags for your belongings.

40. Respect the onboard smoking policy and the designated smoking areas.
Viking Village
Viking Village near Flam Norway

41. If the ship has complimentary room service, make use of it for breakfast on days with early excursions.

42. Try the local cuisine during port visits for a cultural experience. It's always great to spend money in the local economy.

43. Take part in onboard enrichment activities like cooking classes, talks about the country you are visiting, art classes or language lessons for the full onboard experience. These vary from ship to ship. 

44. Attend the captain's welcome party and cocktail receptions. You will often get a free glass of something bubbly.

45. Never book a cruise for that one port you want to visit. Due to weather, your port of call may be cancelled. You can however get port cancellation insurance which will pay out if a port is cancelled. Typically £100 a port.

46.  Research and book shore excursions in advance or consider exploring ports independently. It's cheaper to do it independently but if you book with the cruise line they will wait for you if you are late. 

47. Put your phone in aeroplane mode to prevent connecting to the expensive maritime network.  

48. Pack a waterproof bag or pouch for protecting your electronics and valuables during water-based excursions.

49. Learn a few basic phrases in the local language to communicate with locals during port visits.

50. Keep a copy of your passport and other important documents in a safe place onboard.  If there is a safe, use it!

51. Taking about keeping your valuables safe, your purse or wallet can be kept in a safe on board and you will use your cruise card to purchase items. 

 Check if you require any travel visas for the ports of call you'll be visiting.

53. Make use of the ship's photography services for professional vacation pictures. These however can be pricey. Why not ask others to take a photo of you on your phone as most have great cameras these days. 

54. If you can disconnect from technology and enjoy the relaxation and tranquillity of being at sea.

55. Alternatively, take advantage of the onboard Wi-Fi packages for staying connected with loved ones or have to work remotely. These can be expensive though and you may not get great reception, especially in areas like the Norwegian Fjords. You may get a discount if you book before the cruise. 

56. Attend destination lectures and port talks to gather insights about the upcoming ports.

57. Bring a carry-on bag for the first and last day. Your bags may get to your room later than you and you have to leave your main case the night before departure. A smaller carry-on bag is great for your essentials and a change of clothes. 

58. You can get sunburn quickly on a ship due to the light reflection from the sea especially if you are in a pool or hot tub, so bring the high SPF sunscreen.

59. Some ships have an ATM or will be able to change the currency for you but use it sparingly as they often charge high fees.

60. Engage with the ship's crew and learn about their experiences and cultures. You will often find that you will get better service if they get to know you.

61. Keep an eye on your onboard account to ensure there are no unexpected charges.

62. Weigh up the benefits of purchasing a beverage package if you plan on consuming a lot of drinks onboard, versus pay as you go. Check out the drinks menus online to work it out.

63. Respect the environmental guidelines and dispose of waste properly. 

64. Take part in the onboard games, quizzes and trivia sessions for a fun and interactive experience. Most are free.

Stay active and take advantage of the onboard fitness facilities and exercise classes. Some of these will be free and some will be at a charge. I took part in complimentary line dancing classes on P and O cruises.

66. If you are interested in art attend the art auctions and browse the ship's art collections.

67. Enjoy the sunrise or sunset from various vantage points on the ship. There is nothing nicer than relaxing on board with a cocktail or glass of wine and watching the sunset.

Carry a travel adapter for charging your electronic devices in the cabin.

69. A port day can be a good day to explore the ship when it's quieter. 

70. You can order extra food in the main dining rooms. These are restaurants that you don't pay for and are included, however, they often have small portions. So if you want an extra starter, more vegetables or another dessert, don't forget to ask nicely and you should get what you wish for. 

71. If you are worried about seasickness a cabin mid-ship and low down is the ideal location, and of course take travel tablets as mentioned before.

72. Learn about the ship's tipping policy and prepare gratuities accordingly. P and O have these included in the fare but some people like to leave an extra tip for their cabin steward or waiter. 

73. Take advantage of the ship's laundry facilities if you prefer doing your own laundry. 

74. Respect the designated quiet areas and observe noise restrictions.

75. Bring a good book or e-reader for relaxation during sea days. Also, check if there is a library on board the ship or an area for book swaps.

76. There may be unique experiences on particular ships so be sure to read about the ship in advance and look into taking part, you may not get the chance again. For example, the Queen Mary 2 has a planetarium, and P & O Arvia has an escape room on board

77. Stay updated on the ship's time zone changes, especially during long cruises or international itineraries. Don't forget to set your watch to ship time. 

78. Follow the onboard dress code guidelines for formal nights and themed events. It is part of the fun, however, there are usually restaurants and buffets where they do not have a dress code and you can be super casual.

79. Attend the captain's farewell party and the final night's entertainment.

80. There are some items that may be useful to pack, like towel clips to keep your towels on the sunbeds in windy weather, metallic hooks for extra storage and binoculars to view sealife.

pool on ship
81. Explore the ship's outdoor decks and find your favourite spot to relax.
82. If mobility isn't a problem take the stairs to work off your food and drink, use the fitness facilities and classes or take daily strolls on the promenade deck.

83. Enjoy the onboard casino but gamble responsibly. You may get free drinks or free play, so ask the hosts.

84. Take lots of photos and capture memories of your cruise experience. Also don't forget to ask others to take a photo of you on special nights like black tie night. Of course, this is cheaper than the professional photographers on board but you may not get the quality. 

85. Respect the ship's no-smoking policy in cabins and public areas.

86. Try out different cuisines and dishes at the buffet and speciality restaurants. I found P and O do great Indian and Asian food. 

87. Check the daily drink specials and happy hour promotions for savings on alcoholic drinks. 

88. Attend the onboard art and craft sessions for a creative experience. These are often held on ships with a number of sea days. 

89. Pack an extra set of prescription glasses or contacts if needed. Just in case you lose one.

90. Engage in the onboard dance classes and learn a few new moves.

91. Participate in the onboard game shows and quizzes. We loved the Jukebox music quiz every day on P and O.

92.  Silent Discos are fun, if you like a boogie and they have one on the ship then do go, you will enjoy it!

93. Take advantage of the ship's kids clubs if travelling with children. These are often free but will need to be booked in advance. 

94. Respect the ship's policies regarding bringing food and beverages from ashore. On P and O they let you bring 1 litre of alcohol per person on embarkation and as many mixers as you want.

95. Stay informed about any weather updates or changes to the itinerary. You can take out travel insurance that covers missed ports and they will pay you if this happens 

96. Consider joining a cruise loyalty program to enjoy future benefits and discounts.
Enjoy the sunrise or sunset from your cabin's balcony or on board deck.  

97. Attend the live cooking demonstrations and tastings onboard. You could also consider cookery classes if they hold them on your ship at a charge.

98. Don't be late in port or the ship will go without you! Check you have the port authority details saved in case you are left behind. They are usually on the ship's newsletter you get every day.

99. If you are enjoying the cruise, and want to book with the same cruise line, you may get a discount if booking on board or extra On Board Credit. Ask at reception or the booking area.

100. Finally, cruising is what you make of it and everyone will have a different experience. Try to relax and enjoy! 

Embarking on your first cruise can be an unforgettable adventure. By following these 100 essential tips, you'll be well-prepared to make the most of your journey. From planning and packing to onboard activities and exploring ports of call, these tips will help you navigate your maiden cruise with confidence and ease. So, get ready to set sail and create memories that will last a lifetime! Bon voyage!


  1. Oh wow! This is such a comprehensive list and perfect for people like me who have not yet been on a cruise :)

    1. There is so much to learn when you cruise for the first time

  2. Check out "Cruise Critic" forums. Very useful.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Cruise Critic is brilliant

  3. The first point is really important - do your research. The choice of cruiseline is probably at least as important as cabin and itinerary. We love dressing-up in the evenings so choose lines with quite strict dress codes. Other people simply want to kick back and chill without worrying about evening dress.
    The other thing I would say is to bring layers of clothes. Cruisers leaving from Southampton, in particular, can experience a wide range of temperatures.

    1. Yes its super important to do your research. There are so many different cruise lines and ships that there is something for almost everyone

  4. Started following Emma Cruises tiktok. Very good videos.

    1. Yes I follow here YouTube channel. I also have a channel called FlyDriveExplore with my husband where we make travel content including cruising

  5. thanks its very comprehensive. I am going on my first cruise with my sister, cousin and neice in January on the Cunard Queen Victoria - cant wait - we have a balcony cabin!!! Its going to be wonderful!! So I will certainly be looking at these tips

  6. So much information. Great stuff

  7. Wow! That's quite a list to read and digest. Thank you.

  8. Fantastic Prize 😀 keeping my fingers crossed🤞

  9. cut screen time - known to be no good for you

  10. I Hope to go on a cruise one day.