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First Time Cruise Tips: Advice From a Cruise Newbie

  • February 27, 2019
  • By Stephanie, The Roving Fox
First Time Cruise Tips: Advice From a Cruise Newbie

My husband and I just went on a 7 day cruise of the Western Caribbean (booked on Expedia) where we visited Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. I learned a lot on this cruise and put together a list of first time cruise tips for you that I wish I had known more about in advance!

This was my first cruise as an adult; in disclosure, I was about 16 years old the last time I went on one, so I don’t remember too much about the experience. Plus I didn’t book or prepare for that cruise so I really consider myself a first timer.

I booked our cruise on Expedia–they had the same prices and rewards as booking via the cruise line itself, plus I got cash back with Ebates. Score!

I wasn’t totally sure about booking a cruise, to be honest. I usually like being on land, exploring cities on foot and pretending I’m a local. It’s sort of difficult to get that local experience in a country when you’re just dropped off for 6-8 hours before taking off again to another port.

Honestly, I was also scared about gorging myself for 7 days on buffets. I always go into a buffet all like, “I’m gonna just get a salad.” Then I see that mac n cheese, hamburgers, lasagna, ice cream, and all the tasty stuff and I’m done for! I just literally have no self control around a buffet and I need to live that truth and just recognize it. Anyone else have a hard time around buffets?

But there were a number of positives to taking a cruise vacation. Namely, the wonderful staff aboard our Royal Caribbean ship the Rhapsody of the Seas, the live music on board every night, not having to worry about a single thing on board, and the ability to see many cities in a short amount of time.

Being a first-born, INTJ, Type-A kinda chick led me to research a ton of blogs and YouTube videos with what to expect on a cruise. However, some things took me by surprise and I wish I was just slightly more prepared!

However, now I am able to share some of these tips with you so you can prepare for your own cruise, if you have one coming up.

Some of these links are affiliate links, which means I might make a small commission if you purchase something I recommend, at no cost to you.

First Time Cruise Tips: Things I Wish I Knew Before Departing on a Cruise

First Time Cruise Tips towel animal

Don’t check in at lunch time

Our cruise checked in from 10:30am-2:30pm. We decided to eat a small breakfast at the Grand Hyatt near the Tampa Cruise Port and head over to the ship around 11:30am so we could have lunch on board.

Guess what? So did EVERYONE else.

The line at the lunch buffet stretched across the pool deck area as people clamored to get food, and there was basically nowhere to sit.

Next time, I’d check in around 2pm and then hit the buffet, which was open until 3pm. That way most of the people would have cleared out, leaving shorter lines and more seating available.

There aren’t a lot of hooks in the room

We all know cruise rooms are super tiny. So you better like your travel companion, if you have one.

But another thing I didn’t realize is that there are just a few hooks in the room. When you have a bunch of wet gear, it’s so helpful to have a few extra places to hang your bathing suits, personal towels, shirts, and shorts.

A great first time cruise tip is to pick up a pack of these 10 magnetic hooks. Many of the doors of the rooms are magnet-friendly, so you shouldn’t have a problem sticking these up!

I wanted soda so bad

I don’t know what it was, but because I didn’t buy the soda or beverage package I wanted it SO BAD. Like every day all I wanted was a Diet Coke.

Drink packages were on sale in advance of the cruise, but they were wildly expensive once on board. Just the soda/juice/coffee package would have been over $200 for 6 days.

I can’t.

So next time I would definitely purchase a drink package in advance if I feel like I’m gonna need that sweet Diet Coke juice on board.

If you’re a coffee addict, buy the coffee package

As mentioned above, I wanted Diet Coke bad. BUT! Royal Caribbean offered a 15-specialty coffee package for about $35. So I bought it, and I am so glad I did.

First time cruise tips: Do be warned that if you order a large latte, they will punch your card twice since it uses more espresso. So I always just ordered the medium sizes, which worked for me, and the card easily lasted the whole week.

Bring more socks and underwear than you think you need

We can wear a shirt twice. We can wear pants twice.

I will NOT wear underwear twice.

Sure, you’re saying, just hand wash stuff. Listen, there’s like no circulation in the cruise cabins, so your stuff probably won’t dry all the way, or it might smell musty.

Just pack extra socks and underwear and you won’t regret it.

Don’t go to the buffet dinner right when it opens

Everyone on board is starving and hangry after long day trips in the port areas, and they all want to eat at 6pm (when our buffet opened).

If you can hold off even 30 minutes after the buffet opens, you will avoid the first wave of hungry folks and lines. You’ll sail right through the buffet.

Find the quiet places

There were a few unexpected quiet spots on our cruise, the Rhapsody of the Seas.

One amazingly chill spot we found was the Viking Club / nightclub. I know that sounds crazy. Like how is a nightclub calm? I don’t know, man, it was just a super chill place to hang and I never saw more than 10 people there. I was able to relax on one of the couches and do a few hours of work since it was fairly empty and the wifi worked well.

And we were definitely the only people taking advantage of the open dance floor!

First Time Cruise Tips find quiet places

A quiet place on board during the day was the nightclub


WiFi is spotty

I paid for the “fast” Surf n Stream package for three devices so we could both use our phones, and I could use my laptop. The wifi on board is billed as “the fastest internet at sea,” and I paid about $160 for a week of wifi.

Is that crazy? YES.

What’s even crazier is that the wifi was super spotty, kicked us off all the time, and didn’t work in our rooms. So don’t expect to have 100% reliable wifi if you’re planning on working remotely on board.

Be aware of time changes

One of the best first time cruise tips is to make sure you know the “ship time,” because it could be different than local time. And you do NOT want to get the late toot horn or miss the ship pulling out from port.

They leave on time nearly to the minute, so make sure you set your watch to the right time before you leave for the day!

How helpful the staff is

The staff on our cruise was so friendly and helpful the entire time. Every single person would go above and beyond for the passengers. Our room steward Antonio was especially friendly and helpful! We so appreciated his hard work straightening our room twice every day. From the concierge staff to the waiters to the casino staff, everyone on board will work their hardest to make sure you have an awesome vacation.

First Time Cruise Tips deck at sunset

Sunset on board the cruise ship


Other articles you might enjoy:

Things To Do in Merida Mexico, the Yucatan Capital City

How to learn Spanish online for free (or close to it)

10 Travel Tips For Cancun, Mexico

Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling and Prevent Getting Sick

5 Ways to Save Money on Holiday Travel


First Time Cruise Tips pinterest


By Stephanie, The Roving Fox, February 27, 2019
  • 10
  • April
    March 2, 2019

    That’s just crazy that you have to pay for extra packages like Wifi and soda on a ship! Definitely things I would never think of as I’ve never done a cruise. though I’m pretty certain I never will, I’ll keep these tips in mind for if I do.

    • Stephanie
      March 2, 2019

      Another tip could be to bring some packets of water flavoring or flavored tea for the week to save some money!

  • Kate
    March 2, 2019

    These are some great and useful tips for beginners! I´ve never been on a cruise yet, but you never know 🙂

    • Stephanie
      March 2, 2019

      I wasn’t sure if it would be my thing, but I am thinking about doing one through the Panama Canal, which would be pretty cool!

  • Alli
    March 2, 2019

    Lots of good tips here – I will definitely rethink the wi-fi option on my next cruise!! 🙂

    • Stephanie
      March 2, 2019

      Yeah it was really disappointing to pay so much and have a lot of kick offs and spotty areas.

  • Aireona
    March 2, 2019

    These are the perfect tips for first timers. It’s really hard to know what to look for in a cruise if you’ve never been.

  • Lindz
    March 4, 2019

    I’ve never done a cruise before and WOW these are all so helpful! Plenty of little things to consider which I’ll be sure to keep in mind before I finally embark on my first one!

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Stephanie Janes The Roving Fox blog
Hi, I’m Stephanie

Hey there, I am Stephanie, aka “The Roving Fox!” I started this blog to share travel tips with friends, and eventually started incorporating more info about my hip labrum surgery, beauty products I love, and restaurant reviews. Please say hi here on the blog, on Instagram, or Facebook!

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