What to Know Before your First Cruise

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I’ve always believed there were two types of vacationers: those who travel to relax and those who travel to explore. I’ve consistently fit into the latter group, hopping from one place to the next in hopes to fit everything in before time runs out (spoiler alert: you won’t). Until recently, my travels had been just how I like them: meticulously planned and on hard ground thank you very much. So when I had the opportunity to change up my vacation routine and head to the Bahamas on a cruise, I hopped aboard not sure of what I’d find out.

Cruising is the ultimate hands-off vacation, which was hard for me to embrace at first. With a little help from some seasoned cruisers and a pina colada (or two), I learned how to go with the flow and picked up on tips to make the most of your cruise. To make sure it’s all smooth sailing once you board, here are some things you can plan ahead of time so you can soak up every minute of relaxation:

Plan excursions in advance

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Or at least know your options. Look up the excursions offered on your cruise online and book them if you’re sure of what you want to do, as popular excursions sometimes sell out by the time you go to book on board. This is also a good time to talk about other activities you want to do on each stop. When in port, time is limited. You will want to know what you’d like to do even if it’s not a formal excursion, whether it’s getting to the beach early or taking advantage of the less crowded ship (the best spa deals are often offered on port days and appointments book up fast). This is where a little bit of time spent planning before your trip will pay off big time.

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Budget for additional expenses

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Cruises can be carefree vacations because most or all of the costs associated with your trip can be paid at once or in advance. After booking the cruise, decide what dining or drink packages you would like to purchase before boarding, so that you can budget for them at the same time as your boarding passes. Knowing what is included and is not included in the base price of your cruise helps ensure that your relaxing getaway isn’t interrupted with unexpected charges. Always read the fine print!


Plan ahead for seasickness

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Whether or not you’ve experienced motion sickness before, I would highly recommend anticipating a bit of seasickness on your first cruise, even if it never comes to pass. Talk to your doctor before you leave about your options. Before boarding, I took Dramamine and continued to do so until I was accustomed to the occasional rocking of the boat. Doing so helped me avoid a trip to the nurse and an unwelcome hiccup during the trip. If you do get sick on the boat, the infirmary has options to help.


Pack for success

Before this post turns into too much of a downer, let’s talk about something fun: cruise wear. This may vary significantly depending on your cruise line and type of cruise, so check online for specifics. In many cases, dining rooms follow a business casual dress code, so you’ll want to trade in your tank tops and swimwear before dinner. There is usually at least one formal night on each cruise, where it’s common to see cocktail attire and in some cases formal gowns and suits for guys. Aside from dinner in the dining rooms, resort casual is appropriate for the rest of your time on the ship.


Become a type-B

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For some, this may be the hardest part! Try to give up on micro-managing for a little bit. They’ve done all the planning for you with options to keep you having fun from dusk till dawn. From live shows to music, casinos and parties by the pool, there is plenty to fill up your days at sea. But if you’re searching for a slower pace, simply grab a drink, a good book and a seat with a view, sit back and enjoy your time at sea.

Do you have any more tips you would give a first time cruiser? Leave them in the comments below.


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