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Tips for first time cruises: know before you go

Tips for first time cruises
Tips for first time cruisesDisney Cruise Lines

It’s your first cruise and the excitement is setting in. What now? First things first - make sure you have a recent passport. Don’t wait until the last minute to do this, it takes time to get a passport.

Shore excursions
Book shore excursions online as soon as you get your cruise documents. This will not only secure the activities you really want, but then your shore tickets will be waiting for you when you arrive and you won’t have to stand in a long line at the shore excursion desk.

Packing
Cruise cabins are usually small, so don’t overpack. Pack clothes that you can mix and match. Read the cruise line dress policy regarding formal nights, if you want join the fashionistas and shine. Tropical climates can have sudden downpours, so be sure to pack a lightweight waterproof jacket or poncho for shore excursions.

Pack a carry-on bag that includes airline tickets and cruise documents, cameras, prescriptions, swim suits, medications, sandals, sunscreen, a change of clothes and toiletries – everything that you’ll need for the first 8-9 hours.

Medications
Be sure you refill prescriptions at least two weeks before departure. Take along extra in case of any delays in your return. If you’re afraid of getting sea sick, ask your doctor for a prescription for the Scopolamine “patch” that goes behind one ear and dispenses meds over the entire cruise so you don’t have take daily doses of pills, or purchase some Sea Bands, which are acupressure wristbands that press on a particular point inside the wrist.

Pack your prescriptions in carry-on bags and over-the-counter medicines in checked luggage. Use a quart-size zip bag (fold-over tops are not allowed) to pack all containers (containers must be 3 ounces or less) in case of breakage. Remember that purchasing incidentals onboard can be expensive and plan accordingly.

Contact Info
Leave your contact information with a person on shore. Emergency contact information should include the name of your ship, room number and ship phone number. Email is the simplest and cheapest form of contact. The internet cafes on the ship are much cheaper than using the telephone. Cell phone service is another alternative, but roaming charges can also add up quickly.

Purchase before you go
Buy photo supplies before you cruise. Things can cost many times the purchase price when you get them onboard or in a port. Although there are ship photographers on board, the cost of their service can be exorbitant. Remember, security and x-ray machinery for checked baggage can damage film, batteries and digital cards, so pack them in plastic bags in your carry-on luggage.

On Board Expenses
When you check-in, the cruise line will authorized a credit card for a predetermined amount of money. Most cruises authorize $50 to $200 in daily charges. Alcoholic beverages, special onboard programs, spa treatments, casinos and shopping can quickly add up. Just remember that even though you will only be billed for what you actually spend, the amount of credit authorized will be “held” as a security deposit.

Carry Cash
When cruising you want to be sure you have plenty of cash on hand. You’ll need have small bills for tips and port excursion expenses. Don’t count on travelers' checks or credit cards since some places do not accept them. Be prepared.

Don't Tip Double
Tips are automatically added in when you buy a drink at the bar so there’s no need to double tip on board. Most big cruise lines automatically tack on a 15 percent service charge to bar bills.

Newsletters
The best tips ever is to read your newsletters daily. The ship's daily newsletter lists the dining and entertainment options available. This is valuable information and can be easily carried with you so you don’t miss anything. Bring a highlighter and mark the activities you don’t want to miss each day.

Recharging your Gadgets
Pack a power strip to recharge all of your devices at the same time. Rooms on cruises usually have fewer power outlets than you have gadgets. Most ships have both 110VAC and 220VAC power outlets.

These tips should help you be prepared for your first cruise. Now all you have to do is have fun. Bon Voyage!