Cruising is an amazing type of vacation that not only attracts crowds of new passengers every year, but keeps experienced passengers coming back again and again. If you don’t want to stand out as the rookie in a sea of veteran cruisers, avoid these very obvious but easily correctible cruise mistakes.

Top 10 Mistakes That Show You’re a New Cruiser:

1. Choosing the Wrong Cruise Line

Many new cruisers believe all cruises are alike, but nothing could be further from the truth. Each cruise line has a distinctive personality, from casual party lines that focus on having a good time to adventurous lines that push the limits of new experiences to classically elegant lines that embody the golden age of cruising. If you choose the wrong line, you may end up on a very uncomfortable vacation that doesn’t offer the activities, destinations or options you were hoping for.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Research cruise lines before you book, checking what features are available on different ships, what destinations are visited and what activities are most popular to get a feel for the overall vibe of the cruise line.

2. Overpacking

It’s easy to spot a new cruiser on embarkation day when they are lugging around multiple oversized bags, juggling handles and shoulder straps as they trudge up and down stairs, into elevators and along hallways. Those newbies stand out even if their bags are turned over to porters, because they will have a large collection of luggage waiting outside their staterooms. And while you might indeed use all the items you’ve packed – where will you store that luggage during the cruise? Large bags will not fit under the beds in the cabin, nor will they fit in the compact closets. Instead, you’ll be tripping over the luggage every time you move through your cabin.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Pack as lightly as possible, choosing clothes and accessories that can do double duty with different outfits. Opt for soft-sided luggage that can be collapsed, such as duffles, so your luggage can be condensed and out of the way in your cabin.

3. Not Planning for Sea Sickness

The motion of a cruise ship is completely different than any other vehicle – planes, trains, cars, busses, roller coasters or even smaller boats. Many new cruisers think that since they don’t get motion sickness in other circumstances, they won’t have any queasiness on board. But a cruise ship is moving all the time, and the long duration of that motion can upset even the sturdiest stomach. Furthermore, overindulging on food and drink, getting less sleep because of late night activities and being in close confines with hundreds or thousands of other passengers can spread illnesses that, while not directly motion sickness, can be just as unpleasant.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Bring along medication or home remedies such as ginger or peppermint to help settle an upset stomach, and use them as soon as you feel even a hint of nausea. Avoid spicy foods, excessive grease and too much alcohol as you are getting your sea legs. Use hand sanitizer liberally and wash your hands frequently to avoid any other communicable germs on board.

4. Wearing a Lanyard Everywhere

A lanyard, with or without an attached pocket to hold a room key, ship identification or a bit of cash, can be a useful accessory, but it isn’t a fashion statement you ought to be making at all times on your cruise. Nothing spoils a formal night portrait faster than a dangling lanyard, and they’re not meant for use in the pool or during any water sports. Wearing a visible lanyard will also highlight that you’re a tourist in every port of call, signaling con artists and pushy salespeople to approach, making your shore visit much more uncomfortable.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Put your ship ID card securely in a pocket, purse or bag instead of on a lanyard, or if you do prefer to wear a lanyard, keep it tucked out of sight beneath a shirt when you leave the ship.

Docked Carnival Cruise Ship
Photo By: Russell Otway (For Cruise Hive Only)

5. Buying All Your Pictures the First Day

Cruise photographers will take your picture all the time – during embarkation, out having fun on deck, in the dining room, at posed stations each evening, on the gangway in each port of call and more – and it can be tempting to purchase these great mementos of your cruise. Many cruise lines offer special packages if you start buying photos on the first day, but what many new cruisers don’t realize is that there will be other deals later on as well, and with many more photos to come, it isn’t always best to snatch up every photo right away. Most photos will be available for at least 2-3 days, giving you time to pick and choose your best poses without spending too much.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Check out your photos, but quickly discard any shots you’re sure you don’t want so you aren’t tempted by poor results. Keep an eye on the better photos, and choose your selections later in your voyage to be sure you have only the best pictures to consider, even if you only end up keeping your own snapshots instead of professional photos.

6. Not Watching the Clock

Time does fly when you’re having fun, and many new cruisers get so caught up in the fun on their cruise that they don’t realize what time it is. This is especially critical in port, when the ship’s time may be different from local time – not all cruise ships change their clocks when they sail into different time zones. Because many passengers use cell phones to keep time, problems arise when those phones reset to local time automatically. Cruisers who don’t realize their phones aren’t accurate to the ship’s time can find themselves late for activities, missing shore tours or even being left behind as the ship departs. Even on board, being late for dinner could mean holding up the service or missing your seating, and passengers who are always running behind will miss out on spa appointments, show times and all sorts of activities.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Keep your phone or watch on ship’s time, and give yourself plenty of extra time to get to important places before deadlines.

7. Waiting Too Long for the Best Deal

Every passenger wants to get a great deal on spa treatments, restaurant reservations or beverage packages, but new cruisers don’t realize how quickly those deals can disappear. Limited-quantity deals, such as spa reservations or peak dining times in specialty restaurants, fill up quickly. Meanwhile, some deals are only valid for port days or at-sea days, while other sales are only offered on the first day or two of the cruise. Passengers who wait too long to take advantage of these bargains will find themselves paying more because the deal is gone.

Don’t Make This Mistake: While it’s important not to fall for a high-pressure sales pitch, if the deal is one you are interested in, sign up right away so you don’t miss the narrow savings window. Be aware, however, that there will probably be additional deals later in the cruise – but you may not want to count on that possibility if the offer is very attractive.

Carnival Cruise Line Passengers
Photo By: Russell Otway

8. Leaving Identification Behind

The ship card every passenger is issued is more than just a room key – it includes dining time information, serves as an onboard charge card and is a personal identification for every passenger. Too many first-time cruisers, however, leave their ID behind in their cabin when they go to dinner, but then don’t remember their dining assignment. Parents will forget their children’s ship cards when getting off in port, but those cards are required for every passenger, no matter what their age, so the parent has to run back to the cabin, risking missing a shore tour or holding up the line because of their oversight.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Bring your ship card along every time you leave your cabin, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. You never know when you might want to visit a souvenir shop, order a drink or just need the room key even if your cruise companions don’t want to go back to the cabin.

9. Not Taking Cash on Shore

Cruises pride themselves on their all-inclusive nature, and even if you need to make extra charges such as buying a souvenir or ordering a drink, your ship ID card acts as a convenient onboard charge account. That valuable card doesn’t work on shore, however, and new cruisers will miss out if they don’t take at least a little cash when they leave the ship. Want to rent a beach umbrella? Need a locker to keep your valuables safe? Want to buy a quirky little trinket to take home? Want to buy a bag of food to feed the fish while you’re snorkeling? You’ll need cash for all those purchases.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Bring cash along, but keep it to small bills that are easily broken for incidental purchases. If you need to break a larger bill, visit the ship’s casino to do so, since it may not be possible to get proper change in a foreign port of call.

10. Not Understanding Onboard Charges

Cruise mistakes
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New cruisers make all sorts of mistakes with onboard charges. Some assume that everything is included in the fare, when in reality (and depending on the cruise line) you still have to pay for alcohol, soda, specialty coffees, reservations restaurants, spa treatments, shore tours and other items. Some new cruisers don’t realize everything that is is included in the fare, such as eating in the main dining room, attending a show or having your photo taken with a quirky prop. Newbies often get confused by tips as well, including how automatic or prepaid gratuities work, and that additional tips are typically added to bar purchases. By not knowing how all these charges work, new cruisers may either end up not enjoying everything they can on their cruise, or being shocked by an expensive bill at the end.

Don’t Make This Mistake: Be aware of what amenities are included free and which cost extra on board. Always check receipts to see if tips have been added, and consider checking with the information desk or an automatic kiosk for updates on your account balance during your cruise to avoid expensive surprises.

What mistakes have you made as a new cruiser? Share your experiences and tips on our social media channels.