Cruising can be a fantastic family vacation. It is a great way to visit multiple destinations from the comfort of a 5-star floating hotel. The cruise experience itself, however, can require some navigating. Hidden costs, seasickness and long elevator queues can make for an unsatisfying experience. My family embarked on our first cruise last year, and while we had a great time, we walked away with some key learnings for the next time we cruise.

Are you gearing up for your very first cruise? Here are some tips for first-time cruisers:

Research Your Ports

Make sure you know how much time do you have at each port and highlight any sights that you’d like to see. If your ship offers excursions, book these ahead of time.

Research Your Ship

Don’t just research the cruise line- make sure you’ve looked at the amenities on your specific ship. What demographic is most popular on the vessel? Family or retirees? Does it have the entertainment, activities and food offerings that you and your family need?

AquaDuck Water Coaster

Some Disney Cruise Line ships include AquaDuck. Stretching 765 feet in length and spanning four decks in height, AquaDuck uses water blasters to propel guests around the ship’s top deck. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Don’t Over Tip

Most ships charge service charge per day, per passenger; including babies and kids. 15% is already automatically included on drinks so no need to part with any more cash. You may want to give your dinner servers and cabin steward a little extra on the last day, but that is optional.

Be Aware of Hidden Costs

In addition to additional costs on the boat, you will need to pay for your hotel either side of the cruise departing/embarking and your flight down to the ship. Also, certain restaurants and menu items, plus most drinks can cost extra as can speciality wine on your dining table. Keep an eye out for these extras.

Get a room with a window

Avoid cabin fever in a small, interior stateroom and book a seaside room with a window. If you can spring it, get a room with a balcony for extra, private space to lay in the sun.


Take the Stairs When You Can

Avoid the long lines of scooters and canes at the elevator. Burn off some of that four-course dinner by taking the stairs. In most cases, it is the faster route.

Cruise ship at port in Falmouth Jamaica. Why not stay aboard and explore without the crowds?

Cruise ship at the port in Falmouth Jamaica. Why not stay aboard and explore without the crowds?

Stay on the ship on a port day

Most people get off the boat on a port day to explore a new destination. However, if you aren’t married to any of the activities on land, use this time to explore the ship with fewer people around. Skip the lines at the climbing wall, get first dibs at the lunch buffet and lounge by the pool without the masses of people that are usually there on a sea day.

Put Your Phone Away

WiFi is NOT included, and packages are available for upward of $250 US depending on the ship. Do yourself a favour and throw your phone in the safe throughout your trip. Not only will you save the cash, but you will also be happy for the social media break.

Arrive At The Port The Day Before

Expect the unexpected! Be it a snowstorm, a tropical storm or just good old fashioned airline delays, prepare to be at your departing destination the day before, just in case. Many hotels near the cruise port will offer deals for cruisers and free transport to the port.

Be Prepared For Seasickness

Think you’re immune to seasickness? A bought of turbulence can send even the strongest stomachs running for the toilet. Bring seasickness tablets, pressure wristbands or one of the many tricks available to combat seasickness. Again, just in case.