Cruising can feel like a whole other world of holidaying when it’s your first time. I mean, everyone is doing it, even your Great-Aunty Sally, and the Johnsons down the road, so really, how hard can it be? Follow this first time cruise checklist and you’ll step on board feeling like a pro…!
Is this the right cruise for me?
Hopefully you’ve done some research into this one already, and if you need some help, I’ve written some pointers for you here.
Check the following:
1. Is the destination really where you want to go? Obvious, but, you know…
2. Do you have a cabin type/location you’re happy with (inside/outside/balcony/suite, front/back/centre, high/low, obstructed)?
3. Is the ship aimed at the target audience you fit into – active, or not, kids, or not, younger or older?
4. Is the size of the ship ok for you, not too large, not too small?
5. Is the length of cruise ok – enough time to relax, but not too long if you’re not sure if you’ll enjoy it? Bear in mind that short cruises (2-4 nights) can often be ‘booze-cruises’, so 7 nights may be a better starting duration.
Do I have the correct documentation?
1. Unless you’re doing a domestic cruise, you will need a passport. For domestic, a driver’s license is usually ok.
2. Do you require visas for your destination? Check with your travel agent or local embassy to assist you.
3. Have you got your ‘boarding pass’ from the cruise line? You normally get this online once you’re fully paid (if you are part of a group, the whole group may need to be fully paid before you can access this).
4. Do you have your luggage tags from the cruise line? (you can get from the pier if not, don’t stress this one!).
5. Are you travelling with kids (under 18), and if so, do they have the same surname as you? If not, you may need a parental permission form, signed by a JP. Check with your travel agent or the cruise line for assistance with this.
Have I packed correctly?
You can read my post on packing here for more information, but these are some key things NOT to pack:
1. Power boards are forbidden.
2. Hair dryers are forbidden (hair straighteners are ok).
3. For most cruise lines, you can NOT bring your own spirits on board (wine is often ok).
4. Coffee machines can not be brought on board (I know that often the coffee can suck…but you’ll find the decent stuff in ports, just hang in there!).
5. Drones are not permitted on most cruise lines and will be confiscated until the end of the cruise.
What’s the check-in process?
Each cruise line will have their own process, but generically speaking, this is what to expect:
1. You will be told what time to arrive at the pier (check your boarding pass), usually worked out by your cabin type or deck – stick to this time, particularly if you’re on a larger ship as they’ll turn you away if you’re early.
2. You can usually drop off your suitcase early (shortly after the ship has been cleared from the previous cruise) and then wander around the port/town until your allocated check-in time.
3. If you haven’t dropped off your bags already, you will do that first – look for the signs, or a stevedore will find you to assist. If you don’t already have a luggage tag, they’ll do this for you.
4. Enter the main terminal showing your boarding pass and sometimes also your passport.
5. Enter the correct queue for your cabin type/loyalty tier and have your credit card and passport ready, as well as your cruise boarding pass.
6. The check-in team will take your documents, often photocopy your passport (check if this is required for you to provide beforehand), take your photo (or this will be done as you board) and your credit card details will be taken. If you don’t have a credit card, you will need to put down cash, generally travel payment cards are not accepted. You will generally be given your Seapass/onboard pass/key at this point – do not lose it! You may want to bring a lanyard to clip it straight onto.
7. You will enter security – the same as if you were at an airport. Your bags will be x-rayed, and you’ll go through the scanner. Don’t worry about the liquids rule at airports, this doesn’t apply to cruises.
8. As you board the ship, they will ask for your ship pass and ‘dong’ you in. If not already done, they will take your photo – remove your sunnies and smile 🙂
I’m on…now what?
1. Your cabin most likely won’t be available to you until after 2pm. Ensure you have your swimmers, any meds and anything else you may need in your hand luggage. Even when you can enter your cabin, your bag may not arrive until before 9pm.
2. You may have been travelling for a while, so take a load off in the buffet restaurant which will be open and waiting for you with a nice cold drink and a huge array of food to enjoy.
3. Go explore! Ships have great signage to help you find your way, so I usually go for a wander to get my bearings and decide what activities etc that I want to do during the cruise.
4. When the cabins are ready, this will be announced to you by your Cruise Director. You will find lots of great information provided in your room, in paper form and on your TV.
5. If you have any issues with your cabin, you can go to Guest Relations to assist you. If you need to change your dining time/restaurant/make a specialty restaurant booking, go the main dining room where a Maitre’D will be waiting to assist you.
6. Enjoy your cruise!
Let’s wrap this one up
Although it may feel a little foreign to start with, you will find that everything flows very well with cruising, this is why people love it so much! If you follow this first time cruise checklist, you shouldn’t have any problems and I reckon you’ll be an addict before the cruise is over!
Please feel free to add anything I may have missed, or give me your feedback – I always love to hear from you.