17 Cruise Mistakes To Avoid

cruise mistakes man in respirator at the airport

Avoid these common cruise mistakes!

Planning your first cruise can be intimidating, but we are here, at your service, to help you avoid some common rookie cruise mistakes.

Cruise Mistakes To Avoid Before You Set Sail

Choosing the wrong cruise – The number one mistake new cruisers make is picking the wrong cruise line or cruise itinerary for their personality and vacation style. Do your research and get to know what each cruise line offers.

You can start by taking our cruise line personality quiz for a fun, general idea of what line you might start with. 

cruise mistakes couple with map

Obsessing over the planning process – Before my first cruise, I memorized the menus, planned everything down to the minute, and probably started off a little too uptight for a vacation. Seasoned cruisers will tell you to leave time to relax and go with the flow. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your research – just remember, you’re going on VACATION!

cruise mistakes travel insurance claim form

Cruising without travel insurance – Airport delays, illness, and schedule changes are just a few of the reasons to consider purchasing travel insurance. We suggest pricing a “cancel for any reason” policy, and consulting with your travel agent to find the best insurance for your cruise.

While we hope you won’t need it, we hear story after story of cruisers losing or spending tons of cash when something goes awry and they didn’t invest in insurance. You can buy this through your cruise line directly, or through an independent provider.  

Neglecting to make port day plans – While we generally discourage over-planning, we also don’t think it’s a great idea to neglect to research and plan activities during port days. There are SOME ports where you can simply get off the ship and walk around, but a little research can help to venture outside the port area and avoid over-priced shopping and tourist traps.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money on activities, or book excursions through the cruise line. In fact, you may find that a little effort to research your port saves considerable time and frustration.

For example- you may learn that walking just a few hundred feet outside the port area can save you LOTS on taxi fare to a local beach.

cruise mistakes approaching storm cloud with rain over the sea

Ignoring seasonal issues – Booking a cruise during an “off” season can be a bit of a cruising faux pas. Hurricane season in the Caribbean may bring great deals, but be prepared for possible itinerary changes and/or weather delays in the event of a storm.

Similarly, late-season in Alaska, and muggy summers in the Mexican Riviera aren’t usually the end of the world, but you should be aware that there are optimal and “not so optimal” cruise seasons. When in doubt, ask your travel agent to help you out with this one. And, remain flexible if the Captain changes your ports, due to weather or other delays.

Seasoned cruisers DO cruise during the “off-seasons”, but they do so with an open mind. Nothing beats cruise prices to the Caribbean in September, BUT they come with risks.

Flying to port the day of your cruise – This is one of those cruise mistakes that gets people into trouble. Flying in to your embarkation port the same day as your cruise is pretty risky, unless you’re flying from a city close enough to offer a rental car to get you to the ship in the event of a flight delay. Consider a park and fly package at a hotel instead, or fly in a day or two early, and don’t risk it! 

cruise mistakes ship newsletters

Skipping the daily newsletter – SO much valuable information can be found your daily newsletter once onboard. Belly flop contest? Check! Zumba class, count me in! This is the light reading you don’t want to overlook.

Most cruise lines offer both paper and electronic copies of their daily schedule, where you can check out everything from activity times, to dining room hours, and even the drink of the day. If your cruise line offers an app, download it to your smartphone and you’ll have the newsletter with you at all times. 

Not Knowing What to Expect

Expecting perfection – There’s no such thing as a perfect cruise, and we think that’s true of most vacations. Cruising with a flexible attitude is key when you’re at sea.

Why? There can be weather delays, rude passengers, missed ports and changes along the way. We try to expect those changes on every cruise, and appreciate that our safety and well being come first. 

Expecting all cruises to be the same – You may not want to book a short weekend cruise and judge cruising, as a whole, based on that experience. There’s a significant difference between a 3 night getaway, a week-long voyage, and a two week cruise. Just trust us on this one. 

Packing Related Cruise Mistakes

cruise mistakes young family with a child packing

Over packing – Yah, it’s not going to kill you to bring a few extra outfits or shoes, but a lot of people end up with more luggage than they need and regret taking so much stuff on their first cruise. Ask your cruising friends for their essential packing tips, and of course, watch our packing videos to get ahead of the game on this one. 

Packing new or uncomfortable shoes – You’ll hear us repeat over and over. Unless you like torture, leave your uncomfortable shoes at home, friends. Cruise ships are huge, and you’ll be walking football field distances to get just about anywhere, so break in those shoes, before you cruise.  

Forgetting to pack essential toiletries and medication - Cruise ships aren’t exactly like hotels. Not all have soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion in-room. All that stuff, including sunscreen, and other toiletry items, are probably available on your ship, but you’ll pay a premium.

It’s nice to pack all the travel sized toiletries, a supply of basic medications, motion sickness remedies, and whatever else you may need. Or, if you’re a super light packer, leave it all at home, and buy travel sizes in port, just before you board the ship so you don’t have to worry about flying with liquids. Typically, you can find a drug or grocery store to stock up!

Not packing cash and small bills – Neglecting to pack a little cash, especially for shore days can be a big blunder.  Cash can come in handy for tipping the porter at the terminal, shopping in port, and even for transportation on the ground.

Some people also tip room service staff and other helpful crew onboard, but that’s up to you since most gratuities are automatically added onboard. 

Cruise Mistakes Onboard The Ship

cruise mistakes three colorful alarm clocks

Failing to pay attention to time zone changes – While this isn’t a factor on all cruises, some cruisers aren’t aware there can be time zone changes as you travel from area to area on a cruise.

While most ships account for this, not all cruise ships change their clocks to match shore time when they sail into different time zones. So, watch your newsletter and ask the staff if ship time will be different from port time, and pack a good old fashioned wristwatch and a little portable alarm clock in the event there’s no clock in your stateroom. 

Ignoring onboard charges – While cruises are technically “cashless”, or because they are cashless, it’s easy to get a little spendy on a cruise. So, it’s important to be aware of what amenities are included with your cruise fare and which cost extra on board.

Always check receipts to see if tips have already 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. 

Skipping the disembarkation talk – We know getting off the ship is depressing, but on your first cruise, don’t miss the disembarkation talk, or forget to read the disembarkation materials sent to your stateroom a few days before the cruise ends.

Skipping this step often leads first time cruisers to frustration and confusion. But, we promise, you’ll probably will only need to do this once in your cruising career! 

Packing essentials on the last night of the cruise – Unlike other forms of travel, cruise ships offer you the chance to have your bags taken off the ship for you. The staff will direct you to leave the bags outside your stateroom the night before you leave the ship. Trouble is, if you forget to keep essentials with you on the evening before disembarkation, it’s very difficult, if not impossible to get those items back.

If you plan to allow the cruise line to take your bags the night before you leave the ship, keep your travel documents, medications toiletries and a change of clothes with you in your stateroom, along with a small back to carry off the ship. If you’re planning for self assisted debarkation, you don’t have to worry about this. 

So Happy You’re Here!

Thanks so much for reading along! We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and will share these cruise mistakes with a friend. Please feel free to direct message us on Instagram or Facebook with your thoughts and questions. We are here for you! Until next time, we’ll see you on the high seas!

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Sheri and her family are cruise content creators focused on providing practical tips and advice to new and seasoned cruisers. CruiseTipsTV’s audience enjoys following Sheri and her family as they travel the world by ship creating travel films. Sheri has visited destinations like Japan, Mexico, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean, and has experienced 33 cruises on 6 cruise lines. She was named one of Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 10 Travel Influencers Changing How We Vacation in 2018 and 2019. Sheri has been quoted in the New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, Prevention, and Business Innovator Radio. Her YouTube Channel, CruiseTipsTV has over 87,000 subscribers and 17 million views.