Thinking of booking your first cruise? Well we just finished a Royal Caribbean cruise that took us from Flordia, all the way across the Atlantic over the course of 14 days! Needless to say, we learned a hell of a lot about what to do and what not to do.
Hopefully after reading this list, you’ll be much better prepared for your swashbuckling days at sea than we were.
Repositioning cruises are cheap!
Our cruise was one-way from Tampa, FL, to Barcelona, Spain. It took 14 days (with 8 continuous days at sea and 4 port days) and included food, entertainment and lodging, all for under $45/day. That’s only $630 total! We couldn’t have flown to Barcelona for that cheap!
The only drawback to booking these cruises it that they typically run in the off season (early spring or fall) and can be too long for some people. But, if you plan on traveling for a while, these cruises are extremely affordable when you factor in the length and distance traveled.
Time of year and destination determine the clientele.
I always thought cruises were just drunken pool parties surrounded by buffets and endless ocean. While those cruises exist, if it’s during the school year or if the cruise is longer than a few days or a week, it’s way more likely to just be you and 2,000 senior citizens - which is exactly what happened on our transatlantic trip.
If nonstop partying is what you’re looking for, just make sure to stick with shorter cruises and/or go during peak months. I will say one thing about our mostly senior-citizen cruise though, they sure know how to cut a rug! Plus I didn’t feel so bad getting into my swimsuit after eating at the buffet :D
Check out that day's vlog to see our reaction to the clientel and the first day of our cruise:
The food’s actually pretty darn good.
Well, at least it is at first! By the 14th day of the exact same breakfast buffet, we were ready to never have runny eggs, bland coffee and flavorless fried potatoes ever again! Luckily, the lunch and dinner buffets were much more exciting and surprisingly tasty.
Oh and if your cruise offers a sit down dinner option at no extra charge, definitely sign up for it! We had amazing 3 course dinners every night and those alone were worth the price of the cruise!
Be prepared to spend a lot more money than your original booking fee.
Any drinks other than water, black coffee, tea, and juice cost money. So if you want a latte or a soda, be prepared to pay extra.
There’s a mandatory 18% gratuity added to any bar purchase. VATs (value added taxes) can also pop up - in our case, once we got into Spanish waters, there was an additional 10% VAT tacked on to any fine dining or bar purchase.
There was also an extra $13/day gratuity added to our overall bill which ended up being quite an expensive surprise! Luckily you can opt out of the daily gratuity charge, but you may want to save up at least a little cash so you can tip your waiters and room attendant at the end of the cruise.
The moral here is make sure to read ALL of the fine print on your cruise material. It saved us loads of money!
If you get car or motion sick, you’ll almost definitely be affected by the ship’s rocking. And, if you’re really lucky like us, you’ll have 30 mph winds and 15ft waves to toss the boat around and really make your equilibrium freak the eff out.
You can get prescription sea sickness patches from your doctor that supposedly work wonders, but be aware that insurance doesn’t typically cover them! You should have seen my face when I walked in to pick mine up and the pharmacist said “that’ll be $198”. Sadly, they don’t have any cheaper, over the counter patches. But dramamine and/or the off-brand version, bonine, worked really well!
But careful though, dramamine can make you super sleepy! I was essentially a zombie by the second day, so in an act of desperation, I bought these goofy sea bands when we got to our first port.
To my surprise, they actually worked! Apparently there’s a pressure point on your wrist that they push against which somehow magically cures your nausea!!? Whatever voodoo magic it was, I’ll take it! I might have looked a bit silly wearing them, but at least I wasn’t dying in my room anymore!
Drink packages aren’t worth it on long cruises - sneak on booze instead!
Most cruises offer various daily drink packages ranging from unlimited cheap beer and wine to unlimited premium cocktails, beers and wine. While it may be enticing to sign up for these, just keep in mind that you can’t purchase just one day at a time. You actually have to purchase the package for every remaining day of the cruise. In our case, if we’d signed up for just the basic drink package, it would have been an extra $650, which was more than we spent on our tickets!! If you’re only spending a few days at sea, it may be worth it, but we just couldn’t justify it.
We did end up buying their cheapest beer every now and then (which was a pretty good deal at 750 mL of Fosters for $7.67 including tip and tax!), but one of the best things we did for our wallets was sneak on our own liquor! Here’s how we did it.
Don’t plan on having reliable wifi
Okay, so this isn’t necessarily true of all cruises nowadays, but for us, most of the time we were lucky if we could get our email to load!
A lot of ships have upgraded their internet and we hear it’s much faster and more reliable. Just make sure to double check especially if you’re hoping to get some legitimate work done onboard. Also, some internet packages are really expensive, so you may want to hold off and chill out at an internet cafe on your port days instead of buying the ship’s package or paying their high daily rate.
Plan out your port days in advance to make the most of your time on shore.
Maybe you’re super fancy and signed up for excursions through your cruise, in which case, ignore this tip. If you’re more thrifty (read: poor) like us, you’ll be your own tour guide. It’s certainly the more affordable option, but just make sure you research your port destinations ahead of time so you’re not wasting your morning scouring tripadvisor last-minute or walking aimlessly down random streets.
A little preparation will ensure you get to see some cool sights and still make it back to your ship on time.
Bring nice clothes!
Our cruise had 3 formal nights during our two-week cruise - 3!! And you better believe we were those assholes running around in smart-casual (another dinner attire theme) while everyone else was in their floor length dresses and tuxes. Don’t offend the old people on your cruise like we did - throw a suit jacket or LBD in your bag just in case.
There you have it! We really hope that these tips help you when taking your first cruise. We definitely wish we would have known some of these things going in!
We cruised with Royal Caribbean, but we realize these details can vary a bit based on your cruise line. If you’re a cruise veteran, we’d love to know if you’ve had different experiences or if you have any tips of your own that you think we should have included.
Let us know in the comments below or strike up a conversation on Twitter. Thanks for reading!