16 Things You Need to Know Before Going On A Cruise


Note from Laurie: I have never been on a cruise, but loved my friend Shannon’s tips here! I’d love to know what you think, and what other tips you’d recommend. Happy cruising!

Thinking about a cruise or just booked one?

Here are several helpful hints to know BEFORE you go 🙂

When my daughter graduated high school last year  (gasp . . . when did that happen?) we took a cruise with the whole family and it was wonderful!  We learned a few things along the way and wanted to share them with YOU!

  1. Decide on a Cruise Line

    There are so many cruise lines to choose from! Do your homework and see which cruise lines fit your family and lifestyle best.  After we did our research, we opted for a Carnival Cruise under my brother’s recommendation and experience.

  2. Check Your Dates and Travel During NON-Peak Times

    We cruised one week before peak times started which saved us a bundle.  Some summer months for some areas are peak and some are not so it’s a good idea to do your research here.


  3. The Less Expensive Cabins Have Some Unique Perks

    If you’re looking for ways to cut your cruise budget, opt for an inner state room.  Having a very small port window in your room wasn’t worth the extra expense, especially when water surrounds you on the deck.  We found the pitch black inner state room helped us sleep great at night.

    Many people said we wouldn’t be in our room very much anyway, and I have to agree!  Our room was located in the middle of the ship which was awesome because we didn’t experience much “rocking” and we had quicker access to each end of the ship.


    cruise4This was the view on my morning run

  4. Gym or No Gym

    Since I love to run, I needed to have a place to exercise, especially if I was going to take advantage of all the yummy food on the cruise.  I took advantage of both the track AND the gym. It felt wonderful to be able to keep up with my workout routine while on vacation!  If this is important to you, make sure your cruise ship has a gym.

  5. Pack the Right Clothes

    While planning your trip, make sure you’re aware of any formal nights (ours were called elegant nights).  Luckily for me, we only had one formal night (I’m not a big fan of dressing up), but I packed 3 dresses just in case.  The other nights I dressed up nicely, but not in dresses (so those 2 extra dresses just took up space).  My advice would be to be aware of your scheduled formal nights, and pack lots of bathing suits and coverups for the pool/deck area 🙂

  6. Pick a Dining Time or Not

    We had several dining packages to choose from with Carnival, which I really liked.  We were able to choose a package that allowed us to eat at any time.  This helped when we had excursions and shows we wanted to see.  It was so nice to just eat when it suited us that day, and we never had to wait very long so it worked out well for us.

    Make sure to eat in the dining room for dinner.  The dining room has better food options and some menu items that you may not have access to elsewhere — at least without it getting expensive fast!

  7. Cell Phone Coverage

    Double check your cell service plan BEFORE you go ~ this will save you lots of money in extra charges!  By putting your phone in airplane mode when you arrive on the ship, you’ll save yourself extra data charges during your trip.  Most carriers charge extra for using satellite service on the cruise ship.

    You can opt to buy a Wi-Fi package on board but it was pretty expensive.  I recommend unplugging completely and enjoying time with your family instead. 🙂   This was so nice for us as I usually have a laptop on my lap when we’re home.

  8. Wait To Buy Until the Last Night

    By the last day of your cruise, most items were marked down a ton.  If there’s a certain item you want, wait to see if they mark it down on that last night of your cruise.  I just loved this tip!!

  9. Pictures

    Oh my, everywhere you turn people were taking pictures. To avoid paying $20 for a cruise line picture, kindly ask someone (anyone) to take your picture for you.  We have some great photos that were taken this way and they didn’t cost us anything.  I love that!

  10. Parking

    If you’re driving to your cruise destination, make sure you research options for parking your car.  We disembarked out of Tampa and had to find a place for our car for the week. My husband looked up all the options and chose one with good ratings that saved us almost 40%.  WOW!



  11. Excursions or No Excursions

    This is where you really can break the bank.  On our cruse we had two stops, one in Cozumel and the other in the Grand Cayman.  My husband researched all of the excursions and we decided on two.  He was sure to check the ratings posted on the cruise site and we ended up booking some of the cheaper options.

    We really enjoyed both of our excursions, so I’m glad we picked a few.  You can pay for a taxi and save some money by finding excursions on your own, but the plus side of booking with the cruise line is all transportation is taken care of, and they won’t leave you behind. 🙂

  12. Bring Your Own Water Bottle

    This is my NUMBER ONE tip for saving money while traveling!!  It really helped out with our excursions as well.  We just filled up before leaving and had nice clean cold water to drink while we were out.


  13. Know Your Budget BEFORE You Go

    Goodness, there are all of temptations on the ship.  They have necklaces, watches, earrings, purse . . .  so much STUFF.  Then there are the games and the casino casinonorske.com, the list goes on.  We were lucky and not so lucky at bingo, but it was all fine because we purchased prepaid VISA cards at Kroger and put those on our account to use while we were on the cruise.  This way we didn’t use our debit card AT ALL (I know right? … THANKS Dave Ramsey!)  😉

  14. Spa or No Spa

    I’m extremely biased on this one.  My 18-year-old won a $100 spa gift card,  so I decided to go with her and get a pedicure that cost $75.  YIKES!  I usually would never pay that price, but I wanted to spend time with my daughter.  I used the money I saved for the trip so this was my big splurge.  BUT … it was not a great experience because I felt like the pedicure was WAY overpriced so I left pretty upset about that.

    To be honest, if you want a pedicure or manicure hop on Groupon and have one before you go 🙂  That will take away any temptation to spend triple the amount you would normally spend.  Massages started out at $120 and went up from there.  Groupon has them starting at $29.  Whew!

  15. Prepay your Gratuities

    This was so nice!  Rather than being stuck with a huge unexpected bill at the end of your trip, opt to pay in advance.  I loved that this was an option and part of our cruise budget BEFORE we left.

  16. Take Advantage of Childcare

    To all the worn out moms who need a break, please take advantage of the childcare on board.  Spend some time with the hubby and relax a bit too.  Vacations can be stressful, especially with the kids, so REALLY take advantage of it.  The kids won’t even even remember when they get older, and our 8-year-old did some fun art activities and had a great time there!



What other tips do you have for crusing or other vacations? We’d love to hear your thoughts ~ leave leave a comment to share!


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  1. Dierdre says:

    Tip #11 problem is- if you don’t book excursions through the Cruiseline and there’s an issue, you may not get your $ back, or worse; just to name a few: bad weather causing your excursion to cancel, your excursion is late getting back into port, tours not fully vetted, tour vehicles not vetted for safety, guides & equipment not up to standard. When you do NOT book through your cruiseline, you are NOT protected in any of the above situations. Booking through your cruise line, DOES protect you. If you are part of a cruise line excursion and it’s back late, the ship holds until you’re back on board safely. If you self booked and are late, you will be waving at the backside of the ship, and on your own, trying to figure out how to meet it at the next port!!

    It’s worth the extra money for my family and me to be safe!

  2. We just returned from a great cruise. We learned from a veteran cruising couple that gratuities are ‘optional’ and may not reflect where you get your best service. At the end of the cruise, they go to guest services to get the gratuities removed. Then, during the cruise, they personally give gratuities to the cruise staff that goes the extra mile. The one thing that concerned us was that when we prepaid our gratuities, we didn’t know who was getting what portion of the gratuities. Were they even staff that helped us?

  3. Cindy Mata says:

    #12 we didn’t take a water bottle so we purchased one in the gift shop 2 for 30$. I now have a “cruise water bottle” that I will reuse next time.

    #7 get the least costly package so you can keep up with each other. Ours was 30$ for the 7 days and included Facebook and Snapchat, not sure what else, I used it to keep in touch by text with my travel companions, and my husband and son who were at home. Sometimes it was very slow or didn’t work because everyone was using it.

    No one tells you there is only one plug in your room! Four females and 1 plug. 4 cell phones, 1 Apple Watch, 1 iPad, hairdryer (the one on the ship was awful), and a hot hair iron. There is another plug, European, take an adapter.

    Many people took a fan, must be in box, can be opened.

    Take your own soft drinks, but in cans and unopened. Bottled drinks are not allowed on ships. Except for alcoholic. Go figure.

    Eating on the ship…I didn’t gain a pound..each day I had the following:
    Morning coffee
    Breakfast: a danish, oatmeal, bagel with peanut butter and fresh fruit.
    Lunch appetizer: Guy’s burger and fries (no words to express how good this was).
    Lunch meal: I always had lunch, I would try small amounts of several things.
    Lunch dessert: always got 4-5 desserts and split with my daughter. If there was something I especially liked, I would go get another serving.
    Dinner: early dining for me. I usually ordered an extra side, unless I ordered the “Port of Call” meal, then I ordered it as it came.
    Snacks: afternoon ice cream cone and then every night about 10pm, my granddaughter and daughter would bring fresh, hot pizza to the room. Usually one slice each, sometimes two each. It was delicious.

    Water: I drank water all week. From the spa, lemon water. Delicious.

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