In just a few short weeks, my family and I will be heading out on our Carnival cruise! While we are still soaking up the last few weeks of summer, we have also been busy preparing for our voyage. There are a lot of things to consider to prepare for a cruise. Some of these things go unnoticed by first time cruisers. From essentials to activities, I find it easier to plan ahead so I can make the most of my trip. With our cruise coming up in just a few days, it got me thinking. What were some of the mistakes I made as a first time cruiser? How can I help those taking their first cruise so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. So I am highlighting 5 mistakes first time cruisers make and some of my tips when preparing for our Carnival cruise.

5 Mistake First Time Cruisers Make

1. Think about your activity options before your trip

Before your trip, head to Carnival’s (or any of the cruise lines) website to look at the cruise itinerary. This will give you insight as to what you can expect each day of your cruise. You can also find sample itineraries from past cruises to help you get an idea of the kind of activities you will find onboard. For the days you will be at the port, look at the available excursions, and decide what you want to do. Some activities will require closed-toed shoes or a bathing suit, so make sure you pack based on your activity options. 

I find it helpful to go ahead and plan out the days. One of the mistakes first time cruisers make is skipping this entirely because they don’t want to be committed to a strict schedule. This step is helpful because you then know what to do when packing and making sure you bring everything you need. It helps to prepare for a cruise well in advance and helps you make the most of your time onboard.

Another reason to plan out your days ahead of time is sometimes you can get discounts on excursions and drink packages if you book them in advance. Check your Carnival emails to see those discounts ahead of time.

5 mistakes first time cruisers make

2. Look into your cruise’s dress code policy

No matter what the length of your cruise is, there will likely be a formal night on the ship. This means you will need to pack a formal dress or a suit to wear for your trip. In addition to the formal night, many dining rooms require a more upscale outfit than a T-shirt and jeans to enter the dining room. This means you will likely need resort clothes for during the day, and another outfit to wear to dinner at night. Also keep in mind the footwear you bring, some activities onboard require closed-toe shoes. Missing the proper attire is easily a mistake first-time cruisers make and although there are fixes onboard it can get quite expensive.

The ship will have so many activities for you so keep that in mind when you prepare for a cruise. Are you going to workout and take a fun fitness class? Bring sneakers. Or are you planning on spending most of your time by the pool? A cover up and comfortable sandals might be important. Consider all these things when picking your attire.

mistakes first time cruisers make

3. Don’t forget your cruise essentials

Ok so you know the basics, toothbrush, shampoo, etc. but there are some not so obvious things that turn out to be essentials. Sun protection is one of those as well as Aloe Vera, just in case. There is a chance you might not be feeling 100% so I always pack a travel medicine case with Dramamine of course. Also, think about the electric outlets on board. If you are in another country you might need a converter. While older blogs might recommend bringing a power strip for more room outlets they are now not allowed.

No need to bring towels on board but I would bring a little pool/beach bag and comfortable sandals. Some of these ships are pretty big and you might have a little walk from your stateroom to the pool deck.

Another mistake first time cruisers make is they don’t bring a carry on bag. Your luggage will be delivered to your room for you and sometimes that can take a few hours (sometimes the rooms aren’t even ready when you get on). Be sure to have a bag with some things you will need within the next few hours. Think medications, anything you might need for your kids during meal times (we eat when we first get on), swim attire, etc.

4. Budget for extra costs

Cruises are basically all inclusive but there can be additional costs along the way that you might not think about at first. Some of the things that have costs are alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, the casino, and tips for the staff on board. While you can charge most of your onboard expenses to your card, there are some moments where you will need cash so I would bring some.

There are even expenses when you arrive at your port of call. Eating and transportation for example. While you are off the ship, you can get away with using a credit card at most locations, but there are some cash only spots. While the ships will have an ATM, typically in the casino, the fees will be very high at these locations. Don’t make the mistakes first time cruisers make, it could cost you.

5. Cruise Documents

Most cruises do not require you to have a passport, a photo id, and birth certificate is sufficient, but we like to bring one anyway. Make sure you keep those travel documents handy when you get to the terminal. Also, a little prep goes a long way as you can check-in online before you even get there! That will save you so much time just be sure to bring all of your documents with you. Plus doing it ahead of time can be a way of double-checking any mistakes.

As a first time cruiser many years ago I made a big rookie mistake. I didn’t print out my luggage tags. It’s not the worst thing in the world and they will have a backup for you but it does help if you have it ready ahead of time. Each person should have a tag after you check-in online and just wrap it around your luggage handle. Or we use these inexpensive tags which keep them from getting ruined.

No matter where you are traveling to, these tips will help you prepare for a cruise and at least you won’t make these 5 mistakes first time cruisers make! I hope you feel better knowing that now you are prepared and maybe even inspired to book your own!

Want to read about more of our cruise adventures? Check out our Travel and Cruise pages!