10 things we wished we knew before cruising

Cruising is a unique vacation where there is special lingo used, unspoken rules and unique quirks. Before our first cruise, we knew none of these which led to balcony miss-haps and missing some fantastic activities. To help other first-time cruisers, we put together this guide of the 10 things we wished we knew before cruising so you won’t make the same mistakes as us.

Video: 10 things we wished we knew before cruising

01. It’s too easy to flash another ship

Balcony Cabin on Disney Cruise Line

If you have an ocean-view or balcony cabin, remember to check what is docked opposite you before you throw open the curtains in the morning. You may have has a view of the open ocean the day before, but today you are docked a few feet from another ship. The last thing you want is to shock the ship opposite with your morning attire or lack of!

This happened on more than one occasion and you would think we would learn our lesson but its so easy to forget.

Keep in mind too that other people can see your balcony. While balconies are private… they are not THAT private. We have seen too happening on people balconies.

02. You can go behind the scenes

We didn’t know that you can go behind the scenes on some cruise lines. We have been on tours that visit the galleys (kitchens), go behind the stage and even visit the bridge.

The most fascinating part that we always love is Laundertetts. It was the highlight of our Sapphire Princess cruise in 2018 as it was massive and even had a towel folding machine.

Some cruise lines, such as Viking Ocean and selected Disney Cruise Line sailings, offer this for free while others charge a fee.

03. There is so much to do on a cruise

Royal Caribbean Silent Disco
Silent Disco on Royal Caribbean

We have to admit that before we first cruise we were worried it was going to be boring. We thought that it would just be sunbathing and eating. We were totally wrong.

There is so much to do and some days it’s hard to fit everything in. There are the shows in the main theatre, live music around the ship, quizzes and game shows. Plus all the onboard facilities such as the pools, gym, ice skating and even sky diving.

A top tip is to check the daily planner that will be delivered to your cabin each evening for the next day. It details all the entertainment and activities happening onboard. Plus, essential information such as; weather, port information, all aboard time and the important drink of the day.

04. The Captain is an onboard celebrity

In 2019, the biggest stars in the world are the Kardashians, Beyonce or Brad Pitt. But none of them compares to the captain when on a cruise ship. Trust us, they are a big deal.

While the days of the captain hosting dinners are gone there are evenings where you can meet him or her and have your picture taken. We have seen lines longer than Space Mountain at Disneyland for this and cruisers really go all out when dressing for the occasion.

Each day at midday the captain will do an announcement detailing the ships course, weather and other interesting information. This is the highlight of the day for some cruisers. We have seen people stop dead in their tracks at the buffet to listen and the ship will fall silent.

05. You will find loyalty status show-offs on every cruise

Norwegian Cruise Card

We have heard of street-cred before cruising but never cruise status-cred. Loyalty programmes not only gets you perks, such as free laundry or free drinks, but it also seems bragging rights too.

We have met a few “status queens” in our time. These are the people that like to tell you their cruise loyalty status, how many cruises they have been on and act like they own the ship. On more than one occasion we have heard a cruiser declare; “Don’t you know I am a gold member?” as they furiously tap their cruise card on the bar while waiting to be served.

Everyone should sign up to a cruise lines loyalty status programme. Even on your second cruise you can something in return such as a drinks voucher. There will also be a welcome back event where they offer free drinks too!

06. Cruises are a great way to meet new people

Group of Friends in Barcelona
We meet so many friends on cruises

Before cruising we had been on many land vacations and never met so many people as we have on cruises. It’s a fantastic way to meet likeminded people from around the world and make friends. We still keep in contact with many people from previous cruises.

There are lots of meetups onboard to help you meet people. Most cruises include an LGBT meet up (also known as Friends of Dorothy meetup), veterans meet, solo travellers meetup and alcoholics anonymous meets (also known as Friends of Bill W. meetup). It does not stop there, we have seen knitting, crafting and scrapbooking meets too.

Before you cruise you can get to know fellow travellers on Cruise Critic or Facebook. The cruise critic roll calls are a great place to chat with people on your sailing and make plans to share shore excursions, transfers, share tips or ask questions. We always sign up to the roll calls and on our 2019 transatlantic sailing, we attended cabin tours, board game days and bought special lanyards organised for the cruise.

On many cruise lines, you can also sign up to the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle before you sail. These are private events where you meet fellow Cruise Critic users.

The great thing about this is that you can meet as many, or as few, people as you like. If you prefer to stick to yourself that’s fine too!

07. You sometimes have to tender to a port

We had never heard of tendering before cruising. We saw this on our first itinerary and thought it was a port that was particularly gentle or kind!

Tendering is actually when a cruise ship is too large to dock in a port so they anchor offshore and use small boats, known as tenders or water shuttles, to transport guests to and from the dock.

Some people love it, others hate it. We like the fact that it’s a little fun and you get some great shots of the ship as you sail to and from the dock. However, it causes long lines disembarking when it first arrives and getting back to the ship later in the day and can be quite bumpy too.

8. You don’t need your passport at every port

You may not need your passport when visiting ports during your cruise. Unlike arriving at an airport, there are usually not any border checks and your cruise card is all you need to get off and on the ship. If we dont need our passport we will always take a photocopy of our passport plus another form of ID such as a drivers licence.

This is not always the case though and recently we have had ports state you do need a passport or government-issued ID to get back into the port. The requirements are different when boarding the ship at the beginning of the cruise.

9. Cruise dress codes are not that formal

Before cruising we where convinced we would have to wear a tux and tie each evening for dinner. We there pleasantly surprised when we discovered that dress codes are very informal or non-existent on most cruise lines today.

During the day you can wear whatever you like and in an evening is generally smart casual. Most cruise lines still have one a formal evening, but these are much more relaxed than the days of the Love Boat. In fact, Norwegian Cruise Line has no formal evening or dress code at all.

See Also: Top 10 Norwegian Cruise Line Tips and Tricks

10. Its a ship… not a boat!

Things we wish we knew

Let’s all say this together… “Its a ship, not a boat”. Boats are small, ships are big. Cruises are ships, not boats!

Before you cruise make sure you take note because if call the luxury multi-million-pound cruise ship a boat, you will be quickly corrected as were on our first cruise. In fact, I remember on one occasion asking a crew member where the boat was parked to which he politely replied: “We are a ship, not a boat and we dock, not park.”

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David McDonald
As one half of Cruise with Ben & David I am a huge cruise enthusiast and have sailed on over 30 cruises. On dry land, I am a Head of Design at a digital media company based in London. I have had the opportunity to work with brands such as the Financial Times and The Telegraph.