Things I Wished I Had Known Before My First Cruise…
(and other useful tidbits)
-Sue Whitfield

Before you leave home…

  • Make sure you have your passport or certified birth certificate and government issued photo ID (voter registration cards are NOT accepted)
  • Look over your documents and make sure you understand them and they say what your travel agent told you
    Make sure all these papers are in your purse or carry-on. DO NOT pack them in your luggage!
  • If you want a Tuxedo for the 2 formal nights (men), the form should be in your documents. You can fax or call them at least 2 weeks in advance with your credit card number, and it will be waiting in your cabin upon arrival. Don't forget to ask for 2 shirts and shoes if you need them.


If you take a hotel day prior package, pack everything you will need for the overnight in your carry-on, as your luggage may go directly to the cruise ship from the airport. Also, any medications, valuables, and anything else you cannot do without should be in your carry-on bag. An extra pair of black pants and shoes, and underwear, would be nice to have in case you never see your luggage again (which very rarely happens). You can always buy some shirts when you get to your destination. Another thing I always like to remember is to bring an extension cord, and electric clock, and a flashlight…you never know when you will need them (Especially if you have an inside cabin). Also, some ships have hairdryers but they are not as powerful as we are used to.

For your nighttime clothes, pick out your favorite 7 outfits, 2 formal, 1 semi-formal, and 4 smart casual. Shorts are worn most often throughout the daytime hours. It is wise to bring at least 2 bathing suits. (Note: Everyone usually over packs his or her daytime clothes!) DO NOT FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!!! The rays in the Caribbean are particularly strong year-round and you will want to keep this on you even if you are in the shade.

As you enter the ship…

After check-in, you will enter the ship, get your photo taken and then be greeted by the staff and guided to your stateroom. Your steward will find you and introduce himself/herself to you and ask if there is anything you may need. This is a good time to ask for extra pillows, towels, etc. If your bed is not in the configuration you asked for, this will be the time he/she will ask you how you would like it, if you want ice, etc…

Your dining table assignment will also be in your stateroom. If this is not to your liking you must go see the maitre d' in the dining room now.

Unpack your carry-ons and head to the deck and get some well-deserved lunch! THIS will begin the eating process! After that…explore the ship and walk it off!

LIFEBOADT DRILL is mandatory…this is the only mandatory thing that you will have to do all week (except for leaving at the end!).

Who Do You Tip…

Dining room waiter and 2nd waiter (a.k.a. busboy) and your cabin steward. This is done on the last evening on the ship. Trust me, you will find the envelopes in your cabin in advance! This is when you use cash. You put the tip in a sealed enveloped and give them at the last seating. Give it to them in person. Cabin stewards and waiters can get approximately $3.50 per day, per person (yes children too). The busboy gets $2.00 per day. On a 7 night cruise, this is approximately $63…you can give more or less as you desire.

Other Miscellaneous Information (in no particular order)

  • Leave your nightgown on the bed, as most stewards can get very creative with them!
  • Get in front of the photographers every chance you get! You do not need to buy the pictures, but they might be very good, and it is so fun to go and look at your photos. Wait until the end of the week to purchase your photos, as you will then only buy the best!
  • Spas- the spa's main goal is to sell, sell, sell products. Do not be intimidated. You do not have to buy anything after your treatment.
  • ALL the bar drinks have the tips included in the price. No need to tip unless you feel there is a particular server that has been exceptional, and believe me, when they see you gave them a little extra, they will go out of their way to find you and give your great service!
  • At meals, order all the entrée's you wish! If you cannot decide, then order all or 2 or 3! Then, if you are worried about gaining weight, take the stairs instead of the elevators.
  • If you wish to go on a shore excursion that is popular and limited to availability, sign up right away!
  • Every night before you go to bed, read the newspapers so you can see what you may want to do the next day. Lots of information in these papers!!
  • For breakfast and lunch, try the main dining room and if there is nothing there that you like…head to the buffet!! (You can skip the dining room altogether if you are in a hurry.)
  • Always have dinner in the dining room…you build up a repoire with your servers and can see what everyone else did that day and hear about all the things you may not have done.
  • Bridge and galley tours are fun to do once. These are limited in the amount of people they take so sign up early!
  • Bring address labels because this will save you from writing your address over and over again on your dembarkation labels!
  • Make some personal business cards and put your email address on them too. You will be surprised at all the friends you will make!
  • Go up on deck for the sail away…it is really very nice!
  • DO NOT flush the toiler while sitting on it! Close the lid and THE flush! You will thank us for that one later! <Ha-ha> Trust me!
  • DO not pack bad weather!

    Most Importantly….

    Have a wonderful time, and remember to tell us all about it when you return!

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