10 Tips For Your First Cruise • First-Timers’ Guide

Woman sitting on a chair on the deck of her cruise cabin looking out to the ocean

So you’re thinking about going on your first cruise – or have already booked it – and are looking for ways to make your first cruise experience go more smoothly? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I am a very experienced traveler but had never been on a cruise until Virgin Voyages invited me to join one, so I didn’t really know what to expect. However, after going on – and enjoying – my very first cruise, I have a list of things I am so glad I did and things I wish I had done. So, here is my top 10 tips for cruise first timers, based on my own first cruise experience.


The Short Version • 10 Tips for Cruise First Timers

  1. Bring sunscreen lotion vs. spray because the wind will blow the spray around instead of onto you
  2. Bring little towel clips for the pool area again, in case it’s windy
  3. Get to know the ship layout right away so you know where everything is as soon as possible
  4. A cabin in the middle will result in the least amount of sea sickness
  5. If you add an activity to your agenda it might be a formal reservation, and missing it might cost you
  6. Arrive to your embarkation city the day before your departure day in case there are flight issues
  7. The ship will leave you if you don’t return on time on port day
  8. If port days have a different time than ship time, keep that in mind when booking/scheduling (and consider turning off the ability to switch timezones on your phone)
  9. Book your cruise according to the things you like, don’t just book one because you found a deal
  10. Befriend the staff at any places onboard you revisit and you’ll be set

The Long Version • 10 Tips For Your First Cruise

You’re still here? Amazing, I’m glad you kept reading! Let’s get you ready for your first cruise ever with my full breakdown of my top 10 cruise tips for first-timers.

1 – Sunscreen Lotion vs. Spray

Now, this might seem obvious but as a cruise first timer and sunscreen spray lover, this was definitely a hard lesson learned. Basically, if you spend your ship days outside near the pool, or anywhere where you’ll be applying sunscreen outdoors, you’re going to want to use lotion vs. a spray. This is because it can get pretty windy on the ship and your sunscreen might not really end up where you intended it to. So, highly recommend bringing your favorite lotion and lathering up old school.

2 – Bring Towel Clips

In the same vein as why you would want sunscreen lotion because of the wind, you will also want towel clips so that you can secure your towel to your lounge chair when spending time at the pool.

3 – Figure Out the Ship Layout Right Away

This might be the most immediately beneficial of my first timers’ cruise tips because knowing the layout of the ship means not getting lost or wasting time trying to find restaurants, activities, and more. As someone who may or may not have gotten lost a few times on her first day or two on her first cruise, having the ship memorized immediately would have been VERY helpful.


4 – Get Sea Sick? Pick a Cabin in the Middle

The cabins in the middle are going to have the least amount of rocking and swaying from the waves, so if you get seasick definitely try to snag a cabin in the middle.

5 – Canceling Reservations Too Late Might Cost You

This could be specific to the cruise line I attended – which was Virgin Voyages – but I added items to my schedule and simply didn’t know that those were *official* reservations vs. just adding to a calendar as a list ideas. So, that may have been me misunderstanding the task within the app, but make sure to only add items to your calendar or reserve a spot if you truly intend to attend because you may get charged for not showing up.

6 – Arrive to Your Departure City a Full Day Before You Leave

Anything can happen when it comes air travel, and you don’t want to miss your ship’s launch because you have a flight delay. So, an important tip for a first time cruiser or a very experienced one is to fly into your departure city the day before embarkation.

7 – The Ship Will Leave You, For Real For Real

The ship will absolutely leave you if you don’t get back on by its official departure time. This will cost you lots of time and money, so do NOT be late on the days you choose to explore.


8 – Mind Ship Time vs. Port Time

One of the tips cruise lines will recommend is to turn off your phone’s automatic timezone switch functionality. This is because you might be landing in destinations that have a different time zone than ship time, which is where you departed from, but ship-related activities (arrival, certain excursions booked through the cruise line, and departure time) is ship time vs. destination time. So you’ll need to know the time difference you don’t miss out on important activities you paid for or worse, get left behind at the port city. Remember my previous tip? They’ll leave you there, so definitely know your ship time vs. destination time!

9 – Book a Cruise Line Based on Interest, Not Deals

In complete honesty, I was not interested in ever really going on a typical cruise. It just wasn’t something that interested me or matches my typical travel style. However, Virgin Voyages invited me to go on one of their cruises as a gifted experience and I said yes BECAUSE they’re adults only with a food focus, and that interested me.

And guess what? I really enjoyed myself! Is it going to be my new favorite method of travel? No, probably not. But I went on a cruise experience that matched my interests the most and I had a great time. But, I do not think I would have had a good time on a cruise line more focused on kids’ activities for example. So if you’re going on your first cruise ever, pick a cruise line whose brand and overall amenities appeal to your interests.

10 – Treat the Staff Well

This should be obvious and basic behavior for any traveler or tourist but treat the staff kindly and they’ll remember you. I got SUCH amazing treatment from the staff I befriended on day one of the cruise because I was immediately super nice and introduced myself and was friendly. It’s not that hard, it makes their job easier, and it works out better for you in the long run.


So there you go, my top 10 tips for going on your first cruise! As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out and make sure to follow me on social media for more travel tips and inspiration on a regular basis! Specifically, if you’re heading on your first cruise (and double specifically if it’s Virgin Voyages) check out my Instagram story highlight for my first cruise.

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