Going on a Cruise?

Here’s what you need to know ahead of time.

Alaska, Bahamas, Europe, the Mediterranean, or the Caribbean—your cruise destination options are endless. If you’ve never been on a cruise, you’re in for an exciting adventure. But are you prepared? Going on a cruise isn’t like showing up at the beach. There’s a lot more to think of than which swimsuit to pack.

While every cruise line varies in their policies and requirements, it’s important to do your homework ahead of time. You don’t want to show up unprepared. Here are a few helpful hints to know before you board.

Documentation Hint

Waiting until the last minute to research what documentation your ship requires is a bad idea. As soon as you book your trip, find out what you’ll need for smooth sailing. Domestic cruises may only require a driver’s license and birth certificate, while a passport and/or visa are needed for international lines. Bringing a passport is always the safest option.

Be sure to also carry your luggage tags and boarding forms you received ahead of time online or in the mail.

Packing Hint

Like boarding a plane you’ll bring a carry-on bag and check your luggage on your cruise ship. Keep in mind that your luggage may not arrive to your cabin until later in the day, so pack these things in your carry-on: your ID, passport, and documents; as well as your wallet, medications, valuables, toiletries, swimwear, and a change of clothes.

The type of clothes you pack will depend on the forecasted weather conditions along your trip. The best thing to do is to pack clothes that can be layered. As the temperature changes, you can shed layers or add a sweater or jacket. Check with your cruise ship for its dress code. Some meals may require formalwear and others are fine with casual dress. A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are also good things to bring along.

Excursions Hint

No matter where your cruise takes you, you won’t want to sit around in your cabin all day. Take advantage of the many adventures offered onboard and onshore. Once you’ve booked your cruise, make a plan for each day. Between destinations, you may want to reserve your spot to enjoy the ship’s spa services, special restaurants, fitness activities, or kids programs.

Offshore excursions are your ticket to adventure. Snorkeling, hiking, exploring, sightseeing tours, and shopping are a few of the activities waiting for you when your ship docks. You can sign up for ship-sponsored excursions, which require less hassle and are known to be reputable, licensed, and get you back to ship before it sails, or you can arrange your own activity.

All-Inclusive Hint

Before boarding the boat, it’s a good idea to know ahead of time what to expect everything will cost. Your cruise may advertise itself as being all-inclusive, but that may not include many extra amenities such as alcoholic beverages, sodas, spa treatments, special restaurants, gratuities, and shore excursions. Don’t get caught off guard by hidden fees. Rather, check with your cruise line before departure about what’s included and what’s extra.

Dieting Hint

Cruises are known to be diet-wreckers. With the endless amounts of food and drinks it’s easy to over-do it. For those watching your weight, prepare your mind ahead of time to stick to your diet plan. There are plenty of healthy, low-calorie options on the menu. You just need to gravitate toward them. By avoiding buffets and desserts, watching your portion sizes, and sticking to water or unsweet tea, you can make it off the cruise without gaining a pound.