cruises: what to know before you go

Cruises what to know before you go:

Cruises are amazing.  I mean, all you can eat food, lounging, room service, shows and sun; combined with exotic locations.  You really can’t beat it.  Especially for the price.   Lane and I decided to take the Mexican Riviera cruise last week to celebrate his graduation.  It was his first time cruising and it was so fun to be able to have some time to ourselves.   Our cruise was 5 days and 4 nights and docked in Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico.  We rented bikes, rode horses, read on the beach and ate to our hearts content.


Cruises really are a great way to vacation.  It combines all the best aspects of a trip without the high price tag.  But, before you board… there are a few things every cruiser should know.

1-     You don’t always need a passport to cruise.  If you are a US citizen taking a ‘closed loop’ cruise (meaning your departing and arriving port cities are both US territories) then you don’t need a passport.  You will need a government issued photo ID (if over 16) and birth certificate though.  If your last name is different on your ID than your birth certificate because of marriage, bring your marriage license along as well.  This isn’t to say that it isn’t encouraged to have a passport when cruising, because it is.  If for some strange reason you ended up stranded at one of your ports….say, like Mexico…. And you don’t have your passport.  It will take a while for them to sort out how to get you home.  But, if you’re willing to take the risk (like I did) just bring the other documents and you will be just peachy!

Cruises what to know before you go:

2-     Pack for all weather.  Just because you are traveling to the Caribbean, doesn’t mean it will be 90 degrees and sunny the whole time.  Make sure you bring some pants and a jacket along for the trip as well.  It gets nippy on the seas.  Be prepared!

Cruises what to know before you go:

3-     Worried about sea sickness? Book your room towards the middle of the ship.  You won’t feel the rocking as much.  Also, sea sick bands, ginger, meclizine, and scopamine patches (get an RX from your doc) are great back up options, just in case.  Like tip number 2 said, you can’t predict exactly what the weather will be like.  We had a couple of super rocky days.  I was really glad I had brought ginger and meclizine with us.  It soothed the nausea and made those days much more enjoyable.

4-     Bring bottled water.  When we were boarding the ship, I saw like 20 people carrying on cases of water.  I thought they were crazy.  They weren’t crazy.  They were smart.  The ship will charge you $4 for a bottle of water.  They have filtered water available on the very top deck, but that’s the only place.  Bring some bottled water and keep it in your cabin so you don’t have to run up to the top deck every time you need a drink.  You won’t want to drink the water that comes from the sink in your bathroom.  Trust me.

5-     Get to port early.  Most ships begin boarding around noon and stop around 4 before departing.  Get there early and beat the crowd.  Plus, you will get more time on the boat.  We got to port about 12:30 and there was no line at the check in.  We got on the ship easily and were able to unpack, eat lunch and enjoy some sun before the boat even left the dock.  Get your money’s worth! Get there early!  Also, to save time at check in… register online and fill out all the forms beforehand.

6-     Buy excursions beforehand.  Your cruise line will offer different excursions at each port.  My advice?  Book them before hand through someone else.  You will save loads of money.  Some cruise liners offer price matching, but make sure you read the fine print.  If you price match with them, you might end up with a credit you have to use on the ship instead of actual money in your pocket.  9/10 it will be cheaper to not book through your cruise ship.

Cruises what to know before you go:

7-     Order as much food as you want.   At lunch and dinner you will be handed a menu and a waiter will take your order.  Order as much and as many things as you want.  For reals.  If you see 5 different entrees you want to try, order all 5.  It’s all included in the price of the cruise.  Lane and I tried everything we thought looked good and it was so worth it!  We tried escargot, rabbit, and alligator.  You paid for the cruise; take advantage of the all you can eat food!  Don’t be afraid to order whatever you want!  I won’t judge.  I promise.

8-     Room service is free—kind of! One of our favorite things to do was order room service.  As with the dinner, it is all free.  Order as much as you want.  They will have sandwiches, snacks, desserts, drinks… and it will all be delicious.  But, please tip the servers!  They don’t expect much, just a dollar or two per room delivery.  It doesn’t even have to be cash; you can charge it to your card if you want to.  Like I said… almost free!

Cruises what to know before you go:

9-     Other tips will be added at the end of the cruise.  You might be tempted to tip your waiter, luggage guy, or entertainers.  Don’t worry! Most cruises automatically add a gratuity to your final bill at the end of the cruise.  Plan on about $10 per day, per person.  For a 5 day cruise, it will be about $45 per person total.  Such a nice thing to not have to worry about!

10-  Land sickness is real, my friends.  I loved my cruise, but I didn’t love feeling like I was still on my cruise 4 days after getting home.  But it happens to some people.  Land sickness can occur for 7-10 days after getting off the ship.  You might feel nauseous, exhaustion, anxiety, dizzy, or like you are rocking back and forth.  It’s normal.  You can continue to take a small dose of meclizine to help or use your sea sickness bands.  I used essential oils and it really helped.  It doesn’t happen to everyone, and if it lasts more than 10 days or doesn’t seem to get better as the day’s progress… talk to your doctor!

Cruises what to know before you go:


Side note– The lady next to me checking in was pregnant and decided to lie to all the cruise staff about being pregnant so she could board.  Guys.  Cruises are fun.  But they aren’t that fun.  Don’t be that lady, k?  Babies>cruises.

I hope all you land lubbers will take a cruise at some point!  It’s a great way to get out and try new things.  All you experienced cruisers, what other tips do you have for the newbies??

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  1. We love to travel, but still haven’t done a cruise yet! I sure would love to, though!

    • Dooooo it! It is the best way ever to see a bunch of different places with out having to pay for flights!

      • We would love to and haven’t done it either. I was thinking I wanted to try a Hawaii cruise. I’ve heard good things about it. I had no idea about the water! That is crazy. You can really bring cases of water on board? How do you know about excursions before hand? Just research it?

  2. I loved all these tips! We have been dying to take a cruise but we both get super motion sick so we’ve been scared! Thanks for all the tips :)

  3. I absolutely love, love, LOVE cruising!! Love it. I’ve been on six! Maybe seven?? Anyway – going in again in December and CAN’T WAIT!!

  4. Thanks for the tips a cruise is definitely in the near future for me!

  5. Thanks for sharing all your tips!

    We’ve been on one cruise, and weren’t really fans. But that’s because it was so short. 3 days, 2 nights. Given that it takes us a day to recoup and start enjoying our vacation… (i.e. nap, nap, nap) we actually missed the first full day. We did book excursions through the cruise, as my relatives gave us advice to do so — in case of delay or other issue — that way the boat knows where you are and you can more likely be accommodated if there are delays. We were really glad we bought the unlimited beverage package — it included alcohol, pop, etc — and it’s the little things like that that start to add up. :)

  6. This is absolutely wonderful information! I didn’t know about the water or booking outside of the cruise. Thanks for teaching me something new. Looks like I’ve met my “learn one new thing a day” goal! LOL

  7. Fi Ní Neachtáin says:

    Thank you for sharing your insider knowledge. I’d love to go on a cruise one day and it’s great to know these things in advance.

  8. I really like this article it gives myself and my boyfriend some planning to do during my break from school!!:)

  9. I’m doing a Euro cruise with my parents this November and I can’t stinkin wait! I’ve never been on one before and we are going all out, NCL Epic Haven Suites, we will have a private “butler” that ushers use through all lines, private pool and deck area. It’s going to ruin me for all other cruises.

    My parents have done this cruise 3 times already and their advice mirrors yours, one thing they were adamant about is buy the drink packages, it’s worth it, and find two people on the waitstaff your first day, hand them both $100 bills and you won’t want for anything the rest of the trip. ;)

  10. Thanks for the tips! I had no idea there were cruises you could take without a passport!

  11. I have never heard of land sickness!! That’s crazy! I guess it’s like jet lag? Anyway, I am terrified of getting on any type of boat, nut my husband would love to go on a cruise one day so these tips will come in handy for him!

  12. We love to cruise!! These are great tips, and so true about the bottle water!

  13. Such great tips! I love this especially since my best friend and I are planning a cruise for 2016. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. We have been thinking of going for a cruise but because we have kids, we are hesitant. Thank you for these info.

  15. These are excellent tips. My husband thought that I was crazy when i told him that I felt like I was still on board the ship after we got back from our cruise. I know it has to do with the equilibrium in your ears. We had a balcony room and didn’t have any trouble with motion sickness. You can even take Dramamine or benedryl with you for the nausea. Just take a small dose so that you don’t fall asleep. ;)

  16. Thank you for these awesome tips! I think I’m going on my first cruise sometime this year, and I can’t wait. I definitely need tips like these to prepare myself, though.

  17. CourtneyLynne says:

    Omg cruises are like my favorite way to travel!!!! I’m all about unlimited food so cruises are awesome to me! Just wish they had cheaper drinks! Even with the cards you can buy it can get pricey!

  18. No reason an expecting lady should get early entry anyway, unless there’s a true medical reason. ;) Some people are soooooooooooooooooooooooooo silly. :)

  19. I love cruises. You’re so right about the water, pack as much as your can. Also, try to get an upper, exterior cabin. I couldn’t imagine being in an interior room with no window.

  20. I always wanted to do a cruise but would start of an Asian Cruise. Nice tips especially the bottled water since you save a lot plus it’s always safe to have water with you.

  21. glad you enjoyed your cruise! The tip on the water is a good one. I would never have thought of that.

  22. Those are amazing tips. I have never been on a cruise because of sea sickness. I like your idea of booking in the middle of a ship

  23. Rebecca Swenor says:

    These are awesome things to know before leaving on a cruise. I had no idea that you could get land sick 7 to 10 days after being home. Thanks for sharing.

  24. I have never been on a cruise, but I really want to go!! It sounds like a ball! Thanks for posting!

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