The Ultimate Guide to Cruising For First-Time Cruise Passengers


So, you’ve booked your maiden cruise holiday – that’s great news! Now, all that’s left to do is get excited, right?

Wrong – well, sort of. Naturally, you’re bound to be a little enthusiastic; it is a holiday after all. But, for first time cruise-goers, there’s still plenty of preparation and groundwork to do before you set sail atop the high seas en-route to pastures new.

To help your debut cruise go off without a hitch, here’s some essential pieces of advice all cruise passengers should know before leaving dry land.


Before You Set Sail


With the world wide web at your fingertips, now’s the perfect time to do some indispensable homework on your trip before you’ve even think about packing your bags. From connecting flights to cheap shore excursions, when it comes to cruising it’s all in the preparation and planning.

Booking Flights

Unless you’ve booked a cruise with inclusive transfers, or one that’s conveniently departing from a nearby port, you’ll need to book a connecting flight to reach the cruise departure terminal. When you come to peruse flight times, opt for one that arrives by at least noon on your day of embarkation to give yourself ample time to get through customs, across the city and safely aboard your cruise liner – before it leaves without you.

Cruise Documents

Travel via land and air and you usually require a passport, boarding pass and hotel booking information. Go via boat however, and it’s a whole other ball game. Before you hit the high seas, read through any documentation carefully, and fill out the necessary boarding forms as requested by your individual cruise line. Next, you’ll need to determine whether you require a standard passport or specific visa for travel to your chosen destination. If in doubt, always carry your passport.

Dealing With Delays

No matter how well organised you are for your upcoming cruise, no one’s insusceptible to dreaded delays. Whether they occur during your connecting flight or while you’re stuck in traffic just a couple of miles from the cruise terminal, delays can prove extremely stressful – particularly if it’s your debut cruise. Our advice? Remain calm and let your cruise line know you’re en-route. If it’s your connecting flight causing the hold-up, let airport staff know you’re due on a cruise and they might bump you on to an earlier, delay-free flight.

Cruise Packing


Now that you’ve got the perplexing pre-cruise admin out the way, it’s time for the exciting bit – packing. Before you shrug this section to one side with the complacency of someone who’s packed a suitcase before, there are a few things you ought to know when packing for your inaugural voyage atop the high seas.

Know the Dress Code

Like it or not, most cruise lines have a dress code all passengers will have to adhere to if they’re to avoid being thrown overboard during their cruise. Joking aside, the strictness of the dress code will depend on the cruise line you book with. Some cruise operators have much more formal dress requirements than others, so it’s down to personal preference which you go for. Dress code policies can be found on individual cruise line websites.

What to Pack

Given that some cruises can be fairly long, first-time cruise passengers tend to pack the entire contents of their home prior to travel – which is fine if you’re staying in a large stateroom. Our advice? Don’t be tempted to take too much, even if you are holidaying for two or more weeks. Most days, you’ll likely be lounging by the pool in your swimwear – rendering that extra dress redundant.

What Not to Pack

As mentioned briefly above, there are plenty of things you won’t need to take on a cruise – even if it seems ludicrous not to consider packing them at the time. Among the list of things you won’t need are a hairdryer (they’re provided in most rooms), a book (most cruise ships have a library) and towels. Of course, there are plenty of things blacklisted aboard cruise ships too, so avoid taking those. A list of prohibited items can usually be found in the FAQ section of your cruise line’s website. For more information on what not to take on a cruise, check out our article – 8 Things Not to Bother Packing for a Cruise Holiday.


Cruise deck

At last – you’re aboard the ship, the crew are scurrying about left, right and centre and your fellow passengers are heading for the buffet hall. Once you’ve taken in the enormous proportions of the ship, you may be wondering – what do I do next? To help you settle in, here’s some top tips on on-board etiquette.

Booking Shore Excursions

For the majority of cruise-goers, shore excursions are a must during any sea voyage – no matter what the destination. Excursions are bookable through your cruise operator or independently. Be aware however, that they’ll usually cost a lot more if booked aboard. Those in the know can make great savings on shore excursions by booking them before they travel. If you’re new to cruising however, you may feel more comfortable disembarking the ship as part of a pre-arranged group.

Cash & Currency

To make it easy for passengers to part with their hard-earned, most cruise ships will have a glut of ATMs aboard, as well as a bureau de change for swapping currencies should you require it. If your cruise departs Australia, chances are it’ll accept the Aussie dollar. Book a cruise in the Caribbean, Asia or Europe however, and you’ll likely have to buy foreign currency.

Tip: Don’t wait ‘til you’re aboard; currency rates tend to be terrible on the high seas.

Dining 101

Sure, you’re desperate to dig in to the all-inclusive fodder, but before you chow down there are a few things you need to know. First, be aware that not every plate of food and glass of drink you see is free. Cruise lines charge extra for all sorts of things, particularly alcohol and food consumed in specialist restaurants. To help you discern what’s included and what’s not, check out our handy all-inclusive guide, here.

The second thing you need to know about cruise dining, is that most cruise lines use a pre-assigned seating arrangement; by which you and your party will have to arrive at the dining hall at a particular time to ensure yourself a seat. It’s important to bare this in mind and avoid being late to your scheduled dining slot.

So there you have it – some top tips and words of wisdom for first time cruisers. If you’ve got any other burning questions regarding your maiden cruise, chat to the Cruise1st Australia team today on 1300 857 345 or visit our homepage.

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Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Craig Sunter, Juan Cabanillas, Joe Ross and Thomas Quine.


About Author

Alyssa Beit

Alyssa lives in Sydney, NSW. Born on the 14th October and is a Social and Human Service Assistant at Cruise 1st Australia. She is in her early 40’s and loves tranquility on luxury cruises.

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