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What to Expect on a Cruise: 20 Things to Know

what to expect on a cruise

Discover everything you need to know to enjoy your next cruise.

No two cruises are the same, but they all have similarities including how day to day activities, dining, and entertainment operate. It makes things easier to know what to expect on a cruise. Here at, we have the knowledge and experience to help you plan a cruise and get the best discounts and deals.

Happy Traveler Comment
Dear Cesar, Just dropping you a note about our Alaskan cruise. This was Kurt's and my first cruise and we had a great time. Holland America treated us like royalty; we had excellent service. Thank you for all your time and effort in making our cruise an enjoyable vacation. — JoAnn and Kurt W.

We’ve put together a great list of what to expect on a cruise to make your sailing experience a smooth one.

You’re taking a cruise to relax and have fun. It’s important to what to expect on a cruise and to know any tips that will add to the pleasure, and we’ve listed some great ones gathered over the years. You’ll soon set into a routine after the first day, and these suggestions will help you get started.

Click here to discover how to get upgraded on a cruise.

  1. If you don’t know if you are prone to seasickness, it might be best to take the pills as soon as you get onboard or wear one of the pressure bracelets to prevent it.
  2. Be sure to bring a carry-on bag with that includes shorts, tank tops, sandals, flip flops, sunscreen, and a swimsuit. You can be among the first to take a dip in the pool or hot tub because you don’t have to wait for your luggage.
  3. Take a few photos as you first arrive. You don’t want to be telling people what it was like as you arrived onboard without any photos to show off.
  4. Make any last-minute phone calls and texts while you can still access land-based cell towers. Be sure to post a photo of yourself at the rail of the deck to impress your friends.
  5. Put your bags in your room and head back to the deck for the departure. You’ll get some great photos, and it’s the real start of your cruise experience.
  6. Enjoy your departure with a celebratory tropical drink or other favorite beverage.
  7. Learn your way around the ship. Locate the restaurants, bars, lounges, and entertainment that you want to frequent. Discover where the swimming pool and other activities on the deck are located.
  8. The buffet can be very busy when you first arrive on board. You can enjoy brunch or other meal before you arrive, and while other travelers are at the buffet, you can be taking photographs around the ship before it’s crowded with other passengers. Enjoy exploring.
  9. Avoid the elevators if you can. They are slow and crowded on embark day. The stairs provide exercise, and you can burn off the evening dessert’s calories before you eat it.
  10. If you want to make dining reservations for a specialty restaurant, do it right after you arrive onboard as the preferred dining times are grabbed up quickly.
  11. If you have children, check into the kid’s groups and get them signed up. If your children decide not to attend later, it’s perfectly okay.
  12. If you haven’t pre-booked your port excursions ahead of time, do them right away as the do sell out quickly on those with limited space.
  13. If you plan to enjoy any of the “fee extra” sun decks or cabanas on sea days, book early as they do sell out.
  14. Unless you are a teetotaler, you will probably save money buying a drink package. Don’t buy the most expensive if a cheaper one will do.
  15. Be sure to notify the maître d’ if there are any dietary restrictions to be addressed.
  16. Check out your cabin. Be sure everything is clean and in working order. If you want to spray sanitizer in the bathroom. Get it all done, and then relax and enjoy your cruise.
  17. Take time to meet your cabin steward. Let the steward know of special request. you may have.
  18. The muster drill is mandatory on every cruise. It teaches you all the information you will need to know in case of an emergency. Never skip it.
  19. Be sure you are on deck for the “sail-a-way” to enjoy the festivities, music, and drinks. It’s a great way to launch your cruise. Take plenty of pictures.
  20. Celebrate your first evening watching a beautiful sunset, in the casino, singing karaoke, dancing, having drinks, and enjoying the beginning of a spectacular cruise experience.

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