I'm a former cruise director and I've seen many people make mistakes on their first cruise.
Research your cruise line, cabin type, and destinations before you book anything.
Don't fly into your port the day of your cruise, and make sure to prepare for changing weather.
I'm a former cruise director who's been in the industry for over 12 years. Now, I live on cruise ships part-time with my husband.
Here are the 10 biggest mistakes I see first-time passengers make.
Not booking the right cruise line for your needs and wants
Like hotel chains, all cruise lines are different.
Each offers a unique experience and many cater to different age groups, too. Figure out what is most important to you before booking. Do you want the best, Broadway-level entertainment? A unique itinerary? Incredible food?
You might also opt for an adults-only cruise or a cruise for families if you're bringing kids. Do your research.
Flying to the port city on the day your cruise is leaving
I've seen many many people miss their cruise because of this.
You never know when your flight can get delayed and the ship won't wait for you. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to board.
Failing to research the port or destinations before boarding the ship
There will likely be an onboard presentation or two from shore excursions or a guest speaker telling you about the area you are about to visit - but that's only a small piece of the puzzle.
So many people go on a cruise without even researching the history of where they are going. I think that's a huge mistake because a bit of research can make your trip even richer.
Skipping shore excursions
In many destinations, you can walk from the ship into the port and find things to do. But there are places - especially in Asia, Central America, and Europe - where the ship will dock in a cargo area or shipyard and you can't just walk into a port.
In these cases, it helps to have booked an excursion or special tour. I recommend doing so through your cruise line because the ship will wait for you before leaving the port if your excursion or tour is running late.
I've seen a lot of disappointed guests who didn't do their research and skipped excursions to save money. They spent most of the day trying to figure out how to get a taxi so they can actually explore the area.
Not buying the drink package even though you plan to regularly get alcoholic beverages
If you like your adult beverages and plan on ordering a few each day, it's probably cost-effective to buy a drink package. Every ship offers different packages for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
The prices of drink packages are typically shocking, but you might feel worse if you skip the deal and see your alcohol bill at the end of the cruise.
Taking the daily added gratuities off of your cruise price
Just like at restaurants in the US, tipping is part of cruising. Many cruises automatically add a daily gratuity fee to bookings but I've seen some people go to the front desk and remove them.
Please don't do this.
Their reasoning is usually "I'll tip who I want" or "I'll tip my room steward in cash at the end of the cruise." But I don't thinks that's fair - by doing this, you're only tipping the guest-facing crew members you see. How about the other dozens of crew doing their job behind the scenes?
Booking the wrong cabin
Your room and cabin position can impact your entire trip.
For example, if you get seasick, you might want to book a cabin in a certain part of the ship. My cabin is located on deck seven at the bow of the ship and it gets rocky.
A travel agent can definitely help you select the right cabin for your needs, especially if you're cruising for the first time.
Complaining about noise and movements the whole cruise
This is a floating hotel full of people. There will be noises and rocking.
You'd think people would understand this but many people complain about not being able to sleep because of the movement of the ship or a cracking sound in the wall. Expect both when cruising.
Not preparing to handle the changing weather
The captain's job is to keep the guests and crew safe while sailing. Sometimes the captain needs to switch the itinerary to avoid sailing into storms, especially during hurricane season. Learn to accept it and make the most of it.
Weather is another reason I recommend people book their excursions through the cruise line. If we're late getting to port or we skip it entirely, the cruise line can typically fully refund your booked land activity.