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First Time Cruiser Info

From passport requirements to WiFi at sea, articles in our First Time Cruiser series aim to answer questions and offer tips to those new to cruising, but we bet there is something for even the most experienced of cruisers in each of these articles.  We've got information about tips/gratuities, what to pack, price drops, passports, sea-sickness, and more!

Have questions for us?  Reach out on Twitter or Facebook, and join us as we talk ship on our weekly Periscope broadcasts from ports or cruise ships. We also run a Facebook group where you can ask questions and get tips from a variety of seasoned sailors.

Disney Fantasy in Falmouth Jamaica

Which cruise line is best for me? The differences between cruise lines.

cruise line logos
There are many choices in cruise lines.

It's not too likely that many people talk to a travel agent about visiting Alaska and leave convinced that instead, they want to take a the Caribbean.  For that reason, instead of talking about destinations right out of the gate, I want to cover the question of which cruise line to try out.  I so often see the question, "What is the best cruise line?"  Well today I will share with you the answer to that question... read more

"I'm worried I'll get seasick. Do you feel the ship move?" How to avoid motion sickness on cruise ships.

vomiting smileyAmong the most common reasons people give for not taking a cruise vacation is seasickness.  While it's true that you're on a moving ship, it's nothing like going on your friend's fishing boat: the movements are slow and much less pronounced.  On newer ships you often don't even feel like they're moving.  Let's look into why seasickness is rarely an issue and what you can do - from picking the right cabin, to wearing Sea-Bands - so you're prepared just in case you feel a bit too much motion in the ocean... read more

Do I need to have a passport to cruise?

The most important part of any cruise is actually being able to sail on it.  Let's have a look at the requirements that the US has for citizens traveling onboard a cruise ship, as there is a lot of confusing information out there.  While the short answer is, no, you don't need a passport to take most cruises out out of a US port, there are exceptions as well as some really important reasons to have a passport even if you don't otherwise need it, and even some things to keep in mind if you already have a passport... read more

Who To Tip On Your Cruise, and How Much

Gratuities, service charges, or tips – no matter what you call them it’s hard to know what is appropriate and how to pay – especially on cruises.  Cruise lines have long had crew members who work long and hard hours, thousands of miles from family to make your vacation a great one.  Many of these hard working, dedicated people are compensated primarily with gratuitiesread more

First Time Cruiser Series - We asked cruisers what they wish they'd known when they first started cruising.

Allure of The Seas SolariumI get a lot of questions about taking a first cruise, so this time I wanted to turn the conversation back around a bit - people other than me have great cruise tips too.  A week or so ago I reached out on social media and asked Reddit users on r/cruise the following question:

What do you wish you knew before you took your first cruise? read more

Should I use a travel agent or book directly with a cruise line?

One of the most common questions I find myself passionately answering both in person and on online communities (I’m looking at you Reddit), is about how to actually book a cruise.  Should you use a travel agent or book directly with a cruise line?  I’ll tell you right out the gate that whether you’re looking into your first cruise or well on your way to the highest levels of a cruise line’s loyalty program, I highly recommend using a good travel agent, but let’s talk about why by addressing some common questions and misconceptions... read more

Power Strips - Why they're not allowed on ships and how to safely gain some extra outlets

Many of us cruise with quite a few battery-powered devices that we want to keep charged, but cruise ship cabins don’t have as many outlets as we’d like. Common power strips are prohibited from cruise ships for safety reasons, and there aren't "cruise ship power strips", but there are alternatives. Let’s look into your options, and briefly cover why power strips aren’t allowed... read more

Will there be WiFi on the ship? 11 Tips to Keep You Connected While Cruising

Whether you want to share your vacation memories as they happen or you're looking to be able to keep in touch with those back home, many of you have asked questions about staying connected while cruising, and there is no single answer.  In the past couple of years cell phone carriers have made international roaming a bit more palatable, but cell phone roaming rates on ships are still completely impractical, at least for calls and data.  What are your options if you want to stay in touch while cruising?  We've got 11 tips to keep you connected without breaking the bank... read more

How many bags can I bring on my cruise?

Airlines and other carriers restrict the size and weight of bags, have limits on the number of carry-on bags, etc.  What about cruise lines?  There is no shortage of advice about how to pack for a cruise, and we have a great cruise packing list you can use, but how much you can bring onboard?  Let's look at how much of your world you can bag up and bring on a cruise and what cruise line policies say about how lightly you need to travel... read more

Paying For Things In Other Countries - Changing Currency and Using Credit Cards

currencyWhether traveling by land or sea, paying for things can be a bit different in different countries.  Years ago, you simply changed currency at the purser’s desk on your cruise ship, but this is rarely done anymore.  Technologies and customs can make the simple process of paying for a meal, cab ride, or souvenir a bit confusing, but we’ve got some tips to keep things simple and more importantly, save you some time or even money... read more

Booking Shore Excursions Independently vs Booking Through the Cruise Line

Most cruises are about both the fantastic onboard experience as well as the ports of call you visit.  Whether sailing the warm Caribbean or historic Mediterranean, you’ll likely want some sort of plan for while you’re in port.  From guided tours to resort passes, or even helicopter rides to glaciers, you can book a number of tours through the cruise line - but should you book independently instead? Let’s look at the risks and benefits of each. read more

What Is Muster Drill?

The first day of your cruise is filled with excitement as you explore the ship and start your vacation, but safety is the priority, so you'll invariably be participating in a muster drill.  It may not be the most fun part of your vacation, but let's go over what muster drills are, why they're important, and how you can make the best of this "lost time" on embarkation day. read more

What Is Onboard Credit (OBC) & How Can You Use It?

NCL onboard creditOnboard credit may be completely new to you, but even if you’re a seasoned cruiser there are probably things we can shed some light on.  Commonly abbreviated as “OBC” or referred to as "shipboard credit", onboard credit can be thought of as a gift card of sorts for a specific cruise - money that you can use on your cruise for any number of things, including beverages, shore excursions, retail purchases, and more.  What many people don’t realize is there are actually different types of onboard credit, which can affect how you can use it.  Let’s look at how you get onboard credit, what you can do with it, and what happens if you don’t use it... read more

Are Cruises All Inclusive?

We all want lower cruise fares, but getting charged for odds and ends may not be very relaxing either, so some guests prefer cruising where everything they want to do or purchase is included.  While all inclusive cruises are nothing new, there are more options than ever, and ways of packaging certain amenities for a flat cost, or even bundling some things in with your cruise fare on lines that aren't typically thought of as all inclusive.  Let's look at what it means to be an all inclusive cruise, what some cruise lines offer, and how to budget your next cruise including things you'd otherwise pay a la carte. read more

Married or Divorced? What to Do If the Name on Your Cruise Reservation Doesn't Match the Name on Your Passport

Planning a cruise can be fun, but the ultimate goal is to sail, relax, and enjoy.  Because part of your cruise planning will require some documentation, let's look at what you need to do in order to ensure you're able to sail if the name on your passport, birth certificate, or other documents does not match the name on your reservation... read more

The Difference Between Stateroom Types, Categories & Guarantees: Demystifying the Stateroom Selection

qm2 room types

When booking a cruise you'll inevitably have to decide what type of cabin (aka stateroom) you want.  What's the difference between an inside and an ocean view?  What are all these numbers? G1, B13? Are we playing bingo or going on vacation?  It can be confusing, but it's important to really understand the differences, at least conceptually, so that you not only book the right room for you, but recognize value and see through some promotional gimmicks.  We'll look at the differences between stateroom types and categories and explain other things you'll run into, like guarantee rooms. read more

Cruise Line Beverage Packages: Should you get a drink package?

Whether sipping a fruity drink by the pool or enjoying a pint at a pub, alcoholic beverages are ubiquitous with cruising.  The cost of those drinks can certainly add up, but in the past 10-15 years, some cruise lines have started serving up unlimited drink packages and other options which allow you to better manage your bar tabs and even coffee expenses.  The cost, benefits, and restrictions can vary by cruise line, so let’s explore the overall concept of beverages packages, and some of the things unique to the offerings on each cruise line... read more

Is it worth it to get a balcony on a cruise?

Our balcony on Independence of the Seas

For some, it's easy to decide on what stateroom to book, but for others it's a tough decision every time.  This leads to one of the most common questions we get "is getting a balcony worth it?"  It's always nice having your own private space from which to enjoy the views on your cruise, but that comes at a price - which means there are decisions to make.  There is no simple answer to the question, but we'll explain what considerations you should make when deciding whether to get a room with a view... read more

How to Pick the Right Travel Insurance Policy for Your Next Cruise

travel insurance for your cruise

Travel insurance can be a great way to protect against the "what ifs" on your next cruise.  Like any insurance, the policy is useless if it doesn't cover the circumstance you're looking to account for.  All too often, we read about people unhappy with a policy because they simply assumed the policy covered specific circumstances, instead of fully understanding what they were buying.  Are you covered if you can't make it to your cruise?  What if you need to leave half-way through your cruise?  How much will it cost to go to a doctor on the ship, or in another country?  Let's look at some of the questions you should ask when looking into an insurance policy, and chip-away at some common misconceptions.  read more

Embarkation Day - CruiseHabit Podcast Episode 13

Eden on Celebrity EdgeOne thing every great vacation has in common is a beginning. On a cruise, that's called Embarkation Day. From when to show up at the terminal, to where to find food, but avoid crowds when everyone else is heading to the buffet, we're covering everything you need to know about your first day onboard.

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A 'Fare' Price - Cruise Pricing & Promotions Explained - CruiseHabit Podcast Episode 15

Cruise Pricing and Promotions ExplainedCruise pricing can require a lit bit of explanation, but sales and promotions can be even more confusing.  Some promotions aren't combinable, sales can take percentages off rates that aren't easily found, and different packages offer different levels of value depending on what you're looking for.  Whether you're hunting for the best deal, or just trying to understand how much a cruise will cost you, we'll try and make it a bit easier to understand.

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The Best Time to Cruise - CruiseHabit Podcast Episode 16

Cruise Pricing and Promotions ExplainedPlanning a cruise requires a lot of decision making.  Some things come down to preference, but if you're looking for the cheapest time of the year to cruise Alaska or the Caribbean we can help.  After analyzing thousands of price points across the year, we go over the most economical and most expensive times to sail, as well as why the time of year matters.

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Using Cruise Line Apps - The Difference Between WiFi (free) and Internet (not free)

The Difference Between Cruise Ship WiFi and InternetMost major cruise lines now have apps or mobile websites that you can access on your smartphone to view the day's schedule, book shore excursions, chat with other guests, and more.  Generally, these apps are free to use, but it can sometimes be a bit confusing since we often see costs associated with "WiFi".  Really, this confusion is just a matter of wording, and we'll clear it up so you can use your device worry-free... read more

Staying on the Ship While in Port

Ships in Port in CozumelSometimes we cruise for the destinations, like the beautiful sights in Alaska or the clear waters of the Caribbean - other times we cruise for the onboard experiences available on mega-ships, or the unparalleled service offered on luxury lines.  No matter why you're taking a particular cruise though, there may be ports of call that are less interesting to you than others, and if that happens, you have options.  We'll address some common questions below, but make sure to check out some examples of cruise activity schedules at the bottom of this post. read more

What is tendering?

What is a tender?Sometimes your cruise ship may be too large to dock at certain destinations.  When this happens, you'll likely board a tender, which is a smaller boat, and take that to shore.  In this video we go over everything you need to know about tendering...

Eight Reasons to Try a Premium Line for Your Next Cruise

8 Reasons to Try a Premium Cruise LinesWhether you’ve cruised before or seen and heard about cruising through ads and friends, there is a good chance you’ve only really been exposed to one type of cruising: contemporary lines.  These lines include Royal Caribbean International, Carnival, Norwegian, MSC, and others.  They can all be great options, provide excellent entertainment, and value.  There are however many other types of cruise lines out there, including premium lines – and they don’t necessarily come at a higher cost. read more

Which night of my cruise is formal night?

Steve and Gabby on Independence of the SeasWhen someone says "formal night" everyone just knows you're talking about a cruise.  Whether you look forward to donning a three piece suit, or you try as best as you can to avoid wearing shoes, you'll want to plan for whatever the more "dressed up" evenings are on your next cruise.  There is no maritime law for formal night schedules - those things are usually reserved for safety concerns and how to handle emotionally distraught cruise blogger that's been on stuck on shore for months.  Let's look at a few ways you can... read more

Four Free Cruise Activities You Won't Find on Most Schedules

Billy Looking Awesome with The Thinker on Celebrity EquinoxThere can be an overwhelming number of things to do on cruises. From stage shows included with your fare, to pricey spa treatments, you’ll find plenty of options listed in the daily program found in your room (and increasingly, in an app).  There are some things however, that you don’t want to miss, even though you won’t find them mentioned on the schedule... read more

You Can't Do These Eight Things on a Cruise

8 things you can't do on a cruise shipNo matter the cruise line or itinerary, cruising offers a wide variety of things you can do while on vacation. There are however some things you cannot do on a cruise. While some of the things on our list are rules related to safety or laws, other are a matter of practicality. We'll go over eight things you can't do on a cruise, and include some exceptions... read more

Hidden or Unexpected Fees on Cruise - What is NOT Included in Your Fare?

Almost anyone who has cruised before will tout the value of cruising when compared to land vacations.  Most cruises include your meals, entertainment, transportation (to various ports of call), and your accommodations.  Nevertheless, cruises are a big expense, so it's important to know about any expenses that aren't immediately apparent.  While the industry tends to stay pretty transparent about the costs guests may incur, if you're looking at your first cruise, there may be some expenses which, while we'd not call them "hidden," may not be clear when shopping around. read more

Do These Things Before Booking Your Next Cruise

Whether you spent a lot of time researching your first cruise before booking, or figured it out as you went along, planning can be important for any trip.  So, after your first cruise, or even your 40th cruise, it’s good to take a look back and ask yourself and your traveling companions about your most recent cruise experiences so that you can make your next trip even better.  Cruising isn’t one thing, so finding the right cruise experience for you is important... read more

Bringing Prescription Medicines on Cruise Ships

When you pack for any trip, it’s important to keep in mind the things that are absolute musts, and at the top of that list should be any prescription medications that you need.  Cruising, however, usually involves leaving the country, and countries may have differing rules about prescription medications, especially, though not exclusively, controlled substances.  How you should pack your medications, what you should consider before you travel, and medical decisions you make abroad are all important parts of your trip-planning... read more

8 Unnecessary Things Guests Bring on Cruises

Packing for any cruise is a balance.  You don’t want to miss anything that will make your trip better, but you also don’t want to carry things with you that you don’t need - especially if you’re flying to your cruise.  As a frequent cruiser, some of the things I see folks pack on cruise ships shock me.  Whether missteps of first time cruisers, differences in priorities, or edge cases, we’re going to share 8 things that most of you don’t need to pack on your next cruise. read more

5 Simple Steps That Will Keep You from Missing Your Cruise Ship

Surprises on vacation can be fun, but seeing what your cruise ship looks like as it sails away without you onboard isn't something any of us want to experience.  While we've got a lot of practice cruising, there's still a little part of us that worries about missing the ship in port, but if you do these five things you can almost certainly make it back onboard with just enough time to shower before realizing that you forgot about your dinner reservations. read more

Video: Cruising During Hurricane Season - What You Need to Know

Cruising During Hurricane Season Hundreds of Caribbean cruises set sail every year during hurricane season, but understanding whether or not this is a good idea, how travel insurance can help in the event of a hurricane, and what the risks really are is something that can be confusing - especially to those new to cruising or not used to dealing with tropical weather systems. In this video we explain hurricane season, dispel some misconceptions, and... read more

Are Cruise Tickets Always Refundable?

__alt__It might be easy to imagine yourself having a great vacation, but we never know what life has in store for us.  So, when your plans don’t work out, can you get a refund on your cruise?  Cruise line booking policies can be complicated to understand, but we’ll see if we can help clear things up so you understand if cruise bookings are refundable... read more