15 Tips for a First Time Cruise Vacation

15 Tips for First Time Cruisers. Things you will want to know before going on a cruise vacation. LivingLocurto.com

I just returned from my first Carnival Cruise and sharing travel tips I wish I had known before I left on vacation!

1. Pack your swim suits in a carry on bag so you can swim when you get onboard.

It might take a while for your bags to show up in your room. I was jealous of those who did this and were able to enjoy the pool right away!


2. You are allowed to bring a 12 pack of soda and a bottle of wine per adult. Do it!


3. Find a map right away when you get on the ship. Study it. I got lost a lot!


4. Don’t pay full price at the spa.

Take advantage of the great spa treatment specials while at port. Also the last day they will announce major discounts.


5. Be prepared to be in LOTS of photos!

I had no idea there would be photographers set up everywhere. It was a little crazy. Anytime you get off or on the ship a photographer is waiting. You don’t have to take the photos, we just walked past them most of the time. Believe me… if you skip once, they will find you again. ha!

Carnival had rows and rows of backdrops set up everywhere on the first formal night. If it’s packed, you don’t need to wait in line that night, because they will do this several times throughout the week. We didn’t pose for any pictures, but I had a great time watching all the families dressed in the same colors for family photos. I even saw one family all wearing the brightest orange and white stripped shirts!! The dad did not look thrilled at all. ha!

6. The main lobby deck is a wonderful, quiet spot to lounge and read.

The main lobby deck is shaded and a great place to get away from the crowds around the pool.

15 Tips for First Time Cruisers. Things you will want to know before going on a cruise vacation. LivingLocurto.com


7. Come in early from a shore excursion and enjoy the ship to yourself.


8. Get sea sick? Try Sea-Bands.

I tried these out before I went on the cruise and got addicted to them. I have really bad ears and vertigo pretty bad, so I was worried about going on a ship and getting sick. I actually felt fine on the ship and didn’t need the Sea Bands, but brought them just in case. They really do help!


9. If you want a good seat by the main pool, be sure to bring towels and save your chairs on the way to pick up breakfast.

We liked eating breakfast in the early morning by the pool while the kids would swim. For us, morning was nice and quiet and the only time the pool was not super crowded. There are plenty of chairs around the rest of the ship. But the chairs close to the pool fill up quickly.


10. Wear elastic waist pants or a flowing dress and order Carnival’s Chocolate Melting Cake every night! ha.

You might even order two… they will bring it… just ask my husband. I like what our cruise director Chris said on the first formal night: Be sure to wear your good outfit on the first formal night because you might not be able to wear it by the end of the trip!

15 Tips for First Time Cruisers. Things you will want to know before going on a cruise vacation. LivingLocurto.com


11. Formal night is really not that formal.

Business casual is fine. I found some really cute inexpensive dresses at Charming Charlie.

12. Be prepared to walk up and down a lot of stairs.

Stairs are everywhere on a cruise ship and also WAY faster than waiting on the elevators. I don’t think I gained any weight from all the food because we walked so much! At least I’m telling myself that since I don’t dare get on a scale:-)

13. Great advice from one of my readers: Bring a power cord to plug in more than one item and a nightlight.

I would add air freshener to that list as well. Sharing a tiny bathroom in a tiny room with your family… you’ll be glad you have it!

14. Get a room with a balcony.

It’s worth the extra money, especially if you have kids who need to nap. I enjoyed reading and napping myself on our balcony!

15. Take advantage of the kid camps. They are SO worth it! Having time alone with your spouse is priceless.

15 Tips for First Time Cruisers. Things you will want to know before going on a cruise vacation. LivingLocurto.com


You might also like my other cruise travel posts:


Have you gone cruising with Carnival?

For more information on their ships and booking, visit them at Carnival.com!


15 Cruise Vacation Tips! Great travel tips for first time cruisers. LivingLocurto.com

Disclosure: This was a sponsored post by Carnival as a part of their Brand Ambassador program.  All opinions and photos about the trip are my own. Photos © 2010-2014 LivingLocurto.com

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About Amy Locurto

Amy is a creative mom of two and graphic designer. When she's not working on Living Locurto, she's busy designing Printable Party Supplies and working on I Heart Faces, her photography blog. Find Amy on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.


  1. Margo Larkin says:

    If you are traveling without kids, get an inside cabin. Not only are they cheaper, you can take a nap in the middle of the afternoon in complete darkness. Love it!

  2. If you're taking a cruise to a warmer climate, don't forget to bring insect repellant – The wipe-on kind come in individual packets so you can carry only what you need and apply them exactly where you want. Bring some protection from local insects that may be carrying who-knows-what!

    More ideas at http://www.cruisecomfort.com

  3. Ones eyes will dialate if you touch the eye after applying or touching the patch. Be sure to wash hands after applying the patch. That wasn’t a side effect of wearing the patch but getting the medication directly in the eye.

  4. I just came across this post. Great tips!

  5. How do you have to carry on your soda? Does it have to be in your carry-on or can you just buy a 12 pack and carry it on. Thanks

  6. The motion sickness bands are a great idea. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the room all trip because you are sea sick.

    • @Motion Sick,
      Our Dr. prescribed us a sea sickness patch to wear behnd the ear. Dr. thinks they are the best…. Will see in a week when we take off on our first cruise….

      • My class took our Senior Trip on a cruise and one of the girls used the behind the ear patches, they did not work out well for her. they kept her from getting sea sick, but it made one of her eyes dialate really big while the other stayed super small. They do have a few more side affects than the bands.

  7. Writing EVERYTHING down for our cruise in OCT.
    2 bottles of wine, check. Diet Dr Peppers.. check!

    Amy, these rock! Thank you for sharing with us

  8. Love this post, Amy! We loved our Carnival Cruise over Mother’s Day. We visited Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Martin, etc. But you are so right – heading back to the ship early from excursions is so worth it!

    I’m glad you had a great trip!

    (I’ve stumbled this list! It’s great for first time cruisers – or repeaters who need reminding!)


  9. I took a Carnival Cruise years ago w/ my mom and my aunt and it was a blast. We had so much fun that I’ve been wanting do it again ever since. This makes me want to start planning one! Thanks for all the great advice! 🙂

  10. RT @livinglocurto: 15 Tips for First Time Cruisers: Here is what I learned from my first @CarnivalCruise http://goo.gl/fb/tAtNz

  11. Anonymous says:

    Only the Carnival Corp lines (Princess et al)
    allow you to bring wine/cokes on! RCCL and others do not!

    I’m glad you enjoyed your first cruise! They are addicting, so watch out! 🙂

    • actually royal caribbean will allow for soda. while in port we stocked up & they said nothing..alcohol on the other hand will not be allowed in you room.

  12. Looks like a great time! One day we hope to take the kids on a cruise! Thx for the tips!

  13. Dessert was always my favorite part of cruising. By the end of the week, I figured out which desserts I could only get in the dining room. Then after dinner, we’d change clothes and I’d have (the other) dessert and coffee in the buffet restaurant. 🙂 Shameful, huh?

    After our first cruise, I came home and ALL of my clothes were tight! I thought it was all the food I ate. But it wasn’t. We had a little blonde haired, blue eyed souvenir to always remember that week! 🙂

  14. 15 Tips for First Time Cruisers http://bit.ly/9pTk0Z Design.alltop.com

  15. Gina Dease says:

    One thing to mention is if you can go to the port city the day before. My husband and I were so exhausted we just slept until dinner at 8:15. Another tip is we kept our luggage getting on and off saved so much time literally walked on and off the boat with ease this suggestion is if u r traveling without children.

    • @Gina Dease,

      Great tips! Yes… I SO wish we had walked off with our bags instead of checking them. They called our floor first for self depart and we were bummed! ha. It was 2 hours later before we were able to get off.

  16. Lisa Anderson says:

    There is a rule about “closed loop cruises” that start and end in the US allow you to use you birth certificate instead of a passport. Here’s a link to the info in case you really want to cruise NOW and not wait for the passport. http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1206635771151.shtm about mid-way down under “Traveling by Sea”

    • @Lisa Anderson,

      Thanks for the info:-)

      • Christina says:

        I also heard about you can bring a 12 pack of soda, Question, if there is two of us I was going to put both packs in one luggage with other items like shoes(not clothes) will they take any soda out if it is in my bag and not divided between my husbands bag? Can we get away with bringing 24 pack for each of us? How large wine bottle? Thanks, Oh and how much money should we bring?

  17. I am avid criuser, I go on several cruises each year. LOVE them. Your tips are RIGHT ON!

  18. I’ve never been on a cruise! looks like you had a fabulous time…so I am guessing you have to have your passport to cruise?

    • @Screwed Up Texan,

      My passport had expired, so a birth certificate was fine for me and my kids. But I think they are going to be changing that soon and everyone will need a passport. I’m going to renew my passport ASAP because getting them last minute is really expensive.

  19. Here’s another tip we’ve learned…don’t book your excursions through the cruise line. Do some research before you go and book yourself. The groups are much smaller and it’s always cheaper! Thanks for the other tips Amy! I’ve been on a few cruises and I still picked up some things I didn’t already know. BTW I think I need to wipe my keyboard clean of my drool..that cake? Yum.

    • @Danielle,

      I know! I’m craving that cake!! Yum!

      The cruise online booking had shut down by the time I got around to deciding our excursions. I booked 2 excursions through other companies, but they were not cheaper. Less crowded… yes:-)

    • Christina says:

      @ Danielle, I thought that too. First time cruiser here. I researched both excursions through the cruise line and others but what I have found which scared me is the excursions through other then the cruise line said different times the ship was coming and leaving. This scares me as I don’t want to miss the ship leaving. Any tips?


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