For those of you who don’t know, Scott and I went on our first cruise a few months ago! We had the best time, and I wanted to share a few highlights and some things we learned. I did a lot of research before our trip, so we went into the trip feeling pretty prepared!
We chose a cruise over a different type of vacation for a few reasons. First, we really wanted this vacation to be a total escape, so not having phone service or wifi was great! Second, we really liked the idea of seeing a few different places; we thought it would be a good introduction to the area, and we were able to decide which places we might be interested in visiting for a longer trip.
- Waking up early to watch the sunrise off the coast of Belize. It was early and rainy and we were the only ones on the top deck of the ship – it was beautiful and we felt like the only ones on the ship.
- Looking out over the perfect water – I’ll never get tired of that!
- Sitting by the pool and reading (something I don’t often get time to do).
- Snorkeling off West Bay Beach in Roatán, Honduras. There’s amazing snorkeling just off the beach.
- The dinners! (They were really, really good.)
- Hanging out with no connection to technology and no agenda – just us.
I also put together a fun little video with some of our live photos from the trip (using the Motion Stills app, which I highly recommend). We didn’t spend too much time taking photos, and there were a few places I didn’t want to bring my phone or camera, but I do think this video gives a great idea of how much fun we had! (If you’re having trouble viewing the embedded video below, click here to see it on YouTube!)
5 Things We Learned from Our First Cruise
Next, I want to share a few things we learned from our first cruise! As I mentioned above, I tried to learn a lot before our trip, and I do think it made the experience better for us. Now, I realize not everyone is as into intense internet research as me, so I’ve summarized the most important things we learned below!
1. Do as much research as you can.
Before we left, I did research on the ship, the ports, the cruise line, excursions, and more. I found the CruiseCritic forums to be insanely helpful for this research – it’s really great to hear opinions from a bunch of people, including some really seasoned cruisers. We learned a ton, and I really liked not feeling too much like a “new cruiser”.
One way that this worked out for us was finding the place to snorkel in Roatán. The snorkeling spot was right off the beach, so we could explore throughout the day at our leisure. Despite a minor gear issue, the snorkeling was amazing and the beach was lovely too! This forum thread was insanely helpful; there were even maps of exactly where to swim out, which made it really easy!
It cost $60 total for transport, a beach resort with nice facilities, and flipper rentals. We had the best time, even with a few broken snorkeling pieces. (We brought our own masks and snorkels to save some money, but we forgot to test them ahead of time.) Scott and I were very happy with the experience, especially since a similar snorkeling excursion through the cruise line would have cost at least twice as much!
2. Pay for everything ahead of time.
When you book your cruise, you have the option to book excursions, buy drink packages, and pay gratuities ahead of time. We did our best to prepay for as much as possible. Because of this, we got onto the ship knowing exactly how much in our vacation budget we had left. That way, we could set aside some money for onboard spending, but also not worry about excursions, coffee, gratuities, etc. taking up too much of our credit limit! I’ve heard quite a few horror stories of people putting thousands of dollars on their onboard spending account (which we definitely didn’t want to do)! This tip just made it really easy for us to stick with our budget.
3. Ask crew members for help.
This is something that was really helpful for us – the experience of the crew members is really valuable! We asked our waiter and assistant waiter for suggestions on food every night. They gave really excellent suggestions, brought us their favorite desserts, and even told us which days not to miss the main dining room (although we ate there every night anyways). The shore excursion staff were also really helpful; we talked with them a few times and ended up picking a completely different excursion than we had originally planned. None of the excursion descriptions were more than about two sentences, and a lot of them were similar. The shore excursion staff can tell you the difference between similar excursions and the ones that they think are the best!
4. Explore the ship while in port.
We researched each port in advance (see tip #1), so we knew which ones we wouldn’t need to spend too much time at. For 2 of our 4 ports, we only went out for an hour or two and then headed back to the ship. Although some things on board will be closed (e.g. stores, some dining locations, etc.), the pools always stayed open! Using the pools while the ship was in port meant they were never busy. We’d often have the entire pool to ourselves! We found chairs to sit in with no trouble, all the best tables in the buffet were wide open, and the promenade deck wasn’t crowded at all during this time. Definitely take some time to explore the ship while it’s uncrowded (especially if you’re on a larger ship).
5. Take the stairs; enjoy the food!
Scott and I committed to this in advance, and we did a great job sticking to it! (I think we only took the elevator once during the entire trip.) We took the stairs and used the gym, but we also didn’t worry too much about how much we ate. The food was good, we paid for it, and we wanted to enjoy it guilt-free! Taking the stairs is an easy way to stay active, and the number of flights really adds up quickly. We also didn’t have to wait for elevators during busy times, which was a nice bonus.
And there you have it – all of our best tips from our first cruise! If you’re a new cruiser, I hope this post was helpful for you, so you can head into your cruise feeling prepared and confident!