If you’re anything like me, you want your cruise to be as stress free as possible.  While there will always be things that are out of our control, there are many elements to cruising that we can control.  Here are my top 15 mistakes that people make when cruising.  Some are more consequential than others, and yes, I’ve made one or two of them myself.  If you avoid making these mistakes it will make for a more enjoyable and stress-free cruising experience.

1.  Flying in the on the same day that your cruise leaves

In today’s world of travel woes (missed, delayed or canceled flights), if you depend on an airline getting you into your embarkation city in time to board your cruise, that would be like rolling the dice at a craps table…sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  A very simple solution is to fly in the day before your cruise.  Yes, you’ll have to pay for hotel accommodations, but that is a small price to pay to ensure that you’ll board your cruise on time.  This is a huge stress reliever, and you may even be able to spend some enjoyable sightseeing time in your embarkation city prior to your cruise (who doesn’t love an extra vacation day?).

2.  Booking an early flight the same day that your cruise ends

When your cruise returns to home port, in general, everyone is disembarked by 9:00 a.m. or earlier.  If you’ve booked a return flight home before 10:00 a.m., you will miss your flight.  You should plan on flying out no sooner than 12:00 p.m. in general, depending on your departure port.  Again, this is going to alleviate much stress regardless if you’re using a shuttle, taxi or ride sharing mode of transportation to get you back to the airport.  Often times it’s not just your cruise ship returning to port, but one, two or even several other cruise ships returning as well.  That can create traffic jams and long lines at the airport to check in, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

3.  Don’t get a passport

Most of you may be thinking this one is obvious, but I can assure you that there are travelers out there who either don’t know, or don’t think that they need a passport.  If you are leaving the country, you need a passport, period.

4.  Don’t use a Travel Advisor

We all have choices when booking our cruise.  There are the DIYers who book their own cruise, and there are those who choose to book through a Travel Advisor.  Check out my blog, Top 4 reasons to use a travel advisor.  Enough said.

5.  Don’t purchase travel insurance

How’s this for stress during your cruise…you can’t get to your cruise ship for various reasons, you get ill while on your cruise, something catastrophic happens before your cruise and you need to cancel, etc.  Add in not having travel insurance and you now have to scramble to figure out what to do, and how you are going to cover the cost of many of these situations, potentially out of pocket.  Take a peek at why you should purchase travel insurance.

6.  Don’t research the placement of your cabin

Oh boy, have I made this mistake in the past.  I once stayed in a balcony stateroom directly below the pool deck.  Every day between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., the music was pounding so loudly that I could actually feel it if I was sitting in my cabin during those hours.  If you are worried about feeling sea sick, you may want to avoid being on a high floor at the fore or aft of the ship.  If you spend a lot of time in a particular area of the ship, you may want to be in a stateroom that is more convenient to access that area.  Some cruisers don’t care where they are placed, but if you are someone who has particular needs or concerns about where your stateroom will be located, do some research, or better yet, let your Travel Advisor know what you do or don’t want and they can book you in the right stateroom location.

7.  Waiting until you board the ship to book extras

It used to be that you had to wait until you boarded your cruise to book excursions, specialty restaurants, spa services and even some shows.  Now most of these extras can be booked ahead of time online.  Booking early for extras helps you get what you want when you want it.  Many cruise lines will even offer early booking discounts for some of the extras that they offer versus waiting until you board to book.

8.  Packing items that are prohibited by the cruise ship

There are certain items that you cannot bring on any cruise ship such as an iron or flame candles.  Food, soda and alcoholic beverages may also be prohibited or limited and this can vary by cruise line.  Ask your Travel Advisor or take some time to review what you can or can’t bring on-board your cruise by visiting the cruise line’s website.

9.  Skipping the muster drill

All cruise ships are required by law to provide muster drills where safety information is given to every single passenger on what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency aboard the ship.  Not only is it not a good idea to skip this from the standpoint that if something did happen you wouldn’t know what to do, but you can get in serious trouble if you skip the mandatory muster drill, and trust me, they will find you.

10.  Forget to bring cash

Most cruises are cashless since they require passengers to use their key card for most on-board purchases that will be charged to your credit card.  There are times when having some cash will come in handy.  Bring some small bills, like ones and fives, to tip airline and cruise baggage porters and excursion tour guides.  You may want to have some extra cash while in port for purchases or taking public transportation like taxis or buses.

11.  Not packing a small first-aid kit

While most cruise ships have an on-board doctor and a medical facility, it’s a good idea to bring your own small first-aid kit with some everyday essentials like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, band aids, motion sickness and/or allergy medication, just in case.  Having your own supply will save you both time and money if you had to purchase everyday items like these through the cruise line’s medical facility.

12.  Missing the boat while in port

This is a biggie.  Best rule of thumb is to always set your watch/clock to the ships time, regardless of where you are.  It’s always a safe bet to arrive back to the ship at least one hour before it is scheduled to leave.  The ship has a schedule to maintain and will not wait for you if you are late.  The only time they will wait for late passengers is when those passengers have taken an excursion offered by the cruise line.  If a passenger takes an excursion with a non-cruise-affiliated vendor, they will not wait for you.

13.  Forgetting to turn off your roaming data on your mobile devices and tablets

If you do not have an International and/or WiFi plan for your mobile devices and tablets and you forget to turn off your data roaming, you can incur roaming charges that can cost hundreds of dollars.

14.  Not tipping the cruise staff

Tipping is expected on most cruises, and many cruise lines will automatically deduct tips daily per passenger.  Some passengers prefer to tip directly to the staff who served them, such as their room attendant, dining room staff, bartenders, etc.  You do have the right to ask the cruise line not to bill you automatically every day for tips.  Regardless, please do not think that you should not have to tip the staff.  The people who work on cruise lines work very hard to ensure that you have an amazing experience and they well deserve tips.  Their salaries are small and they rely largely on tips.

15.  Saving pool chairs for excessive periods of time

I have just three simple words of advice on this one…don’t do it.  Dropping your towel or some random personal belonging on a pool chair early in the morning so you can go back to sleep or do something else until hours later is not fair to others and it’s just plain rude.  Most cruise lines have a 30-minute grace period for an unoccupied pool chair (long enough for a swim, to eat at the buffet, etc.).  After 30 minutes they can and should remove your personal belongs to free up the chair.

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