5 Cruise Tips for First-Time (or Experienced) Cruisers

A sunset from aboard a Princess Cruise ship.
A sunset from aboard a Princess Cruise ship.

Whether you're new to cruising or are taking off on your umpteenth cruise vacation, it never hurts to have a little guidance. As cruise ships get more sophisticated, cruisegoers have more and more choices available to them. Where should you go first? What shouldn't you miss? Follow these five cruise tips, and it'll be smooth sailing all the way.

1. Packing for Your Cruise

The best mantra to follow when you're packing for your next cruise is this: Pack light. You'll want to start with the essentials. If your cell phone can take high-quality photos, leave your camera at home. Where clothes are concerned, pack minimally and bring a wrinkle-releasing product that allows you to wear an outfit more than once. And do your research — if your stateroom will already be supplied with a robe and some toiletries, you can leave those things at home as well. Save space so you can travel light and even bring home a souvenir or two!

2. Dining

You'll never go hungry on a cruise ship — and no need to fret over dining options. You can always hit the pizza bar or the buffet if you feel like having a casual evening, or even order room service. A selection of internationally-inspired dining options is always available; don't feel pressured to make an early decision about whether you'll want late or early dining on your cruise. One piece of advice, though: If you think you might like to indulge in fine dining, you'll want to make a reservation ahead of time. Those specialty restaurants tend to book up at the beginning of each cruise.

3. Onboard Activities

You won't need to memorize all the activities and events each day. During turn-down service, your cabin steward will leave you a copy of the Princess Patter, a newsletter that will tell you when the casino opens, the hours for the health and fitness center, what pool the volleyball game is taking place in, daily tips for cruising, and an hourly listing of all other happenings on board.

4. Cruise Shore Excursions

One of the most important steps you can take before your next cruise is to do your excursion homework before you depart. It won't take long to navigate through shore excursions to plan your vacation days. Availability for everyone is not guaranteed on each excursion, so you'll want to pre-reserve shore excursions early for anything you want. The other advantage to planning in advance is making sure you bring anything that an outing might call for, such as hiking boots or water shoes.

5. Shopping

Keep an eye on the Princess Patter and the Princess Shopping Host — available at the tour office and on your stateroom television — before you make purchases. This is where you'll get insider cruise tips on when there are onboard boutique sales. You can also check with your host about any onshore purchases you are interested in making, that way you'll get the best bargains and quality.