7 Things Not to do Before You Board a Cruise Ship

By: Sherri Eisenberg

February 12, 2016

star cruises aquarius

Don’t make these mistakes! 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the simplicity and ease of cruising — you book your accommodations, meals, and transportation in one easy step. But a little bit of forethought and planning can make the experience a whole lot better.

Here, a few things to you don’t want to do before you walk up the gangway the first day:

1. Leave Your Cell Phone On

If you wait until you’re at sea to think about how you’re going to communicate with friends and family back home, you’re going to face some pretty nasty data charges. Before you leave, call your cell service provider and ask for a package of texting, data, and calls in the countries you’re visiting. You’ll pay a lot less, and know the cheapest ways for people to reach you.

Ignore us at your own will: You’ll be hit with massive roaming charges and out-of-network fees if you don’t plan in advance.

Figure out ahead of time if you can get away with jeans every night or if you’ll have to dress up for dinner each night. (Photo: Marko Milanovic/Stocksy)

2. Forget to Check the Dress Code

Cruise line dress-code policies for dinner time vary widely, from those with a mix of cocktail and formal nights to country-club casual every night or even come as you please every night. You don’t want to show up with a suitcase full of jeans only to discover that they’re out of bounds after dark. The result of that mistake: You could get stuck eating in your cabin at night, and missing out on all the fun.

3. Don’t Research the Ports

If you wait until the last minute and make a game-day decision on what to see based on what shore excursions are left when you board, you may miss out on what’s best about the destination. Instead, take a few minutes to figure out what you would do on your own if you weren’t visiting on a cruise, and then determine if the shore excursion is the best way to see those sites. In some ports, you may discover that taking a cab to, say, the best and least crowded beach, is a better bet than getting on a caravan of buses to one that will be packed with hoards of other cruisers.

Book your fancy dinners in advance so you can have time to properly enjoy them. (Photo: Getty Images)

4. Wing it for Dinner

If your ship has specialty restaurants, and you’re allowed to book them before you board, then chances are that sea-day reservations — when you’re most apt to have the time to dress up and arrive relaxed — will go first. Plan ahead so you don’t — gasp! — end up having your best meal on the first night, when you may be too exhausted from traveling to enjoy it, or on a night when you have to race back from a long day of sightseeing to change.

5. Wing it With Spa Treatments

The best spa times — which, for most people, are late morning or early afternoon on sea days — go first, especially for popular treatments like basic massages. If you’re going to splurge on a spa day, plan to go when you will be rested from sleeping in, and have the time to enjoy the sauna, icy plunge pools, heated lounge chairs, special showers, and hot tubs (if they have them) that you may get complimentary access to from booking a treatment.


Load up that iPad with movies ahead of time, so you can be entertained without having to worry about the ship’s slow WiFi. (Photo: iStock)

6. Expect That You’ll Have Great WiFi — and TV 

The quality of cruise ship on board TV entertainment varies from just a few stations to an intricate system of on demand and newly released films. Because download speeds are slow and WiFi can be expensive and spotty at sea, you’ll want to do all downloading before you leave home so that, if you want to watch a movie before you fall asleep or have some down time after a long day in the sun you’re not at the mercy of the ships’ entertainment system.

You may want to upload some movies or TV shows on your laptop of tablet, if you’re bringing one; this is also a good way to pass the time on a long flight, as well as on a rainy day at sea. You can also upload additional podcasts and music to your phone to entertain yourself on flights, or even by the pool. If your cabin has a DVD player you may also want to bring a few of your favorites — planning ahead in this way will prevent you from twiddling your thumbs if you’re a night owl on a ship where everyone tends to go to bed early.

7. Pack Like You Would for Any Trip

If, say, you’re someone who drinks many tall glasses of iced tea every day, for example, pack a water bottle so you don’t have to keep running to the buffet line for a refill. The same goes for your fitness regimen if you’re committed to your workouts: See what equipment your ship has, and decide how you’re going to adapt. If you and your traveling companions tend to be tied to your cell phones and other devices, you’ll want to pack an extension cord as many ships still don‘t have enough in cabin outlets. In this case, a little forethought prevents an awkward rock-paper-scissors moment on who gets to use the outlets.