10 Tips You Need to Know Before Your First Cruise

From scoring a deal to packing smarter, take these expert tips to heart.
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Royal Caribbean International's Harmony of the Seas, the world"s largest and newest cruise ship, previews in Southampton. Flume

Curious about what it’s like to take a cruise? Now’s the perfect time to set sail aboard a Royal Caribbean ship. We’re innovators in terms of what you can do on a cruise—from rock climbing, ice skating, and zip lining to seeing full-scale Broadway productions—and we travel to more than 260 destinations. You can tick off several bucket-list places in one vacation, and leave the logistics to us. If you’re not exactly sure where to begin, here are our top 10 tips for choosing your itinerary, finding the right accommodations, and packing everything you’ll need.

1. With more than 260 destinations on our roster, finding the right itinerary for your vacation may seem tricky—but don’t worry. To pinpoint your ideal cruise, start broadly, and simply answer the question, “what type of adventurer am I?” We’ve created a quiz for you to discover your adventure personality, and of course, we’ve got shore excursions for all travel types covered.

2. Keep your eyes peeled for perks! Special offers can include discounts, instant savings and often “cruise credit” (also known as onboard credits) to spend as sea! These onboard credits are easy to use, and since they’re a bonus, they’re perfect for pampering yourself at the spa, taking advantage of specialty dining at one of the multiple restaurants on board like Jamie’s Italian, or splurging at the Royal Shops.

3. Book activities before you board. There are so many exciting things to choose from aboard a Royal Caribbean ship, from dinner reservations and shore excursions to incredible entertainment on every ship. Luckily, you can plan your activities as soon as you’ve booked your cruise thanks to our Cruise Planner. Book just about anything, from spa treatments to a hibachi dinner at Izumi, to guarantee your spot before getting on board.

4. Score a family-friendly stateroom. A major convenience of taking a cruise is the sheer variety of amenities and experiences you have to choose from that can fit any family, couple or group of friends. From neighboring rooms conjoined by a central door to extra sleeping options like sofas, Pullman beds or cribs—Royal Caribbean will make sure your squad has room to roam. If you’re looking to up the ante, consider the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Family Suite (that accommodates up to eight people!) on board our latest, Symphony of the Seas.

5. If you’re looking to add even more luxury to your vacation, think about booking within our Royal Suite Class. Our Sea, Sky and Star Class accommodations offer a five-star experience that includes exclusive complimentary dining (and drinks), a dedicated lounge and restaurant, and even your own Royal Genie—an on-call experience crafter, party planner and ultimate insider all in one—ready to make your trip unforgettable.

6. Remember to bring a small day bag, like a backpack or carry-on, for your first couple of hours on board the ship. Fill it with essentials like medications, documentation, a swimsuit and some light clothes that you may want to have on hand while your checked bags make their way to your stateroom. It’ll also come in handy when you’re out and about at the ports of call (also known as a place where a ship stops on a destination).

7. Speaking of packing, you’ll want to have a checklist to follow so nothing is left behind. The perfect place to start is with these 11 must-pack items. One surprise item you’ll likely need: Wrinkle release spray. You won’t see irons on board because they’re a fire hazard (safety first!), but we do offer washing, pressing and dry cleaning services.

8. Once you’ve got a good idea of when and where you’re adventuring and relaxing (thanks to your Cruise Planner), you can plan your wardrobe (yes, really). Or at least have your formal night attire ready! Here’s the breakdown for what you may want to consider packing, and don’t forget your athletic wear for all of the action sports and activities on board.

9. You don’t need to use all those vacation days. Now that Mariner of the Seas is conveniently sailing out of Miami, you can take a short three-night weekend or four-night weekday getaway to The Bahamas at the drop of a hat. With a $120 million investment, the ship now brings new features like glow-in-the-dark laser tag, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, and The Bamboo Room—a tiki-chic, Polynesian watering hole. Best of all, you’ll be able to experience Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas, where you can create your dream vacation day.

10. Don’t worry about hurricane season. We’re already on it! Royal Caribbean was thrilled to introduce the industry’s first cruise line chief meteorologist, James Van Fleet, in 2017. James works with the captains and their teams on board to provide the latest and ongoing weather information for our fleet of 25 ships. Rest assured, the weather is monitored by our experienced professionals around the clock.

Ready to set sail on your first cruise with Royal Caribbean? Head here to explore your options and book.