Tips for the First-Time Cruiser – Part 1

Tips for the First-Time Cruiser – Part 2

Tips for the First-Time Cruiser – Part 3

A Word on Passports

In my first post on first time cruising tips, I focused on a few basics. Reader Dan reminded me that there is so much more, and some of what I’ll mention below are taken from his thoughtful comment. I suppose that I’ve become such a frequent floater that I have a routine, and lost sight of how daunting things can be for a first timer. Things like “the dress code” and formal night actually intimidate a lot of people. Hint – they shouldn’t!


Don’t Overpack

Overpack? Me? Yes, you! I’ve done it and so have you. I remember the days that MrsMJ and I used to travel with a steamer trunk for our cruising. The last straw was a 2-week trip to Europe a few years ago that included a 10-day cruise. We had these two huge bags. It was fine until it wasn’t. It was also unnecessary. Pack a reasonable amount and do laundry if you need to. Some ships have a self-service laundry while other require you to use the ship’s dry cleaning/laundry service. I routinely use the onboard services. They’re reasonably priced, and I can get away with a carry-on bag and backpack.

Things you’ll likely need – swimsuit, sunscreen, hat/cap, under garments, socks, one pair of flip flops, one pair of shoes, workout shoes and shorts, one pair of decent shorts, several t-shirts, a decent pair of slacks, and a couple of nicer shirts, and as Dan noted, a small power strip can be useful for keeping your electronics charged. My typical dinner dress is a pair of khakis and a “dress” t-shirt (i.e. one that is of a single color, no pictures, not faded and ripped). If I’m on a cruise where I want to participate in formal activities I simply rent a tuxedo onboard even though I own one. It’s worth it to me to be able to pack light, and it serves as a good segue into this….

Don’t Worry About Formal Night

When I’m surfing the web about cruises, I’m not sure any topic comes up more or generates more heat than formal night. Some people love formal night, some don’t care, and some loathe it. I’m somewhere between liking it and not caring. Those that love it really love it in my experience, and a few of those formal night lovers don’t understand why everyone else might not. Most formal nights nowadays, you’ll find me in a suit or nice pants and sport coat with an open collar. For those cruises that I wish to play formal, I just rent a tuxedo onboard as I noted above. I keep a card with all my sizes filed away, and when the time comes, I pre-order the tux and it’s waiting for me in my stateroom.

All that said, on your typical Bahamas (especially short Bahamas) and Caribbean cruises, you will not be alone if you elect to forgo formal dress on “formal night.” Now, if you’re sailing a line like Cunard on a trans-Atlantic Queen Mary II cruise, dress up if you’re going to the dining room. 🙂 My advice – if it’s your first cruise, I say make it special, dress up, get a few pictures made, and make a party of it just once. Then you can decide if you’re a formal night loyalist or you’d rather leave the tie at home.

Up next – life on board, dining choices, and holding on to more of your hard-earned money.


-MJ, June 19, 2014