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Don't overindulge or you'll wind up cat-napping throughout your cruise.

Photo by alljengi on Flickr (Creative Commons BY-SA)

Don't overindulge or you'll wind up cat-napping throughout your cruise.

5 tips for surviving your first cruise

Advice on dressing, eating, exploring & more once you're aboard

Taking a cruise for the first time can be a little daunting — after all, there's so much to consider before you even begin packing for your trip.

Tips & tricks on cruise basics

Once on board, though, the fun really begins and surviving your first cruise should be incredibly easy. Here are five tips to surviving your first cruise.

Don’t stress about the dress code

1Some cruise lines have them and some cruise lines don’t, but either way, don’t worry about them. Packing for a cruise is just like packing for any other vacation. You should bring a mixture of daytime wear, casual evening wear and maybe something a little extra special for the occasional formal evening, if your cruise has one. Although some lines do have dress code suggestions, they are just that, suggestions. You don’t have to dress up for dinner if you don’t want to; after all, this is your vacation! Just don't go too far by donning your jammies or swimsuit in the dining room.

Don’t overindulge


One of the best things about cruising is the food: There is so much of it! On board, you will find everything from sophisticated lobster dishes to something ideal for poolside snacking, such as burgers and pizza. Food on every ship is available 24 hours a day and it can be incredibly easy to get a little overexcited, but you need to restrain yourself! You have several days ahead of you and plenty of time to sample everything. Don’t try and eat everything in one sitting. (Yes, I've seen it, and it's not pretty ... or healthy!) 

Explore your ship

3You will never figure out what is where on your first day, but exploring your ship from the very beginning is a lot of fun — plus, you might discover something that becomes your haven for the entire trip. I always recommend doing some homework about your ship before you leave. Cruiseable is a good place to start: Check out the photos and descriptions of the ship's restaurants, lounges and public rooms. And the cruise line's site often has this info. Look for facilities on board such as rock climbing walls, sports courts or obstacle courses so you'll know to bring a sturdy pair of sneakers. Scoping it out before you leave will prevent hassles or regrets during your sailing.

Leave the world behind

Disney's ships have a ton of activities centers with trained staff, like the Oceaneer Club on Disney Magic for children ages 3 to 12.
Courtesy of Disney Cruise LineDisney's ships have a ton of activities centers with trained staff, like the Oceaneer Club on Disney Magic for children ages 3 to 12.

One of the best aspects of being on the open ocean is the chance to unplug from the rest of the world. Internet charges on board can be expensive, and the signal is sometimes sporadic, so why not turn your phone and laptop off and simply enjoy being unplugged! We live in a world today where technology is a big part of everyday life, and cruising is one of the only chances we get to disconnect, so make the most of it! If you feel the need to use social channels such as Facebook and Twitter, then find Wi-Fi ashore and savor the “quiet” time when on board. Cruiseable's travel and port guides often list venues on shore where you can find free Wi-Fi.

Check out the kids club

5If you're traveling with children, then it's essential to research the onboard youth programs before boarding. Some ships offer a fully comprehensive kids program, while others may offer only occasional activities. It really does vary per line and ship. Once on board, embarkation day is the best time to take your kids along and get them registered for the duration of the cruise. It's also the perfect time to slip away and leave them to make new friends. Many of the kids clubs will not allow children under a certain age to leave without an adult, so you really can relax knowing that they are fully supervised and probably having the time of their lives.

Your take

How about you? What lessons or tips can you pass along to first-time cruisers?

Updated from an earlier version. See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

Danielle Fear
Travel writer and social media professional based in Newcastle, UK. I've been cruising since since 2007. Follow me on Twitter at @CruiseMiss.