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Witness the sunrise from the expansive Pool Deck on board Seabourn Odyssey.

Courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line

Witness the sunrise from the expansive Pool Deck on board Seabourn Odyssey.

What to expect from your first cruise

Some tips from a veteran cruiser on what might unfold, day by day

Your bags are packed, your tickets are in hand and you're on your way to embark on your first cruise. Excited but really not sure what to expect? No problem.

Tips & tricks on cruise basics

For newcomers to cruising, we've put together this seven-day itinerary, which outlines what you might expect from a holiday on the high seas. 

Day 1: Taking care of business & pleasure

Your first cruise certainly won't be boring, that's for sure. Modern cruise ships have many diversions to keep passengers busy. From nonstop entertainment to gourmet eats, there is a lot to look forward to and accomplish on a cruise vacation.

The first day of a cruise can be a bit frantic. Guests scurry to secure their spa appointments, make reservations at specialty restaurants (if they haven't already done so online) and take photos on their smartphones while still in port with a cell connection to the outside world. Others guests may opt to eat lunch at the buffet or perhaps head poolside to lounge in the sun and take a sip of the drink of the day.

When you enter your stateroom for the first time, be prepared to meet your room attendant. This is the person who will keep your cabin tidy, servicing your room twice a day. Before you arrive, the attendant will have placed a daily program on the bed so you can see what's on tap around the ship. 

Tip: Check your dining arrangements

After you board the ship, one of your first orders of business should be to confirm your dining reservation. Most cruise lines have either fixed or flexible main dining programs. Typically you'll have made this choice when booking your stateroom. Your keycard, which functions as your room key and onboard credit card, will list a dining time and table number. Go to the dining room and check out your table. If you're not satisfied with your table assignment, ask the maître d'hôtel to change it. 

Once the ship sets sail and the mandatory cruise safety drill is complete, you should be all ready to relax.

Days 2-5: Settling into cruise life

A nautical theatrical production performed on Allure of the Seas. Make sure to reserve your space in advance!
Kent Miller / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean InternationalA nautical theatrical production performed on Allure of the Seas. Make sure to reserve your space in advance!

During this time, you'll probably see a sea day or two mixed in between long days in port. On the days when the ship is in port, passengers can enjoy the ship, which tends to be less crowded while guests are on shore. If you're planning to do a shore excursion, plan to wake up early and be ready for fun.

Depending on which ship you're sailing on, you'll spend part of these days exploring the pool decks, restaurants, promenade, shops and public rooms, including lounges and nightclubs, perhaps the kids club, maybe a casino or an art exhibit. Even on a large ship, don't be surprised if the wait staff engages with you and makes a note of your favorite drinks.  

Tip: Make show reservations in advance

If you're on anything larger than a small ship or river ship, you might be game for a dinner show, or a stage production after dinner. Be sure to make reservations in advance — on some sailings, the shows can be 70 to 80 percent booked even before the ship sets off. 

The second to last night of the cruise is usually the gala dinner in the dining room. Depending on the cruise line, the ship’s chef will present his or her most elegant menu on this night. Expect an impressive entertainment production. By now you should feel acclimated to life at sea.

Day 6: Tying up loose ends

If you're on a 7-day cruise, it's time to pack and get ready for a very early day in the morning. You'll want to make sure to review your onboard account early in the day to make sure your final bill reflects any onboard credits and that miscellaneous charges are correct. Be prepared to have your bags packed and placed outside your stateroom so they can be offloaded from the ship to the dock in the morning.

Day 7: Get ready for bon voyage

Until we meet again! Your day will start off very early as most cruise lines invite (ahem, request) passengers to vacate their room before 8 am. Some cruise lines allow guests to remain in their cabins until the ship reaches port; however, that's not the norm for most cruise lines. The room steward will be by to strip the beds and ready the room for the next guests. 

Your take

Was this experience different from your own first cruise? Do tell me about it by leaving a comment, I'd love to hear from you! 

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In our New to Cruising series

Carrie Finley-Bajak
I'm a cruise journalist, blogger, CLIA Accredited Cruise Counselor and a columnist for Travel Weekly. Follow me on Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and Instagram.