Expert Advice: Steering Clear of 15 Common Cruise Mistakes

Ensure a Smooth Voyage Ahead with These Tips!

Although cruises may seem like a simple vacation choice, there’s often more complexity involved than meets the eye. It’s surprisingly easy to encounter pitfalls that could potentially mar your entire trip. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned traveler with reservations already in place, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with common mistakes to sidestep during your upcoming voyage.

Booking Your Flights Too Close to Embarkation and Disembarkation

Ensure you book your flight to arrive in your port city at least a day before your cruise, if not earlier. This allows for a buffer period in case of flight delays or cancellations, ensuring you reach the port on time for embarkation. Missing embarkation could result in additional costs to catch up to your ship or, worse, missing the sailing altogether. Additionally, consider the possibility of luggage delays, as an extra day in port increases the likelihood of receiving your bags.

When planning your return journey, booking a flight on the same day as disembarkation is feasible but avoid scheduling it too early. Disembarkation procedures can be time-consuming, and the airport may be a considerable distance away. According to Tanner Callais, founder and editor of, it’s advisable to avoid flights before 11 a.m. for ports near airports and before noon for locations with longer drives, such as Port Canaveral. Although an earlier flight might seem feasible, it adds unnecessary stress, especially in the event of delays.

Not Having a Valid Passport

Make sure to regularly check the expiration date of your passport. Typically, passports require three to six months of validity beyond your travel dates. Jeff Rolander, vice president of claims at travel insurance company Faye, emphasizes the importance of proper documentation, particularly regarding expiration dates, noting numerous mishaps that occur due to oversight in this area.

Not Checking COVID-19 Restrictions

“Some travelers might mistakenly assume that the accessibility and vaccination status of destinations mirror that of their home country, but this isn’t always accurate. It’s crucial to verify vaccination requirements, mask specifications, and local regulations for each destination, particularly if your itinerary spans multiple countries,” explained Jeremy Clubb, founder of Rainforest Cruises.

Not Monitoring Prices After You Book

Cruise prices often fluctuate based on demand, following a dynamic pricing model. Interestingly, prices may decrease even after you’ve made a booking, allowing for potential price adjustments. Stephanie Goldberg-Glazer, owner of travel agency Live Well, Travel Often, explains their proactive approach to monitoring sale prices using tracking tools. This enables them to inform clients promptly and adjust prices accordingly before final payment.

Skipping Travel Insurance

“This oversight can result in significant financial consequences for travelers beyond the cruise fare itself. It’s important to note that most domestic health insurance policies, including standard Medicare, typically cease coverage once a cruise ship enters international waters,” explained Michelle Couch-Friedman, founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. “Medical treatment costs onboard a ship can be exorbitant. Without travel insurance that includes medical coverage, passengers facing illness or injury would be responsible for all expenses incurred. Moreover, in the event of a medical evacuation without insurance coverage, individuals could potentially incur tens of thousands of dollars in expenses.”

Picking a Cabin at Random

“Imagine this scenario: You’ve eagerly booked a delightful cruise, only to find yourself in a cabin directly beneath the all-night disco. This unfortunate outcome highlights the importance of researching the ship’s layout and selecting your cabin based on personal preferences,” advised Kristin Winkaffe of Winkaffe Global Travel. “To avoid finding yourself in the midst of a dance-floor dilemma, thoroughly explore the ship’s blueprint, cabin categories, and amenities, or seek guidance from a knowledgeable travel advisor.”

Additionally, for those prone to seasickness, cabin location is crucial. “Opt for a mid-ship cabin on a lower deck for minimal movement,” recommended travel advisor Ashley Les of Postcards From, an independent affiliate of Protravel International, Global Travel Collection. “Avoid cabins at the front of the ship, as they tend to experience the most motion.”

Taking Only Ship-affiliated Shore Excursions

“You’re not required to participate in the shore excursions provided by the cruise line, and, in fact, you may find better deals by booking with third-party providers. For example, if your cruise stops at Bora Bora, consider purchasing a day pass at luxury hotels like The St. Regis Bora Bora, granting access to their pools, beaches, and amenities including restaurants and spas. Alternatively, you can explore the port on your own and create your own unique experiences.”

Arriving Late to the Pier After a Day in Port

“If you’re venturing out to explore the port independently, ensure you return to the ship well before the scheduled embarkation time,” advised travel advisor Christina Schlegel of Bluetail Travel. “We’ve witnessed passengers rushing down the pier at the last minute, unsure if they’ll make it back in time. To avoid this, familiarize yourself with the boarding time for each port and allow plenty of extra time, especially for tender ports.”

Waiting to Book Everything Until the Last Minute

On larger ships, popular amenities such as specialty dining, spa treatments, and shore excursions tend to fill up quickly. Be mindful of when your cruise line opens bookings for these extras and secure your reservations as soon as possible. This advice also extends to booking third-party excursions.

“Many passengers assume that upon docking, they’ll find immediate entertainment and transportation options available,” explained Alissa Musto, a traveling musician, singer, and performer with extensive cruise experience. “However, this isn’t always the case, particularly in destinations like Central America where attractions may not be easily accessible from the ship. It’s essential to arrange tours ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Waiting until the day of your port visit leaves you reliant on potentially slow and costly ship Wi-Fi for research, or facing the risk of cruise line excursions selling out quickly.”

Overpacking or Underpacking

“Overpacking can result in a chaotic wardrobe situation in your cabin, while forgetting essentials could leave you scrambling for sunscreen in a distant port,” advised Winkaffe. “To achieve the ideal balance, craft a packing list comprising versatile clothing suitable for layering, your everyday toiletries along with any specialized items, an ample supply of medications to cover potential delays, and any necessary gear for excursions.” Additionally, Winkaffe recommends reviewing the ship’s dress code to ensure you pack appropriate attire for formal or themed evenings.

Not Keeping Essentials in Your Carry-on

“Although porters deliver your checked bags to your cabin, this process can take several hours. It’s wise to pack your essentials and valuables, such as medication, chargers, and electronics, in your carry-on luggage. Additionally, ensure you have everything you’ll need for your first day on board,” advised Stephanie Shuster, founder and CEO of Walt Disney World Magazine and Disney Cruise Magazine. “Don’t forget to include your swim gear in your carry-on. Your larger luggage may take some time to reach your room, potentially causing you to miss out on early swimming opportunities on the first day.”

Forgetting to Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode

“Ensure your phone doesn’t incur unexpected data charges by activating airplane mode and utilizing Wi-Fi if you lack an international plan covering your destinations,” advised Rolander. “Even if your plan includes international data, it might not extend to data usage at sea, making this advice still relevant.”

Thinking Everything Is Included

“Many cruises aren’t genuinely all-inclusive, meaning additional expenses such as alcohol, specialty dining, and excursions are common. It’s essential to carefully review the fine print and establish a reasonable budget for your onboard expenses,” advised Callais. “When you pay for your cruise fare, it’s easy to assume that all costs are covered. However, it’s important to recognize that onboard spending constitutes a separate aspect of your trip. While we all aim to save money, allocating funds for onboard amenities can significantly enhance your experience. Whether it’s indulging in a specialty restaurant over the complimentary buffet or embarking on a shore excursion, these expenditures often become memorable highlights of the cruise. Mental preparation for these additional expenses is key.”

Leaving Alcohol at Home

“Many cruise lines permit passengers to bring their own wine and/or Champagne onboard, although specific rules, limits, and corkage fees vary between companies,” explained Pierre-Olivier Lepage, co-founder and CEO of Cruisebound. “Before determining whether to purchase a drinks package, it’s crucial to research your cruise line’s policy. To circumvent corkage fees at the restaurant, consider consuming your personal stash of alcohol within your cabin.”

Ensure a Smooth Voyage Ahead with These Tips! Although cruises may seem like a simple vacation choice, there’s often more complexity involved than meets the eye. It’s surprisingly easy to encounter pitfalls that could potentially mar your entire trip. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned traveler with reservations already in place, it’s crucial…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *