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10 “DOs and DON’Ts” for First-Time Galveston Cruisers

Are you about to embark on your first cruise? Then listen up…

We’ve rounded up our 10 best dos and don’ts for first-timers. These ideas cover everything from boarding to dining — and everything in between. But they all have one thing in common: We wish we knew about them before we took our first cruise.

Tip #1: Don’t Board EarlyWe’ve told passengers about this before. Unless you like standing in lines, it’s better to board later on the embarkation day. Everyone is excited for their cruise. That means literally a thousand people or more can show up right when the boarding starts. This leads to long lines and long waits.

Instead, we suggest arriving for boarding an hour or less before the boarding time ends. By that time the lines will have died down and you can breeze through check in.

Tip #2: Do Meet Other Passengers — Some people try to avoid other cruisers like the plague. We’re all for some alone time, but meeting other passengers is one of our favorite things about cruising. It’s a vacation — everyone is having a good time and in a good mood. It makes it very easy to be outgoing. Maybe you make a new friend for just an elevator ride… or maybe you make a new friend for life. Either way, your cruise is definitely more fun getting to know your other passengers.

Tip #3: Do Pack Lighter Than You Think You Need To — It’s simply ridiculous how much people pack for a cruise. Most trips are a week or less and travel to the warm Caribbean. There’s no need to pack bags and bags of luggage.

It’s common to wear the same clothes twice on your trip. There is absolutely no one that will notice except yourself. Pack fewer things and you’ll be amazed at how little you actually need and how much easier it is to board without lugging heavy bags.

Tip #4: Don’t Forget Seasick Patches If You Have Motion Sickness — Modern ships are pretty amazing in their stability, but even in moderate seas you will feel the ship move. We actually find the gentle swaying helpful for sleeping, but if you get seasick, it’s better to bring your seasick medication from home. It’s much cheaper than buying it on the boat.

Tip #5: Do Book At Least One Excursion — If you’re a cruise cheapskate, we understand (we are too). However, we highly recommend springing for at least one excursion during your trip.

Excursions allow you to pack in a large amount of fun in the limited time you have ashore. And the excursion companies have the days planned down to a science, making sure you get your money’s worth. Plus, you don’t have to worry about any planning, rides, or running late.

Tip #6: Don’t Forget to Buy Booze on the Ship — If there is one deal on a cruise ship, it’s the alcohol in the duty-free shop. Most alcohol served on the ship is pricey. But in the duty-free shop there are no liquor taxes to pay. That means you can pick up a bottle of your booze here for considerably less (usually around 25-30% less) than you would pay back home. One catch: You can’t just take this back to your cabin and enjoy. Your alcohol is held until the end of the trip and then sent to your room the night before leaving.

Tip #7: Do Know the “Real” Dinner Dress Code — The low-down on the dinner dress code? Unless you stroll into formal night wearing torn-up shorts and flip flops, no one is going to bat an eye.

Formal night are usually very formal. Many people wear suits or tuxedos  While you might feel out of place wearing t-shirt and jeans (and in fact, we’d advise against that), no one will mention it. The cruise staff is there to make sure you have a good time and they work for tips. They don’t want to do anything to upset you like telling you that you are underdressed.

Our suggestion is to dress how you want, but just know that you might feel out of place if you dress too casual.

Tip #8: Don’t Worry If You Miss An Activity — If you miss an activity you wanted to attend, don’t fret. Most of them are repeated several times throughout the cruise. For some bigger events — such as evening entertainment, this doesn’t apply. However, the cruise lines do a good job of revolving the evenings around their big events, clearing out other activities so that there aren’t many schedule conflicts.

Cruise Art Auction

Tip #9: Don’t Be Surprised By the Sales Pitches — The “selling” was the biggest surprise our first time on a cruise. You’ll find that the cruise lines are constantly pushing you to “Buy, buy, buy!” There are constant mentions of sales in the shops onboard, shopping presentations, spa information sessions, port shopping guides, art auctions (the image to the right is one such piece auctioned off), and more.

It’s not a high-pressure sales pitch, but if you’re not a shopper, be warned. It can be surprising.

Tip #10: Do Remember To Bring Your Watch — One of the things we noticed on our first cruise was that every crew member wore a watch. That’s for good reason; the ship runs on a tight timeline.

Today, most people have forgone their wristwatch and use a phone to keep track of time. But chances are you’re going to have your phone turned off on your trip. Be sure to bring a watch (you can pick up a cheap one for less than $10). It will be worth its weight in gold. The last thing you want to do is get left at a port because you didn’t keep track of the time!

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