For seven days this was our home.
You can see our balcony if you squint, go to the ninth deck, and count five rooms over.
This was only our second cruise, but I’ve learned SO MUCH along my journeys. I felt like I was in elementary cruise school with the first voyage and now? I feel like I’m about to cruise graduate.
(total aside: there are tons of PhD cruisers walking around and I hope to learn even more about cruising from them, too.)
I’ve talked to so many people—on the Facebook groups and online and at the dining tables and by the pools—and along the way I’ve picked up tons of tips.
So that’s why I wrote this post. So you could pin it and save it and have it to help get ready for your next cruise.
I wanted to share all the tips that I’ve learned that I wish someone would have told me before my first cruise.
Are you ready?
Here are 21 things I wish I knew before I went on a cruise.
1. The walls are magnetic:
First of all–it’s so important to understand. Cruise cabins are tiny.
They remind me of a floating dorm room. Remember how your mother tried to help you find all that space in the dorm room and then you discovered that you could velcro a skirt onto the sink and hide your hot rollers underneath? These magnetic hooks are just like that. Utilize the magnetic walls in your cabin by bringing along magnetic hooks.
These hooks are perfect for hanging hats, lanyards, or even lightweight bags. I also used them to organize my sunglasses.
You can see the magnetic hooks here.
2. Luggage Tags:
With Royal Caribbean (and most cruise lines) you have to deliver your luggage at the port before you board the ship. In other words, you board without your luggage. They deliver it to your room.
Do NOT leave valuables in your luggage in case it gets lost. Instead, pack a small carry-on where you keep your passports, jewelry, electronics and other valuables with you as you board the ship.
You go online and print out paper tags to help with your luggage delivery. The challenge? Those tags are paper and can rip easily. There are plastic tag sleeves for your cruise line that you can purchase to put those paper tags in so your luggage doesn’t get lost.
3. Eating in the main dining room:
This may be a controversial opinion, but I think specialty dining is often overrated.
Don’t feel pressured to splurge when the main dining options can be just as satisfying. You can book the same table with the same people each night. We actually booked a table where we didn’t know anyone to make some new friends.
Here’s the menu from one of the nights in the main dining room (it changes every night) and there are three courses and you can have multiple options of as many entrees, appetizers and desserts as you want.
And it’s included with your passage fare. Specialty dining is an extra charge. We splurged one night with our friends and ate at one of the specialty dining rooms. It was good, but I actually preferred the meals in the main dining room.
4. Join the Facebook Group:
Did you know each ship usually has its own Facebook page?
(total aside: the name of your ship is super important. When you tell people you are going on a cruise everyone always asks the name of your ship—and all ships are not created equal.)
Join the Facebook group for your cruise to connect with fellow passengers, share tips, and even organize group activities or excursions.
5. Upgrade to a Balcony Cabin:
We’ve had a balcony cabin on each cruise and it is worth EVERY PENNY.
This is the size of the most of the room.
Having a balcony makes you feel like you have an extra room–and you can open the sliding doors and listen to the ocean.
6. Early Bird Gets the Deck Chairs:
I am usually late to everything. But to get a good deck chair near the pool? You have to go early.
Some people get up early and put a towel over the chair.
On our cruise they kept announcing that you could not use towels to save chairs, so I just got up early and there were plenty of chairs before 10:00 am.
We also took advantage of the water aerobics class (which was so good), so we could put our towels on the chairs as long as we were there.
7. Secure Towels with Bands or Clips:
Someone told me about these and I was kind of like, what?
And then? I saw the wind on the deck. There is NO WAY your towel would stay in place without a clip or a band around the top of the towel.
8. Room Service Breakfast:
Did you know you can order breakfast to your room?
There are two menus and the continental breakfast is free to be delivered to the room.
It’s a relaxing way to start your day, especially before heading out for excursions. We had ours every morning on the balcony.
9. Customize Your Dining:
You can also request special things from the staff.
Request special dietary accommodations or menu modifications to tailor your dining experience to your preferences. The onboard culinary team is usually accommodating.
Our staff was NEXT LEVEL when it came to special requests.
For example, we had all our meals without the sauce so it was a little bit lighter.
10. Use the Cruise App:
Stay organized with the cruise app, which provides a daily schedule of events and activities.
It’s your key to planning your days efficiently.
Royal Caribbean has an app and we would plan out every day with our events. There’s a schedule of all the activities and we’d click on the ones we were interested in and the event would be added to our calendar. Then we’d get an alert on our phone when the event was about to happen.
11. Consider All-Access Tours:
Think about booking an all-access tour for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the ship’s operations.
One of the couples that we had dinner with went on the tour.
You can see all the different types of cabins and what they look like.
The entire tour is supposed to be fascinating to see how the ship works.
12. Stay Informed with Newsletters:
Read the daily newsletter delivered to your cabin each evening to stay updated on onboard activities and events.
Every night our steward would deliver the newsletter.
It was so tempting to just ignore it because you were so busy—but there was TONS of helpful information.
13. Closet Organization:
This is key.
There isn’t a lot of closet space in the room.
Here are some of the things you can use to extend your space.
You can see packing cubes here (I use them in the suitcase and then I use them to organize outfits and other smaller things like socks and delicates.)
These foldable hangers are kind of a game changer and save so much space.
I also use a hanging toiletry bag to keep the bathroom organized and maximize storage space.
I also LOVED having an over-the-door shoe organizer like this (I used it for other things than shoes).
14. Wrinkle-Free Clothing:
Thanks to so many of you? I learned you couldn’t bring an iron (or a steamer) on board.
Since irons are not allowed on board, pack Downy wrinkle release spray to keep your clothes looking fresh.
This travel-size Down wrinkle release spray is a game changer.
15. Laundry Solutions:
If you want to splurge?
They have amazing laundry service. Our cruise had specials when you checked in—you could send out a bag of laundry for about $17 (which sounded like a great deal).
We didn’t use the laundry service, but we had a dirty clothes bag that kept everything organized.
I also ended up washing a few things in the sink. You can use these Tide packets designed for the sink.
16. Combat Seasickness with Sea Bands:
This suggestion came from one of the travelers I met on the ship.
She used Sea Bands—acupressure wristbands believed to alleviate motion sickness, for a smoother sailing experience.
Also–this has nothing to do with seasickness–but the picture of the bathroom reminded me that I’m kind of obsessed with toothbrush cover holders. They keep your toothbrush protected in a random space that’s not home.
17. Stay Hydrated with Collapsible Water Bottles:
We brought water bottles with us.
You can get water and coffee for free on the ship, but they both come in smaller cups.
I think next time I’m going to bring a coffee mug with me to keep it hot.
Refill collapsible water bottles to stay hydrated throughout your journey without adding extra bulk to your luggage.
18. Stay Cool with a Foldable Fan:
I have to use a fan when I sleep.
Last time we brought a big fan, but it was so much to carry.
This time? I brought a foldable fan.
You can also use a fan app that mimics the sound of a fan to drown out noise and help you sleep better.
19. Early Embarkation:
Again with the early.
But it helps so much.
We arrived early to Miami to board the ship and it saved so much time. We were on the ship by 10:30 and we could go right to our room.
The same holds true for excursions at port. Early, early, early.
20. BYO Snacks for Excursions:
Pack snacks and drinks from the ship for shore excursions to save money.
You could get whole fruit from the main dining room. It was perfect to bring on excursions.
Protein bars are also easy to pack, too. It’s a great way to save money at the ports.
21. Portable Power Bank:
I love a good portable power bank.
It makes everything so much easier.
Especially when you are at a port and you are looking around and realize that beaches don’t have power cords.
It was an amazing trip.
Later this week I’m going to share what I packed for the cruise.
I got it almost right and I can’t wait to share.
Oh—and I should have added number 22 to the list of things I wish I knew before taking a cruise.
Before you know it—you’ll be booking your next one (we are looking into going to Greenland). 🙂
PS I’d LOVE to hear your tips and products you use, too. Can you share in the comments so I can keep everything for reference.
disclosure affiliate links are used in this post