The 30 Worst Decisions You Can Make on a Cruise Ship


Planning an upcoming cruise can be exciting…just don’t forget to follow these rules. (Photo: Corbis)

When preparing for a cruise, images in your head of calm seas, swaying palms, and happy cruisers splashing in the surf somehow activate an off switch to common sense. But we’re going to take a moment to burst your bubble. From the minute you start the booking process to the last moment when you step off the gangplank, here are 30 things you should never do on a cruise ship.

Fail to check for every possible discount

There are so many discounts available on the mass-market cruise lines that it may actually be impossible to find them all. Examples include extra passenger bargains, discounts for departing from your home state or states nearby, and even discounts for owning stock in the cruise line. The rule is always check more than one source before settling on a rate.

Wait until the end of your cruise to check your account for onboard credits

You worked hard to get discounts and onboard credits when you booked. Don’t forget to check your account once you board the ship to make sure you got them.

Forget to use your onboard credits


Use your onboard credits to purchase drinks at the bar. (Photo: Thinkstock)

There are two ways to look at those OBC’s. The first option is to use them for something you would not ordinarily pay for like dining in one of the specialty restaurants or a pricey port excursion. On the other hand, you can just use them to pay your bar tab.

Related: How to Get the Most Out of Your 3- Or 4-Day Bahamas Cruise

Think you can score an upgrade when you board

The days of being upgraded at the time of boarding are long gone for the average cruiser. Your best hope is to work on this before your final payment takes place. Either utilize the cruise line’s call center or a good travel agent, who can often get you upgraded from almost any cabin level.

Stick with only one cruise line for the membership perks

Let’s face it; until you reach the top tiers, the benefits are not that great. Certainly not good enough to keep you from missing a bargain on another cruise line. Having said that, always join the membership programs of every cruise line you sail with because there are usually extra discounts for previous guests. (See bad decision number one.)

Ignore all the extra expenses when you compare cruise prices


When planning your cruise budget, be sure to factor in port activities. (Photo: Corbis)

There is no doubt that cruising can be an economical way to vacation. Just be sure to factor in port activities when you plan your budget. And then there’s your bar tab.

Start thinking about your passport the day you pack your suitcase

Your carefully planned trip could fall apart before you board the ship if you show up without your passport, passport card, or birth certificate. Read the State Department rules at the time you book your cruise.

Think that a passport is all you need to go anywhere in the world on a cruise ship

You are usually safe traveling in the Caribbean with just a passport, but other destinations may have wildly differing entry requirements. Again, the State Department has answers.

Fail to pack a carryon bag for the first evening


Packing a small carry-on with essentials will allow you to jump right into cruise activities. (Photo: Corbis)

Your luggage will arrive at your stateroom eventually, but it’s hard to let the kids burn off their travel excitement in the ship’s pool if you have to wait on their swimsuits to arrive. Pack or wear whatever clothing items you will be comfortable in for the afternoon on the ship. And don’t forget important meds and toiletries to spruce up a bit before dinner.

Assume that the Wi-Fi will be fast and that cell calls and data are free

They won’t be. Cruise ship Internet service is expensive and still comparatively slow. And most phone plans will have international roaming charges. Consider stowing your devices in the safe for a digital detox.

Related: 27 Secrets the Cruise Lines Won’t Tell You

Drink only bottled water

It’s far cheaper to take along a travel bottle (collapsible, maybe?) that you can fill onboard. The tap water on cruise ships is ultra-filtered and quite safe.

Buy the soft drink package unless you are serious about soft drinks

Do you spend $45 on soft drinks per person in a week at home? Get your fix with an occasional bottled soft drink in port; it will taste better and you’ll have an adventure shopping for it.

Forget to enjoy the free stuff


Take advantage of the free afternoon snacks available on cruise ships. (Photo: Corbis)

So “free” isn’t the best word. You paid for the cruise. But ice cream, cookies, afternoon snacks, library books, midnight snacks, non-carbonated drinks, games, and most entertainment come with the deal. And did we mention cookies?

Ignore the safety briefing

Your life is in these peoples’ hands. Stop sending last-minute selfies and pay attention.

Try to bring prohibited items onboard the ship

Extra alcohol, extra soft drinks, scissors, and even Christmas lights may be confiscated if found in your luggage. Save the embarrassment of having to trek to the bowels of the ship to retrieve what remains of your carefully packed luggage by reading your ship’s policies about what you can and cannot bring.

Ignore the rules

Bringing contraband in your luggage is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a guest conduct policy on every cruise line. It might be worth your time to read that along with some of the frequently asked questions found on your cruise line’s website.

Think you can pay for your cruise in the casino


Gamble for fun…not to win. (Photo: Corbis)

You might win enough to pay for the vacation. Or a great white shark might eat you. Odds are about the same.

Think that you are immune to motion sickness

Never set foot on a cruise ship without a contingency plan for motion sickness, even if you have never had it before. It is one of life’s cruelest little maladies, striking when and where you least expect it.

Forget important toiletries

Don’t forget items like contact lens cases, lip balm with sunscreen, and anti-itch cream for bug bites.

Take too many clothes

How many pairs of socks do you need on a cruise to the Caribbean? Pack coordinating tops and gasp! wear your evening clothes more than once.

Wear shorts into the main dining room at dinner


Formal attire is typically required in the main ballroom. Be sure to dress accordingly. (Photo: Corbis)

There are so many dining choices on today’s ships. If you don’t feel like dressing the part for the dining room, find an alternative. It’s no different from an upscale restaurant at home.

Don’t plan your port activities ahead of time

You don’t have to plan months in advance, but the whole thing is more enjoyable if you at least have a clue what you want to do in a port before the ship docks.

Think that shore excursions are the only way to see a destination

Beaches and popular attractions are often only a cab ride away from the port. And cab drivers can sometimes steer you to better places than you might have found on your own.

Send your kids off to the kids’ programs without checking it out

Do you drop your kids off somewhere at home without knowing the schedule, the level of supervision, or the kids they are hanging out with? Then don’t do it on a ship either.

Leave the ship without identification


Travel with some form of identification when you head to port. (Photo: Corbis)

Stuff happens. And when it happens in a foreign country, you are always better off with some form of identification with you.

Think that the ship will wait for you if you are late

It won’t. And it can be really expensive to meet the ship in the next port.

Drink too much in port

Re-read the previous two bad decisions and you start to understand.

Drink too much on board

The list of what can go wrong starts with the obvious of falling off the ship and ends with you being asked to leave the ship at the next available stop for your obnoxious behavior in the casino trying to win enough to pay for your cruise.

Think that you have to put your luggage outside your door the last night

Secret tip: if your entire group is capable of managing your luggage through the departure process, then you can keep it with you and speed through the debarkation. The only reason to do this of course is if you have a flight earlier than what is recommended by the cruise line.

Forget to plan activities on your departure day

You will be off the ship and standing on the curb before you know it. Treat the last day of your trip like a bonus. Book a shore excursion, take a cab to see some sites, rent a car or even a hotel room for the day. Anything beats spending the day in the airport.

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