Are you a first-time cruiser?
10 tips for a better vacation


I recently went on a cruise for the very first time despite the fact that I actually live in a port city and, over the years, have watched thousands of cruisers board their ships from my downtown office.

But I was never one of those people setting sail for fun and sun until my family wanted an easy vacation where the focus would be on relaxing and eating lots of good food rather than rushing from one tourist attraction to the next.

Needless to say, the researcher in me went into overdrive and I began reading everything I could to make our Celebrity Cruise to Alaska even better.

Regardless of where you cruise to, don't forget your sunglasses for sun and glare off water and ice, sunscreen and bug spray. And, if you're a first-time cruiser, you may also find this list of things to know helpful:

1. Bring a lanyard to hold your key card that you'll use to unlock your cabin door, disembark and embark at ports of call, and pay for everything on board that's not included in your cruise price. The ship is cashless. Maybe you'd prefer to carry your card in your purse or wallet, but I found it easier to just wear my lanyard if I was going to breakfast or getting a drink.
2. Bring an outlet extender if you have multiple devices or multiple people sharing your room. The staterooms have just two outlets.

3. If you have more than two people sharing a room, or even if you have just two people sharing a room, you can't go wrong buying a multi shoe-holder that you can hang in the bathroom or closet. There is zero counter space in the bathroom, and the shoe holder is a great place to store your toiletries. There is limited cupboard space below the sink but the shoe holder just makes accessibility easier. This photo here shows an Ikea shoe holder, but I bought one just like this at the dollar store for $3.50 CAD.
4. A small notebook and pen are useful if you have a number of people in your party and you need to let them know if you're in the bar or by the pool. Cruise ship internet is expensive and even if you have it, it's often very spotty.

5. Should you tip beyond the automatic gratuity that's added on to your final bill? We did, but that's a question for you to decide. Many cruisers do tip extra for room service, or in recognition of the long and hard hours that waiters and cabin stewards work. If you're going tip extra, bring cash in a variety of denominations.

6. What about umbrellas? Our stateroom had two umbrellas, but I'm not sure whether this is the case on all ships. If you think it might rain, however, why not pick up a couple of rain ponchos from the dollar store? They don't cost much and they won't take up a lot of room in your suitcase.

7. Don't forget to bring flip flops for the stateroom, pool, or just walking around the ship. I also wish I'd brought along a little waterproof bag to hold items such as my sunglasses, ereader and lanyard when I was poolside. I've already ordered a little drawstring bag for my next cruise!

8. If you can, pack some shorts and runners for the state-of-the-art gym. I hadn't expected to see so many people exercising on the ship, and I wished I'd brought along better workout gear. You might just want to do an easy walk on the treadmill to burn off some of those dessert calories!

Top-of-the-line treadmills on Celebrity Cruises' Infinity, docked in Vancouver.

Some of the desserts in the buffet.
9. Can I bring soft drinks on board with me? Cruise ships have a variety of complimentary drinks but charge for pop plus an additional automatic gratuity (ours was 18%). Each cruise line will have its own rules about bringing soft drinks on board, but ours allowed us to bring on "as much as we could comfortably carry." We brought three two-litre bottles of pop and that was more than enough. What are the complimentary drinks? They will vary, but our ship had filtered water, tea, coffee, water, hot chocolate, juices, iced tea and lemonade. In the morning, there are disposable cups available so you can take coffee or juices back to your room.


10. Bring something for motion sickness or nausea. Dramamine is one option, though that could make you drowsy. Another choice, suggested to me by a friend, is ginger pills; apparently they can be found in the vitamins section of the department store. I didn't have any remedies with me on my trip, but thankfully the little bit of seasickness I experienced at the start went away relatively quickly.

Finally, here's a little tip our cruise director shared with us that will help with orientating yourself on the huge ship: "Fun at the front, food at the back." What this means is, if you're in the spa or gym or any of the nightclubs, you're at the front of the ship. If you're in any of the restaurants, you're at the back of the ship. This should cut down on the time you spend wandering the hallways and get you to the pool/nightclub/yoga/music trivia/supper a little faster.

Bon voyage!


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Photo at the top: Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, Alaska. Our Celebrity Cruises ship is on the right.