5 Ways to Win at Cruising

Dionne Roberts
Published in
5 min readOct 11, 2022
Photo by Ryan Johns on Unsplash

Those that know me know that I love a cruise. Maybe not any cruise, because I have gotten a bit spoiled but put me on the open water and I’m in my happy place (small closets aside). As I sit here writing this I am actually supposed to be getting ready to leave tomorrow for a cruise on the brand-new Norwegian Prima. You’ll be hearing about that next week for sure!

According to a survey by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), about 92% of cruise travelers say they will likely or definitely book a cruise as their next vacation.

Like with anything else, we all have our own reasons for why we do (or don’t?) love cruising. Whether you already love it or are unconvinced, there are 5 tips that will enhance your experience.

Arrive a Day Early

While I know there are many people that prefer to save the night of hotel costs and fly in the day of the cruise, if at all possible please don’t do this to yourself. With all that you have probably read, and maybe even experienced, about what is going on with the airlines these days, now is not the time to gamble on your flight being the one that’s on time and has your bags arrive with you!

Depending on the port, there are often hotels very close by that offer transport to the pier, and if it’s someplace new for you, take the opportunity to start your vacation a day early with a little exploration.

If for some reason you absolutely cannot do this and MUST arrive the day your cruise starts, please please please be on the first thing moving! The first flights of the morning can be more likely to leave on time since the plane generally arrives the night before and is already waiting for you.

Board Early

When you check in online the cruise line will assign you a time to arrive at the pier, and post-COVID they are trying to not have everyone arrive at once. If you check in for your cruise as soon as you are able (usually 30 days out) you will have more choices for times. I’m a strong advocate of boarding your cruise as early as possible — another reason to fly in the day before!

So why get on early? You can check out the article below, but to sum it up, why not? After all, you are already paying for it, so you may as well get on board, enjoy your lunch and a beverage and get to know your new home!

Do The Free Stuff

Every ship has a schedule full of things to do every day, above and beyond your port adventures. Some of these will come at an additional cost (wine tasting, spa treatments) but there are plenty of things to keep you busy even if you don’t want to spend extra money for those activities. Nowadays your daily activity schedule is not only printed out but also on your app, so you can get a bit ahead with your planning.

One thing we like to do is take the schedule for the next day to dinner with us and review it over our appetizers to see what we want to do the next day. Some things are more popular than others, so if you are the folks that like to be in the front rows of the evening shows, plan to get there early.

Check out Specialty Dining

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Yes, I did just get finished saying you should do the free stuff, and now I am also saying you should try a specialty dining restaurant at least once during your cruise. Now we all know that there is more than enough food already included in a cruise that this is not a necessity by any stretch. Whether you are the Captain of the Windjammer Buffet or known to every waitstaff in the main dining room, getting off the regular rotation at least once during your vacation can add a little extra flair. Most of the cruise lines these days have multiple specialty restaurants to choose from, and almost all have a steak house, an Italian restaurant and perhaps an Asian or seafood restaurant as a starting point. If you are on a ship with a large main dining room, this gives you an opportunity to have a more intimate, more restaurant-like experience. The menu is usually slightly more specialized and the beverage options can often be beyond what is offered in other places. For example, the by-the-glass wine list in the steak house usually has a larger selection than the list in the main dining. If this all sounds great but isn’t in your budget, they often offer lunch options as well that might work better for your wallet and your schedule.

You Do You

Finally, please remember that this is YOUR vacation and nobody else’s. Not even mine. Once you have picked the cruise line and itinerary that match your vacation style and goals, the most important thing is to make your vacation what you want it to be.

So yes, most cruises do still have a “formal” night at least once during the sailing. If you want to wear a ball gown you’ve been saving for the occasion, go for it. More comfortable staying on the casual side, go for it. Here is what I tell my clients — no matter what you wear (so long as you have clothes on when you leave your cabin) there will generally be plenty of other folks who also decided to wear gowns, or tuxes, or jeans or shorts and flip flops.

The same thing goes for activities and excursions. Everyone has their own travel style. I have clients that could care less about where the boat is going because they don’t plan on getting off — the ship is their adventure. On the opposite end, there are plenty of folks who want to be the first one off and last one back on, and they view the ship as a convenient method of transportation. Whatever works for you is what you should do. So let go of your FOMO (fear of missing out) because your friends have a different travel style, and do what makes you happy.

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Dionne Roberts

Grown up and traveling the world the way I never knew I could