I have worked on cruise ships for over 7 years. Here are the 8 biggest mistakes first-time travelers make.

  • I’ve worked on cruises for seven years and have seen my fair share of new passengers make mistakes.
  • Try not to overpack, and don’t bother walking your luggage on the plane instead of checking it.
  • Book your flights in advance to save time and make sure you get the tours you want.

Cruises now have so many guests and activities that so many decisions and planning can get lost in translation, especially when first sailing.

And after working on cruise ships for more than seven years, I’ve recorded the most common mistakes made by new passengers.

Packed for your vacation

A brown bag full of clothes on gray wooden floors

It’s easy to pack more than you need.

RealLiia / shutterstock

Most people overpack for cruises, but cabins are often small and have very limited storage space.

Instead of stuffing your entire closet in your luggage, go to the ship’s website and plan what you’ll need, plus some spare essentials.

You’ll be happier when you have everything you need, plus the space to spread out in your cabin.

Skip online check-in

Be sure to check in online before your vacation, as doing so usually allows you to complete virtual crowd drills (a safety requirement by most cruise lines) and choose when to board.

I’ve found early boarding times are better so you can avoid the queues and have more fun on your cruise.

Travel to the coastal city on the same day of your cruise

Even if you think you have plenty of time to get from the airport to the ship, day trips are very risky.

Flights can be canceled or delayed, so it’s best to travel the previous day or night and choose a hotel with a shuttle to the port to make your connection to the ship smooth.

Go straight to the buffet on the first day

Buffet food on a wooden table with ocean view on a cruise ship

The buffet is usually very crowded on the first day.


The moment most passengers get on board, they often go straight to the buffet. For this reason, it can be the most crowded place.

Explore the lesser-known dining options around the ship, such as the cafes, and save the buffet for later.

You walk your luggage on the plane

When you arrive at the ship, the porters will immediately offer to take your bags to bring to your room later.

Many passengers choose to keep their luggage with them, but many do not know that their luxury room will not be ready for hours, so they are stuck carrying their bags around the crowded ship.

So choose to check all your luggage – it’s free and reliable.

Stand in line for guest services on boarding day

This is perhaps the biggest fun time, especially considering that there are usually alternatives available.

Passengers join the line for a host of reasons, from viewing to dining reservations. But there are separate kiosks around the ship for each area separately.

In general, the only thing you need to stand in line is to set up a payment account on the plane, something you can do before the cruise to save time.

Forgetting to book flights

People surfing in the stunning waters of Cox's Bay in Moorea, French Polynesia

Kayaking is a popular excursion.

Erica Dipascal

Many passengers do not plan their shore excursions in advance, but this can lead to trouble.

Not only will you spend valuable vacation time trying to book tours, but you’ll likely also find many of the tours you want sold out.

Landing without a plan

The day of disembarkation (the last day of the cruise) can be a headache, especially after a relaxing vacation. So make sure you are prepared.

Find out when you get off the plane, if you’re checking baggage, and when you need to get to the airport for your flight.

Organizing all of this in advance will save you a lot of energy and anxiety in the long run.

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