Cruise superfans share 10 common mistakes they see passengers make

·8 min read
A selfie on a cruise, a person packing money into a fanny pack, and an overstuffed suitcase.
Cruise superfans told the author (left) what mistakes to avoid on a cruise. Monica Humphries/Insider/AndreyPopov/Getty Images/PRImageFactory/Getty Images

Whether it's your first cruise or your hundredth, you're bound to make a few mistakes. Luckily, there's a handful of mistakes you can avoid with a little bit of knowledge and planning.

The Carnival Vista docked in Cozumel, Mexico.
The Carnival Vista docked in Cozumel, Mexico. Monica Humphries/Insider

On July 3, the Carnival Vista set sail from Galveston, Texas, and traveled to Mahogany Bay, Honduras; Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico — making it the first Carnival Cruise to leave the US in more than 16 months. According to the company, 95% of its passengers and 98% of the crew were vaccinated.

I was one of the nearly 2,700 passengers aboard the ship, and while it was only my second cruise, I spoke with many guests who told me they had dozens of days at sea under their belts.

During my trip, I gathered cruise superfans' best tips on how to maximize the experience and what mistakes to avoid.

Overpacking was one of the most common mistakes experienced cruises mentioned when speaking with Insider.

A stuffed suitcase sits on a bed.
One cruise superfan suggested packing liquid detergent instead of extra clothes. (Carnival Vista ship not pictured.) PRImageFactory/Getty Images

Nearly every passenger I spoke with mentioned that they overpacked on their first few cruises.

While some cruisers said it takes experience to understand what you will and will not need on the cruise, many mentioned bringing breathable clothing that can transition easily from an outdoor to an indoor setting.

To combat overpacking, cruise superfan Denise McGraw told Insider that she packs an empty shoebox in her suitcase. She said this ensures she will have enough space for all the souvenirs she plans to purchase.

Mike Foster and Lynn Michael, who told Insider they've been on more than 25 cruises, said that they now resort to packing laundry detergent and hand washing a few items throughout the cruise.

"We're only seeing each other, so it doesn't matter if I re-wear an item a few times," Michael told Insider.

Some passengers make the mistake of thinking that automatic gratuities are enough.

A towel animal created by my stateroom attendant, Komang.
A towel animal created by the author's stateroom attendant, Komang, onboard the Carnival Vista. Monica Humphries/Insider

Jeffrey Dunlap, who also spoke with Insider onboard the Carnival Vista, has spent more than 1,500 days at sea working as an American Sign Language interpreter.

One of the biggest things Dunlap said he wishes passengers would do is leave tips to crew members. The majority of most crew members' salaries comes from gratuities, so if a crew member stands out for their service, consider tipping them a little extra.

Most cruises have an automatic daily gratuity added, but Dunlap told Insider that it's "the bare minimum."

Dunlap added that tipping your cabin stateroom attendant at the beginning of the cruise may also be a smart idea. He told Insider he believes he may get better service when he starts off his cruise on a positive note.

Other cruise superfans admitted to not exploring and trying new eateries on the ship.

An image of a bbq buffet line and a taco salad.
The author spent the week eating at all the eateries on the Carnival Vista. Monica Humphries/Insider

Most cruise ships have more than just the traditional buffet line. Some cruises tout Michelin-star chefs, while other lines have celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri behind their menus.

Terrie Castille, who has been on more than 20 cruises, said that passengers should prioritize trying new eateries and new foods each day of the cruise.

"Even if you don't think you'll like escargot, order the escargot and try it," she told Insider.

Similarly, some passengers don't realize they can eat in the dining room.

The author in Carnival Vista's largest dining room.
The author in Carnival Vista's largest dining room. Monica Humphries/Insider

Some cruise superfans told Insider that it took them a few cruises to realize that eating in the dining room is included in the cost of a cruise.

While not every restaurant on the ship is free, most cruise lines have a dining room everyone can eat in — and often, the food is better than the food served at the buffet.

Another common mistake is forgetting to bring cash and small bills.

A person puts $100 bills into their fanny pack.
Bring $5s, $10s, and $1 bills for tipping. AndreyPopov/Getty Images

Jeffrey Dunlap told Insider that he often sees passengers forgetting cash.

Whether you're on the ship, docked at a port, or on a shore excursion, there are dozens of opportunities to tip, so bring cash.

It's also smart to bring small bills so you don't have to search for change when tipping your cab driver or bartender.

Don't hesitate to order more than one thing at dinner.

Two entrées on a dinner table on the Carnival Vista.
The author's pictures of entrées on the Carnival Vista. Monica Humphries/Insider

When Miriam Grammar reflected on her first few cruises, she told Insider that she had one regret: "I wish I would've eaten more."

Now, after 13 cruises and counting, Grammar said she doesn't hold back — and you shouldn't, too.

For example, on Carnival Cruise, there's a nightly dining service where guests order a three-course dinner. While it's designed for people to have an appetizer, main, and dessert, passengers can order as many entrées and dishes as they'd like.

So try it all, James Berggren, who has been on a handful of cruises, told Insider. Plus, the menu is constantly rotating, so there's no promise the dish will be there later in the week.

Don't assume you won't get seasick.

Stepping onto a ferry.
The author's photo of a ferry from the Carnival Vista docking in Belize. Monica Humphries/Insider

Even if you don't get carsick, multiple experienced cruisers who spoke to Insider said it's better to be safe than sorry. Ships can get rocky and if you've never been on a cruise before, you can't be sure how your body will react.

Chances are you don't want to spend your whole vacation feeling sick, so pack Dramamine or some other type of motion-sickness medicine.

Don't overwhelm yourself by overpacking your schedule.

An image of a dancer.
The cruise is jam-packed with events, and it's impossible to go to every single one. Monica Humphries/Insider

Sonya and Sammie Fudge told Insider that they often see first-time cruisers step onboard the ship who feel like they need to go to every show, swim in every pool, drink at every bar, and squeeze as much as they possibly can into their vacation. But then they leave exhausted.

"Pace yourself," Sammie, who has been on more than a dozen cruises, told Insider.

Miriam Grammar agreed, saying: "Be as little or as much involved as you want to."

Don't buy Wi-Fi - it likely won't work very well. Plus, a huge benefit of cruising is disconnecting.

A WiFi error message next to people enjoying the pool on the Carnival Vista.
Superfans told Insider to stop wasting time trying to connect to the internet. Carnival Cruises/Monica Humphries/Insider

Cruises are one of the few vacations these days where you're forced to disconnect, and so many cruise superfans love that about their favorite way to travel.

So unless you absolutely need to have access to people back home, skip buying Wi-Fi.

"Try to disconnect," avid cruiser Sonya Fudge told Insider. "A cruise is all about the ship and relaxing."

Don't think you won't spend any additional money.

An image of a candy store on the Carnival Vista.
You can quickly spend money at all the shops on the cruise ship. Monica Humphries/Insider

Jeffrey Dunlap told Insider that he sees first-time cruisers get on the ship thinking their whole vacation is already paid for, but by the end of the week, they've racked up hundreds of dollars in bills.

"People come in here and think that it's not going to cost a lot," Dunlap said of cruise trips. "But that usually isn't the case."

Drinking, gambling, shore excursions, and all the extras can quickly add up, so expect to spend some money on the ship, Dunlap said.

Finally, some cruise superfans said they've seen people make the mistake of not knowing what to wear on a formal night.

Cruise passengers descend a grand stairwell in formal attire during an evening at sea.
Cruise passengers (not on the Carnival Vista in July) descend a grand stairwell in formal attire during an evening at sea. Ally Lee/Shutterstock

Most cruise lines have some type of formal night, where people can dress to the nines.

Depending on the ship, the range of formal wear can vary greatly, so do your research beforehand.

For example, nicer shorts would work for a Carnival Cruise Line's formal night, but Jeffrey Dunlap told Insider that shorts may not be the case on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

While you're doing your research, check to see how many formal nights the cruise will have so you know exactly what to pack.

Read the original article on Insider

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