32 of the best travel tips for your next cruise holiday

Planning a cruise? Read this first

32 of the best travel tips for your next cruise holiday
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A cruise is a real adventure, allowing passengers to experience a new way of living and also experience different destinations on the way - whether that means touring the Italian coast, or island hopping in the Caribbean. 

Cruises have always been a popular choice for families and couples, but they've grown even more in popularity in the past few years. "Since the pandemic, the cruise industry has only continued to thrive with its innovation and affordable offering to travellers," Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, told us. "We’re not only experiencing a huge influx in returning customers but are also welcoming a whole new market that is interested in trying something different."

Cruises are also a great option for multi-generational holidays with a wide range of activities and something to suit all age ranges. But there's an art to cruising and getting the most out of your trip. These are 32 of the best travel tips for your next cruise holiday. 

32 cruise travel tips

Book with an agent

Travel agent

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A cruise is definitely a worthwhile trip, but it does have some extra complications involved - and that's where the help of an expert comes in. "For many, arranging a cruise holiday can be a minefield, especially if it’s your first, so consider booking via a reputable travel agent that can offer specialist knowledge and advice on the best deals out there," Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, told us. 

Travel agents can also help you learn more about things like WiFi packages and getting extra onboard credit, as well as additional perks. 

Book early

Cruise ship

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Booking your cruise early will ensure you get the best deals - not to mention giving you the best choice of cabins to elevate your trip. Book early and you may even be able to get an upgrade to a cabin with a balcony. 

Join a social media group before your holiday

social media

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In preparation for your trip, groups on social media apps like Facebook are a great place to start and will have details on the ship itself and the recent programme of events. You can also check out the COPs (Cruisers Opinion Page) for general advice on the most popular cruise providers and frequently asked questions. 

Make sure you're insured

travel documents

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Travel insurance is always important and is one of the most important prep actions a holidaymaker can do. Do your research to find the best provider - there are plenty that provide specific cover for cruise holidays. Take a look at Money Supermarket's Travel Insurance Cruise page for some more information.

And don't forget health insurance

health insurance

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Health insurance will also make sure you're protected should you need any assistance while you're on holiday. Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, advises, "With the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) being phased out, you can now get the similar free Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) in its place. 

"If you’re a UK citizen this entitles you to a range of medical treatment in the country you’re in. While this doesn’t remove the need for travel insurance, if you do end up needing medical assistance, this could really save you money in Europe."

Have an open mind with destinations

cruise ship destination

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There's so much ground you can cover on a cruise, whether that means exploring one country or a European cruise that covers two or more countries in one trip. "Cruising is a great way to tick off multiple places in one go and can often be the best method of destinations that are further afield or harder to access by air," Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, told us. 

Do your research on the ports

cruise ship near a port

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It can be a bit of a whistlestop tour when you're visiting ports on a cruise, so it pays to work out where the top spots are that you want to tick off your list while you're there - whether that's a famous restaurant, walking trail or hidden beach. Cruise providers will provide an itinerary of how long you'll have in each place (usually a full) day, so you can plan your trip beforehand. 

Don't overpack (by packing smart)

holiday packing

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On a cruise, you'll likely be visiting destinations that have different packing needs. For example, a few days at a beach resort might require little else other than a beach, bag shades and your casual clothes, but you'll need more specialist gear for water sports or hiking. A roll-top wet bag is also useful for kayaking opportunities. 

It's better to pack light for a cruise - you'll need less than you think. And there are usually laundry services on board if you need to put a load on while you're out there. 

Be wary of where you book your cabin

cruise ship cabin

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Picking the right cabin can really elevate your trip. If you want to relax and sleep well, you will want to stay away from cabins near lifts or late-night venues and casinos. For those who get seasick, book a cabin in the middle of the ship (called midship) as it will likely be less rocky. 

Pack your carry-on wisely

Carry on luggage

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You may have to wait a little bit of time before your bag arrives at your cabin, so make sure you've got everything in your hand luggage that you need to get the holiday started. As well as essentials like your passport, sunglasses and book, make sure you have suncream and swimwear so that you can head straight to the pool.

Think about your capsule wardrobe

capsule wardrobe

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The key here is to make sure your garments are versatile. For example, bring a dress that can be worn in the evening for dinner with heels or dressier sandals and jewellery, as well as in the day with a cover-up and sunhat for a poolside outfit. Keep the colour pallet minimal to ensure you can mix and match with ease. 

Think about equipment

under water camera

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With so many different places to discover, you might want to think about packing some extra gear to make the most of your trip. Binoculars are a great addition for star gazing from the deck, or wildlife spotting when you reach your destination, while an underwater camera will help you capture some incredible holiday shots. You might also want to pack a lanyard to hold your cabin key card so you can keep it safe and on your person at all times. 

Bring your own drinks

champagne being poured

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The drinks bill on a cruise ship can soon rack up, particularly if you like to enjoy a glass of fizz or cocktails on holiday. Usually, cruise ships allow you to bring your own drinks on board - though you'll want to double-check what the limits are. And there's also a corkage fee if you want to bring your wine to an online restaurant. It's also worth checking with your cruise provider whether there are on-board drinks packages to help you save money. 

Bring a refillable water bottle

refillable water bottle

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Water is safe to drink on the ship, but a refillable water bottle will help you stay hydrated throughout the day - especially if you're in a hot country. Plus, it's handy to have so you can fill up your bottle on board before leaving for the ship and exploring a new destination. 

Download the cruise app

woman looking at an iPhone

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Many cruise lines have apps you can download before embarking on the trip. Typically these will give you a daily list of activities on board, as well as tours and excursions. Plus some have options where you can beat the queues by ordering food and drinks via the app.

Arrive a day early

couple going onto a cruise ship

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Take the stress out of your trip by arriving a day early and taking in the sights before the cruise sets off. If you leave travel to the last minute, you could be facing a travel disaster. While some cruises depart in the afternoon, travelling that morning could throw up some problems - and the ship can't wait for serious latecomers. 

Explore the ship

cruise ship exterior

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Part of the excitement of going on a cruise is exploring the ship when you arrive. You'll find the best spots for sunbathing and relaxing, as well as the restaurants you might want to book and where classes take place. If you're travelling with kids, it's also worth finding out the shortest routes between destinations to save time. 

Head to the pool as soon as you arrive

cruise ship pool

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It's always a good move to pack your swimsuit ready for when you arrive and that's so that you can head straight to the pool and for the tradition of the 'sailaway party' where you can meet fellow cruises and get into the holiday spirit. 

Book your favourite activities straight away

basketball on a cruise ship

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If you have specific activities or restaurants in mind, you might want to think about investigating booking them immediately. You can usually book on online portals before sailing, or in person when you arrive. 

"Cruise ships offer an abundance of activities onboard for everyone but if there's something in particular you'd like to take part in be sure to get your name down early to avoid disappointment!" Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, advises. 

Build in some wellness to your cruise

massages on a cruise ship

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Cruises are full of adventure and excitement, but you'll also want to make sure you leave feeling refreshed. Luckily there are so many options on board to keep up a fitness and wellness routine, from yoga classes on the deck to group sports like tennis and basketball. There's also the spa to explore, where you can enjoy a relaxing massage by the sea.

Take the stairs

woman looking over cruise ship

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On the note of fitness, opting to take the stairs rather than the lift or elevators can keep your fitness levels in check. Cruise ships often have so many decks, so getting your 10,000 steps in is easy. 

Consider private tours

private tour in Italy

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While cruise providers will offer their own tours, booking a private tour can be a more intimate experience - catering for under 10 rather than the 20, 30 or sometimes 40 people you could be put with on an official cruise tour. Check out ToursByLocals for authentic and personal tours across the world.

Don't be afraid to take the day off sightseeing

woman relaxing on a cruise ship

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It can feel all go on a cruise holiday, visiting multiple destinations in a short space of time - but you shouldn't feel guilty about taking a day off relaxing by the sea. Why not book into the spa for a day of R&R, or catch up on reading on the deck when it's quiet? 

Plan in extra time for getting back to re-board your ship

woman boarding a cruise ship

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When you're exploring an exciting new destination it can be easy to lose track of time. But turning up late can be embarrassing and a big inconvenience for the crew. Build in an extra half hour just for peace of mind. 

Always carry the ship's contact information with you

woman looking at a cruise ship

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Just in case there's an issue when you're exploring a destination along your cruise route, you'll want to have the cruise details on you so you can get in touch with the cruise crew straight away. 

Consider keeping your phone on airplane mode

woman looking at her iPhone

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Travelling from destination to destination and sometimes country to country can be a minefield for data charges, so you might want to switch to aeroplane mode for the duration of your trip (or at least when you're at sea). 

Book a WiFi package

woman using a laptop on a cruise ship

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Rather than using up your precious data, many cruise ships will offer WiFi packages so you can stay connected on your trip. Speak to your cruise provider before the trip to get the best deal. 

Look into room service

room service on a cruise trip

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If embarking on an early morning, you might want to consider room service for breakfast - which is usually free. If you have a balcony, this could also mean a romantic private breakfast for a special occasion away from the crowds. 

Look out for freebies

massage on a cruise ship

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Usually, there will be taster sessions for some activities, including the spa which may offer mini massages from time to time. It's also common for cruise lines to have competitions and raffles where you can win prizes on board, adding a fun element to your evening. 

Tackle seasickness with natural methods

green apples

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An inevitable part of sailing is seasickness - but there are plenty of ways to combat it. As well as investing in seasick tablets, you can ease symptoms in natural ways. Green apples are good for combatting mild seasickness, as is ginger tea, so stock up if either of these options is available at the cruise ship's restaurants. 

Consider river cruises

River cruise

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While many people think of sea cruises, river cruises are also a great option for holidaymakers, as Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, recommends. "The appeal of a river cruise is all about getting to the heart of multiple destinations and the accessibility that offer," she told us. 

"For European itineraries in particular, it’s akin to enjoying four or more city breaks in one go – and docking in the centre of cities means you can enjoy even longer at port as many itineraries offer overnights. With river cruise companies adapting their product to entice younger travellers, it's one to watch as a key travel trend."

Ask the cruise crew for tips

cruise crew member

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The crew on a cruise are a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the best places to visit in the ports and tips on how to get the most out of your trip. They might also be able to help you with the best activities to try and which restaurants serve the best dishes.

Lauren Hughes

Lauren is the former Deputy Digital Editor at woman&home and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren worked on the woman&home brand for four years before going freelance. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine.