Some of the most frequent questions, and also some of the most frequent complaints, we get come from first-time cruisers. It’s because if someone has never been on a cruise before, they have no idea what to ask or what to expect from their first cruise. You don’t know what you don’t know, right?
If you’ve never been on a cruise before, you probably have this image in your head of what it will be like. But does your idea of cruising and the reality come close? Maybe it does, but then again, maybe it doesn’t.
Cruising for the first time can be a little daunting. But there’s no need to worry—we’re here for you.
Everything you need to know about cruising can be found below. Or if you’d prefer, you can view this guide on our website.
Cruise Ports in Florida
(distances from DeLand, FL)
- Port Canaveral – About 75 minutes South via I-95 – near Cocoa Beach
- Ft. Lauderdale – About 4 hours South via I-95
- Miami – About 4.5 hours South via I-95
- Tampa – About 2.5 hours West via I-4
Documents Needed to Travel by Cruise
If you are traveling round-trip from a U.S. Port (i.e. leaving from and returning to Port Canaveral), you can sail with a certified U.S. Birth Certificate and photo ID (under 16 does not require photo ID). This must be an original birth certificate with a raised seal, not a copy or hospital certificate. If your current name is different than the one on your birth certificate and/or photo ID, you will also need the documentation for the name change (i.e. marriage license).
If a minor is traveling without their parents, they’ll need a notarized letter stating they can travel with the traveling party.
Otherwise, your cruise will require you to have a passport. Some exceptions on round-trip U.S. cruises may also require you to have a passport. Please ask your travel agent if you’re unsure about your itinerary’s requirements.
Our Cruising Tips
The urge to over-pack is strong in many, and sometimes you just don’t know where to start with planning for your cruise. Our agents have all been there and done that, however, and know what’s really important.
Here are some of their best tips for your upcoming cruise:
“Pack some towel clips! Don’t let your beach towel blow away when catching rays on the pool deck. And you don’t need to pack a towel for the beach/pool; they take up a lot of room in your luggage and the cruise line lets you use theirs!” – Amanda Vallone
“Luggage… My recommendation is to unpack as soon as you get your luggage, then put your suitcases either in your closet or under the bed if it fits. I have one of those hard suitcases—I open it and slide it under the bed to use as a dirty laundry bin or as an extra drawer for t-shirts, sock and such. This way the luggage is not in your way and it has a use!” – Debbie Mitchell
“I always bring a plastic shoe organizer to hang on the bathroom or closet door. They work great for organizing personal items. And the cabin walls are magnetic, so bring magnetic hooks to hang things on the wall. Command hooks are great for hanging your things, too.
And other than on embarkation day, consider enjoying breakfast and lunch in the dining room. It’s much more pleasant than the Lido deck.” – Ann Osowski
“Book excursions and dining early! You can always cancel them later, but excursions and even dinner slots fill up quick.” – Sarah Driscoll
“If you think you might get seasick or aren’t sure if you will, it’s good to bring some MotionEaze or motion sickness bracelets just in case.” – Brittney Crouch
More Cruising Tips
- In your cruise documents, the cruise line will provide you with luggage tags used to identify which room they should be delivered to. They will be paper and have instructions on how to fold and attach them to your luggage. Because they’re paper, we suggest you cover them in packing tape to prevent them from being ripped or destroyed.
- If you’re departing from a warm port, pack a bathing suit, cover-up and sandals in your carry on bag, because sometimes luggage won’t be delivered until later in the day. This way, you can change your clothes right away and be in vacation mode.
- Upon arrival on the ship, depending on the time, either go right to your cabin to drop off your bags or head straight to the Lido deck for lunch.
- If you find you need more outlets, ask your room steward if they have any outlet extenders. It’s at the cruise line’s discretion whether they allow you to bring your own, but they will sometimes have extras onboard you can use.
Smart Phones and Communication
Check with your phone carrier before cruising to check how your plan can handle roaming and international calls. Some carriers provide affordable options for traveling abroad.
Without an international plan, it’s suggested to put your phone in airplane mode but keep the WiFi turned on so you can connect to the cruise line’s onboard app. If you haven’t purchased an Internet package with the cruise lines, tell your friends and family you will check messages and Facebook when you are in port only when you can connect to free WiFi. Just follow the crew members who are leaving the ship—their first stop will be to a WiFi hotspot! Most restaurants, bars and port terminals will have free WiFi as well.
Regardless of whether or not you have a supporting phone plan or the WiFi package, you’ll want to keep your phone on you anyhow. It will probably be your camera, and it will also serve as your cruise planner and possibly as a messaging device between guests.
Cruise lines have updated their technology and many have apps where you can see the daily schedule of activities, talk to other guests on the ship, and even make reservations for specialty restaurants and shows right from your phone. These apps are free and a great addition to the paper daily planners that the cruise line will put in your cabin each night.
If you or someone in your party has a dietary restriction (i.e. gluten-free, kosher, vegan), know that cruise lines are accommodating and will make every effort to provide you with a variety of food options.
Should you be dealing with a food allergy, rest assured that cruise lines take such situations seriously and are generally well set up to avoid cross-contamination. The cruise line will need to know in advance so that your booking is noted and all precautions and preparations are taken, so please relay all allergies to your travel agent. Due to the serious nature of a food allergy, you should also speak with the Maître D’ and every food server that will handle your meals.
“Just because the cruise line allows you to sail with only a birth certificate, that will not help you get home in the case of an emergency in a foreign country. If you are late to the ship or have a medical mishap while in port, the ship isn’t going to wait for you. Now you have the extra expense of staying in a hotel room until you can get the local U.S. embassy to issue you an emergency passport, which can take up to a week. Then you get to buy a last-minute airline ticket home, which will not be cheap. Just spend the $110 to get your passport before your cruise for peace of mind!” – Rose Forbes
*Please note that passport books and passport cards are different. We recommend a passport book.
Gratuities and Travel Insurance
“There is an automatic gratuity charged per day per person for your cruise staff. This can be prepaid with your booking or charged to your room while onboard to be paid before you disembark.
It’s not required, but we always recommend purchasing travel insurance. We would rather you have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Many medical insurance companies won’t cover you outside the U.S., and you never know what can happen—travel protection is available for purchase as an option.” – Debbie Mitchell
Bring a Carry-On
Before you even board the ship, you’re going to want to be prepared. Keep your cruise documents and your passports on you (in your purse, wallet, carry-on, etc.) as you board your cruise. Do not pack them in your suitcase! You can be declined boarding if you do not have the proper ID and documents, so do not under any circumstances put them anywhere in your suitcase!
We advise bringing a bag you can usee for the entire cruise as your carry-on, like a tote or backpack you can use when you get off in the ports for carrying your personal items.
Here’s what to pack in your carry-on for embarkation day:
- A change of clothes (including your bathing suit, a cover-up, and flip flops if you’ll want to enjoy the pool)
- All travel documentation
- All medications (it’s recommended for you to leave these in their original prescription bottles)
- Any valuables
- All other items you’d like to carry-on
It’s most likely that your suitcases will not arrive to your cabin until later in the afternoon closer to sailing time, so be prepared with a well-packed carry-on bag to fully enjoy your first vacation day!
What’s Included with Your Cruise
- Meals in the Dining Room and Buffet
- Some Snacks – Depending on the cruise line there could be pizza, pastries, and other foods available at certain areas of the ship.
- Water, Coffee, Tea
- Kids Areas
What’s Not Included
- Soda and Alcoholic Beverages
- Specialty Dining Restaurants – These are restaurants onboard that offer special menus and require reservations. These are optional experiences.
- Excursions – If you want to take a tour at your port of call, there are several to choose from. These require additional payment to participate, and charges will vary based on the experience.
- Gift Shop & Specialty Snacks
*These are the general inclusions and non-inclusions. It may, however, vary depending on the cruise line, itinerary or booking accommodations. Your travel agent will be able to further guide you with what’s being included on your specific cruise sailing.
Many people who haven’t cruised before compare a ship cabin to a hotel room.
This is incorrect.
Ship cabins are in general much smaller than an average hotel room. Before booking a specific cabin category, ask your travel agent about the specifics. For most cruise lines, our agents can look up the ship’s layout, including location and sizes of specific cabins.
We never recommend getting an inside cabin on your first cruise, especially if you’re worried about seasickness. At a minimum, we’d recommend getting an oceanview so you’ll be able to see daylight and outside. If you know you may have issues with seasickness, however, we’d recommend a cabin with a balcony so you’ll be able to open the balcony door for fresh air, which can help with seasickness.
There’s a lot you can do on a cruise: shows, excursions, specialty dining, activities, seminars and so much more.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to do everything the ship has to offer. The ship will hold a packed and tight schedule. This is done on purpose to ensure that nothing is overcrowded and/or overbooked. None of the ship’s amenities will be able to hold everyone on board all at once, so they need to make sure that everyone is spread out and enjoying different parts of the ship.
A printed daily itinerary will be left in your room by your room steward each evening with the next day’s schedule. We recommend bringing a highlighter so you can go over it and keep track of what’s most important to you. The bigger ships and cruise lines will also have all of this information available to you in their app while onboard, and some may even allow you to preschedule the shows you’d like to attend.
Cruising Dress Code
During the day, cruises are fairly casual. However, you’ll want to bring clothes you can wear over your bathing suit for if you want to go from the pool to the buffet or other eating establishments as you won’t be allowed in with just your swimwear.
In the evening, most cruise lines won’t allow shorts and tank tops into the main dining rooms and restaurants. Jeans and pants, however, are usually acceptable. Think about it like going to dinner at a fairly nice restaurant at home.
Depending on the cruise line, you may also have at least one chic/dress-up/formal night. This is a night where the dress code is slightly elevated. Ladies will find a cocktail dress or dress pants with a nice blouse acceptable, and men should wear dress pants with a nice shirt and tie, though a jacket isn’t required.
It’s also possible to have a white night, in which everyone is asked to wear entirely white. Ask your travel agent if you should expect one of these on your cruise.
If you don’t want to dress up for any of the special nights, it’s absolutely not mandatory, though you won’t be able to dine in any of the participating dining rooms and restaurants on that night. The buffet will still be open and available for you to eat at in casual dress.
Enjoy Your Cruise!
It’s your vacation! We just know that once you step on board that ship you’re going to have such an amazing time.
If you have any other questions about your cruise, anything at all, we’re here to help.
140 E. Indiana Ave., DeLand, FL 32724
*Please make note that these are general guidelines. Different cruise lines and/or itineraries may have different rules and regulations. Ask our travel agents about specific rules that may apply to your cruise itinerary.