11 Common Cruise Mistakes To Avoid

Cruise ships in St Kitts

11 Common Cruise Mistakes To Avoid

Through my years of cruising and talking to passengers, and as I’ve followed discussions on cruise forums and read stories on cruise sites, blogs and magazines, I have identified 11 common mistakes that cruise travelers make.

(1) Choosing the wrong cruise type. There is a vast choice of cruising options that range from massive 4,000 passenger cruise ships to private charter barges for a handful of your friends. There a myriad of ways you can cruise and so finding the type that suits your interests best is going to be key to enjoying the experience. Getting it wrong creates a miserable vacation for some cruisers.

(2) Choosing the wrong destination and itinerary. Once you have chosen the type of cruise that you are likely to enjoy most then selecting the right destination and the itinerary within it is essential. Not every cruise to your chosen destination will be the same. You need to ensure you have the right mix of sea days, port days and calls on the sorts of places you will like and enjoy. There are areas of the world you likely want to visit, and making sure that the cruise itinerary takes you to the right destinations within that region is essential.

(3) Choosing the wrong cruise line. Cruise lines are all different and aim to provide experiences that appeal to a specific type of traveler both from a demographic and attitude point of view. You could be calling on the same ports in a 7-day cruise in a region and have a totally different vacation as the cruise line accommodation, food, entertainment (or lack of), dress codes, degree of formality, mix of people and even type of excursions will be different by line.

(4) Choosing the wrong cabin. Large cruise ships can have up to 20 different types of cabins, river cruises can have a range of 4 or 5 types while freighters may offer no choice. As each ships is different in design you need to understand the features and choices for each ship. You need to make sure that you choose a cabin that meets your vacation habits and preferences.

(5) Not using a cruise agent. As the common mistakes already listed indicate, choosing a cruise is complex. I do not recommend booking directly with a cruise line or online. You should work with an expert cruise agent who can guide and recommend your choices.

(6) Forgetting details like passports and visa. A passport is the most usual form of identification even if you are cruising within your home country. Leaving it at home is one of the more common mistakes people make especially if they are departing from a home port. Some countries require a certain number of months before it expires and a number of blank pages, some will require visas to self tour or transfer off a cruise to catch a flight. You need to check well in advance your passport is valid and get any visas.

(7) Letting your budget get out of control. There can be many costs on top of your cruise ticket including the cost of getting to join your cruise and on-board add-on costs like gratuities and drinks. The extra costs vary by cruise and cruise line. Once on-board you need to monitor and control your spend as it can mount up if you are not careful.

(8) Traveling without insurance. Some cruise lines will not allow you to travel without insurance. But even if they do, I strongly recommend good insurance to cover you should you need to cancel your cruise or fall ill while away. The medical costs can be large if you have to be evacuated from your cruise or repatriated home and people traveling without coverage risk many thousands of dollars in costs.

(9) Packing the wrong things. You need to understand the dress code on the ship and also the climate. Cruise message boards are filled with stories of people having the wrong clothes and having to stock up with appropriate items.

(10) Stopping planning once you’ve booked your cruise. To make the most of the limited time you have in port, you need to plan what you are going to do in each port before you leave. You will be in most ports for only 6 to 8 hours. If you’re planning to tour yourself then check the transportation options. If you plan to take the ship’s excursions book before you leave to avoid disappointment of them being sold out.

(11) Missing the ship. Not allowing enough time for traffic or flight delays at the start of a cruise or returning from exploring a port too late are mistakes too many cruisers make.

What other ones do you have? Any I have left off?

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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9 Responses

  1. Hi Gary. Some absolutely invaluable tips here! I think the key message here is to do some thorough research online before you book. It’s worth spending some time checking on review sites, such as Trip Advisor, to see how other people found their cruises.

    Best wishes, Alex

  2. George says:

    Another key is to book excursions through the cruise line. They’re more expensive, but, if something happens and you do miss the port call, the ship will either wait or get you to the next port of call themselves. Now that I’m typing this, I realize that may not be true for all cruise lines. I’m pretty sure it is true for the bigger lines.

  3. Donna Hull says:

    Wonderful tips here. I agree (and use) every one of them. Using a cruise agent who is exceptionally familiar with the cruise that you’re booking is the most important of your tips. Knowledge saves cruisers money and from suffering a bad experience. The second most valuable tip is to purchase cruise interruption insurance. My husband and I have been purchasing policies for years (usually to his grumbles). When I suffered a back injury last December on a river cruise, the policy paid for most of my expenses. And the policy that we had purchased for an expensive cruise that had to be cancelled because of back surgery paid off as well. He says he will never complain about the cost of a policy again. Another tip if you are in the U.S. is to belong to a medical evacuation program. I’m so happy that I had that option when traveling home from Europe with the bad back.

    • Good point. Not having travel insurance is a HUGE issue, especially on a cruise with the risk and cost of having to be evacuated. In my forthcoming book “The Cruise Traveler’s Handbook” I do go on about that topic! Thanks for the watch out and showing the importance based in your personal experience. Hope all good with your back now?

  4. I would also add doing research to make sure it’s suitable for your kids at their specific ages if you have a family (although this could be covered by some of your other points).

    We are booked to do one in November, and it was only after we booked that I found out that it is going to be really painful with our one year old. Some limitations I already realised, but I didn’t know until after paying it that he wouldn’t be allowed in the pool and that we couldn’t even go to kids club with him so he could play -EXCEPT for a couple of hours early in the morning and we won’t be allowed to bring our three year old with us at those times!!

    I have loved cruises I have done in the past, but I’m feeling a bit bitter about the limitations with young kids.

    • Sharon. Thanks for reading the article and adding your advice and tip. This is a really good point about double checking with the cruise agent and cruise line about the suitability for a type of traveler, especially for families and young children. I think cruise lines are going to increasingly look to target and create different experiences to avoid ending up fighting on fares, this is going to be more and more an issue. I can understand your frustration – as no doubt your little one will want to be doing all those things and will not really understand why mommy is holding her back. I hope the trip turns out great in the end. Keep me posted. If you want to write about that for a guest post on the blog I would love to have that and your tips and experiences. Gary

      • would love to Gary 🙂

        It is harder here in Australia to figure all this out I think as cruising is not as big – I don’t actually know anyone personally who has done a cruise!! And I wouldn’t even know where there is a cruise agent.

        • Good point on the cruise agent. In fact some people in Australia have used my cruise agent here in the UK to help them – and she managed to beat prices being offered down under. The cruise lines are targeting Australia and starting to place ships there in coming seasons.

          It is a really popular stop on world cruises of course. We sailing from Sydney to Dubai (with couple of stops in Australia) from 14 March. Really excited about that!

          Thanks for offering to do the guest post. Really pleased!

          • Wow what a cool cruise!!! Our upcoming one is our third in the Caribbean – we haven’t done one anywhere else! The price for cruises out of Australia always seem too pricey compared to alternatives, but such good value in the US. I would love to do a trans-continental one like you though!

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