How To Prepare For a Cruise To Get The Most Out Of The Trip

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Taking a cruise can be one of the most luxurious and relaxing vacations imaginable.

But if you want to get the most out of your trip, you need to learn how to prepare for a cruise. Whether you want to rely on a travel agent's advice or you're planning it yourself, there are a few steps. First of all, there are plenty of cruise and yacht lines that make booking a trip easy. And then, once your on board, the toughest decision is probably what to order for dinner. We think it's still much easier to get ready for a seafaring vacation than most others, though. Before setting off, arm yourself with knowledge on how to prepare for a cruise.

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What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial

  • Your travel plans. Whether you've already booked a cruise or not, you'll benefit from added planning. Determine whether you want to keep it domestic, how many people are going, and other details. Then figure out what you hope to do on the cruise to find a carrier to caters to those needs.
  • Your realistic budget. There are few types of trips that can vary in cost as much as cruises. A budget getaway can be cheaper than the price of a nice hotel room per night. But if you truly want to show your opulence with a chartered trip, it could run many thousands.
  • Your paperwork. Depending on your response to the first point, this might be minimal. But not if you're planning to leave the country or if you are flying to your departure point. Make sure you have everything you will need to board and exit at every port without a problem.

Instructions -- How to Prepare for a Cruise

Sometimes things are just easier with a checklist. And we've identified several key issues you will want to address before you set off. If you get started on a proactive foot, you will probably benefit once your vacation starts. Because when you're kicked back with a mixed drink, you don't want to be fretting about details back home. Learning how to prepare for a cruise properly will prevent any travel headaches when the time actually comes for your trip.

1. Put Crucial Documents in One Place

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You'll want to start this process by making sure you know what you need. This will involve checking in with your cruise line first. Most carriers make it quite clear what you will be required to show. 

Of course, if you're crossing international borders, you'll want to have your passport. But you'll also need the proper identifying paperwork in order to board. And this will go for everyone in your group.

So if you have kids, elderly parents or anyone else you're caring for, keep this in mind. We think it makes sense to have a divided folder with everyone's paperwork attached. That way, you can put it somewhere safe and know it will be there when you need it. That way you can focus on the more interesting steps in how to prepare for a cruise.  

2. Plan For What You Leave Behind

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You could definitely say that this step applies to pretty much any long distance trip. But that doesn't mean it's any less important when you're heading out on a cruise. In fact, since you'll be unable to communicate as easily, it might be even more important. Before you board, we recommend letting close family and friends know you'll be away. Of course, sharing that information on social media could invite criminals.

So make sure that you address all possible issues before locking up and heading to the ship. First of all, this will mean taking care of any living beings you leave behind. Find a good kennel, trusted neighbor or someone to take care of your pets. And, especially if it's a week long cruise or more, be sure you have your mail delivery suspended. Visit the post office and ask them to hold your mail until you return. Not only will you be happy to avoid an overflowing mailbox, your mailman will thank you. 

Last but not least, you will probably want to contact your bank. It's best to let the institution know you'll be out of town and spending money. That way, unusual expenses won't trigger a false alert of a stolen card.

3. Start Packing

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Packing for a cruise might be a bit different than selecting what you take on a typical vacation. First of all, cruise attire is a fashion style of its own. Not only do cruise lines often have dress codes, you'll also want to avoid dressing to casually. 

Then you'll have to consider the climates you'll be visiting. With a cruise, you might see a variety of regions as you visit ports of call. Plus, much of the trip will probably be out on the ship's balconies. So you need to remember coats and other layers so you can be comfortable no matter what.

At the same time, keep packing to the essentials. Since space is at a premium in often small cabins, this will keep things simple. We recommend leaving extra shoes at home to make room for more useful clothes and accessories.

4. Plan Your Excursions

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Some people prefer to spend their entire cruise aboard the ship. And there is certainly enough to keep you occupied for a week at sea. But for many cruise ship passengers, excursions are a major part of the trip.

Of course, you can reserve these later in the trip. And you can even find fun stuff to do when you arrive at a new destination. But if you're the kind of traveler who likes to be prepared, we recommend doing some research. This could also include restaurants you're interested in trying at your ports of call. Making reservations ahead of time could save you some time and hassle.

Check with your cruise line or a travel agent to determine what is available at the ports. And then discuss with your party how you would like to spend the time. Maybe you can split up into a few groups and experience different things. Or you might want to go as a group to one of the unique attractions at each new stop. If you arrange for these outings ahead of time, all you have to do upon disembarking is start having fun.

5. Check Out All the Fun On Board

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As we said, there is plenty on board a cruise ship to keep you entertained. In fact, there is so much that you'll probably want to get a head start on sorting it all out. First of all, we recommend checking with the cruise line to see what amenities are available. 

This will also involve selecting any special plans. Beverage and other options are often available for an additional fee. If you plan on drinking freely, it might pay to go ahead and reserve such a pass. And then of course there's the food. 

You might know about the buffets on many ships. And some are really quite good. But the best food and service will probably be found in the on board dining rooms. With chefs and servers aiming to please, you can eat to your heart's desire. But you'll probably want to make a list ahead of time of all the places that look appetizing. Then you can find out if you'll need any type of reservation or if there's a specific dress code.

6. Think About Money

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Don't stress out (too much) about money. But if a budget is an issue for your cruise, you'll want to keep a close eye on expenses. Even though a lot of it is included, especially if you prepare early, things can add up.

When we talk about how to prepare for a cruise, we know that nothing is as vital as money. And that means having cash and other means that will translate. If you are leaving the country, you will want to make sure you know all the details. Find out if you have the proper currency or ensure it won't be a problem exchanging it.

And take more than you think you'll need. Not only will you feel like a winner when you come back with change, you won't miss out on anything. Another often overlooked expense is the all important gratuity. Depending on where you go and what you do, you might have to give out a lot of tips. Make sure you can take care of those who take care of you.


Determining how to prepare for a cruise is hardly a hassle.

If you've never done it before, however, it can seem daunting. After all, you'll be stranded at sea. That's not a great place to find out you forgot something. We hope our guide has helped relieve any stress you had about how to prepare for a cruise.

Share this article with the ocean bound travelers in your life to spread the tips. And leave us a message below if you have any final thoughts or questions.

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