Who wouldn’t enjoy a cruise? Unlimited food, stunning ocean views, and staff ready to make your vacation as relaxing as possible. A cruise is one of the most relaxing vacations a person can take. There is no need to worry about finding a place to stay, where to eat, or where to go to find some entertainment. Everything is on the ship, and we mean everything.

Walking through a cruise ship, you are liable to forget that you are even on a boat unless you look out the port window. Cruise ships today can reach up to over 20 stories and hold up to 5,000 people. Each ship is different, but they all usually have pools, shops, casinos, theaters, and specialty restaurants just to name a few of the amenities. There is so much to do on a cruise ship that you might never want to leave, but there are still ports that the ship docks at that you can explore! Depending on the length of the trip, the ship can port up to several places, and guests are always welcome to go off the boat and explore the city. But, before you board that ship, there are some tips you need to know to make sure your trip goes smoothly. Here are 20 tips for a better cruise.

20 Bring a small carry-on

We’re not telling you to put all your belongings into a single tiny carry-on, but to bring one alongside with your regular luggage! When you board the ship, generally you aren’t able to access your cabin rooms for several hours, and that also doesn’t mean your luggage will be delivered by then. That doesn’t mean it should stop you from having fun! The pools will already be opened, and you can take advantage of it as soon as you hop on board. So bring a small carry-on, backpack, or just a bag, with some quick essentials. Toss in your bathing suits and sunscreen, and you can enjoy your vacation the second you board.

19 Try the specialty restaurants

When you book a cruise, you already have access to the ship’s buffet restaurants. You’ll also be assigned a specific table and time for dinner at the evening restaurants. The food will be decent, but remember, they have to prepare mass amounts of food for thousands of people. If you really want a fantastic dining experience and you want to try something new, you should book a table at the specialty restaurants. The food is high quality and always cooked to order. You’ll have more variety and higher quality food. Ships often bring on gourmet chefs that specifically head up the specialty restaurants, so you’ll definitely be in for a culinary treat.

18 Do late dining

For dinner, each group is assigned a specific dining time and table. Of course, you are welcome to eat somewhere else – such as a specialty restaurant – or just opt out and stay at the buffet, but if you go to the restaurant, you have to stick to the time and table. When you book your ticket, you will be asked if you prefer early dining or late dining. We suggest booking late dining. When the ship ports and you’re busy exploring a new city, you don’t want to worry about rushing back to the ship to make it for dinner. In addition, you don’t have to worry about missing any activities or shows because of an early dinner.

17 Bring your own medicine and sunscreen

As large as a cruise ship can be, there is still a finite amount of space. Which means you can’t go to a CVS down the block to pick up some Advil. If you need any medication or extra sunblock, you will be limited to going to the ship’s pharmacy and store. Seeing as how the boat will have a monopoly on such items, they’ll be able to slap any price they want on them. Which means you will probably be paying way too much for everything. Bring along some medication that you might need and an extra bottle of sunscreen to save a few bucks.

16 Check the dress code

Before you pack for your trip, make sure to look at your ship’s itinerary. Most cruises have a formal night in which you can dress up and look fancy for the night. Some ships can be really strict about people dining in their restaurants during their formal nights while others are more relaxed. Still, any excuse to be able to put on a gorgeous dress and a handsome suit and enjoy a nice dinner is a good one for us! In addition, the ship might have themed nights such as a Disco Night, White Party, or 90’s Theme. It’s always a good idea to look up what your ship will have so that you can dress accordingly.

15 Plan ahead for excursions

Another way to save some money is to plan ahead for on-land excursions. If you want to, you can book excursions through the cruise. If you book early, there are usually discounts. However, if you want to save even more, you can directly book your own excursions. You’ll know ahead of time when and which ports you will be docking at. If you do your research and contact tour guides or parks directly, you can often get a better deal. You can even arrange for taxis to pick you up at the dock so that you don’t need to worry about transportation.

14 Bring a cover-up

You would think that a cruise would mean balmy weather and sunny skies. Well, it does. You’ll probably be spending most of your time in a bathing suit. However, it would be a good idea to bring a light cardigan or sweater. The weather might be hot outside, but it can get fairly chilly inside. Going in and out of hot and cold will be leaving your body confused. The sweater will also come in handy at night when the wind is blowing. A light sweater that you can tuck into a bag will be something that you will often be using.

13 Go through an agent

If your schedule isn’t flexible enough to make last minute bookings, then you should go through an agent. Agents are great at finding the best prices and packages, especially if you are traveling with a group. Their software can look at all the prices and compare them immediately. Travel agencies have hookups with the cruise lines and usually, have great packages that they can offer. These can include drink packages, discounts on excursions, spa passes, and so on. If you are booking with a large group and are getting several rooms, agencies can occasionally toss in a room for free. The agencies can also do bundles that include airfare to the departure cities so you can get everything booked in one go.

12 Don’t touch the minibar

Each stateroom on the ship comes with a minibar, and we are telling you right now, DON’T TOUCH THEM. Even if you have a drink package that includes the drinks that you find in your minibar, the rules of the minibar are on an entirely different spectrum. The snacks and drinks are ridiculously overpriced, and there really is no need for them seeing as how there are 24-hour buffets on board. You can just load up a plate with food at the buffet and take that back to your room! If you want to keep some drinks and snacks in your place, you can ask your room attendant to empty your mini fridge for you, or take everything out during the trip and put it back in at the end.

11 Dealing with sea-sickness

Some people are leery of vacationing on a cruise because they are worried about sea-sickness. First off, the ship is so large that the movement of the boat is barely noticeable. However, for those that are extremely sensitive, there are plenty of home remedies that can help you ease the sea-sickness. There are acupuncture bands that press on your wrists and claim to relieve nausea. You can also bring a bag of ginger chews, eat an apple, sniff an orange peel, or just take some Dramamine. Don’t let some nausea stop you from enjoying a wonderful vacation!

10 Take advantage of room service

You’re on vacation! Take every moment to relax and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Cruise ship staff are always eager to accommodate their guests. If you don’t want to battle with the crowd and fight over the last piece of fruit, then you should order room service. You’ll be able to stay in the comfort of your room and in your pyjamas as a hot and fresh breakfast is delivered to your room. The great thing is that the service charge is not astronomical. The food is already included in your room, and you’ll only be charged a few dollars for the delivery.

9 Talk to the staff

Often people forget about the service staff that surrounds them. However, to make the most of your cruise, you should chat with the staff for some tips and advice. They can tell you about the hidden spots on the cruise where there are extra lounge chairs, when is the best time to hit up the buffet, and so on. They can also give great tips about the port cities that you visit. The staff has probably already traveled to the same cities several times, so they probably know some great restaurants to hit up! If you are kind to them, they’ll be more likely to provide better service.

8 Avoid the Wi-Fi charges

We know, it seems like it would be laughable (and impossible) to be without internet for several days. However, it is never a bad idea to detox for a few days and enjoy a vacation without being glued to your phone. The other option would be to pay an obscene amount of money for not so great Wi-Fi. You don’t HAVE to check your email or see what’s new on Facebook. If you really need to connect with the outside world, then just wait until you reach a port. Once you’re on land, there are plenty of places that you can find Wi-Fi (we’re looking at you, Starbucks).

7 Pack a dry bag

Most of the excursions that are offered usually involve water somehow – these are port cities after all. We’re talking about snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, banana boat rides, lounging on some crystal clear beaches and more. So it is probably going to be a good idea to pack a dry bag. They don’t take up a significant amount of room, and you’ll have something to store yours and your family’s belongings when you go on your water adventures. Having your phones, cameras, and towels get soaking wet is nobody’s idea of a good time.

6 BYOB

Drink packages are pretty pricey, and unless you get a special package deal that includes it, a lot of people don’t like to buy them. If you do the math, sometimes you have to have up to 6-8 drinks a day to make the drink package a worthwhile purchase. (This is not a challenge!) However, some cruise lines let each guest bring a single bottle of alcohol in their checked luggage. It can be a nice bottle of wine that you bring out for dinner (just pay the cork fee) or a bottle of liquor, and you can make your own mixed drinks.

5 Don’t park at the port!

The worst place to park your car is at the port. The garages charge by the day, and it is an obscene amount of money. The Miami Port – one of the most popular cruise ports – costs 23 dollars a day. Cruises generally last anywhere from a week to two weeks, so that means the parking fee will definitely be racking up. If you want to save your money, there are usually plenty of places nearby that you can park your car at a much lower price. However, these places typically require reservations ahead of time and are farther away from the port – although most places also have a shuttle that will take you straight to the ship.

4 Avoid the buffet during breakfast

As we’ve mentioned before, the breakfast buffet can get pretty hectic, especially on port days. A great way to avoid the crowds is to take advantage of room service. Another option is to use the restaurants for breakfast. Not everyone knows this, but the complimentary restaurants also provide breakfast. Instead of fighting the crowd at the buffet, you can enjoy a served breakfast with zero lines. The food will be the same, but it will be plated and brought to you. Even better, you don’t have to wait an hour for an omelet!

3 Research your ports

Unless you spring for the Wi-Fi package, you won’t really be able to look up much information about the port cities that you will be visiting. However, since you’ll know ahead where you’ll be porting, it is a good idea to do some research beforehand. Some cities won’t take US dollars, others do but don’t take cards, etc. It’s also a good idea to search for places you’re interested in visiting or restaurants you want to try. You’ll only have a few hours in each port, so you don’t want to waste too much time trying to figure out what to do or where to go!

2 Check your phone plan

If you check your phone plan, you might be surprised that you’ll have service in some of the port cities that you’re docking at. Some phone plans also cover US territories such as Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. This is great news because that means you’ll be able to use your phone in these ports and not have to worry about hunting down a Starbucks or somewhere else for a Wi-Fi connection. However, it is also a good idea to keep your phone on airplane mode or turn off service unless you know for sure you’ll be able to use it. Roaming data charges are not something you want to see on your next phone bill.

1 Spring for last-minute deals

This tip can either be a great tip or backfire terribly. We suggest only following this tip if you have a highly flexible schedule. A last minute booking can save you hundreds of dollars. However, these prices don’t drop till just a few weeks before the ship leaves, and there is no guarantee that there will be rooms left. If a ship still has a significant number of available rooms close to the departure date, they’ll cut their prices so that they can book the rest of their rooms. You can set an alert on booking websites that will notify you when prices drop. Hopefully you can snap a discounted vacation!