DO take a friend/loved one/significant other that is willing to be adventurous. There are a million things to do on-board and in the ports, and – take it from me – they may not be as fun when you are doing them alone.
DON’T forget your travel iron (if allowed). In-cabin irons are a fire hazard, so they are not provided. Pressing service is available, but for a fee. Some ships do have “ironing closets” that are communal, but you will likely need to wait in line to use it. Check with your cruise line to ensure that travel irons are permissible.
DON’T forget your passport! In a post 9/11 world, it’s highly advisable to have it with you. You can get by with your birth certificate, but (God forbid) something happens while in port and you have to fly back to the States — let’s just say you’ll be glad you took your passport.
DO take an extra memory card for your digital camera, or purchase a card with higher capacity. The cruise line photographers will be all over, snapping both candids and posed photos, but the pictures cost anywhere from $10-25. It’s up to you to invest in these photos or not. However, I guarantee you’ll want your own means to take memorable family photos.
DON’T eat yourself sick!! There is so much food available on these ships at any hour of the day, and it’s very probable that you will allow your inner glutton to come forth. I advise against it. Because, eventually, you will go home. And you will not eat at home like you eat on a cruise ship. Therefore, you will be starving if you don’t eat 5 meals a day, plus snacks.
DO meet some of your fellow cruisers. There are people from all walks of life on these ships, and many of them are REALLY nice. “What’s your name?”, “Where are you from?”, “Who are you cruising with?”, and “Is this your first cruise?” are the top conversation starters that can be heard throughout the week. Trust me, there is plenty to talk about.
DO meet some of the staff/crew. In the same vein, it’s very interesting to hear their stories and how they ended up working for the cruising industry. If you’ve never asked a crew member about the life of a cruise employee and how their contracts work, you will be fascinated.
DON’T go crazy with your on-board ship card, unless you can afford to do so! Since all of the cruise ships are cashless, you are issued a plastic card that serves as your currency, room key, and identification on the ship. Essentially, it is your life force. And it is very easy to forget that this little card is linked to your credit card. That is, until you get the bill…
DO try to unplug from your real life for a week, if you can. It can be VERY liberating. Most cell phones will cost a small fortunes to operate at sea (IF they work at all) and the internet can be very costly (i.e. I signed on for 5 minutes during one cruise and it cost me $3!!). If you have the luxury to exit reality for a few days, I highly encourage you do so. Life will be waiting for you upon your return.
DON’T forget to have plenty of cash on hand for onshore shopping. I’ve noticed in the past that some of the merchants that accept credit cards on the islands require a minimum amount spent before they accept credit transactions. To make matters worse, some of the receipts had your full credit card number printed across them!! The safer option is to pay with cash. Plus, many of the open-air markets and vendors don’t accept plastic anyway.
Hopefully you will find some of these tips helpful! I will add more in the near future.