First-Time Cruising Q & A  |  Overview

Cruising is incredibly popular, no doubt about it. But there are still plenty of people who haven’t been on a cruise. If you’re considering going on a cruise for the first time, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. Browsing these common first-time cruising FAQs is a good way to get some initial answers. And if you still have more questions afterwards, your travel counsellor is a great resource!

Sunshine illuminates a cruise ship at sea.

Food & Drink

What is the food like on a cruise?

Plenty of delicious food is always available on large ocean cruises. Each night, there are three or four options offered in the formal dining room, while the buffet has something for everyone at all times.

Smaller cruises will have fewer dining options, but excellent food regardless.

What do open and assigned seating mean? What about first seating or second seating?

If you’ve chosen the open seating, you will dine at the time and table of your choice during dinners in the main dining room. If you’ve chosen assigned seating, you will be assigned a specific table and time for the duration of the cruise. You can usually choose the table size (seats 2, 4, 6, etc.), as well as the seating time (first or second seating).

Is it safe to drink the water?

Yes. Water onboard a cruise ship is filtered and safe to drink. It is also used for cooking.

Is alcohol included?

Alcohol is not commonly included, but it can be. And you can often buy beverage packages, which can help save a lot of money on alcohol.

Can you bring your own food/beverages/alcohol onboard?

It is usually okay to bring unopened, pre-packaged food items and non-alcoholic beverages.

Bringing alcohol for consumption onboard is rarely allowed, and when it is, there are limitations and restrictions. If you buy wine or alcohol while at port, staff will most likely place it in storage and return it to you at the end of the voyage.


How do you pay for onboard expenses?

Drinks, excursions, spas, and participation in games are charged to your room, and you are asked to settle your bill the day before disembarking. Sometimes travellers are provided with an in-house charge card.

How does tipping work on a cruise ship?

Cruisers are generally provided with various options. You can often choose to charge gratuities automatically to your credit card, or you can have them charged to your room and then settle the bill with the cashier’s desk at the end of the trip. You can also leave cash in the provided envelope on the last night.


What are staterooms like?

Staterooms are well-designed, with sufficient storage space. Most cabins are compact, though suites are more spacious. Inside staterooms do not have windows. Outside staterooms have a window, and veranda staterooms have a balcony.

Are there electrical outlets in the cabins?

Yes, but depending on the cruise line, a voltage adapter may be needed. Check before you leave!

And in case you’re wondering, ships generate their own electricity.

Are there telephones? What about Internet or WiFi?

In-room phones are expensive, and there are usually Internet cafés on the ship, but it’s better to get the cruise line’s WiFi package as well as a mobile travel plan from your cell phone provider, and use your own device.


What should families know about cruising with kids?

  • Some cruises are more family-friendly than others.
  • Some have a minimum age requirement.
  • Stateroom size might be an issue for larger families. Most staterooms can only accommodate four guests, so larger families can either get larger suites or two staterooms. It’s often less expensive to get two rooms than a suite.


What is the process of embarking on the cruise ship?

If you’ve been to an airport, then you’ll find the process at the cruise port quite similar. Once in the hangar, you line up to go through the security procedures, then you check your luggage, which is later brought to your stateroom for you. There are information tables in the hangar where you can buy drink packages or sign up for dinner reservations.

What are luggage tags for on a cruise?

Upon arrival, cruise luggage tags identify the stateroom where luggage should be delivered once you check in. Upon departure, they help with sorting luggage for disembarkation and the return flight.

What are embarkation day specials?

Most passengers don’t make any specialty dining or spa reservations on the first day, so discounts are offered to boost first-day sales.

On Board

What should you pack for a cruise?

This depends entirely on your destination and the time of year, but in general, you will want casual attire with a few dressier options for special evenings. Unless the ship has a specific dress code, there is no need for formal wear.

Are cruise ships crowded?

The pool area tends to be crowded, and evening shows fill up nightly, but you can always find isolated spots to read and sunbathe, and many lounges are empty during the day.

What are the chances of getting seasick, and how do you minimize those chances? What do you do if you do get seasick?

Actually, most people don’t get seasick on a cruise. If you think you might, you can try to get a stateroom that’s positioned in the middle of the ship, as high on the upper decks as possible. This area of the ship tends to be more stable.

Either way, you should prepare for the worst and bring nausea patches, bracelets, or medicine.

What is there to do during days at sea?

Here is a sample of the types of activities usually available on a large ocean cruise ship:

  • Organized games
  • Ship tours (kitchen, art gallery, captain’s deck, etc.)
  • Classes, lessons, and lectures (ice sculpting, cooking, flower arrangements, etc.)
  • Spa
  • Gym, walking deck/running track, sports courts
  • Swimming pool, hot tubs
  • Bars, lounges, night clubs
  • Casino
  • Evening shows (comedians, musicians, acrobats, talent shows, game shows, bands, magicians, etc.)

It is impossible for a person to do it all, and it is possible for a person to do nothing but sit in the sun, eat, read, etc.

What is there to do on port days?

You can pre-book organized excursions or wait until onboard your ship to decide. You can also visit the port town independently using public transportation or taxis.

What is ship’s time and why might it be important?

Ship’s time is the standard time at which the ship operates. Some ships and/or cruising itineraries operate on ship’s time rather than local time. So on port days, make sure you know whether your return time is in local or ship’s time, because making a mistake could mean missing the boat!


What happens on debarkation day?

The night before leaving, you will pack essentials in your carry-on to keep with you, and place your checked luggage in the hallway before going to bed. It will be brought to the hangar at the cruise port for you.

The next morning, breakfast is served early and few shops are open. You have to leave the ship early as staff must prepare for the next round of passengers embarking that day. Once you disembark, you go through customs then pick up your luggage in the hangar. Depending on your travel plans, your transfer to the airport or hotel may be pre-arranged, either through the cruise line or another service provider, or you may need to take a taxi or public transportation.