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Top Ten Mistakes to Avoid on a Cruise – With Bonus Video!

Going on a cruise is an excellent way to vacation, but it’s easy to make mistakes when you’re new to cruising – where’s what to avoid.

Let’s have a look together, starting from the one that can cost you the most!

Not Buying Travel Insurance

Many people think that they don’t need to buy travel insurance. I’ve heard many times people saying: “Travel insurance, it is just a money grabber!” Well, let me tell you, from experience, it is not. Let me tell you about my travel insurance story. In July 2019, we booked a seven day Alaska cruise sailing from Vancouver to Anchorage. On the morning of the cruise, we were all packed and ready to go when I had a sharp pain on my right side. Long story short, I had to go to the emergency in Vancouver for a gallbladder attack! Being at the hospital, we had to cancel the cruise.

Considering we had travel insurance, we submitted a claim with all the proper documentation, and three weeks later, we got a cheque in the mail covering the cruise and the flight back from Anchorage to Vancouver.

For that reason, I believe that travel insurance is an incredibly important thing to buy when you spend thousands of dollars on a cruise.

If you have a good travel credit card, chances are it comes with travel insurance. However, read the terms carefully to make sure that the coverage appropriate and that you will qualify for the trip.

As a result, don’t make this #1 avoidable cruise mistake.  To be sure, if it weren’t for travel insurance, we would have lost thousands of dollars!

Trave Insurance

Fly on the Same Day of the Cruise – A Big, Avoidable Mistake

If you choose to fly on the same day of your cruise, you might find that it can quickly turn in to a very costly mistake that can be avoided. For example, consider what might happen if your flight is delayed or canceled? Also, consider that weather could delay or cancel a flight (think winter months, especially).

Let me tell you a true story.  I read about a group missing their cruise because they decided to fly to LAX on the same day of the cruise. Their flight was supposed to land at 11:30 am, leaving them 4 hours to catch a taxi to the port in San Pedro. Then, they could board before 3:30 pm (All onboard time). The group was flying from Calgary, Alberta, in the winter, and a snowstorm delayed their flight by 3 hours. The group landed at LAX at 2:30 pm. That left them with only one hour to go to San Pedro. Then, this same group got stuck in traffic for 2 hours. By the time they reached the port, the cruise ship had already sailed – what an avoidable mistake!

Even if you book the air portion with the cruise line, it is always a good idea to go one day in advance – an easily avoidable cruise mistake. The cruise line guarantees to take you to the next port so that you can board there. But what would happen if the ship has three sea days before it reaches the next port? You would miss three cruising days stranded in port.

landing, sunset, flight - book appropriately to avoid a costly cruise mistake
Sunset landing

Booking the Return Flight too Early in the Morning

Booking the return flight too early is another mistake along the same line as the previous cruise mistake to avoid. Some folks book the return flight early in the morning, not thinking that disembarkation might take a few hours. It is always advisable to plan at least two hours for disembarkation and luggage collection. On top of that, add the driving time to the airport and the time required to go through security.

I personally always book the return flight for the mid-afternoon. Booking a flight later in the day will allow us to disembark without rush, and reach the airport in time.Taking off

Not Packing All You Need For The Cruise – A Simple &  Avoidable Cruise Mistake

Packing for your cruise might seem like a straightforward thing to do. However, there are a few essential things to remember:

  • Check the itinerary. The cruise might go through different climate zones. For example, if you’re doing a transatlantic crossing, even in the summer, you might face some frigid weather.
  • Check the dress code; you don’t want to miss out on a special dinner just because you don’t have the proper outfit.
  • Make sure you packed any medication you might need. You don’t want to be stuck at sea for a few days without essential medicines. Also, remember to pack contact lenses solutions.
  • On the same note, make sure to pack all the toiletry and other essential items. I made this mistake once, we boarded for a 19 days Asian cruise, and we forgot the sunscreen.  We were at sea for two days before the first port. For that reason, we had to buy the most expensive sunscreen at the onboard gift shop.
  • If you need prescription eyeglasses, always bring a spare pair with you in case the one you are wearing breaks.
  • Don’t forget all the chargers for your phone, camera, and computer. Replacing them in port might be pricey.

For more tips on what and how to pack for your cruise, be sure to see this previous article.

Pack what you need for your cruise holiday
Pack what you need for your cruise holiday

Not Packing Your Essentials in Your Carry-on

Pack your essentials in your carry on for your cruise holiday and avoid the mistake of leaving things behind.
Pack your essentials in your carry on for your cruise holiday.

When you pack your carry on, always remember to pack all your travel documents (Passport, boarding passes, etc.) in it. The last thing you want to happen is to be at the check-in agent, and your passport is in your checked bag. In your carry on you should also pack all your electronics, all the chargers and the value you are bringing with you (Cash, jewelry, credit cards, etc.).  By packing the essentials that you’ll need for your cruise, you might find this to be an easily avoidable mistake.

Not Using Airplane Mode When Sailing

Forgetting to put your phone in airplane mode is an all too common costly mistake some folks can make when on a cruise.

Airplane Mode can save you hundreds, or even thousands when on a cruise ship
Airplane Mode can save you hundreds, or even thousands when on a cruise ship.

When you’re at sea, the cruise ship turns on the satellite cell phone network. If your phone connects to the cruise ship cellphone network and downloads email, or social media alerts, it might end up costing hundreds of dollars in roaming charges. For example, I once forgot to turn on airplane mode while the cruise ship was sailing, and got a $250 cell phone bill a month later – a mistake I made only once – and easily avoided.

Checking Your Cruise Account Frequently

The very first time I cruised, it was a 10-day Mediterranean itinerary. I recall it well, and I had a blast. Then, on the last day, I got a near $5,000 bill for my shipboard account. As a result, I recommend being on top of your spending on board. Lots of passengers leave their accounts on the last day. On disembarkation day, passengers review the shipboard account and face the music. It’s also tough, after a few days, to remember if a charge was legit or a mistake. Checking the onboard account is quite simple, you can do it on the cruise line app, at the front desk, some ships have kiosks some others have a button in the cabin tv.

We do check our accounts usually once or twice a day. Then, if we notice an error, we can avoid last-minute irritations by visiting the guest services desk on the cruise ship, and have the mistake fixed, immediately.

As a bonus tip on this topic, before going on a cruise, also check your credit card balance. The cruise line always takes a preauthorized amount on your card at the time of check-in. You want to leave a little buffer on your credit card to spend onboard and in port.

Not Returning to the Cruise On Time: A Big Mistake!

While it seems like a silly suggestion, it happens all the time.  Picture it.  You arrive in port, you’re excited to visit, you leave the ship, and you forgot to check what time you have to be back. We’ve seen many people doing the “run of shame” at the port, trying to catch the cruise ship at the last possible minute.

On the same note, when you’re on an itinerary with several time zones, make sure that your watch gets set to ship time. Cruise ship time and destination time might not be the same – and it’s an easily avoided mistake. For this reason, if you rely on your phone for the time you might miss your ship. Furthermore, always take a photo of the daily newsletter from the ship. In particular, take note of the cruise ships’ emergency phone numbers. The cruise ship phone numbers will allow you to contact the ship for an emergency (I.e., if you are late returning to the ship).

Leaving Excursion Booking For The Last Minute

Make note of the cruise ship phone numbers to keep in touch during an emergency and avoid a costly mistake
Make note of the cruise ships’ phone numbers

You have no idea how many passengers don’t do any port research in advance. They deal with excursions on-board the cruise, or even worse at the port – this is a mistake!  By waiting until the last minute, you’ll risk not being able to book the best excursions. There might be an excursion you would love to do, but it gets sold out, and you didn’t book it in advance. Furthermore, you might end up being taken advantage of by tour operators at the pier.

Not Being Aware of What is/is not Included In Your Cruise Fare

When you book a cruise, always ask your agent what is/is not included in the cruise fare as it can spiral into big a mistake down the line. Sometimes there are perks included (onboard credits, drinking packages, free specialty dinners, etc.) in your fare that you do not want to waste because you did not know about it. In contrast, you don’t want to overindulge in something, thinking it is included only to find out too late that it is not.

I hope these few notes will help you to enjoy your cruise carefree to the maximum! Leave a comment if you have something to add.



Image Credits: Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay,

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    1. Medoc is Johnson Inc – Financially they should be OK, in fact, I used them for our group benefits. Having said that, with any insurance policy, be sure to ask all important questions by email, and ensure responses are via email as well. It’s the only way to keep you protected. -Rick

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