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Find the best cruise for you

Featured cruise deals, cruising guide, why take a cruise vacation.

If you have a place on your bucket list, chances are, a cruise will get you there. Cruises cover the world, taking millions of passengers each year to destinations like the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Alaska, Europe, the Mediterranean and even Antarctica. Cruising offers a tremendous value, with trips that include your lodging, meals and entertainment, all rolled into one. Some cruise lines even offer fully inclusive vacations, which cover drinks and tours ashore. Cruising means seeing the world while unpacking only once.

Cruises also provide a wonderful option for families, with many ships offering things like waterslides, mini-golf courses and fun clubs for kids and teens -- all for free. Planning is easy: Pick your destination and the right ship for you. The cruise line makes it simple, offering packages to help you save on extras like alcohol, shore tours or even airfare.

Travelers say they choose to cruise because cruising often costs less per night when compared with staying at a hotel, where they'll have to book -- and pay for -- all their extras.

What are Tips for Finding Cheap Cruises?

If you're a flexible traveler, you'll have a better chance of finding cheap cruises. Take a cruise that doesn't sail over the summer or holidays, when prices are highest. Book an inside cabin, or take your chances with a "guarantee cabin," ideal for passengers who aren't picky about their cabins but really want the lowest price available. Book cabins on lower decks, which often come with lower prices than those rooms on higher floors.

Cruise lines such as MSC Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International offer rates that might drop as low as $75 per person per night -- and sometimes lower. Here's a tip: Many times, the smaller ships from these lines offer the smallest prices.

If you want a real bargain, consider a transatlantic or repositioning cruise. These cruises are one-way or open-jaw trips, that start in one port and finish at another. You can score a deal sailing from Florida to Europe, for example, or even from New York to Florida. Just be aware, you'll probably have to pay a bit more for airfare to return.

What are Tips to Finding Last-Minute Cruise Deals?

Being flexible will get you the best last-minute cruise deals. If you live near a cruise port and can drive, you're probably going to be able to jump on those deals that might pop up a week or two before the ship is set to sail.

If you don't have flexibility with dates and locations, be willing to bend on destination. This will allow you to find a wider range of last-minute deals traveling to locations in their off-season or shoulder season.

Do plenty of research and know what your ideal cruise costs on average. When you see it drop, pounce! Many cruise lines update pricing several times every day, so be prepared.

Best cruises in 2020

Part of the appeal of cruising is that there's truly something for everyone. Ships come in an array of sizes, some loaded with so many activities, you couldn't get to them all in a week.

Families will find plenty of options and activities onboard big ships, which have transformed cruising, making the vessels as exciting as the destinations to which they sail. The Caribbean is a great option for families, offering lots of sunshine, great beaches and culture. Alaska, famous for its incredible vistas and abundant wildlife, also is a solid family cruise option. Consider cruise lines such as Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney, Celebrity, MSC and Holland America for a family cruise.

River cruising has been heating up over the past few years, with itineraries that send passengers down the Danube or Rhine rivers in Europe or to even more exotic locations, like the Mekong River in Cambodia or Vietnam or the Volga River in Russia. Popular river cruises embark in cities like Amsterdam, Budapest and Lisbon. Popular river cruise lines include Viking, AmaWaterways, Avalon, Scenic, Emerald Waterways, Tauck, Uniworld and Crystal.

If you're a thrill-seeker, consider an expedition cruise. These cruises, often onboard small ships, offer an intimate experience that brings passengers right up next to glaciers, whales, penguins and iguanas. Ships visit tiny spots all over the world, including Antarctica, Alaska, Australia and Greenland. Passengers will spend their time kayaking, hiking, biking and exploring with expert guides and knowledgeable naturalists. Expedition travelers love cruise lines such as Lindblad Expeditions, UnCruise Adventures, Silversea, Hurtigruten, Ponant and Quark Expeditions.

Luxury cruises offer all-inclusive experiences onboard smaller ships with perks like butlers, high-end amenities and personalized, intuitive service. Ships often feature luxury touches like marble and crystal decor, intimate spaces and beautiful spas. Because luxury ships tend to be smaller, they can often reach off-the-beaten-path destinations bigger ships can't -- ports like St. Tropez or Guadeloupe. If you're looking for a luxury cruise, consider Crystal, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Oceania, Azamara, Viking Oceans and Silversea.

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Travel makes Me Happy Fun Travel Blog

Planning Your First Cruise: The Ultimate Tips Guide

The first time that my family went on a cruise we were so excited, but there are so many things I wish I’d known before we went! A guide or a few tips could have really helped with planning.

I brought way too many things and didn’t wear half of what was packed in that huge suitcase (especially shoes)! The cruise was still amazing and one of our fondest memories, but I changed things up and streamlined my preparations on each subsequent cruise experience.

So, are you ready for an unforgettable cruise vacation? Make your bon voyage dreams a reality with the perfect getaway by researching and being ahead of the game!

You may have a lot of questions regarding your first cruise, and it can be challenging to know what’s in store – especially if this is the first time you’ve experienced this type of vacation. We’ve got you covered!

planning tips for your first cruise ship experience

  • First Cruise Planning Tips:

Our Travel Makes Me Happy team created this guide to help you plan your first cruise vacation! We’ll walk you through the whole process, from researching different cruise lines, what you should pack (and leave at home), and fun things you can experience during your trip.

Table of contents

Cruise pre-planning, decide on a destination and port to embark on your cruise voyage, tips to pick a cruise line and ship, what size stateroom should you choose, balcony staterooms, interior staterooms, ocean view staterooms, suites and other staterooms, know what’s included in your fare, here are some of our top pics for cruise deals from our partners:, early dining vs. late dining on your cruise, muster safety drill, cabin unpacking tip, excursions through the cruise line, get back to the ship before “all aboard” time, medications, portable back up battery charge and data, magnetic hooks, formal attire, lightweight sweater, passport or birth certificate, embarkation day, after boarding your cruise, navigating the ship, scheduling your time onboard, see a musical or comedy show, mini golf and sports deck, skyride, north star, roller coasters, bumper cars, surfing, rock climbing, cruise spa access, tipping extra for great service onboard, debarkation day, final thoughts on first-time cruise planning guide and tips, keep reading for more great travel articles.

The best advice I can give anyone taking their first cruise is to research, plan, and pack accordingly. The better you can plan, the better off you will be!

You don’t want to have any last-minute vacation anxiety or inconveniences because you forgot something important. It’s best to learn the process particular to the cruise line that you choose so that there are no surprises.

tour guide on cruise ship

For finding the best flights using Skyscanner’s flight search tool will let you compare. They show flight prices of many travel websites so you can choose the cheapest and best one.

first cruise ultimate trip tips and guide

Deciding on your destination whether your ideal cruise is fun in the Caribbean sun, a grand European itinerary, or a multi-country River Cruise is an important step in planning.

It may be that you go with an itinerary available from ships in your nearest home port. For us, it is the Port of New Orleans so we often cruise on one of the lines that leave from there and decide on the destination based on what is offered at our home port.

You may also use budget considerations or time off allowances to guide your cruise choice.

The great thing about cruising from a port close to home is that you dont have the added expense of flights and extended days off from work.

We still usually stay in a hotel the night before close to the cruise terminal just to make it easier to get there on the morning of the cruise.

Check out the itineraries on Celebrity Cruises ! They have great Alaska and Caribbean cruise options!

Before booking your voyage, it’s important to research the different cruise lines and ships available. Read past passenger reviews, look at ships’ photos, and compare prices. This will help you find the best cruise line and ship for your budget and needs.

Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean offer the most varied experiences, especially for multi-generational families. If you are looking for an adult-oriented feel, Virgin offers some great itineraries with many leaving out of Florida ports.

Disney is also a great cruise line for families, but their unique experiences sometimes come with a price tag to match. For river cruises, Viking is top notch in the cruise experience.

Tip: We love decorating our cabin door with colorful magnets to help us find it quickly and feel festive!

tour guide on cruise ship

Decide on a Stateroom to Book

Cruise ships come in different sizes and offer a variety of stateroom types and sizes.

You can choose the accommodation that best suits your needs, from rooms with balconies to interior staterooms.

Some regular staterooms also sleep up to 5 people (it varies by line), but that would be really tight for adults (in our opinion). You may not be in the room except for sleeping, but trying to get ready in the tiny cruise ship bathrooms would be a nightmare for us.

Most staterooms are smaller than a hotel room and the bathrooms are tiny. They do offer great storage space in most of them with closets, shelves, and drawers.

If you want more privacy or to spend time outside, then balcony rooms are ideal. A balcony also gives you a more private way to enjoy the view without having to go up to the public area decks.

When we took an Alaska cruise, a balcony cabin made such a difference in how much we enjoyed the cruise! It is really nice to sit out on your balcony and have coffee each morning or relax at night and watch the stars.

Interior staterooms offer great value for couples or families who wish to keep their budget to a minimum. Keep in mind that they don’t have windows, so it can get dark and feel claustrophobic.

The upside is that if you like it really dark to sleep an interior room is great. When we cruised with our kids we would get a balcony cabin and we’d get the kids an interior room across the hall and it was a great way to save money for us.

Some cruise ships even have virtual windows or portholes to make it less claustrophobic and give the illusion of a window.

Ocean View Staterooms are usually a little less expensive than balcony rooms, but if the price difference is not that great I’d choose a balcony every time.

Ocean View rooms offer a window so that you can see the ocean and get some light in the room.

Suites are a luxe option if your budget allows. They offer larger bathrooms and balconies usually.

The rooms also have larger seating areas and some really posh ones have amazing amenities and come with a butler to cater to your every need.

Spa Staterooms are another option on some ships and offer daily entry into the spa to enjoy the thermal pool, saunas, and other offerings (it will vary by ship).

Spa treatments are extra, of course.

We loved the spa balcony that we had on the NCL Breakaway and started each day with a dip in the thermal pool and visit to the salt therapy room.

cruise ship balcony cabin view harmony tcl

When you book a cruise, most of your meals and entertainment are usually included in the fare.

A few exceptions include shore excursions, spa treatments, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and upgrades.

When planning your trip, research what will be included in your fare and budget accordingly.

Some cruise lines such as Viking offer a more inclusive experience with excursions and other things included in the basic fare. Virgin also does this to an extent.

It’s best to research exactly what is included in what you are paying because you don’t want to be hit with a huge alcohol bill at the end of the cruise.

In addition to the fare you will be charged a daily gratuities amount (it varies by line).

Find the Best Deal for Your Cruise

Do some research to find the best cruise deals.

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We also have a Free Easy Travel Budget Calculator to help you find out how much you’ll need for your trip!

tour guide on cruise ship

Also, don’t forget good travel insurance to protect your cruise investment! Don’t cruise without coverage – get the best travel insurance with Travelex!

We are usually early diners so choose the earliest time for the main dining room.

This leaves enough time for shows or activities after dinner for us.

The main shows usually have multiple showings to accomodate early and late diners so it just depends on if you like to eat earlier or not.

If eating in the main dining room (or multiple main dining rooms on some ships) you are assigned the same table number and service crew for each night of the cruise.

“Your time” dining is also an option on most ships so you can eat whenever you are ready instead of rushing to make your set time.

Make sure to check out all of the dining options for the ship that you choose.

On embarkation day (the day you board the ship) there will be a Mandatory safety drill that you and your group will have to attend.

Your muster station is usuallly listed on your sail card and you must check in to your station number area for the safety briefing.

This is to inform you of safety procedures and location of life vests/boats in case of emergency.

** UPDATE ** We just got back from a Carnival Mardi Gras cruise and they had us check in at the station and then “self-muster” in the room with a video so other lines may have moved to this or will soon.

It’s a great idea to unpack and organize on the first day of the cruise after dinner when the luggage has arrived.

Staterooms usually have many options for storage so that you can unpack and organize everything.

You can then place the empty suitcase under the bed or in the closet so that it doesn’t take up floor space.

This will help you be able to find the things that you need without having to go through the suitcases and make the most of the small stateroom space.

If you need some great tags for your cruise, Amazon has these great clear cruise luggage tag holders that work great!

tour guide on cruise ship

Tips to Book an Amazing Cruise Excursion on Your First Cruise

Look into what is available in each port of call and ensure that it fits within your time frame and activity level.

If there is something special you want to do, make sure to plan for that in advance.

We usually book our excursions well in advance of the cruise, but I know some people like to wait until they are on the ship to book. One drawback of this strategy is that the excursion you really want may be sold out if you wait until you are on the cruise.

Most cruise lines offer shore excursions at each port. These are usually organized activities or tours you can join and explore the local area with other passengers. It’s a great way to get off the beaten path and experience something in the company of fellow cruisers.

The great part about booking and excursion with the ship (not an outside company) is that the ship will not leave you at port if the tour is running late. There are also tour organizers outside of the cruise line that you can book, but make sure the timing works out and read reviews before you book.

If you book your excursion through the cruise line they will deliver an envelope to your stateroom with the tickets or information about what time and where to meet on the day of the excursion.

Many cruise lines also let you off of the ship first if you have an early excursion booked through them so make sure to check.

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the travel time to and from the excursion too and if it involves a boat ride or long bus ride to get there.

We took an excursion in Cozumel one time that had a half hour ferry ride in rough waters each way that kind of took away from the dream experience I had imagined (I should have been more prepared).

tour guide on cruise ship

Don’t be a “pier runner”! On almost every cruise we sit on our balcony (if we have one) and watch pier runners feverishly running to try and get back on the ship after or close to “all aboard” time. Some don’t make it.

It happens easily when people are having too much fun at the port bars and lose track of time.

Each evening on a cruise you are usually given a daily calendar of what is going on the next day on the ship. On port days you will be given a guide of the port and what time to be back on the ship.

There will also be announcements over the speaker the morning of the port call so make sure to pay attention to the time you need to be back on the ship because they will leave if you are not back before “all aboard” time (and people will be laughing and cheering you on from their balconies).

**Important Customer Service Tip**

A reader recently alerted us to the fact that if there is an issue with your cruise account or other customer service issue and it is not resolved before leaving the ship it may be difficult to get a quick solution.

She sailed Carnival and was told that there is only email customer service after the cruise as they have done away with the phone c.s. line and her response time was 45 days.

So, if there is any issue it is best to wait at guest services and get it resolved before the cruise is over .

Things to Pack for a Cruise

If you’re going somewhere with warm weather, pack apparel that feels comfortable and is lightweight as well as multi-functional.

For colder climates, bring layers along with rain gear (if there’s space). It’s sensible to be prepared for changes in temperature or an unexpected shower.

You do not need to pack a beach towel as most cruise lines provide beach towels that can be checked out or are in your stateroom for use on port days.

A lightweight backpack or tote for transporting towels and beachwear for excursions is also great. The soft backpack ones with the strings work really well.

Below is a nice and inexpensive option from Amazon and the best part is that it is easy to pack to bring with you!

tour guide on cruise ship

There are certain items that you will want to make sure you bring with you on your cruise, such as:

  • Sunscreen and bug wipes
  • Swimming gear
  • Comfortable shoes for walking around the ship
  • Sunglasses/hat or both
  • Cash for ports. Most cruise lines are cashless, but you will probably need cash for some ports, tipping, etc.
  • Outfit for elegant or formal night (or nights) if you choose (it depends on the cruise line), outfits for themed parties like the NCL infamous “glow party”, Carnival Mardi Gras’ 80’s party and of course their “Mardi Gras” party, and other lines have their own version so make sure to read up on it before you cruise.

The Walking Company

I recommend bringing basic items like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, and a toothbrush.

Cruiselines do have dispensers usually of shampoo/conditioner/body wash, but if you are particular to your favorite bring it if space allows.

It is usually kind of expensive if you have to buy any essentials on the ship so having your own saves money.

Staterooms also usually provide decent hairdryers too so you can save space and leave yours at home.

Remember your medication if you need it at sea! Take a small first-aid kit containing essential medicines such as pain relievers, anti-diarrheal tablets, Benedryl (for those with allergies), and motion sickness medication. If you have to purchase these in the ship gift shop they are usually more expensive.

Combat motion sickness with Sea Bands or motion sickness patches if you are prone to motion sickness to help you feel your best while traveling. However, if you do get seasick guest services will usually have packets of seasick medication that you can get for free or 1-3$.

Being well stocked with basic medications before setting out on your journey will help to guarantee that you have an enjoyable time away from home!

If you’re out at sea, I strongly suggest turning your mobile phone on airplane mode to avoid exorbitant roaming fees.

You’ll likely take many pictures or videos while sailing so the battery will drain very quickly. It’s a good idea to take a portable back up battery charger that will recharge your phone should it go dead with all of the amazing pictures you will be taking!

Make sure you don’t have an unexpected expense due to data charges by activating the airplane mode feature!

You can stay on airplane mode even while on the Ship’s wifi package . Check with your cellular provider to see if they have a cruise package plan or if your plan includes the ports that you will be traveling to.

On a cruise ship, visitors must be conscious of utilizing their space wisely. You want to keep the room in your cabin–most cabins are only 160 square feet!

The metal walls and doors make magnetic hooks a great way to help organize. They provide an efficient way to use your limited area while ensuring everything is easily accessible.

You can also bring magnetic signs to put on the outside of your door. That will make it easy to spot when you are heading back to the cabin at the end of the day.

For most cruises, packing an outfit for the formal or dressy evening is a must-do!

Make sure to pick one that’s elegant yet comfortable. Some itineraries have more than one formal night. So be sure to check with your chosen cruise line/ship and see which nights are “formal”.

Participating in formal nights is not mandatory. It is totally up to you how dressed up or down you get. There are also other restaurants like the buffet that you can visit on that evening if you don’t want to get dressed up.

After cruising for many years we’ve realized that it is not as formal (at least on US sailings) as it was in the past.

Some people still go all out on the formal wear and that’s great.

However, with packing light sometimes I just pack dressy pants and a blouse that can mix and match and my husband will wear a nice button down Hawaiian-style shirt with dressier slacks.

A vacation in the Caribbean might not require much besides your swimsuit, but you may need something cozy and lightweight for warmth during those breezy nights onboard.

Restaurants and cruise ship casinos can quickly become chilly spots. So be sure to tuck away a sweater or pashmina just in case! We usually wear a sweater or light jacket in the auditorium for evening shows because it gets chilly.

Don’t forget your passport (or birth certificate if using that instead)! In an unexpected emergency, you must have a valid passport to board any flight back home from another country.

It’s wise to spare the time and expense for a passport, even if you plan on only taking closed-loop cruises. The sense of security it will provide is worth its weight in gold.

We usually take a photo of our passport so that we have it on port days, but do not take it with us on excursions.

You really only need your ship sign and sail card to get on and off the ship at port.

I know some people insist on having their passport with them at all times, but we just wouldn’t want to lose it.

Most cruise lines will give you a time to show up at the port or you schedule your selected time.

When you arrive you can hand off your larger bags to luggage assistants.

They will make sure your bags are properly tagged (with the printed tags provided at online check-in) and take them away until they show up at your stateroom later in the day.

We usually keep an extra set of clothes in our carry-on bag or tote in case the luggage is late showing up and it is time to go to dinner.

You’ll then line up to go into the port and go through security where they check your passport/birth certificate and boarding paperwork. You then go through the bag check which is similar to airports. Make sure not to bring any prohibited items (check your cruise line website).

M ost cruise lines allow 1 bottle of wine per adult and we usually take advantage of this for having a bottle in the room to sit on the balcony in the evenings with.

Once you are through security, you will be guided to the cruise check-in area and this is where your onboard account is set up, passports/birth certificates checked again, and cruise paperwork.

You are then given a sign and sail card (or it may be called different things on other lines). This card is how you scan into and off of the ship.

NOTE: Sometimes we have received our cards at the stateroom instead of at check-in.

After you have your cards in hand you are given a boarding group and wait until it is called to board the ship. Then the fun begins!

fun towel animals on first time cruise

Once you are on the ship many people head to the buffet. We like to see what other eating options are open on embarkation day (it varies by ship) and usually choose another option that is less crowded. Either way, you will not be disappointed because there is a variety of food available.

It is also a great time to wander around and get the feel of the layout of the ship and all that is offered.

Your luggage will show up later in the day (usually before dinner) and the staterooms will be ready at a time designated by the particular ship you are on.

There is a mandatory Muster Drill (mentioned earlier) that you will need to attend (you are given a station area) and check in for before everything else opens and the cruise gets in full-swing.

I t’s a good idea to learn the navigation terms for the sections of the ship such as:

  • Forward: The front side onboard interior of the ship
  • Aft: The onboard rear side of the ship
  • Port side: The left side of the ship if you are facing forward (towards the front of the ship).
  • Starboard: The right side of the ship when facing forward

To get the most out of your time onboard, it’s important to schedule some activity for each day of your trip—you don’t want to miss out on anything!

We love to look at the next day’s newsletter schedule after returning to the stateroom each night to see what we are interested in doing the next day.

Cruise ships offer various activities for guests, including spa treatments, fitness classes, dance classes, games, entertainment options, and more.

On larger cruise ships that offer many different shows or activities you have to book a reservation in advance.

Check your online cruise planner for your ship to make sure you don’t need to book a reservation in advance.

We were surprised the first time we sailed on RCL Harmony of the Seas that we had to book everything in advance! The ice skating show was amazing (below pic) and I’m glad we made a reservation.

Broadway quality shows are fun on cruise ships

Things to do on a Cruise

While you’re hanging out on the ship for several days, you may be wondering what’s in store for you and what your entertainment options are.

Here are some unique things you can do on many of the popular cruise lines!

Take in a night at the theater, entirely free of charge! On select Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line ships, you can enjoy iconic musicals like Grease, Mamma Mia, or Jersey Boys.

We love the Broadway-caliber shows on so many of the ships we’ve been on. Get ready to experience the world’s best theaters without leaving the ocean’s waves!

The comedy shows are also a favorite with our crew!

surf rider machines are fun activitires on cruise ships

Mini-golf is a fun activity for families and couples aboard cruise ships, so it’s no surprise that you can find courses on Carnival cruises, Royal Caribbean vessels, Norwegian Breakaway, and some of their Breakaway Plus class ships as well as Disney Cruise Line’s Dream and Fantasy!

A first-time cruise can have so many adventurous activities all on the ship! SkyRide® (Carnival Vista class ships) is like pedaling a bicycle.

You’ll never forget it. But unlike biking, how often can you ride around the ship while suspended in mid-air above the vessel and gazing at the azure ocean below? SkyRide offers an experience that’s totally out of this world!

The Larger Carnival ships like Mardi Gras even offers a roller coaster at sea! Some of Disney’s ships also have a coaster.

We loved the RCL Harmony of the Seas giant slides and amusement park area! There was so much to do that we didn’t get to it all.

Some NCL ships that we’ve been on have bumper cars that are a blast!

Most of the ships have rock climbing, some have bowling, basketball courts, and other fun activities! Sea days can be relaxing or exciting with all there is to do.

bowling on a cruise ship NCL breakaway

If you’re looking for some relaxation, then the spa on some cruise ships is the place for you. A great first-time cruise tip is to make time for at least visiting the spa to see what is offered.

With options like saunas, steam rooms, Salt therapy rooms, and thermal tubs available to guests on board ships from Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Costa Cruises, and more, you can easily sit back and relax!

One of our favorites is the previously-mentioned NCL Breakaway’s thermal pool and salt room in the spa. They also had heated bed loungers that look out to sea that were amazing!

You can get a day pass that provides entry to the rooms and thermal pools or buy a week pass (if you book a spa cabin it is usually included).

Specific spa services (like massages, facials, etc) are extra, but just visiting the spa and relaxing in the steam rooms is rejuvenating!

I know tipping can be a controversial topic on many of the cruise ship forums, but we always tip our cabin stewards, main dining room wait staff, and many bartenders extra on top of the daily tips that are added to your cruise fare.

It’s a personal choice, but we feel they always go above and beyond.

The amounts vary and also vary by the length of the cruise but on average we tip our cabin steward 20-40$ on the last day of the cruise, wait staff in the main dining room 10-20$, and an extra 1-2$ to the bartenders/coffee shop most times on each order.

We bring cash for the cabin steward and wait staff, but just add an extra 1-2$ here and there on the bill for drinks when we sign for them.

Tipping extra is totally optional! I just thought I’d mention it because I was unsure on our first cruise and some examples would have helped with planning.

At the end of your cruise you will get information in the room the day before about debarkation procedures.

If you choose, you can have your larger bags packed and outside of the stateroom the night before where they will be picked up and will have already gone through customs when you get off the ship.

You can also roll your bags off of the ship yourself and go through customs [ self assist ].

Either way is usually efficient. Having the larger bags picked up the night before just saves you from having to lug so many bags off the ship.

You will be given (or choose) a time to get off of the ship and when your group, floor, etc. is called you can make your way to the waiting area.

You are then called to the gangway to head off of the ship (sad face) and on your way through customs and then home.

I’m usually sad after the cruise ends and ready to book another one!

cruise planning tips and guide first time cruise porthole

Taking a cruise for your next vacation can be a gratifying experience that will be amazing for the whole family.

With proper planning and packing beforehand, scheduling activities during your time onboard, and connecting with other passengers along the way, you will have an incredible adventure!

Before you know it you will be a cruise expert with tons of sailings under your belt!

Are you taking your first cruise or are you a seasoned cruiser? Drop us a line and let us know your story!

Bon Voyage!

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7 things to do as soon as you board a cruise ship.

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Making the most of embarkation day can set you up for an enjoyable cruise vacation.

If you’ve never cruised before, embarking a modern vessel for the first time can be truly overwhelming. You don’t know what you don’t know, but by not doing certain things within the first hours, you risk spoiling your dream vacation.

The embarkation day process for a cruise is like a streamlined airport experience. Cruise lines provide a time window, usually from late morning to mid-afternoon, for arrival at the port.

Upon arrival, keep your boarding documents and ID ready. Once you’ve dropped off your luggage, cruise staff guide you to check-in where you'll present your ID, complete a health form, and receive your cruise card or wristband.

This card acts as a boarding pass, room key, and payment card onboard. Some lines offer keyless embarkation, allowing direct access to rooms and cards collected at the cabin. Before boarding, you'll go through a security line, albeit less rigorous than at an airport.

Once onboard, make sure to do these seven things as soon as you can. From checking your accommodations to enjoying the iconic sailaway, these steps ensure you maximize your onboard experience right from the start.

Apple iPhone 16 New Design And Performance Upgrades Revealed In Leak

Apple confirms widespread iphone changes coming to millions of ipads, sony is making a truly terrible mistake with helldivers 2, check your accommodation thoroughly.

As soon as you enter your cabin, inspect everything to ensure it meets your expectations and everything is in working order. Check that all facilities, such as the shower, toilet flush, lights, and electrical outlets, function properly.

If there is anything amiss, this is the time to contact guest services. You should expect a long queue on embarkation day, but the sooner you identify an issue, the higher the chance of a quick resolution, especially if an alternative cabin may be required.

You should check your cruise ship cabin and meet your room steward as soon as you can on embarkation ... [+] day.

This time also gives you an opportunity to stow your valuables in the cabin safe, and freshen up if desired.

Meet Your Cabin Steward

Introduce yourself to your cabin steward . They are key to ensuring your stay is comfortable, and will most likely call on you as soon as they realize you have arrived.

Discuss any specific preferences or needs you might have, such as extra pillows or allergies, or mention if you are late sleepers, for example. If you have any queries about room service or laundry options, now is the time to ask.

Cabin stewards are always professional, but getting to know yours early can enhance your onboard experience significantly.

Book Everything

Modern cruise ships are home to a dazzling range of entertainment and dining options. Early booking is crucial for popular onboard activities, dining reservations, and shore excursions.

In some cases, popular activities may have sold out prior to the cruise. For those that need to be booked on board, visit the relevant information desk or use the onboard app to make all your bookings as soon as possible.

You should also check your allocated dining time, if you are on a ship that operates a fixed dining concept. If you’re unhappy with the allocation, visit the maitre’d to request a change.

Attend Muster

The only absolute must-do on the first day is the muster drill. Prior to the pandemic, many cruise lines still required physical attendance in the theater or other large venue to go through the cruise safety procedures .

Nowadays, almost all cruise lines offer a virtual muster experience. Typically, a safety video is available on the cabin TV (which must be watched before accessing other functions) or even on the cruise line app.

You may still need to attend your designated lifeboat station to have your name taken, but this is straightforward and takes mere minutes.

Take Advantage Of Ship Tours

When you arrive in your cabin, check your daily planner to see if there are any introductory tours or sessions offered by the cruise line.

Embarkation day can be hectic and overwhelming. Join a guided tour to get your bearings.

Ship tours are ideal for first-time cruisers unfamiliar with the ship’s layout and generally how things work on board.

Keep an eye out for embarkation day tours or introductory sessions at the spa, fitness center, or casino. These often include special promotions or offers to kickstart your cruise experience.

Airplane Mode

To avoid hefty roaming charges, switch your phone to airplane mode. While at sea, your device could inadvertently connect to a cellular maritime network , which incurs high costs or data.

Even if you don't actively use your phone, you might accrue a significant bill from background data usage by your apps before you even receive an SMS notification—if you receive one at all.

Most cruise ships offer Wi-Fi packages, so consider purchasing one if you need to stay connected. Remember, cruise line apps typically require connection to the ship’s Wi-Fi network, but you can use them without buying an internet package.

Alternatively, use this time to disconnect and enjoy the break from constant connectivity. If so, use the time before sailaway to send some farewell messages.

Enjoy Sailaway

The sailaway party is a cruise tradition not to be missed. On many lines, the top decks will host live music and festivities as the ship departs.

It’s the perfect time to grab a drink, meet other travelers, and take in the stunning views as you set sail on your adventure. If you want to toast the sailaway, be sure to get a drink in good time, as the bars will all be busy.

David Nikel

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What Does A Self-Guided Tour On A Cruise Ship Entail?

Published: October 31, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Lydia Ribeiro



Embarking on a cruise ship journey is an exhilarating experience, filled with excitement and anticipation. While many travelers opt for guided tours, there is a growing trend of self-guided tours on cruise ships. This alternative way of exploring allows passengers to tailor their own unique adventure while still enjoying the amenities and comforts of a cruise ship.

So, what exactly does a self-guided tour on a cruise ship entail? In this article, we will delve into the benefits of self-guided tours, provide tips on planning your own itinerary, and highlight the exciting opportunities for exploration and relaxation on board.

One of the main advantages of a self-guided tour is the freedom it offers. You have the flexibility to create your own schedule and decide how you want to spend your time on the ship. Whether you prefer to relax by the pool, engage in thrilling activities, or immerse yourself in onboard entertainment, the choice is entirely yours.

Moreover, self-guided tours on cruise ships allow you to explore at your own pace. You can spend as much time as you want in each location, without feeling rushed or obligated to stick to a set itinerary. This gives you the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the destinations and make the most of your cruise experience.

Another advantage of a self-guided tour is the cost-effectiveness. Guided tours often come with additional fees, while on a self-guided tour, you have the freedom to choose which activities and excursions you want to participate in, without any added expenses. This allows you to allocate your budget according to your preferences.

Furthermore, self-guided tours provide a sense of empowerment and independence. You have the ability to chart your own course and make decisions based on your personal interests and desires. This level of autonomy can lead to a more fulfilling and enriching travel experience.

As exciting as it may sound, planning a self-guided tour on a cruise ship requires careful consideration and preparation. In the next section, we will provide you with valuable tips on how to plan your own itinerary and make the most of your self-guided tour experience.

Benefits of Self-Guided Tours on Cruise Ships

Opting for a self-guided tour on a cruise ship comes with numerous benefits that can enhance your overall travel experience. Let’s explore some of the advantages:

  • Flexibility: One of the key benefits of a self-guided tour is the flexibility it offers. You have the freedom to create your own itinerary, allowing you to tailor your cruise experience according to your interests and preferences. You can choose how to spend your time on the ship, whether it’s relaxing by the pool, exploring the onboard facilities, or participating in various activities.
  • Customization: With a self-guided tour, you have the opportunity to customize every aspect of your cruise experience. You can select the dining options that appeal to your taste buds, explore specific destinations during shore excursions that align with your interests, and participate in onboard activities that cater to your preferences. This level of customization ensures that your cruise experience is truly unique and tailored to your desires.
  • Freedom to Explore: Self-guided tours give you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Unlike guided tours, you are not restricted by a set schedule or timeline. You can spend as much time as you want in each location, allowing for a more in-depth exploration. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, indulge in adventure activities, or simply soak in the beauty of the surroundings, the choice is entirely yours.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Self-guided tours on cruise ships can be more cost-effective compared to guided tours. You have the flexibility to choose which activities and excursions you want to participate in, allowing you to allocate your budget accordingly. You can opt for free or low-cost onboard activities, dine at a variety of eateries catering to different budgets, and decide which shore excursions are worth the investment.
  • Room for Spontaneity: While planning your self-guided tour, it’s important to leave some room for spontaneity. Unlike guided tours with a rigid schedule, self-guided tours allow you to make impromptu decisions. You can easily adapt your plans based on weather conditions, recommendations from fellow travelers, or simply following your instincts. This flexibility adds an element of excitement and adventure to your cruise experience.

Embarking on a self-guided tour on a cruise ship not only gives you the freedom to create your own adventure but also allows for a more personalized and enjoyable travel experience. In the next section, we will provide you with valuable tips on planning your self-guided tour and making the most of your cruise experience.

Planning Your Self-Guided Tour

Planning a self-guided tour on a cruise ship requires careful consideration and preparation to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some valuable tips to help you plan your own itinerary:

  • Research Destinations: Begin by researching the destinations that your cruise ship will visit. Look for attractions, landmarks, and activities that interest you in each port. Consider factors such as local culture, historical significance, natural beauty, and adventure opportunities. This will help you create a list of must-see places and prioritize your time accordingly.
  • Study the Ship Layout: Familiarize yourself with the layout of the cruise ship. Take note of the onboard facilities, dining options, entertainment venues, and activity areas. Understanding the ship’s layout will help you plan your time efficiently and make the most of your onboard experience.
  • Create a Daily Schedule: Once you have an idea of the destinations and onboard activities you want to explore, create a daily schedule outlining your plans. Allocate time for both onshore excursions and onboard activities. Be mindful of the ship’s departure and arrival times in each port and allow enough time for transportation and exploration.
  • Research Excursion Options: If you are interested in participating in shore excursions, research the available options in each port. Look for guided tours, local experiences, or adventure activities that align with your interests. Consider the duration, cost, and level of involvement for each excursion. It’s also worth noting any restrictions or requirements, such as physical fitness or age limitations.
  • Pre-book Activities and Dining: To secure your spot in popular onboard activities or specialty dining venues, consider pre-booking before your cruise. This will help you avoid disappointment in case of limited availability. Check the cruise ship’s website or contact their customer service for information on pre-booking options.
  • Be Flexible: While it’s important to create a schedule, be prepared to be flexible. Weather conditions, unexpected delays, or impromptu opportunities may arise, requiring you to adjust your plans. Embrace spontaneity and allow yourself room to explore unplanned adventures along the way.
  • Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about any updates or changes to the cruise ship’s itinerary or onboard activities. This can be done through regular communication with the crew, checking the ship’s bulletin board or daily newsletter, or accessing the ship’s mobile app if available. Staying informed will ensure that you don’t miss out on any important announcements or updates.

By following these planning tips, you can create a well-organized itinerary that allows for a fulfilling and memorable self-guided tour on your cruise ship adventure.

Next, let’s explore the variety of facilities and activities available on a cruise ship that you can enjoy during your self-guided tour.

Exploring the Cruise Ship Facilities

One of the highlights of a self-guided tour on a cruise ship is the abundance of facilities and amenities available for your enjoyment. Cruise ships are like floating resorts, offering a wide range of activities and spaces to cater to every interest and preference. Here are some of the key facilities you can explore during your self-guided tour:

  • Swimming Pools and Water Slides: Most cruise ships feature multiple swimming pools and exhilarating water slides. You can take a refreshing dip, lounge by the poolside, or indulge in thrilling water activities. Whether you prefer a relaxing swim or a thrilling splash, the ship’s pools provide a perfect way to enjoy the sun and water.
  • Spas and Wellness Centers: Pamper yourself at the onboard spa and wellness centers. Treat yourself to a rejuvenating massage, facial, or body treatment. Many cruise ships also offer fitness centers equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, exercise classes, and even personal trainers for those seeking to maintain their fitness routines while at sea.
  • Theatres and Entertainment Venues: Cruise ships are known for their world-class entertainment offerings. Enjoy Broadway-style shows, live music performances, comedy acts, and thrilling circus performances in grand theatres. The entertainment venues on board are designed to provide unforgettable experiences every night of your cruise.
  • Casinos and Game Rooms: If you fancy some excitement, head to the ship’s casino or game room. Test your luck at the slot machines, try your hand at various card games, or challenge fellow passengers to a game of chess or billiards. The onboard casinos and game rooms offer endless hours of entertainment.
  • Duty-Free Shopping: Cruise ships often have boutique shops offering a wide range of duty-free products. Explore these shops and indulge in some retail therapy. From designer clothing to jewelry, cosmetics, and souvenirs, you can find a variety of items to satisfy your shopping desires.
  • Restaurants and Dining Options: Cruise ships are famous for their diverse dining options. From formal restaurants to casual buffets, specialty eateries to room service, there is something to cater to every palate. Sample international cuisines, savor gourmet meals, or grab a quick snack whenever hunger strikes.
  • Bars and Lounges: Unwind at the ship’s bars and lounges, offering a wide range of beverages and stunning views. Whether you prefer a cozy lounge with live music, a vibrant nightclub for dancing the night away, or a relaxing poolside bar, cruise ships have an array of options to enjoy your favorite drinks and socialize.
  • Outdoor Spaces and Sports Facilities: Cruise ships often have open decks with outdoor spaces for relaxation and recreation. Take a stroll along the promenade, soak in the panoramic views from the observation deck, or challenge yourself with sports activities such as basketball, rock climbing, or mini-golf.

These are just a few examples of the many facilities you can explore while on a self-guided tour on a cruise ship. Take advantage of the ship’s amenities to create an unforgettable experience filled with relaxation, entertainment, and adventure.

Next, we will discuss the wide range of onboard activities that you can participate in during your self-guided cruise tour.

Participating in Onboard Activities

When you embark on a self-guided tour on a cruise ship, you’ll find a plethora of onboard activities to keep you entertained throughout your journey. These activities cater to different interests and age groups, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Here are some of the exciting activities you can participate in during your cruise:

  • Arts and Crafts Workshops: Unleash your creativity by joining arts and crafts workshops offered on the ship. Learn new skills such as painting, jewelry making, or pottery. These workshops provide a perfect opportunity to express your artistic side and create unique souvenirs to take home.
  • Cooking Classes: Expand your culinary repertoire by enrolling in cooking classes. Professional chefs on board will teach you how to prepare delicious dishes from different cuisines. From baking to sushi making, you can enhance your culinary skills while enjoying a fun and interactive experience.
  • Lectures and Educational Seminars: Many cruise ships invite guest speakers to give lectures and seminars on various topics. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about fascinating subjects such as history, wildlife, science, or photography. Expand your knowledge and engage in enriching discussions with experts in their fields.
  • Sports Tournaments and Competitions: If you’re a sports enthusiast, you can participate in fun tournaments and competitions organized on the ship. From basketball and volleyball to trivia quizzes and scavenger hunts, challenge yourself and compete with fellow passengers for exciting prizes and recognition.
  • Fitness Classes and Activities: Stay active and maintain your fitness regimen by joining the ship’s fitness classes and activities. Participate in yoga sessions, aerobics, Pilates, or dance classes. You can also go for a jog on the ship’s designated running track or hit the gym equipped with state-of-the-art exercise equipment.
  • Movie Screenings and Theater Performances: Enjoy movie screenings under the stars or catch the latest blockbuster in the onboard movie theater. Cruise ships also organize theater performances, including comedy shows, musicals, and magicians’ acts. Sit back, relax, and be entertained by world-class performances.
  • Game Shows and Trivia Nights: Test your knowledge and have a blast by participating in game shows and trivia nights. Join interactive game shows like “Jeopardy” or “Family Feud,” and prove your skills in general knowledge quizzes. These activities are great for socializing and making new friends.
  • Dance Lessons and Parties: Dance enthusiasts can take advantage of the dance lessons offered on the ship. Learn popular dance styles like salsa, tango, or ballroom from professional instructors. Put your newly acquired dance moves to the test at themed dance parties held throughout the cruise.

These are just a few examples of the diverse onboard activities available on a cruise ship. Take advantage of these opportunities to enhance your cruise experience, meet new people, and create lasting memories.

Next, let’s explore the delectable dining options that you can savor during your self-guided tour on a cruise ship.

Dining Options on a Self-Guided Tour

When it comes to dining on a self-guided tour on a cruise ship, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a wide array of delectable options to satisfy your taste buds. Cruise ships are renowned for their diverse dining offerings, catering to various culinary preferences and dietary needs. Here are some dining options you can enjoy during your self-guided cruise tour:

  • Main Dining Room: The main dining room offers a luxurious dining experience with a range of gourmet dishes. Enjoy elegant settings, attentive service, and a diverse menu that changes daily. You can indulge in multi-course meals featuring international cuisines and signature dishes carefully prepared by skilled chefs.
  • Specialty Restaurants: Cruise ships often feature specialty restaurants that offer unique dining experiences for a nominal fee. These restaurants focus on specific cuisines or culinary themes, such as steakhouses, seafood restaurants, sushi bars, or Italian trattorias. Treat yourself to a memorable dining experience at these exclusive venues.
  • Casual Dining: For a more relaxed atmosphere, casual dining options are available on cruise ships. These include buffet-style restaurants where you can indulge in a wide variety of dishes, from international cuisine to comfort food favorites. Casual dining venues offer flexibility in terms of timing and meal choices, allowing you to dine at your convenience.
  • Room Service: If you prefer dining in the comfort of your own cabin, most cruise ships offer room service. You can order a range of meals, snacks, and beverages to be delivered to your stateroom. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, a quiet dinner, or late-night munchies without leaving the comfort of your cabin.
  • Special Dietary Requirements: Cruise ships are often well-equipped to cater to special dietary requirements. Whether you have specific dietary restrictions or preferences such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or kosher, most cruise lines offer dedicated menu options to ensure that everyone can enjoy delicious meals that meet their dietary needs.
  • Casual Snacks and Grab-and-Go Options: In addition to formal dining venues, cruise ships provide casual snack bars and grab-and-go options. These outlets serve a variety of snacks, sandwiches, pizzas, and desserts that you can enjoy on the go. It’s perfect for a quick bite between activities or for satisfying those late-night cravings.
  • Beverage Packages: Many cruise lines also offer beverage packages that allow you to enjoy unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages throughout your cruise. These packages range from soft drink packages to those that include specialty coffees, cocktails, and even premium wines. Not only do they offer convenience, but they can also provide cost savings if you plan on enjoying a variety of beverages during your cruise.

Whether you’re a food enthusiast or simply enjoy delicious meals, the dining options on a cruise ship will impress and delight your taste buds. From gourmet dining experiences to casual fare, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during your self-guided tour.

Next, we’ll discuss the various excursions and shore excursions available during a cruise, allowing you to explore your chosen destinations even further.

Excursions and Shore Excursions

One of the most exciting aspects of a cruise is the opportunity to explore different destinations through a variety of excursions and shore excursions. These off-ship adventures allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture, history, and natural beauty of each port of call. Here’s what you need to know about excursions and shore excursions during your self-guided cruise tour:

  • Organized Excursions: Cruise lines typically offer a range of organized excursions that you can book before or during your cruise. These excursions are led by knowledgeable guides and cover a variety of activities, such as city tours, historical site visits, wildlife encounters, or outdoor adventures. Organized excursions can provide a convenient and comprehensive way to explore the highlights of each destination.
  • Independent Exploration: As part of your self-guided tour, you have the freedom to explore destinations independently. This allows you to create your own unique experiences and discover hidden gems that may not be included in organized excursions. You can wander through local markets, visit lesser-known attractions, or simply soak in the atmosphere of each port city at your own pace.
  • Research and Planning: To make the most of your time in each destination, research and plan ahead. Learn about the top attractions, historical sites, local customs, and recommended activities. Take note of opening hours, admission fees, and transportation options. This will help you create a rough itinerary and ensure that you maximize your exploration time.
  • Transportation: When planning your self-guided excursions, consider transportation options in each port. Some destinations may have reliable public transportation, while others may require private taxis or hired drivers. Research the most convenient and cost-effective way to get around and factor in travel time between attractions to make the most of your explorations.
  • Safety Considerations: While exploring independently, it’s important to prioritize safety. Familiarize yourself with the local customs and etiquette, stay aware of your surroundings, and take necessary precautions such as keeping your belongings secure and following any local safety guidelines. It’s also advisable to carry a map, a mobile phone, and emergency contact information in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
  • Engage with Locals: One of the benefits of independent exploration is the opportunity to interact with locals. Engage in conversations, ask for recommendations, and embrace the local culture. Locals often provide valuable insights and insider tips that can enhance your experience and lead you to unique experiences off the beaten path.
  • Time Management: When participating in shore excursions or exploring independently, be mindful of the ship’s departure time. Ensure that you give yourself enough time to return to the ship and clear any necessary customs or security procedures. It’s always wise to allow for some buffer time to avoid any last-minute rush or missed departure.

Whether you choose to join organized excursions or venture out on your own, shore excursions offer a wonderful way to discover the beauty and culture of the destinations you’ll visit on your self-guided tour.

In the next section, we’ll discuss important safety considerations to keep in mind during your self-guided tour on a cruise ship.

Safety Considerations for Self-Guided Tours

While a self-guided tour on a cruise ship offers a great deal of freedom and flexibility, it’s essential to prioritize safety during your exploration. Here are some important safety considerations to keep in mind:

  • Research the Destinations: Before embarking on your self-guided tour, research the safety situation of each destination you’ll be visiting. Stay informed about any travel advisories, political unrest, or safety concerns specific to the region. This will help you make informed decisions and avoid any potentially risky areas.
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Whether you’re exploring a port city or enjoying onboard facilities, always be aware of your surroundings. Stay alert and attentive to your belongings, especially in crowded areas or tourist hotspots. Avoid displaying signs of wealth or carrying large sums of cash, and keep important documents secure at all times.
  • Follow Local Laws and Customs: Familiarize yourself with the local laws, customs, and cultural norms of each destination. Show respect for local traditions and adhere to any dress codes or etiquette requirements. Being mindful of local customs will not only help you stay safe but also enhance your interactions with locals.
  • Stay in Communication: Ensure that you have a reliable means of communication while exploring independently. Carry a fully charged mobile phone with necessary emergency contacts stored in it, as well as any local contact numbers provided by the cruise ship. Inform someone onboard or a fellow traveler about your plans and expected return times.
  • Use Safe Transportation: When using transportation services in port cities, prioritize safety. Opt for licensed taxis, reputable car rental services, or reliable public transportation. Avoid using unmarked or unofficial transportation options, and always negotiate fares or confirm prices before getting into a vehicle.
  • Stay Hydrated and Protect Yourself from the Sun: Depending on the destinations you visit, heat and sun exposure can be a concern. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. Use sunscreen, wear a hat, and protect yourself from potential heat-related illnesses.
  • Stay Vigilant in Crowded Places: When exploring popular tourist attractions or crowded areas, be cautious of pickpockets and petty thieves. Carry your belongings close to you and secure your valuables in hidden pockets or money belts. Avoid flashing large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewelry that may attract unwanted attention.
  • Follow Cruise Ship Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with the safety guidelines and emergency procedures outlined by the cruise ship. Attend any safety drills or briefings conducted upon embarkation. Familiarize yourself with the location of emergency exits, life jackets, and muster stations on board.

By following these safety considerations, you can ensure a secure and worry-free experience during your self-guided tour on a cruise ship. Remember, your safety should always be a top priority, so don’t hesitate to seek assistance or advice from ship personnel or local authorities if needed.

Finally, let’s conclude our article with a summary of the self-guided tour experience on a cruise ship.

Embarking on a self-guided tour on a cruise ship opens up a world of exploration, freedom, and excitement. It allows you to customize your cruise experience, from planning your own itinerary to enjoying a wide range of onboard facilities and participating in various activities. While it offers flexibility and the chance to create unique memories, it’s crucial to plan and prioritize safety throughout your journey.

By researching destinations, familiarizing yourself with the ship’s layout, and creating a daily schedule, you can make the most of your self-guided tour. Take advantage of the diverse facilities on board, such as swimming pools, spas, theaters, and dining options, to indulge in relaxation, entertainment, and culinary delights.

During port visits, both organized excursions and independent exploration offer opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture and history. Consider safety considerations, stay aware of your surroundings, and follow local laws and customs for a smooth and enjoyable experience. Engage with locals, try regional cuisine, and embrace the unique charm of each destination.

As you venture on your self-guided tour, remember to stay connected with fellow travelers and cruise staff, communicate your plans, and prioritize personal safety. By combining the freedom of self-guided exploration with thoughtful planning, you can create unforgettable moments and a truly personalized cruise experience.

So pack your bags, embark on that self-guided tour, and get ready to embark on a journey filled with discovery, relaxation, and adventure all while enjoying the comfort and luxury of a cruise ship.


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The Ultimate Guide to Cruise Ship Tipping

Should you be ready to tip left and right can you just provide one lump gratuity at the end of your sailing afar’s special cruise correspondent weighs in on the dos and don’ts of tipping on a cruise..

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Seabourn is among the select luxury cruise lines that includes all gratuities in its cruise fares.

Seabourn is among the select luxury cruise lines that includes all gratuities in its cruise fares.

Courtesy of Seabourn

Cruise lines are very upfront about their tipping policies. Unless you are on an all-inclusive ship that covers gratuities in the cruise fare, such as luxury cruise lines Azamara, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Virgin Voyages, it is recommended that you tip the crew.

How much to tip on a cruise is actually easier to figure out than you may think, with major cruise lines providing precise tipping guidelines and even automatically adding a suggested gratuity amount to passengers’ onboard account. Some cruise lines even allow passengers to prepay gratuities before they board. Thus, there’s usually no need to determine how much to tip each individual crew member, such as the waiter or the housekeeper—you can often do it all in one lump sum at the start or end of the cruise.

Why are tips expected? The gratuities are supplemental income for the international crew, who often work for low base wages knowing that tips will help augment the amount they are paid—in a similar manner to the tips waiters at your local restaurant receive. While not technically required, tips are generally expected when noted by the cruise line.

No matter the suggested amount, you are free to visit the purser’s desk on your ship to adjust based on the service you were provided. Passengers who are impressed by the service they received might add more, if they make any adjustment at all.

Here’s what to know about tipping on cruise ships.

How much are the suggested gratuities on a cruise?

The total daily tipping rates for cruise waitstaff, cabin stewards, and other shipboard personnel are typically outlined both on the cruise line’s website and on passengers’ cruise documents that they receive prior to their cruise.

The average suggestions for cruise tips amount to between $12 and $16 per passenger, per day—which for a standard seven-night cruise comes to between $84 and $112 extra per person, or $336 to $448 extra for a family of four. There may be an additional suggested amount (typically another $4 per day) for those staying in a suite with a personal butler. Some cruise lines (but not all) will suggest waiving gratuities for children under the age of three.

Many river cruise lines include the gratuities, but for those that don’t, the suggested range is between $10 and $20 per passenger, per day. Similarly, some expedition cruise lines include gratuities while those that don’t recommend a gratuity of around $10 to $15 per person, per day.

The money collected for tips is divided up between the dining service team (servers and assistant servers, for instance) and the cabin steward team (the people responsible for tidying accommodations). In the past, passengers had an assigned table and the same waitstaff throughout the entirety of their cruise. But now, on most cruise lines, guests can choose to dine wherever and whenever they like—a tipping pool ensures that everyone who takes care of passengers receives a tip.

A woman sitting on a cruise ship balcony holding a cup of coffee next to a wooden table set for breakfast with fruit, orange, juice, and bowls

It’s not necessary, but a small tip can be offered for in-room dining.

Photo by Shutterstock

Personally, when I have a great housekeeper, even on a ship that includes gratuities, I will leave a small cash bonus (maybe $20 per passenger) at the end of the cruise. The same goes for waiters. It’s also a nice gesture to hand a small tip ($1 to $2) to room service attendants, especially if they come to your cabin with heavily laden trays when you, for instance, order breakfast in bed.

While the bulk of tips may be made by credit card at the end of the cruise, having some small bills on hand during your cruise vacation is never a bad idea for some of the added gratuities you may want to provide. For these smaller tips, U.S. dollars are typically fine, though it doesn’t hurt to offer it in the local currency if you have some available.

Bar, spa, and specialty dining tipping

Tips for bar personnel are usually included in the bar bill at a rate of 15 to 20 percent of the total bill. The same automatic tipping applies in shipboard coffee bars and ice cream shops. Note that there may be a space on the bill for a tip, which passengers can use to add anything extra on top of the included gratuity, but it’s not necessary.

Some cruisers like to give a bartender a tip of around $20 at the start of a sailing hoping that they will get extra attention, but of course this strategy is completely at each passenger’s own discretion. At the end of a cruise, some may also hand off a few dollars to a favorite bar waiter.

A bartender in a white suite jacket pouring a green cocktail through a strainer into a glass next to a green apple

Whether or not to tip a cruise ship bartender is at each passenger’s discretion.

Big ships will automatically add a gratuity of about 18 percent to your massage at the spa or to a blowout in the salon. There may also be a space for an extra tip if you want to add one. Small ships might not automatically add a tip, so be sure to check the bill and leave around 15 to 20 percent if a gratuity wasn’t included and you feel the service warrants it. Also, the spa is one service for which a tip often isn’t included even on luxury cruises that cover all other gratuities. So again, be sure to take a close look at the line’s policy regarding tipping.

At specialty restaurants where meals costs extra, gratuities are typically (but not always) included in the added fee, so be sure to ask about whether or not they are. Even if included, you are free to add more for service that goes above and beyond.

Additional gratuities off the ship

On shore excursions, it’s expected that passengers tip tour guides and bus drivers. How much you tip on cruise excursions is entirely up to you, but a suggested starting price is $3 per person for a half-day tour and $6 per person for a full-day tour for the guide and $1 to $2 for the bus driver. You can, of course, increase that amount based on your experience on the excursion. Bond with your snorkel guide? Up the tip to $20.

Also expecting tips of around $1 to $2 per bag are the porters who collect bags at the pier. If a cruise includes a pre- or post-cruise hotel night, consider leaving a gratuity for the housekeeping staff at the hotel—I typically leave $2 to $5 per day.

Don’t tip everyone on a cruise

While cruisers can get overwhelmed by the extraordinary service and generous amount of tipping that can take place on any given sailing, there are some circumstances under which reaching into your wallet is neither expected nor customary—for instance, it is generally considered bad form to try to tip the captain, officers, and the rest of the management team, such as the hotel director, cruise director, and executive chef.

Cruise ships entertainers—such as these performers on Royal Caribbean's 'Symphony of the Seas'—don't expect a gratuity.

Cruise ship entertainers—such as these performers on Royal Caribbean’s “Symphony of the Seas"—don’t expect a gratuity.

Photo by Roy Riley/RCCL

The same is true with the entertainment team, with the exception of a piano player performing at a bar who may have a bowl for both tips and song requests.

No tipping is expected for the youth counselors who watch children at onboard kids’ clubs, though passengers can offer a gratuity to them if they would like.

The dining room at and/or, which serves modern Canadian cuisine and is one of Toronto’s newest restaurants.

tour guide on cruise ship

The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line ships and itineraries

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After decades of success making families smile and laugh at its theme parks, Disney dipped its toes into the world of cruising in 1998. Disney didn’t just copy another cruise line’s model for success or slap its name on the side of an existing ship. It created its own brand of cruising.

Disney went so far into charting its own path as to get special approval from the U.S. Coast Guard for its ships’ lifeboats to be yellow instead of regulation orange, to tie into the colors of Mickey himself — black, red, white and yellow.

Now, Disney Cruise Line has five ships sailing in those signature colors, along with three more on order. In a normal year, those five ships take tens of thousands of families on sailings to the Caribbean , Mexico, Alaska, Europe, Bermuda, Bahamas, through the Panama Canal and even to Australia and New Zealand.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter .

Having sailed four of Disney Cruise Line’s five ships, I can say the experience is indeed special — especially if you have kids. But Disney’s not a one-trick cruise line that’s only good for one age group. It offers kids clubs and activities to suit babies through teens and has several adults-only areas of the ship . Its newest ship, Disney Wish , provides more cool spaces for adults than any previous vessel.

Disney’s attention to detail transfers to its voyages on the sea. But unlike at the Disney theme parks, which can be a bit complicated to navigate, long lines and complex strategies are rarely a part of the Disney cruise experience.

Get the free planning help of a Disney vacation planner via TPG’s partner, Mouse Counselors .

What TPG loves about Disney Cruise Line

  • Broadway-caliber shows and first-run movies.
  • Disney-level service and attention to detail.
  • High-quality Disney character interactions and kids clubs.
  • Innovative, included rotational dining.

What we could do without

  • Disney cruises are expensive.
  • The onboard Wi-Fi is not the fastest, especially on ships that haven’t been upgraded. And it’s not cheap.

Disney Cruise Line fleet

While Disney may be a household name, Disney Cruise Line is actually a small line. It currently sails just five ships, compared to 27 at its family-friendly competitor Royal Caribbean .

Of the five, two are smaller ships, and three are larger.

The largest ships in Disney’s fleet are Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, at 1,115 feet long and 14 decks high, and Disney Wish , at 1,119 feet and 15 decks high.

These three ships each have a passenger capacity of 4,000 people spread out across approximately 1,250 cabins. The overwhelming majority of cabins on these ships have an ocean view or private verandah, with only 10%-12% being windowless inside cabins. (On its oldest four ships, these interior rooms have a “magical porthole” that displays a live feed from outside to replicate a window.)

Disney Treasure , expected to join the fleet in 2024, will be in the same larger Triton class of ships as Disney Wish.

Disney Wish is currently a workhorse of short three- and four-night sailings from Port Canaveral , Florida, to the Bahamas, home to Disney’s private island , Castaway Cay.

Disney Fantasy often sails weeklong cruises out of Florida. With the addition of Disney Wish to the fleet, Disney Dream now spends its summer across the Atlantic, offering European cruises from May to September, then spending much of the rest of the year based out of Fort Lauderdale.

The smaller two ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet are Disney Wonder and the line’s first ship, Disney Magic .

These two ships are 984 feet long and 11 decks high, and each has the capacity for 2,713 passengers across 875 staterooms. On these two smaller ships, 70% of passenger cabins have ocean views or verandahs.

Disney Wonder is often on the move and currently splits its time among Alaska , the South Pacific, Hawaii, California, Mexico and beyond. Disney Magic spends part of its year based out of Galveston, Texas, or New Orleans and much of the rest based out of Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Related: Best destinations you can sail to on a Disney cruise

Disney Cruise Line destinations and itineraries

Disney Cruise Line has about 370 annual departures scheduled that range from two- to 15-night sailings. Many new-to-Disney itineraries have recently become available as the line is adding new ships for the first time in a decade.

Disney Cruise Line destinations include:

  • New Zealand
  • Pacific Coast
  • South Pacific

Disney Wish has, by far, the highest number of annual sailings, with 105 three- and four-night cruises departing from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. These sailings all go to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay; some also stop in Nassau, Bahamas.

Some Disney cruises do what’s called a “double dip” and make two stops at the private island, where you can step ashore without leaving the Disney bubble.

Pro tip: If you go to Castaway Cay, rent a bike for a little exercise and a self-guided tour of the island. Or, you can run the at-your-pace 5K that morning around the island.

Coming in summer 2024 , Disney will have a second exclusive beach destination in the Bahamas — Lighthouse Point.

This won’t be an entire private island like Castaway Cay, but it will be an exclusive beachfront space designed for Disney Cruise Line with many similar offerings to Castaway. Disney Magic, Disney Wonder and Disney Fantasy will call on this new destination for the first time in 2024.

Related: Best tips and tricks for sailing with Disney Cruise Line

Who sails Disney Cruise Line?

Let’s start with the obvious: Families love Disney Cruise Line.

The ultimate sweet spot for taking a Disney cruise starts when a child is at least 3 years old and potty trained (the criteria that get them into the included kids clubs) and lasts until they outgrow their love of Disney characters. Remember, Disney now includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel brands and offers themed cruises featuring those characters, too.

A Disney cruise costs more than a similar cruise on a line like Royal Caribbean , so it’s easiest to justify the expense when your kids love Disney the most.

So, yes, the stereotype that Disney Cruise Line is full of families is 100% correct.

You’ll see many families with kids in those preschool, elementary and middle school years. But you’ll also see families with little babies (the minimum age is 6 months on most sailings, 1 year on Panama Canal and transatlantic sailings), tweens, teens, college-age kids and even grandparents who have made a Disney cruise an enjoyable multigenerational travel tradition.

Related: Comparing Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises for families

You’ll also see cruisers who love Disney regardless of age and are proud to wear their Mickey ears while hearing the first seven notes of the “When You Wish Upon a Star” melody blown from the ship’s massive horn.

Just like you don’t need kids to have a great time at Disney World or Disneyland, you can happily cruise as adults without offspring on Disney Cruise Line. All the ships have active adults-only sun decks, pool and lounges. Disney Wish especially invested in its adult offerings with an infinity pool, along with more bars spread around the ship instead of being clustered into one main area.

Disney Cruise Line cabins and suites

At a basic level, Disney Cruise Line offers five main types of cabins across the fleet. In its simplified version, the types of cabins on a Disney cruise include:

  • Windowless inside cabins
  • Ocean-view cabins
  • Verandah cabins (with private balconies)
  • Verandah cabins with concierge service
  • Suites with concierge service

These cabins start at 169 square feet for a standard inside cabin and go up to a two-story, 1,966-square-foot Tower Suite on Disney Wish .

Unless you are OK with the smallest space on the ship or have a budget for the largest, the sweet spot for price and comfort on Disney Cruise Line vessels is probably the cabins that are around 204 square feet and usually come with a queen bed, single sleeper sofa and upper-berth pull-down bed and a split bath.

This split bathroom situation places a sink and the shower/tub combo in one bathroom and the toilet and another sink in the other. Each has its own separate door, so someone could use the toilet/sink room while another takes a shower, all in private and at the same time.

You’ll find this cabin layout within the Deluxe Inside Staterooms, Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms and Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah categories.

The Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms and Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah add about 40 more square feet to the equation. If you want the largest within those room categories, search for rooms that can hold five people on the Disney Cruise Line website.

Pro tip: You can ask your cabin host for cartoon bedding for the kid’s bed if you think your child will be excited to come back from dinner to one of their Disney favorites.

You can connect many of the cabins on the ship , which is often a much more economical solution for a family looking for more sleeping space (and bathrooms) than upgrading to a multibedroom suite. Roughly speaking, a family of four will pay about 50% more for two cabins than they will for everyone to stay in one cabin of the same size.

Related: 7 nights. 4 people. 1 cruise ship cabin. Can we survive?

If you are going all-out on a particular trip, or are simply working with a larger budget, Disney concierge suites are special.

The smallest available room with this service is the Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, which isn’t all that different from the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, other than the included concierge service. From there, you can go up to the one- or two-bedroom suites.

Be prepared for sticker shock, though, as these suites will almost certainly be near or over five figures on many sailings.

While pricey, Disney concierge service eliminates almost all of the potential pain points of a Disney cruise (not that there are many pain points to begin with).

Disney concierge service gets you access to the Disney Concierge Lounge, which has food offerings multiple times per day and a fully stocked fridge with sodas, juices and bottles of water.

In the evenings, you’ll find included beer, wine and spirits in the lounge — which you can also take with you as you head out to dinner or to enjoy the view from the deck.

The Concierge Lounge also has its own private deck, and Disney characters have been known to make a private appearance there during the cruise. (Don’t worry, you’ll get a heads-up.)

Related: Is Disney Cruise Line concierge service worth it?

You also have your own check-in area at the port and are among the first to board the ship, which can mean extra time to enjoy having the waterslides to yourself. At the end of the cruise, you can have a private elevator that takes you down to be some of the first off the ship — which should protect you from a long line to say goodbye.

There are other perks of the concierge level, too, such as early front-row seating at shows, included popcorn and the ability to submit your request for meal reservations at Palo or Remy, cabanas on Castaway Cay, spa treatments, character meet-and-greets or whatever else you wish before other guests. These can be made for you starting 120 days before your sailing, which is before all other guests except those with the highest elite status tier in the Castaway Club .

Passengers on their first Disney cruise don’t get to make those reservations until 75 days out if they aren’t in the concierge level. The reality is the hottest items are often booked up by then, especially on shorter cruises when there’s less time to do everything.

Those in the concierge level in one-bedroom suites and higher can also order room service from the restaurants to their cabin, which means you can have a hot breakfast on your verandah if you wish instead of the regular continental options available to most guests.

If you are on the fence about concierge service, it’s arguably most valuable when you are on a shorter cruise, have some specific popular must-have items on your reservation wish list or want someone else to take care of everything. You can also inquire about discounted upgrades at the port, assuming rooms are left unsold on your voyage.

Pro tip: Regardless of your cabin, bring magnetic Mickey or nautical-themed decor for the entrance, as most of the cabin doors are magnetic. Decorating is a fun tradition on a Disney cruise.

Related: Review of sailing in a suite with Disney concierge service 

Disney Cruise Line restaurants and dining options

You will not go hungry on a Disney cruise. From room service to evening dinners, meals are (mostly) all included.

Rotational dining

On each Disney ship, three main dining rooms serve as dinner restaurants that participate in rotational dining. Each ship has its own lineup of themed rotational restaurants, but the concept remains the same on each.

Each night, your tablemates and servers will move from one restaurant to the next as a team. This way, the servers get to know that you always want to start with a glass of red wine, or your kids’ food needs to come ASAP so you can take them to the kids club as soon as they finish, or (in my case) your daughter wants a side of barbecue sauce with … everything.

You must choose between an early and a late dinner time, with your showtime opposite your dining time. Some restaurants, such as Animator’s Palate, are found on multiple ships, while others are unique to one ship, such as Tiana’s Place on Disney Wonder and all of the rotational restaurants found on Disney Wish .

Included restaurants on Disney Magic

  • Animator’s Palate
  • Rapunzel’s Royal Table

Included restaurants on Disney Wonder

  • Tiana’s Place

Included restaurants on Disney Dream

  • Enchanted Garden
  • Royal Palace

Included restaurants on Disney Fantasy

  • Royal Court

Included restaurants on Disney Wish

  • Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure
  • Worlds of Marvel

At these restaurants, you can order whatever you want on the menu at no extra charge, with a few exceptions (for example, alcohol and specialty drinks cost extra).

While many guests dress up a bit for dinner (compared to their afternoon pool deck attire), most stay relatively casual for the rotational dining restaurants. Disney does not impose a specific dress-up requirement.

Disney cruise ships offer many other dining options beyond the three included themed restaurants — most included, some not.

Room service

Room service is mostly free (other than sodas or alcohol), though the menu is limited if you aren’t staying in a concierge-level cabin. Still, it’s free room service, so I’m not one to complain.

Pro tip: Fill the breakfast card out the night before and hang it on your stateroom to get breakfast exactly when you want it the next morning.

And you haven’t lived until your kids learn how to call and order free Mickey ice cream bars to the cabin … every night (just be sure and add a tip).

Buffet and grab-and-go

Your Disney cruise will also include a buffet known as Cabanas on the original four ships and Marceline Market on Disney Wish. The buffet is usually open for breakfast and lunch, though not in the evening hours.

In addition to the buffet, a few grab-and-go quick-service restaurants on the pool deck serve salads, chili, pizza, barbecue and more, depending on which ship you’re sailing.

Don’t miss these options, as some are quite good. They are typically open from late morning until later into the evening.

Room service, the buffet and the on-deck food counter dining options don’t cost extra and are available to you in addition to or instead of your rotational dining.

You’ll also find included ice cream on one of the upper decks. A pro-level hack is to get Mickey churro waffles from the buffet in the morning (only available some mornings) and add vanilla ice cream for a vacation-worthy breakfast.

Extra-cost, adults-only restaurants

At the top of the “costs extra” list are the restaurants Palo (found on all five ships, though it’s Palo Steakhouse on Disney Wish), Remy (on Dream and Fantasy) and Enchante (only on Disney Wish).

Remy is a fancy adults-only French restaurant that costs $125 per person for dinner (more if you order drinks). This is the type of place where men need jackets and women are expected to wear dresses, pantsuits or a skirt and blouse. Enchante on Disney Wish is similar — you’re dressing up for these meals.

Palo is also fancy, though a notch less fancy than Remy. You’ll see jackets and dresses in Palo, but you can also get by with nice jeans if you want. This adults-only restaurant serves Northern Italian fare and starts at about $45 per person for a multicourse brunch or dinner, though you can also order a la carte for dinner, which could cost more or less, depending on your order.

I can say with 100% certainty that if you enjoy a nice meal, this is worth the extra $45 once during your cruise . From the breadbasket to the dessert, it’s all amazing. You’ll gain 5 pounds, but you won’t regret a bite.

These reservations are hard to get, especially for brunch, so you’ll want to make them the second you are eligible and keep checking back for cancellations if you miss out the first time.

Coffee shops and snack shops

On a Disney cruise, the snacks and pastries you’ll see in the coffee shop or kiosk are all included, but the specialty coffee will cost extra. Drink prices are roughly similar to Starbucks, if not a notch lower. Be sure and ask for the Cafe Fanatic card if you’re a regular, as your sixth drink will be free.

In addition to the included soft-serve ice cream and Mickey bars available via room service, your ship may have some shops with extra-fee ice cream. This can confuse kids, so I want to warn you beforehand. On Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wish, you’ll find an ice cream shop stuffed with candies, gelato and ice cream — all for an extra charge.

Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy also have a juice bar that costs extra.

The exact bars will vary by vessel, but you can expect spots like a wine and Champagne bar, a pub, a laid-back lounge and a bar with live entertainment.

These bars are a lot of fun and are not to be missed if you like live music or a nice drink at the end of the day. Keep an eye out in your app for when and where the happy hours are on board if you want to save a few dollars on your drinks. Some bars also offer a sommelier bin where you get a nice glass of wine at a discounted price — as long as you put the bartender in charge of choosing your drink.

Some of the drink-tasting classes that you book in advance can be a good value if you’re a fan of the drink on offer and are interested in learning a little bit while you sip. You’ll want to book these before sailing, as many do sell out.

Food on Castaway Cay

If your cruise takes you to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, you’re in luck, as there’s plenty of included food to eat there, too.

Just like on board, some of the food on Castaway is included, while alcohol and specialty drinks are not. The Cookie’s and Cookie’s Too lunch shacks on the island are both included, so load up on hot dogs, barbecue, hamburgers, fries and all the fixings. Vegetarian options are available.

While the food options here are somewhat basic, they still make for a fun and free meal.

Entertainment and activities on a Disney cruise

A valid reason to want to sail with Disney is the onboard fun that awaits — especially for those who love Disney characters and stories.

Theaters and shows

Each Disney cruise ship features two theaters. In the massive Walt Disney Theatre, you’ll enjoy Broadway-caliber evening shows such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Frozen,” “Tangled,” “Disney Dreams,” “The Golden Mickeys” and more. If you want a good seat, arrive about 30 minutes early since seating is first come, first served.

The Buena Vista Theatre screens first-run Disney films. These will be the same films still showing in theaters on land. If you happen to be at sea when a new Disney movie premieres on land, you’ll also get that same first look at sea.

Pirate Night is a staple on many Disney cruises in the Caribbean. On that themed night, expect everyone to be dressed in their pirate-y best for the evening, so pack accordingly. Your dinner will also have a pirate theme, followed by a fun show up on deck, complete with fireworks.

Pro tip: If you plan to stay up late for Pirate Night, try to work in a nap that afternoon so you don’t miss out on the nighttime fun.

Game shows, karaoke, bingo and more

The extensive lineup of interactive game shows, trivia, karaoke, dance parties, bingo and more listed in the Disney cruise app are worth checking out. Some of these are adults-only, while others are fun for the whole family. Most are included in the price of the cruise, though bingo does cost extra — and you could win real money.

Other interior attractions and activities

Meeting Disney characters is a fun part of a Disney cruise.

You can make reservations to meet the popular princesses, but most characters are easy to walk up to and meet via a short line. Or, even better, you often see them roaming about the ship at unexpected times.

You can work off some of those treats and drinks at the onboard fitness center on each ship.

The Senses Spa & Salon is a full-service spa with everything from massages to pedicures and hair care. Promotions are available if you book more than one treatment. If you have a Disney Visa card , you can also save 20% on select onboard services.

Pro tip: The showers in this part of the ship are full-size, in case you are getting a bit claustrophobic in the shower in your cabin.

If you like getting away to relax, look at purchasing access to the Rainforest Room for heated stone loungers, aromatherapy showers and even hot tubs on the larger ships. You can buy a one-day or full-cruise pass to this area of the spa, but get a tour first as the layout and inclusions in this space vary dramatically from ship to ship.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Little cruisers can be transformed into a princess or pirate at sea at the onboard Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which does themed kid makeovers and sells costumes as part of the package. You’ll need an appointment; expect to pay $100 to $200 for most packages.

This is a fun thing to do before meeting a princess, before a more formal night or anytime you want to see a huge smile on your kid’s face. If you have a princess dress or outfit from home you want to use or reuse, you can purchase a cheaper package at Bibbidi Bobbidi.

Decktop attractions


All of Disney Cruise Line’s ships have some kind of waterslide on board.

The AquaDuck waterslide on Dream and Fantasy takes riders in single or double tubes 765 feet from Deck 12 up and down, through the forward funnel and on a four-deck drop. It’s pretty epic. AquaMouse on Disney Wish is also an inner tube-based ride and is not to be missed.

These lines can get long, so I recommend riding first thing when you board if the port is warm enough. Nighttime rides usually have short waits, too.

Disney Magic has the most thrilling waterslide in the fleet, called AquaDunk, and Disney Wonder has its own waterslide in the AquaLab splash area.

Each Disney ship has multiple pools, though if you’ve never been on a cruise, you may be initially shocked at how small they are — and how busy they can get.

As with the waterslides, we recommend enjoying these first thing when you board if you want to try them without crowds. Otherwise, you won’t find so many people in the pools on port days, early in the morning and right before dinner. There are thousands of people on the ship and only a few small pools, so plan accordingly.

Each ship has a pool and hot tub area for adults 18 and up. It can also get busy, but typically less busy than the family area. Select ships also offer an in-pool bar area for adults.

The adult sun deck is a nice place to grab a chair and relax, even if you have no intention of getting in the water.

Splash pads

Your little one has to be potty trained to use the onboard pools. The option for those still in swim diapers is some splash areas, such as Nemo’s Reef and Dory’s Reef.

Sports deck

If you want to be more active, head to your ship’s sports deck to play basketball, foosball, miniature golf and more. You may even have some sports simulator options beyond your traditional in-person fun.

Children’s programs

As a parent, my favorite part of a Disney cruise might be the included kids programs that children actually want to attend. If the kids are happy for a few hours, the parents can actually relax, too.

Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab for children ages 3–12

All five Disney ships have amazing spaces for kids in the 3-to-12-year-old range in the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab.

Here you’ll find video games, an indoor slide, fun programs and games with the staff, arts and crafts, surprise character visits and more. Your kids need to be potty trained to stay in this club, so use that as motivation for a kid approaching 3 years old before your next cruise.

Your kids don’t need an appointment to pop in here; they can come anytime from open to close — and the club stays open pretty late.

Parents can stay with kids and play during open hours on the first day and select times on other dates, but most of the time, the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are kids-only. Your kids will check in and out by scanning a special MagicBand that also tracks where they are within the kids clubs.

Disney Wish has the added perk in the kids club of a slide that takes the kids straight from the main atrium and into the fun.

Know that once your child turns 8, you have the option of giving them self-checkout privileges. While kids up to 12 are welcome in the main Oceaneer Club, they may start moving up to the tween club by the time they are 10 years old.

Edge tween club for children ages 11–14

When your kid outgrows the fun in the main kids club, don’t worry. Edge is waiting just upstairs.

Technically, Edge is for kids ages 11-14, but you can get your 10-year-old in with permission — and once they figure that out, it’s probably all over for the “little kid club.”

Edge is a much smaller space, but tweens have tons of fun playing video games, having dance parties, doing crafts, playing trivia games and more with their newfound cruise friends.

This club does not utilize parent sign-in and -out, so you need to trust your kid if they are coming to Edge. If your 10-to-12-year-old child visits Edge, they can also play at the Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club, so they have options.

Vibe teen club for children ages 14–17

Get ready to be jealous of this one. On Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, the teen club has its own set of small pools at the front of the ship.

Inside all versions of the teen club, Vibe, you’ll find a tech-friendly world with loungers, dance parties, smoothies and other teen-approved fun. Some of the coolest inside space on Disney cruise ships is dedicated to teens ages 14-17, but you can request for your child to attend this club starting at 13 years old.

‘It’s a small world’ nursery for children 6 months to 3 years old

While the three previously mentioned kids clubs are free and do not require reservations, the nursery operates differently. You will need to make reservations, and the fee is $4.50 per half-hour for the first child and $4 per half-hour for each additional child.

What to know before you go

Required documents.

The specific documents you will need will vary by cruise destination. Having a passport is always a good idea, but it’s not technically required on all Disney cruises. For example, round-trip cruises originating in Port Canaveral, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, San Diego, New Orleans, New York and San Juan, Puerto Rico, often do not require a passport.

Passports, when required, must be valid for at least six months. For cruises from international ports, you’ll need a passport. Note that it is important that the name on your reservation be exactly as it is stated on your passport or other official proof of nationality.

Related: Tips for getting a child’s passport

Disney Cruise Line adds a service gratuity of $14.50 per person per day to final bills. If you are unhappy with the service you receive, you can lower this amount. Of course, you can visit guest services and adjust it upward, too.

To give an idea of the cost, a four-person family on a four-night cruise would pay $232 in recommended tips. The amount is split among your team of dining room servers who quickly learned your kids’ preferences for dinner and your cabin hosts who made your room look like magic while you were out enjoying yourself.

An 18% gratuity is added to onboard spa, bar, beverage, wine and deck service tabs. You can always add an additional gratuity for any of your services or servers.

While room service is free, it’s customary to add a few dollars of tip when you sign the “bill.”

While some gratuity is included at Palo and Remy, you’ll likely want to add an additional tip if you enjoyed the service. If you stay in a concierge-level room or suite, it is customary to tip the Concierge Lounge hosts at the end of your cruise a recommended amount of $8 per night per guest.

Related:  Everything you need to know about tipping on cruise ships  

Disney Cruise Line’s Wi-Fi, Connect@Sea, is in the process of being upgraded, so speed, bandwidth and cost vary by ship.

If you are on a ship that charges by day instead of by the amount of data used, expect the prices to vary from $12-$36 per day, depending on the speed you select. There are often discounts for buying Wi-Fi access for the length of the cruise.

If you are on a ship that still charges by the amount of data used, we recommend not doing that and connecting either when you are in port or via a plan from your cellphone provider.

Related: What’s the best international phone plan right now?

Carry-on drinks policy

Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of two bottles of unopened wine or Champagne (no larger than 750 milliliters) or six beers (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. These beverages must be packed in carry-on (not checked) bags or luggage. You can keep drinks chilled in the small fridge in your cabin.

Guests wishing to consume wine or Champagne that they have brought on board in one of the dining rooms will be charged a corkage fee of $26 per bottle.

Smoking policy

Smoking is permitted only in designated deck areas. It’s forbidden in cabins and on cabin balconies, and those who violate this rule will face a $250 cleaning fee.

For an additional fee, Disney ships offer full-service laundry and dry cleaning services that will pick up and deliver clean clothes to your cabin.

Ships also provide 24-hour, self-service guest laundry facilities equipped with washers and dryers, along with detergent and complimentary ironing equipment. You pay for the facilities by using your Key to the World card. These services can get busy during sea days on longer cruises, so plan accordingly.

Electrical outlets

All cabins are equipped with multiple 110-volt outlets, which are standard in the U.S. and Canada. Cabins on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are equipped with a combination of 110- and 220-volt (European) outlets.

Small electrical appliances such as electric shavers, curling irons and flat irons with standard North American plugs will function on board; 110-volt items should not exceed 1,500 watts, and 220-volt items should not exceed 2,000 watts. A hair dryer is provided in every cabin for your convenience, but you may bring your own as long as it meets the guidelines above.

The currency on Disney Cruise Line ships, regardless of location, is the U.S. dollar.

When you are on the ship, you will not need cash or a credit card — all incidentals, purchases and services will be charged to your cabin folio. Your Key to the World card (or your DisneyBand+ on Disney Wish ) serves as your onboard payment method. The only exception is if you want to tip a crew member in cash.

In port, you may wish to carry cash or a credit card to buy snacks and souvenirs or to tip your tour guide.

Drinking age

For most Disney sailings, the drinking age on board is 21.

However, on round-trip cruises departing European countries with a lower drinking age, passengers 18-20 years of age can drink alcohol on board with signed parental consent. For round-trip cruises from Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Brisbane, guests 18 years of age and older may purchase and consume alcoholic beverages without parental consent.

During the day, people dress casually. If it’s a sea day in a warm-weather destination, and you’re bound for the top deck, that means looking like you’re going to the beach. T-shirts, shorts and bathing suits (with a cover-up to go inside) are fine.

During the evenings, dining attire in the three main dining restaurants is “cruise casual,” meaning no swimwear or tank tops, but you don’t have to put on a party dress. That said, many guests do dress up a bit in the evening, but it’s not required unless you are dining in Palo, Remy or Enchante.

Cruises that are seven nights or longer schedule one “formal night” — though even then, it’s only encouraged, not required. On that night, you will see suits, sports coats, cocktail dresses and similar from some guests.

Pro tip: Be sure and pack that pirate gear for Pirate Night.

Related:  What to pack for your 1st cruise

Disney Cruise Line loyalty program

Disney Cruise Line has a simple loyalty program, the Castaway Club , with four “elite status” levels that you earn based on how many cruises you’ve taken with Disney. A three-night and 10-night cruise both count as one sailing for these purposes.

  • Silver: One completed cruise
  • Gold: Five completed cruises
  • Platinum: 10 completed cruises
  • Pearl: 25 completed cruises

Related:  The TPG guide to cruise line loyalty programs

This isn’t the kind of loyalty program where you earn free cruises the way you earn free flights with airline miles. Instead, as you go up in status, you earn perks and earlier access to booking cruises and activities — which is key for getting those hard-to-snag adult dining or Castaway Cay cabana reservations

Silver members

  • Book new cruise itineraries one day before the general public and book onboard activities 90 days before sailing.
  • Get a “welcome back aboard” gift (such as a bag), have access to a Castaway Club members-only line when boarding and access to a Castaway Club direct phone number.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 33 days before the general public.

Gold members

  • All of those perks, but you can book new sailings two days before the general public and can book onboard activities 105 days before sailing.
  • On eight-night and longer voyages, Gold Castaway Club members are also invited to a private reception with special entertainment. There are also select merchandise discounts available to Gold members and higher.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 35 days before the general public.

Platinum members

  • All of those perks, but you can book new sailings three days before the general public and can book onboard activities 120 days before sailing.
  • Priority check-in at the cruise terminal.
  • Complimentary evening dinner at Palo or Palo Steakhouse for themselves and everyone in the cabin age 18 and older.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 38 days before the general public.

Pearl members

  • All of those perks, but you can book new sailings four days before the general public and can book onboard activities 123 days before sailing.
  • Exclusive cruise terminal check-in (where available)
  • Unlimited Digital Photo Package.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 40 days before the general public.

How much does a Disney cruise cost?

Magic ain’t cheap, and Disney cruises are expensive. They aren’t the priciest voyages out there, but they will cost more than cruises with family-friendly competitors such as Royal Caribbean by a noticeable margin.

For a family of four, the cheapest Disney cruise currently available (not counting the two-night cruises in Australia and New Zealand) is about $2,500. An ocean view will add about $90 and a verandah will add about $500.

On these shortest cruises, concierge-level cabins and access start at a little over $5,000 for a family of four.

Those sorts of prices will only be available during the offseason, such as in mid-to-late January and early February or for repositioning cruises as the ship moves from, say, Puerto Rico to Florida. That same cruise during spring break can cost double or more, so the more date flexibility you have, the better.

A seven-night cruise in the Caribbean will likely start around $5,000 for a family of four. Expect Alaska and Europe cruises to start at $5,000 to $6,000 for inside cabins for a week, and prices go up for longer sailings and upgraded cabins.

You can save money on your next Disney cruise by putting a $250 deposit down while you are at sea on a previous Disney cruise. It’s a popular way to get 10% off your next cruise.

Another way to save on a Disney cruise is to look at a one-way repositioning sailing , as those often price lower than other similar cruises. For example, the cruise line may need to end a cruise in a particular port to reposition the ship to do some sailings from there. You’ll have to get yourself back home from that port, but you may save on the cruise in the process.

Related:  15 ways that cruising newbies waste money on a cruise

How to book

You can book your Disney cruise directly with Disney Cruise Line either over the phone or online, but I’d argue you shouldn’t.

Cruises are easy to enjoy but can be complicated to plan if you are new to this type of travel. This is an industry where a travel agent is still a good call. You want someone who can help you pick the right cabin type and location for your group and keep track of when you can snag those onboard activities you really want.

When the wave of pandemic-related cruise cancellations hit in 2020, I was so grateful to have a travel agent — instead of me — spending time dealing with the cruise line.

Related:  How to book a cruise with points and miles

Another reason to consider going through a travel agent is to get onboard credit. Some travel agents will offer onboard credit based on the amount you spend on your Disney cruise. This is credit you can use toward drinks, spa treatments, excursions or anything else you can charge to your room.


Generally speaking, the sooner you book a Disney cruise after it goes on sale, the better, as prices usually only go in one direction — up.

Whether you use a travel agent or not, make sure to maximize your credit card points  when paying for the cruise by using a credit card that offers extra points for travel purchases and maybe even offers some built-in travel protections .

  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3 points per dollar on travel and dining and an annual up-to-$300 travel credit.
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2 points per dollar on travel.
  • The Disney Premier Visa Card is also a good option, specifically with Disney Cruise Line, as it gives you access to a 0% introductory annual percentage rate for six months following the purchase date on eligible Disney vacation packages, such as a Disney cruise (then a variable APR of 18.99% to 27.99% applies). The card also gets you 10% in savings on some onboard activities and packages while at Castaway Cay.

Related: How to save money on booking a Disney cruise

Bottom line

Whether you are on a three-night trip to Castaway Cay or a bigger crossing to the South Pacific, a Disney cruise is a special vacation that actually feels like a vacation.

The classic styling of the original four ships, the modern storybook styling of Disney Wish, the vast number of inclusions, the rotational dining, waterslides, private island, fun kids clubs, Disney characters, high-caliber entertainment and Disney service shine through.

You’ll certainly pay more for the privilege of sailing with Mickey and Minnie than with some other family-friendly lines. But for those with kids in that Disney age range, or for adults who know and trust the Disney brand, it’s hard to go wrong in choosing Disney Cruise Line for your next vacation.

More stories to help you plan your next cruise:

  • Best Disney ships for everyone
  • Everything we know about Disney Treasure, joining DCL in 2024
  • Everything you need to know about Disney Wish
  • Best credit cards for booking a cruise

SPONSORED:  With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Traveler information, visit santorini on a cruise ship here’s everything you need to know.

Visit Santorini on a Cruise Ship? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Are you planning to visit Santorini on a cruise ship?

It’s going to be fun!

Just make sure you know everything about traveling and getting around on a cruise ship in Santorini for a pleasant experience. Traveling on a huge cruise ship can be great but it also means that you probably have a limited time for exploring the island – and if you don’t have any idea of what to do and what to avoid, you can get confused.

Here’s the ultimate travel guide to make sure your trip to Santorini on a cruise ship is the best and smoothest trip ever!

Important Things to Know

  • Santorini has two ports ; Athinios Port and the Old Port of Fira. Both the ports are too small for the cruise ships to be docked directly. Hence, you’ll have to rely on a ship’s tender to reach the ports.
  • Generally, the cruise ship itineraries in Santorini drop some passengers off at Athinios and the others at the Old Port of Fira. Passengers who arrive at Athinios Port are supposed to book a bus tour via the cruise ship company. These tours are usually packed with many people and hence, we don’t recommend them.
  • If you don’t book a bus tour via the cruise ship company, you’ll be dropped off at the Old Port of Fira.
  • All cruise ships depart from the Old Port. Even the passengers who have booked the bus tour via their cruise ship company have to reach the Old Port to take the ship tender to get on the cruise ship.

How to Get to Fira from Old Port or Vice Versa

The easiest and most common way to reach the Old Port is by a cable car . It takes only three minutes. On the other hand, if you’re feeling adventurous and decide to walk to the port, it’ll be 587 steps. Local donkey ride is another easy way to get there.

Important note: Please note that Gialos, the Old Port is nestled at the foot of a rocky cliff below Fira. If you decide to go by a cable car or on a donkey, you’ll have to pay 6€ per side of the ride.

Where is the Meeting Point if You Book a Private Tour?

For private bus tours, the meeting point is at the top of the cable car. Once you reach the Old Port of Fira, you’ll have to take a cable car to go to the top. Depending on your tour organizer, you may find a guide waiting for you on the top with a sign that has your name or the company name on it.

For private cruise tours, the meeting point could be either at the top of the cable car or Old Port. If it’s the latter, the cruise will start there. Otherwise, you’ll have to meet the tour guide at the top of the cable car who’ll pick you up and drop you at the start port of the private cruise.

Typically, a private cruise in Santorini starts from Ammoudi Port or Vlychada Port while the drop off may be the Old Port of Fira. It’s best to book a cruise and request the organizer to arrange either the meeting point or the drop off location at the Old Port. This will allow you to witness the breathtaking views of Santorini from Caldera while helping you save some precious time by eliminating the need for arranging transportation.

An ideal itinerary is: Old Port > cable car > port of the private cruise by a shuttle > private cruise experience > drop off at Old Port on yacht OR Pickup from Old port on a yacht > private cruise experience > Fira via shuttle service > Old Port via cable car > cruise ship on a ship tender Get in touch with us to find out about the availability of a private cruise that has its meeting point or drop-off at the Old Port.

Will You Have Time to Enjoy a Boat Tour if You Visit Santorini on a Cruise Ship?

A simple answer to this question is that it depends on the time you’re going to spend in Santorini.

If you decide to book a volcano tour that is supposed to depart from the Old Port, the arrival time of your cruise ship must be at least an hour before the departure time of the tour. Moreover, the departure time of the cruise ship must be an hour after the end time of the tour. For example, if the tour starts at 11:00 AM and finishes at 14:00, your cruise ship must arrive at 10:00 AM and depart from Santorini at 15:00.

On the other hand, if you book a catamaran cruise or a private yacht cruise, the departure port will be Ammoudi or Vlychada Port. In this case, your cruise ship must arrive at least a couple of hours before the cruise tour starts because usually, the pickup is on the nearest road just a few meters away from the cable car. You’ll need approximately one hour to reach there and another hour to reach the port through the shuttle service. The time to depart, however, should be 2.5 hours after the tour ends. This is because you’ll need an hour to reach the cable car from the port and chances are that you’ll find a long queue of passengers waiting for the cable car. You might have to wait for half an hour or so before you get a seat. Please note that the last ship’s tender departs an hour before the cruise ship’s departure time.

Recommended : It’s always best to book a private cruise in Santorini for a smooth, hassle-free experience. You can contact us and tell us about your specific requirements. We’ll be more than happy to adjust the start and end time of the private cruise tour and even change the departure port for you! Get in touch with us today to ensure a pleasant private cruise tour in Santorini.

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Book a Private Bus Tour

It is best for cruise ship passengers to book a private bus tour for seeing the top sights in Santorini. Not only will it help you save money but also your time.

Have the Time of Your Life on a Private Cruise

If you are a sea lover, booking a private cruise is a must! The beauty that lies in the crystalline waters of the island cannot be described in words!

We can arrange accommodation to pick up and drop you off at Old Port of Fira where the cruise ship departs.

Admire the View of the Caldera

Before taking the cable car to Old Port, don’t forget to stop by to explore Caldera and admire the breathtaking views it offers.

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Visiting Barcelona by Cruise Ship: What to do In Barcelona for a Day

Last updated: October 8, 2023 . Written by Laurence Norah - 8 Comments

If you’re touring Europe by cruise ship, there’s a good chance that one of your stops will be the beautiful Mediterranean city of Barcelona. This is one of our favourite cities in Europe, and one we’ve returned to numerous times.

If you’re visiting Barcelona by cruise ship, you’ll likely have somewhere between five and ten hours to explore the city. With that in mind, we wanted to put together a guide to what to do in Barcelona on a shorter visit like this, and give you all the information you need to maximise your time in the city.

We’re going to give you a detailed itinerary for what to do in Barcelona if you’re visiting by cruise ship, tips on getting from Barcelona Port to downtown Barcelona, tips for getting around Barcelona, and more. Whilst this is focused on cruise ship visitors, it will also work for anyone visiting Barcelona for a shorter trip. Let’s get started.

What to do in Barcelona from a Cruise Ship

This is an itinerary for those of you who want to see Barcelona independently when you visit the city by cruise ship. It’s designed to be logically laid out and easy to follow, starting at the main cruise terminals, looping around the highlights, and returning to your cruise ship.

Cruise ship in Barcelona

It should be doable in five or six hours, but of course you can stretch it out with additional stops if you wish, or spend longer at each attraction (or just enjoying a leisurely lunch with Sangria!). You could also drop some of the stops if you wanted to spend more time at each location. This is really just to give you an idea of a suggested itinerary.

1. Colombus Statue – Mirador de Colom

The Portbus (see below on section for getting from the cruise terminal to the city) will drop you at the Mirador de Colom, which is at the southern end of the famous La Rambla walking street. This is commonly known as thePlaça Colom or Placa Colon, which translates as Columbus Plaza, although its official name is actually Portal de la Pau.

Colom Statue Barcelona

Still, the giant 60 metre high pedestal topped with a statue of famous explorer Christopher Columbus has become so iconic, that the name Plaça Colom has stuck, named for the statue, which is known as Monument a Colom in Catalan (Mirador de Colón in Spanish, so you might also see it referred to as Plaça Colon).

If you want to, you can even climb to the top for a small fee, and get excellent views of the city. If you do this, note the Barcelona Day Pass offers a 20% discount on this, with redemption instructions in the e-mail you will receive on purchase of the pass.

It’s from the Plaça Colom that you can get the Barcelona Hop on Hop off bus, which is our recommended way to get around the sights in this itinerary.

Before you do that though, and if you have a longer stopover, you might consider visiting the nearby Maritime Museum  or the Barcelona Aquarium . The Maritime Museum is found in the former royal arsenal of Barcelona, which dates in part from the 13th century, and is a stunning building of itself. The museum focuses on the rich maritime and ship building heritage of Barcelona, with both models and real vessels on display.

L’Aquarium is around a twelve minute walk (or a short ride on the hop on hop off bus) from Plaça Colom, in the harbour area, and is home to over 11,000 animals across both fresh water and sea water tanks. Either is worth a visit for anyone with an interest in the sea!

2. Gothic Quarter

Our next stop in Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gotic. This is the heart of the old city of Barcelona, and stretches from La Rambla in the west to Via Laietana in the west, and from the seafront up to Plaça de Catalunya.

Barcelona Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter was originally built in a time before cars (although has undergone significant renovation and restoration in recent centuries), so it is largely a pedestrian only area. The narrow, maze like streets are hemmed in by four and five storey buildings, making this a fun warren to explore – although you might want to take a map, as it’s easy to get lost!

Highlights of the Gothic Quarter include the spectacular Barcelona Cathedral and the UNESCO world heritage listed Palau de la Musica Catalana.

In terms of getting to the Gothic Quarter, you can either walk from Plaça Colom up through the old streets to the Cathedral (around 15 – 30 minutes walk), or you can take the Hop on Hop off bus, which has a stop right next to the Cathedral.

3. Casa Batlló

Depending on what time you arrive and how long you have in town, Casa Batlló is an optional stop for those of you keen to explore one of Gaudi’s works.

The nearby La Pedrera is another option, depending on which you prefer.

If you don’t have time to visit either of them, you can can at least get a good up close look at their interesting exteriors! See our full list of Gaudi sites in Barcelona for more ideas.

Casa Batllo Barcelona

Along with the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló is one of Gaudi’s most recognisable works in Barcelona. The house was commissioned to be remodelled by Josep Batlló, who had bought it in 1900, and wanted a property that looked like nothing else his family owned, and he gave Gaudi free reign to design something both audacious and creative – a challenge that an architect like Gaudi no doubt relished and rose to.

The house as it stands today is pretty mind blowing, from the Venetian mask inspired balconies through to the dragon like chimney on the roof, with a number of unique and innovative features throughout. Even if you don’t decide to go inside, it’s well worth stopping here to admire the facade, although a visit inside is well worth it.

Note that Casa Batlló is a popular spot for visitors, so you might want to book your ticket in advance and skip the ticket line.

4. Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is the most famous of Gaudi’s creations. It’s a monumental cathedral which incorporates many of his design ideas, and construction has been underway for over 100 years. Whilst not finished, it was consecrated in 2010, so is an active place of worship.

Barcelona Sagrada Familia Interior

A visit to the Sagrada Familia is a must for your stop in Barcelona. The incredible exterior and interior are unlike anything we’ve seen anywhere else in the world, and to stand inside this creation and stare up at the mighty tree like interior, almost like an organic concrete forest, is truly an awe inspiring experience.

We’d also recommend investing in an audio guide to get the most out of your visit as there is a great deal of symbolism and meaning throughout the church building that you might find escapes you without an explanation.

Note that the Sagrada Familia is a very popular attraction, and as such entry is on a timed entry basis. This means that you can’t just turn up and buy a ticket for immediate entry, and if you’re on a tight schedule because your boat is due to leave, it’s critical that you plan in advance.

You purchase your ticket online in advance from the Sagrada Familia website .

For more on the Sagrada Familia, see our complete guide to visiting the Sagrada Familia , which has all the information you need to plan the perfect visit.

5. Park Güell

After the Sagrada Familia, we recommend you head to Park Güell which is another well-known Gaudi site in Barcelona. This is the next stop along on the hop on hop off bus that we recommend. It’s a bit of a way to the north, so expect to take around 15 minutes to get here.

We’d advise against walking as this will take quite a while. The Hop on Hop off bus stops quite near the entrance to Park Güell, just requiring a short walk uphill to the entrance.

Park Guell Barcelona

Park Güell is a little bit different from the others Gaudi sites. Instead of being a building, it’s a large park area with a number of interesting features.

The Park was originally envisioned as a luxury housing development for sixty properties, which would also include plenty of open air features and park space. The location would take advantage of the views, and also the fact that is was a little removed from the city center, thus benefiting from improved air.

Unfortunately, this vision was never realised, and only two houses were ever actually built here, neither of which was designed by Gaudi. However, Gaudi did in fact live here for twenty years in one of the houses (which you can visit), and he was responsible for a great many of the features in the Park itself, including the main terrace, the column filled lower court, terrace walls, colonnaded footpaths, tiled mosaics, and more.

After the Sagrada Familia, the Park Güell is one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona, and so access to the central area (known as the Monumental Core or Monumental Zone) with the majority of Gaudi’s pieces is timed and ticketed. As with the other attractions on the list, we highly recommend booking this entry in advance of your visit so as not to be disappointed. You can do this on the official website up to three months in advance of your visit.

Just remember to leave enough time between leaving the Sagrada Familia and your Park Güell entry time to get between the two locations. More on this in the section below on getting around Barcelona.

6. La Rambla

Last on our list for the day is a wander down Barcelona’s La Rambla – the famous street that runs from Placa Catalunya to the Mirador de Colón and Plaça Colom, where you’ll get the Portbus back to your cruise ship.

La Rambla is three quarters of a mile long, and will take you between 15 and 30 minutes to wander down, depending on how fast you walk, and how often you stop.

La Rambla Barcelona

The street was originally a stream, which separated the old city of Barcelona (now the Gothic Quarter) from the suburbs known as La Raval. Of course, the city has since expanded and the stream has been paved over, making this a large tree line boulevard with a large pedestrian walk-way down the middle.

It’s filled with restaurants serving jugs of sangria and tapas, souvenir vendors, bars, and pubs. You’ll also find La Boqueria market on La Rambla, which is worth stopping in at. There’s also a a mosaic by famed artist Joan Miró on La Rambla, which makes for a good photo opportunity.

Map of Attractions for a Day in Barcelona

To help you visualise your day in Barcelona, we’ve put together this map which shows the main attractions, as well as the location of the cruise terminal to help you orientate yourself. You can also see this map on Google maps here .

Barcelona 1 Day Itinerary from cruise ship Map

How to get from Barcelona Cruise Port to Barcelona City Center

There are a number of options for getting from the various Barcelona cruise terminals to the city center. These range from walking through to private transfers or the bus. Which works for you will vary depending on which terminal you arrive at.

The largest ships tend to dock the furthest away at Terminal A-D, which are around two miles from Plaça Colom. Whilst this is in theory walkable, it will take you around forty minutes each way, which will eat up a lot of your precious time for no good reason – the port isn’t exactly a scenic highlight of the city!

We think the best way into the city is the Portbus. This is a dedicated shuttle service that runs between the cruise terminals and Plaça Colom. It’s not a scheduled service – rather, it runs on demand, with more services available when ships are embarking and disembarking. It stops at all the cruise terminals, and then in Barcelona at Plaça Colom, which is where you will also pick it up to get back to your ship.

Portbus tickets cost €3 one way or €4 round trip.

You can also book a private transfer from the port , or catch a taxi. This is definitely going to be the most expensive way to get into the city, although you will avoid more of the queues, especially if you are arriving on a larger cruise ship.

How to Get Around Barcelona

There are a number of options for getting around Barcelona. Whilst the city is fairly walkable, some of the attractions, particularly the Sagrada Familia or Park Güell, will take you quite a lot of time to walk to.

Barcelona Bus Turistic

With this in mind, we suggest instead that you consider either taking public transport, or using the Hop on Hop off bus service . Our preference would be the latter, as this is designed to get you between all the major attractions in Barcelona, plus from the open top deck you get great views of the city, as well as an audio guide. You can buy your ticket online in advance here .

What about a shore excursion tour of Barcelona?

Sometimes it’s nice just to not have to worry about planning and itineraries and schedules, and just let someone else take care of all the logistics for you. We’re sure that your cruise ship will have a number of shore excursions available, however we thought you would find the following specially designed tours worth checking out as well.

These offer drop-off & pick-up from the cruise ship and are either private or small-group tours. We think they’re very competitively priced.

  • This small group tour which includes the Gothic Quarter and skip the line Sagrada Familia access
  • A private, half day tour which includes the option to include the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell
  • A full day private tour which includes skip the line access to Sagrada Familia, wine tasting, Parc Guell and La Pedrera

Hopefully that should give you an idea of some of the options available should you wish to arrange your own tour of Barcelona. Just be sure when booking a tour that they can guarantee an on-time return to your cruise ship.

Staying Safe in Barcelona

Barcelona has developed a bit of an unfortunate reputation for having a petty crime problem, in particular, opportunistic crimes such as pick pocketing or grabbing of purses, cameras, phones, or other valuables laid out on tables.

La Rambla Barcelona

We would add that we have never had this problem on multiple visits to the city, however we are aware that it is an issue. Our advice would be just to be cautious with your belongings, to have valuables securely hidden away or on a secure strap around your neck, and not to have your wallet, phone or other valuables obviously visible in your back pocket. Think about either a money belt , a cross body travel purse , or pants that offer secure zip pockets.

Basic safety precautions and being aware of your surroundings should prevent you from these issues. Avoiding carrying large sums of money on you will also help. As I said, we’ve not had any problems, so we think that by being vigilant and preparing yourself by reading up on common scams in Barcelona , you will be absolutely fine.

Further Reading for Barcelona

We’ve visited Barcelona (and the Costa Brava and Pyrenees region) a number of times, and have put together a number of articles to help you plan your trip, whether you’re visiting Barcelona for a day or longer. Here are some resources we think you’ll find useful.

  • If you’re lucky enough to be in Barcelona for longer, perhaps at the end of your cruise, we have a guide to spending 3 days in Barcelona
  • We also have another itinerary for 1 day in Barcelona
  • We have a detailed guide to the best photography spots in Barcelona
  • Jess’s comprehensive review and guide to using the Barcelona Pass
  • A post comparing the three main discount passes available in Barcelona , to help you decide which one will save you the most money
  • If you want to head out of town, we have a guide to taking a day trip from Barcelona to Girona and Figueres , a guide to visiting Montserrat from Barcelona , and Salvador Dali sites near Barcelona , as well as a definitive  guide to visiting the Spanish Pyrenees !
  • Interested in seeing more of Gaudi’s creations? Check out our definitive guide to the best Gaudi sites in Barcelona
  • We can also recommend both the  Lonely Planet Guide to Barcelona  and Rick Steve’s Pocket Barcelona Guide

And that’s it for our guide to a how to make the most of your cruise ship stop over in Barcelona! We hope you found it useful – as always, we’re happy to answer any questions or feedback in the comments below.

A detailed planning guide and itinerary for visiting Barcelona from a cruise ship. Includes tips on what to do in Barcelona, getting around Barcelona, and how to save money on your stay!

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John Anderson says

10th July 2019 at 4:43 am

Thanks for this great information about Barcelona. We are arriving by cruise ship and it appeared your recommendation of the Barcelona Day Pass would be perfect. Unfortunately I have found it won’t process my application. Is it because I have listed 12 noon and 2p.m. as our time for Sagrada Familia? Any later is too risky for our liking..

Laurence Norah says

10th July 2019 at 5:32 am

Tbanks very much!

Yes, I believe that the ticketbar system has a restriction in place so you can’t book the timeslots too close to each other, as it takes a bit of time to get between the places and they don’t want people to miss the timeslots. You would need to contact ticketbar directly to confirm that of course, but I believe that is the reason.

I hope you are able to find a solution, I would recommend contacting ticketbar to see if they can help, they are quite helpful in my experience 🙂

Have a wonderful cruise and a great time in Barcelona!

20th March 2019 at 5:14 pm

Hi, love your article and so much details. We will be visiting in August this year for our first time via cruise and wonder if we also wanted to visit Camp Nou, how should this be placed in your itinerary? And also the transportation, We do not mind walking around the city to see the most, but appreciated the Hop-on-Hop-off bus option as well. We are a family of 3 (with a 7 yo).

Thanks in advance and all the best and success to your blog!

21st March 2019 at 11:05 am

Hi, and thanks!

So the hop on hop off bus will definitely be the easiest way to get around, this also goes on to Camp Nou after the Sagrada Familia, so that would be my suggested way of doing it. The only thing to be aware of is that access to the Sagrada Familia is timed, so you need to plan accordingly. The Barcelona Day Pass I recommend only allows entry to the Sagrada Familia after 3pm, which will not leave you enough time to see Parc Guell and Camp Nou. So you will definitely want to go a bit earlier than this.

If you let me know how much time you have in the city I can come up with a suggested plan for you 🙂

21st March 2019 at 11:20 am

Thanks Laurence. I believe our ship arrives at 5 in the morning and leave at 6 in the evening. But I don’t think we will be in the city till 9 in the morning and usually we will be back on ship no later than 4:30. After all I guess I may have to pick Camp Nou than Park Guell.

21st March 2019 at 11:29 am

It will definitely depend on what your priorities are. I think though with the Hop on Hop off bus you might be able to fit everything in. I’d suggest:

Take Hop on Hop off bus from Columbus Statue at around 9am. Book Sagrada Familia entry for 9.30. Take bus at around 10.45 on to Park Guell. Book Parc Guell tickets for 11.15. Allocate around 45 minutes to an hour at Park Guell.

Continue on bus to Camp Nou. You don’t need a timed entry. It’s about a 30 minute bus ride I think from Parc Guell to Camp Nou. Expect to spend around 90 minutes – 2 hours at Camp Nou, so you would finish up at around 2.30 I would say. You can then take the bus back into the city, and wander the Gothic Quarter until your time runs out 🙂

Of course, this doesn’t include much time for lunch, so if a leisure lunch is in your plan, this might not work! Also, if you want to spend more time at each stop you will likely have to drop one of these. Of them, I’d say Park Guell would be the most logical to drop 🙂

Have a wonderful time!

21st March 2019 at 12:00 pm

Thanks a lot for your reply. I thought you mentioned the Church only has 3pm and after time entry?

21st March 2019 at 12:02 pm

That’s if you use the pass I recommend in the post. If you use that, it only allows you to book for timeslots after 3pm. However, you can also book activities individually, in which case you can book from 9am onwards. It’s just more expensive in the mornings to visit the Sagrada Familia, so to keep costs down and avoid confusion some passes don’t offer the morning timeslots.

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Cruise packing list: the essentials chosen by experts.

This cruise packing list includes all of the essentials – plus items you didn't know you needed.

Essentials to Pack for a Cruise

Downloadable Cruise Packing List

Packing for any trip takes some planning, but cruise vacations present a unique challenge – particularly due to limited stateroom storage space and sparse (or overpriced) options for purchasing accidentally forgotten items.

To help you decide what to pack for a cruise, we've curated a list of essentials recommended by cruise experts who regularly sail the high seas. Download the U.S. News Cruise Packing List pictured above to reference while you pack, and read on to learn more about the recommended items and where you can purchase them if needed.

  • For packing and planning
  • For travel and embarkation day
  • For the cabin
  • For the ship and shore excursions

Find your perfect cruise

Carry-on bag

Regardless of whether you bring checked luggage, you'll need some type of carry-on bag . Since checked bags need to go through security as they do at airports – and because you may need to wait for your stateroom to be ready, just like at a hotel – you'll want to be able to access any necessities pre-cruise. These might include a swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat for the pools; medications; a bottle of water; and your smartphone, of course. You'll also want to keep your credit card , passport, and any other important documentation or valuables close by. A carry-on backpack works especially well since it can double as a day bag for shore excursions.

Checked bag

While you'll likely want to bring a checked bag, consider sharing one with your ship mate(s) to maximize stateroom storage space. Or, consider bringing medium-sized luggage, such as the The Medium by Away , for checking in.

Read: The Best Checked Luggage Options

Garment bag

Halfday The Garment Duffel in blue against white background.

Courtesy of Halfday

While many cruises are less formal these days, a garment bag can still be handy for keeping select garments wrinkle-free (since clothing irons are prohibited on cruise ships). Top-rated options include the The Garment Duffel by Halfday and the Briggs and Riley Baseline 22" Carry-On 2-Wheel Garment Bag , both of which double as traditional luggage. If you pack your luggage right, you can make this your only suitcase, in addition to a carry-on bag.

Packing cubes or vacuum-sealed bags

Packing cubes are one of the best ways to organize your belongings for travel – especially in a tight cruise ship cabin. Top-rated options include the Veken packing cubes on Amazon (usually priced around $20) and all of the Pack-It Sets by Eagle Creek. The Pack-It Starter Set is especially ideal for cruising since it includes a garment folder designed to minimize wrinkles in clothing. Some cruisers also swear by vacuum-sealed bags , even though they can be a bit more tedious to pack.

Carry-on caddy

Ashley Kosciolek, senior cruise writer at The Points Guy, recommends a carry-on caddy , particularly if you're flying to your embarkation point. "I have a fabric sleeve that slides down over the telescoping handle on my carry-on to provide pockets for my passport, phone, coffee – all the things I used to have to juggle during check-in."

Digital luggage scale

The compact Etekcity scale – approximately $10 on Amazon – can weigh bags up to 110 pounds and help you avoid overweight baggage fees.

Bungee cord

"Especially for travelling with the family, I use a bright-green bungee cord to strap multiple pieces of luggage together," says Aaron Saunders, senior editor at Cruise Critic. "It's a lifesaver when boarding trains or disembarking ships, particularly when you ' re maneuvering a stroller and a little one around, too."

Luggage tracker

Front and back of Apple AirTag against white background.

Courtesy of Apple

A luggage tracker isn't just useful for air travel. Attach one to your checked cruise luggage to see when it has arrived in your stateroom (or if it's stalled at security). Chris Gray Faust, executive editor at Cruise Critic, doesn't go anywhere without her Apple AirTag after her luggage got stuck in Vancouver for over a week last June. "My AirTag use has expanded beyond my checked luggage, too. I also have AirTags in my handbag, my carry-on, my keychain and my wallet."

Cruise insurance

Due to the unpredictable nature of travel, cruise insurance can be a wise purchase ahead of your voyage. Travel policies can cover unforeseen expenses such as trip interruptions and medical emergencies.

While a passport is often required for cruising, rules can vary depending where you're traveling. Determine whether you need a passport for your upcoming cruise ; if you do, triple-check that you have it packed the day of departure.

Credit cards and local currency

When cruising internationally, consider getting small amounts of each country's currency to have on hand in port. Depending where you go, some local markets may only accept their own country's currency, not U.S. dollars or credit cards. It's also nice to leave cash gratuities for cab drivers, tour guides or servers; in the European Union, 1- and 2-euro coins are convenient and appropriate tips. In ports with vendors that do accept credit cards, be sure to carry a Visa or Mastercard , as some shops and restaurants do not take American Express .

RFID wallet

It's important to protect your travel documents with an RFID wallet like the TIGARI Passport Holder or the ZOPPEN RFID Travel Passport Wallet , the latter of which can hold multiple passports for a family. "Thieves and hackers can steal your credit card information just by using skimming devices," explains Jill Schildhouse, a cruise expert and U.S. News contributor who always travels with her RFID wallet. "And because your wallet wasn't even touched, you won't know it happened until you see your credit card statement."


Pack more than enough of your prescription medications as well as any over-the-counter medicines you'll need, just in case you encounter an itinerary change or travel delay. While some travelers find it easiest to bring personal medicines in their prescription bottles, others find travel pill boxes to be especially helpful for organization. The Sukuos Weekly Pill Organizer is a well-rated option, with detachable boxes for each day as well as compartments for morning and evening medications.

Sheet masks

Since flying can be so drying for the skin, Faust likes to use sheet masks. "My first step the night before I board (because you should always fly in a day early) is to hydrate with a sheet mask (usually from a Korean brand like Ballon Blanc or FaceTory )," she says. "If I'm meeting up with a friend, I bring an extra sheet mask so our trip starts out feeling a bit like a spa day!"

Magnetic hooks

A surprising fact: Cruise ship cabin walls are made of metal, which means you can optimize your storage space by hanging some of your belongings on magnetic wall hooks. The hooks are perfect for holding bulky coats or boots if you're traveling to a colder climate. You can also use them for wet gear on expedition ships and adventure cruises, or for drying out bathing suits after days at the beach or pool. Purchase a set of magnetic hooks for less than $10 on Amazon .

Like hotels, cruise ships can only provide so many hangers. Bring a few extras from home or pick up a pack from your local dollar store. You might also try packable hangers .

Wrinkle release spray

Whether or not you bring a garment bag, a travel-size bottle of wrinkle release spray, such as Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray , is useful to have on board. If you combine a spritz or two with the steam from your shower, you should be able to smooth out some of the wrinkles in your clothing.

Laundry detergent

"If you don't want to pay for laundry service or spend precious time in the self-service laundry room, bring a small bottle of laundry detergent like Woolite to wash key items in the sink: underwear, bras, quick-dry hiking shorts, bathing suits, etc.," recommends Schildhouse. "Every cruise ship shower has a retractable clothesline you can extend to drape the clothes over while they dry. This can also help cut down on the number of items you need to pack."

Over-the-door organizers

Over-the-door organizers with clear or mesh pockets allow you to find your feminine hygiene products, makeup, jewelry and other small items quickly – without having to hunt through multiple drawers or a tight stateroom closet. It's a good idea to purchase a two-pack like this option by Simple Houseware Store (available on Amazon), since you can also use one to store shoes and maximize floor space.

Poo-Pourri bottle against white background.

Courtesy of Poo-Pourri

It goes without saying, but to say it anyway: A toilet spray like Poo-Pourri is a must for your cruise packing list. Any smell – pleasant or not – will travel quickly in small staterooms with small bathrooms. Buy a travel-size bottle to keep in your cabin.

Shampoo and conditioner

Cruise experts agree it's best to bring your own shampoo and conditioner in travel-size bottles, as most cruise ships don't provide separate shampoo and conditioner anymore; instead, they offer all-in-one dispensers. Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief at Cruise Critic, likes to pack her shampoo and conditioner in the popular Cadence Capsules , noting she also uses them for another essential: sunscreen. "These capsules are easy to fill, never leak and have clear labels, which you can customize," she says.

Wine or Champagne

Most major cruise lines allow each guest to bring one to two bottles of wine or Champagne on board, while some luxury cruise lines allow even more than that. Disney Cruise Line also gives guests the option to bring a six-pack of beer instead of wine or Champagne. Be sure to consult your cruise line's policies when packing for your trip.

If you plan to bring wine or Champagne, you'll likely need a corkscrew . While some cruise lines may prohibit corkscrews, others allow them onboard; check your cruise line's policy before sailing. Bringing wine with a twistable cap may be a good alternative.

Portable humidifier

Cruise ship cabins can feel dry – especially in the colder months. A portable humidifier like the GENIANI Erie (around $25 on Amazon) can provide some relief. At about half a pound, this USB-powered device will fit neatly into your checked bag or carry-on luggage. The travel humidifier features two mist settings and has an automatic shut-off option, plus a night light to help you see around your cabin in the dark.

International travel adapter or converter

You'll likely need a travel adapter, since cruise lines homeported in international locales may have different electrical sockets and voltage strengths than you're used to in the U.S.

McDaniel recommends the OneWorld65 Travel Adapter . "I've used a lot of different travel adapters over the years, but this is my favorite. It charges up to six devices at once, has USB and mini-USB options, and works in over 200 countries," she says. "While many cruise ships have U.S. outlets, most usually also have European outlets. This adapter lets me take advantage of that outlet I'd otherwise ignore." She also notes that while cruise lines are getting better about having more outlets on their ships, it never feels like enough to keep your phone, camera battery, tablet, watch, headphones/earbuds and laptop charged (times two or more if you're traveling with others).

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Sound machine

Cruise experts agree a sound machine can be helpful for blocking out the sound of late-night partiers returning to their staterooms (or your snoring spouse). Schildhouse likes the LectroFan Micro 2 for cruising. "It plays non-looping white noise and doubles as a speaker to play tunes while you get ready for dinner."

Tech organizer

Open Bagsmart Electronics Organizer fills with cords against white background.

Courtesy of Bagsmart

A tech organizer like the BAGSMART electronics organizer case – available on Amazon for about $20 – can store all your cables, plugs, SD cards and earphones in one zippered, compact bag that will fit easily in your carry-on luggage. Despite its small size, it can also hold bulkier items like a small laptop charging cord.

First-aid kit

A first-aid kit is a good thing to have on hand no matter where you go. You can make your own using supplies you already have at home, or buy a premade first-aid kit on Amazon for about $20. While all cruise ships have medical facilities, it's useful to have these items with you on shore excursions, especially those involving active adventures.

Hand sanitizer

Regularly washing your hands and/or using hand sanitizer is essential to staying healthy while traveling, especially on a cruise ship. Stock up on a few travel-size bottles of hand sanitizer (less than $2 each at Walmart) ahead of your trip. If you're looking for something with less alcohol that's also less drying, check out Babyganics Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer .

If you're a parent, you know that your infant or toddler needs a very specific size – and in some cases brand – of diapers, which may very well be unavailable to you on your cruise ship or in the ports of call. Bring more than enough diapers to play it safe at sea.

Most cruise lines also require that non-toilet-trained infants and toddlers wear swim diapers in the children's water play areas. For the sake of sanitation, kids must be toilet-trained to use the pools on cruise ships.

Many cruisers like to personalize their cabin with stateroom door decor. Not only is it a fun tradition, but decorating the door can make it easier to locate your room, too. You can find lots of fun decor ideas on Pinterest as well as Amazon.

" Duct tape is a life-saver in many situations," says Kosciolek. "I primarily use it to attach my printed luggage tags, but it's also great for mending clothing issues on the fly and fixing broken luggage until you can get it back home."

"As a parent, I like to bring lanyards with sleeves so my kids can wear their keycards and not lose them," says Erica Silverstein, senior cruise editor at The Points Guy. "We hang them on the magnetic hooks I put on the wall, so they don't get lost in the cabin either."

Sea-Bands pack and bands in case against white background.

Courtesy of Sea-Bands

If you're prone to (or think you may be prone to) motion sickness on cruise ships, put a pair of Sea-Bands on your cruise packing list. These soft wristbands use acupressure to prevent and minimize nausea and vomiting on board, and they are a reusable, drug-free alternative to traditional anti-nausea medications. You can purchase Sea-Bands on Amazon or at most drugstores.

If you need something a bit stronger than Sea-Bands (or to use in conjunction with them), Dramamine remains a tried-and-true solution for both preventing and treating sea sickness. Choose the Less Drowsy formula to avoid getting sleepy, and consider the chewable tablets (dye-free) if traveling with kids who are prone to queasiness. Many travelers like Bonine as a remedy for sea sickness as well.

Mix-and-match clothing

Pack a variety of mix-and-match items, also known as a capsule wardrobe, for your cruise. To do this, choose a base color – black or navy blue – for your wardrobe. Next, pack plain, neutral-colored items, then add a few patterned items to the mix. Remember to include a variety of styles (T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, pants, shorts, dresses, rompers and jumpsuits) and also consider reversible clothing and outfits that can easily transition from day to night.

Sports jacket or blazer

Adam Coulter, executive editor of Cruise Critic UK & Australia, recommends packing a sports jacket or blazer. "While cruise lines are getting more casual, what happens if you get that last-minute invite to meet the captain, or there's a meet and mingle where you want to look put together? A jacket will always elevate your elegance (even if you're wearing a T-shirt underneath)," he says. If you're in need of a travel blazer, Bluffworks has some well-rated options; the Gramercy , in particular, gets great reviews.

Themed party attire

Some cruise lines host themed voyages or parties on select nights where passengers can dress up to participate in the fun. You'll want to review your cruise itinerary before you go so you're prepared for the festivities. Bring your buccaneer gear if you're sailing aboard Disney Cruise Line; ships host fun events like Pirate Nights, pirate-themed dinners and a "Pirates in the Caribbean" show. On "The Love Boat"-themed cruises offered by Princess Cruises , pack your platform boots, glittery dresses, bell-bottom pants and halter tops for the line's 1970s-inspired disco party on the deck. No matter the theme, you can't go wrong with a couple of captain hats .

Travel wrap

A travel wrap is a versatile accessory that's useful for any trip – even more so on a cruise ship where it can get chilly when the sea breeze picks up. Available in nearly 10 different colors, J.Crew's Oversized Cashmere Wrap is a timeless staple, albeit a bit of an investment; for something less expensive but well rated, try this off-brand pashmina shawl on Amazon .

Packable jacket

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket in black against white background.

Courtesy of Patagonia

If you're cruising to a cold weather destination such as Alaska, you'll need something heavier than a travel wrap, but not so bulky that it requires additional luggage. Consider a packable jacket that folds easily and compactly; travel experts highly recommend the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket .

Packable hat

If you're headed to the Caribbean or another warm weather destination, you'll want a beach hat to protect your scalp and face from the sun. This packable straw hat by FURTALK (available on Amazon for about $25) is a stylish women's option that features a broader brim and offers UPF 50 sun protection.

Comfortable walking shoes

Allbirds Wool Runners in pink against neutral background.

Courtesy of Allbirds

Even if you never step foot off the ship, there is still plenty of walking to do between bow and stern. Closed-toe shoes or sandals with straps are safer than flimsy flip-flops when boarding a slippery tender into port (if your ship can't dock directly). Check out our recommendations for the most comfortable walking shoes , which include the popular Allbirds Wool Runners and the ECCO Yucatan Sandals .

Water shoes

Depending on your scheduled shore excursions, you might also need a pair of water shoes. For something that's both functional and fashionable, Crocs' Classic Clogs are a good option. While not totally waterproof, the Native Jefferson is a water-friendly, versatile option.

Versatile heels

"Over the years, I've learned that the key to avoiding overpacking is to bring one neutral pair of low heels that match every single eveningwear outfit I've packed – from flowy pants to dresses," says Schildhouse, who loves her Rockport Tabitha 2-Strap Heeled Sandals . "They have a cushioned footbed and shock-absorbing heel so you can dance the night away in the club, and a 3-inch block heel with traction to keep you steady on your feet even if the ship's rocking a bit."

Reusable water bottle

A reusable water bottle is useful for filling up at water and beverage stations on your cruise ship; it's also a necessity for shore excursions.

Bathing suit

Pack a couple of swimsuits for the pools, hot tubs and any shore excursions.

Swim cover-up

Another must-have for your cruise packing list is a swimsuit cover-up or two. These are great for wearing over your bathing suit during days at sea, as well as on excursions – especially if you're going on a Caribbean cruise . Amazon sells a variety of stylish, affordable cover-ups, and you can never go wrong with a classic white button-down shirt .

Dry bags are useful for shore excursions where you're likely to get wet but don't want the same to be true for your phone, camera and other precious items. "I use the Outdoor Research Unisex Dry Isolation Pack   and have never had so much as a drop of moisture enter it, which is important for me – it keeps my cameras, documents and important items from getting wet," says Saunders, adding that it functions as a great everyday backpack when it's not raining.

If you need more than one dry bag, cruise expert Brittany Chrusciel recommends the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bag Set . "Having these dry bags, in a variety of sizes, means I can bring all my gear along during a Zodiac cruise or snorkeling excursion without having to worry about it getting wet."

Waterproof phone case

A waterproof phone case is also essential, especially if you plan to take photos. The Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouches (available in a two-pack) come with a lanyard so you can both protect your phone and wear it around your neck. They are compatible with most smartphones.

"I like to bring collapsible pails, small shovels , inflatable beach toys, a floppy Frisbee or other things to entertain the kids on the beach if we're going to a private island or beach destination," says Silverstein. "If you can inflate your own inner tube, you don't need to rent a floating mat."

Beach towel

"Although cruise lines provide guests with towels to take off the ship on excursions, they are often bulky and sometimes small," explains Chrusciel. "The Surfer Towel folds up to nearly nothing, so it takes up almost no room in your suitcase and is super convenient to pack in a day bag. What's more, its quick-drying technology means that the lightweight fabric won't be soaking wet when you need to pack up for the day and head back to the ship."

Towel clips

"Even though giant plastic towel clips shaped like a flamingo are a bit cringey, they make it easy to find your spot in a sea of sun loungers," says Chrusciel. "They also solve a common cruise problem: keeping your towel securely fixed to your chair while reading or sunbathing."

Reef-safe sunscreen

Reef-safe sunscreen SPF 40 against white background.

Courtesy of Badger

When choosing a sunscreen, look for something that's reef-safe; not only are these sunscreens safer for the environment, but they're also better for you . The active ingredients in reef-safe sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, are zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a combination of both. Top-rated mineral sunscreen brands include Think , Badger and Raw Elements , all of which also sell lip balm with sunscreen (another essential at sea).

After-sun lotion

You'll want an extra dose of moisturizer if you've been basking in the sun. COOLA makes an after-sun body lotion that cools and hydrates the skin with aloe vera, agave and lavender oil. Previous buyers rave about this lotion, noting they appreciate that the scent isn't overpowering.

A good book

Sea days are the perfect time to kick back and relax with a book you've been meaning to read. Find an oceanfront lounge chair in a shaded area on the pool deck, or grab a cup of tea and settle into a quiet nook indoors. There's no need to pack more than one book, however, as many cruise ships have libraries.

What not to pack for a cruise

Power strip.

Many cruise lines do not permit power strips as they present a fire hazard, while others allow them as long as they are non-surge-protected. Instead of a power strip, purchase a portable charger such as this highly rated one by Anker , which can power up multiple devices at once. This can be especially useful for shore excursions. When packing for your cruise, also think about your luggage: If it has an included charging port, you may not even need to purchase an additional charging block.

Weapons and restraints

Firearms, handcuffs and the like are not permitted on cruise ships. This rule also includes toy guns on most cruise lines.

While most major cruise lines allow guests to pack a limited amount of wine or Champagne per person, they do not permit hard liquor. Of course, those of age can purchase cocktails at any of the bars on board.

Household appliances

Irons and steamers are not permitted on cruise ships, which is why the aforementioned garment bags, wrinkle release spray and packing cubes are recommended for keeping clothing tidy and neat. Coffee makers and mug warmers are also prohibited.

While you can technically bring you own, it's not necessary as hairdryers are available in every bathroom on most ships.

CBD and marijuana

CBD that's derived from hemp and contains 0.3% THC or less is legal at a federal level. However, each state interprets and enforces this law differently; for example, many states require a prescription for it. Due to the ambiguity of the laws, most cruise lines continue to ban CBD in any form.

Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law, which means you cannot bring it on a cruise ship – even if you're legally able to purchase it in your home state for recreational or medical use.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

For the U.S. News Cruise Packing List, travel writers Gwen Pratesi and Amanda Norcross tapped leading industry experts for their cruise essentials. They regularly update this checklist with new and useful items to pack.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Cruise Lines
  • The Best Adults-Only Cruises
  • The Best All-Inclusive Cruises

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World's Best Places To Visit

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14 Incredible Honolulu Shore Excursions (cruise ship ready)

honolulu shore excursions oahu hawaii

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through my links we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Read about our affiliate policies here .

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Honolulu frequently serves as the gateway for cruise ships sailing to and around the Hawaiian islands. If you have time before, during, or after your cruise, Oahu offers an array of fun experiences so you can enjoy your tropical vacation to the fullest.

Plan the rest of your Hawaii cruise details with ease 1. Find a place to stay on Oahu before and/or after your cruise (we definitely recommend staying before) 2. Grab the Cruising Hawaii Guide for in-depth planning resources for each island, tailored to cruise passengers’ needs! 3. Book a rental car for Oahu or any other islands you want to get around independently. 4. Check out our tips for booking Hawaii travel to save on travel expenses.

Can’t Miss Honolulu Shore Excursions

As the most visited island in Hawaii, Oahu has no shortage of activities to keep you entertained during your stopover. But cruise ship passengers only have a limited time to explore, which is why it’s essential to prioritize these must-do activities.

  • Pearl Harbor : A trip to Pearl Harbor can be done on your own or with a tour group. Keep in mind that there are four museums you can visit, and most tours will only cover one or two of these sights. If you want more flexibility, then we recommend going on your own or booking a private, customized tour.
  • Circle Island Tour: This epic sightseeing tour packs in all the best attractions of Oahu in just 9 hours. On your 120-mile journey, you’ll visit Diamond Head Lookout, Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, Waimea Valley, and so much more!
  • Waikiki Surfing Lessons: Whether you’re a complete beginner or looking to improve your skills, surfing is a quintessential Hawaiian activity. There are multiple surf shops and schools around the island, but we recommend Ohana Surf Project as it’s in Waikiki, close to where the cruise terminal is.
  • Hawaiian Catamaran Sail: This is more than just a sightseeing cruise – it’s an entire cultural experience! On your two-hour tour of the ocean on a traditional wooden sailing canoe, you’ll learn all about Hawaiian culture and history while also enjoying refreshments and snacks.

Honolulu shore excursions - cruise ship

Honolulu Shore Excursion Tips

Planning an excursion in Honolulu is a bit different than your other ports of call, as Oahu is likely the starting and ending point if you’re on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America . Pride of America is the only ship that does a loop of the major Hawaiian Islands every week.

Therefore, the time you spend on land depends on your personal schedule. Instead of just having a day on shore, you can have several days to do what you want! Get to know Oahu so you’re ready for all it has to offer.

Ideally, you should plan to have at least three or four days to explore Oahu . While you can do this once your cruise is over, we recommend taking time before the ship departs, as it’ll give you a few days to get over the jet lag as well. Find a great place to stay in Honolulu for before and after your trip!

We also dive into the best time to cruise Hawaii and break down when other cruise lines go so you can make the best decision for you.

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the Hawaii cruise ports so you know what to expect at each stop. Some ports are central to a downtown area where you could spend all day ( Kailua Pier ) and others are far from anything you’ll want to do ( Kahului Harbor ).

tour guide on cruise ship

Cruising Hawaii Guide

Get the cruising hawaii guide.

Booking a cruise to Hawaii is the easy part (in our opinion). The hard part is finding the best shore excursions, planning self-guided itinerary days, and how to get around the island.

The Cruising Hawaii Guide provides everything you need to plan your trip, including 90+ shore excursion tour options, over 11 self-guided itinerary days, our favorite restaurants, and the best beaches. We want your cruise to Hawaii to be unforgettable, and stress-free.

Add the  Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary  to your cart with coupon code  CRUISE  to save $7.

On your first take, head out on the Circle Island Tour to see a handful of sights at once and to get a feel for the island. You can then spend the next few days going back to places you enjoyed the most, like the North Shore or the Windward Coast.

Alternatively, you can always rent a car to explore the island on your own. This is a cost-effective way to get around without relying on tour schedules or expensive Ubers. Here is How To Get Around Oahu Without a Rental Car and Oahu Transport Options for more details.

Grab the Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary for an in-depth guide to all the best beaches, restaurants, and sights (with driving directions!) for your self-guided days. Plus you can save $7 by bundling the Cruising Hawaii Guide with the Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary by using CRUISE at checkout.

Here are a couple of popular sights you can reach in a short drive from Waikiki:

  • Ala Moana Regional Park : 7 minutes
  • Pearl Harbor : 22 minutes
  • Haleiwa : 50 minutes
  • Kailua : 25 minutes

Even though there are a lot of fun activities to do with your family during the day, make sure to save your energy for an evening luau . There are so many great options on Oahu, so you’re in for a real treat if you love live music, Polynesian dancing, and delicious buffet dinners.

If you’re hoping for a full-day cultural experience, then head to the Polynesian Cultural Center , an all-day immersive experience that ends with a live luau show.

Honolulu shore excursions -luau

Where to Book Honolulu Shore Excursions

Booking honolulu shore excursions with the ship.

Booking an excursion with your cruise operator is an easy and stress-free way to plan out your port of call stops. You’ll also find that they have tons of fun activities for you to do in Honolulu before or after your trip!

Here are a few reasons to book with the ship:

  • Guaranteed Return: All shore excursions organized by the ship are designed to come back before the ship leaves port. With a schedule that works with the ship’s timing, you can enjoy your activity without worry.
  • Transportation: A nice perk of booking with the ship is that it includes transportation. That way, you won’t have to worry about hailing a cab or taking public transportation to and from the dock.
  • Cost: Although the excursion cost may be higher than if you were to organize it independently, the extra price is justified because it usually includes transportation. Not having to worry about timing or booking a cab is priceless!
  • Refunds: Tours booked with the ship will have refund policies in case you are unable to dock due to weather or strong currents.
  • Booking Flexibility: If you don’t want to book your Honolulu shore excursion before the trip, you don’t have to! Ship-organized tours can be booked online, but they can also be arranged onboard once you have a better idea of your schedule and what you want to do. Just know these do fill up fast, so you may not get the pick of the lot once you’re on the boat.

Honolulu shore excursions, Norwegian Cruise lines

Booking Honolulu Shore Excursions with the Tour Operator

If the ship excursions are too expensive (or you just can’t find one to your liking), you can always book directly with the tour operator on Oahu. Although they probably won’t guarantee an on-time return to the ship, you can always call the cruise line ahead of time if you’re running late.

While there are many types of tours out there, it’s best to book with a reputable and trusted company. We’ve spent countless hours vetting tour operators and going out with them, so you can feel comfortable knowing you’re booking a tour that prioritizes safety as well as a good time!

  • Supporting Local Businesses: When booking directly with the tour operator, you’ll be supporting a local Hawaiian business, which is great for the island community!
  • Cost Savings: Local tours tend to be cheaper than the ones offered by the cruise line, sometimes as much as 30% cheaper. Therefore, it’s a better option if you’re looking to stick to a budget on your trip.
  • Availability: Only a limited number of cruise-ship organized tours are available. If you see that your top choice is sold out, you can always check with a tour operator to book a local excursion instead.
  • Small Groups: Tours organized by local businesses offer a smaller, more intimate setting with usually no more than 12 guests.
  • Cancellation Policy: Before you book your excursion, check the operator’s cancellation and refund policy. In case your ship can’t dock or you cannot go on the tour, you’ll be thankful to have that 24 to 72-hour cancellation policy.

Honolulu shore excursions - Charter Oahu

The Best Honolulu Shore Excursions

As promised, here is a list of some of the best shore excursions you can do before or after your cruise. Even if you don’t have that many extra days on land, most of these trusted providers will pick you up directly from the cruise terminal, so you don’t have to waste any time!

Grand Island Circle Tour

The Grand Island Circle Tour is one of the most popular Oahu tours as it takes you to some of the most beautiful attractions around the island! Over the course of 9 hours, you’ll be driven to Oahu’s best beaches, farms, parks, and towns with your guide (this is a small-group tour).

Visit the island’s best surfing spots on the North Shore, learn about how macadamia nuts and pineapples are grown on farm tours, and marvel at the lush, jaw-dropping landscapes that Oahu is known for.

Honolulu shore excursions - grand circle island tour

Private Island Tour

Do you have specific sights bucket list items that you want to tick off your list? On this private island tour , you can fully customize your entire journey around Oahu. You can spend the whole day driving or stop off at any attractions or landmarks that you have been dying to see.

You and up to 5 other guests will have 8 hours with your driver, who can also make recommendations on where to go. Best of all, they’ll pick you up (with your luggage) from the cruise terminal and drop you back at the airport!

USS Arizona & Visitor’s Center

A trip to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor is a historically significant and moving experience. Although it’s a bit outside of the city, this tour makes it easy to see the memorial during your time in Oahu.

You’ll be picked up directly at the cruise terminal and driven to Pearl Harbor. While there is a guide for the ride, they do not go with you into the memorial. After you tour the museums, you’ll be driven back so you can continue with your trip. There are multiple pickup times available to fit the cruise ship’s schedule.

If you prefer to drive yourself (or take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft), you can reserve your own Pearl Harbor tickets here.

Honolulu shore excursions - USS Arizona

Pearl Harbor All-Day, All Sites

There’s so much more to Pearl Harbor than the USS Arizona Memorial. If you’re interested in a more comprehensive experience, then this full-day tour is an excellent choice. It includes a trip to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as a tour through the USS Bowfin, USS Battleship Missouri, and Ford Island.

Because this is a 9-hour tour, it’s crucial that you have a full day to spend on Oahu. It’s also important to note that they pick up and drop off in Waikiki but not directly at the cruise terminal.

Honolulu shore excursions - Pearl Harbor

North Shore Half Day

The North Shore of Oahu is famous for its world-class surfing, laid-back atmosphere, and spectacular natural beauty – so it’s easy to see why many people would want to make the journey up the island to visit! If you have a couple of hours free, then book this North Shore tour with a private guide.

They will pick you up in a Jeep and take you to all the popular sights (as well as a few secret spots that tourists don’t usually see!).

Honolulu shore excursions - North Shore Half day

Turtle Canyon Snorkeling

Swimming with green sea turtles is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure! At Turtle Canyon, you can snorkel with these majestic creatures and see how they clean themselves using reef fish at the cleaning station. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see other marine life like dolphins, spotted eagle rays, monk seals, and maybe even a humpback whale (Dec-March)!

There are two types of Turtle Canyon Snorkeling tours available. One is in a small group with 6 people, and the other is a cheaper tour on a larger boat with 40 guests. The departure point for the tour is at Kewalo Harbor, which is just a 30-minute walk or 6-minute drive from the terminal.

Honolulu shore excursions - turtle canyon

Waikiki Beach Loading Catamaran Sail

If you can’t get enough of being out on the water, then this scenic catamaran trip is for you! Departing from downtown Waikiki (in front of the Moana Surfrider Hotel ), this 1-hour cruise boasts panoramic views of the beach, Diamond Head, and downtown Honolulu.

There are 5 departures daily, including an evening sunset cruise. They also have a bar onboard for drinks, although you’re more than welcome to BYOB.

Honolulu shore excursions - catamaran sail

Hawaiian Catamaran Sail

This is one of the most unique shore excursions that you can do when you’re in Honolulu! Unlike most sailing tours, the Hawaiian Catamaran tour is an educational journey where you’ll learn all about Hawaiian history and culture. It’s a really immersive experience that we thought was even better than going to a luau!

The 2-hour trip sets sail on a traditional wooden catamaran with a small group of only 6 guests. But if you’re looking for a more intimate trip, you can charter the boat privately.

There are four departures throughout the day from Kewalo Harbor, so it’s easy to work around your cruise ship timing.

Whale Watching

If you’re in Hawaii from December to March, you’ll have the opportunity to see humpback whales off the coast of Oahu! Get up bright and early and head out onto the waters at 7:00am for your chance to see these breathtaking creatures!

Book using the code Whales15 to save 15% on this tour !

Honolulu shore excursions - whale watching

Honolulu Helicopter Tours

You’ve seen Oahu by land and sea, but a Honolulu Helicopter Tour allows you to see the island from an entirely new perspective! Choose from a scenic 18-, 30-, or 60-minute tour of the skies (which we guarantee will be one of the more unique experiences you’ll have here!).

Tours depart from Honolulu Airport, which is a 15-minute drive from the terminal. Use code HVG to score 5% off on this tour , too!

Surfing Lessons

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world for surfing. If you’ve ever wanted to hang 10 on Waikiki Beach, then take a private, semi-private, or group lesson with Ohana Surf Project . This is how we learned to surf, and we can’t recommend them enough!

When booking your lesson, request a pickup to their surf school. They have their own transportation service and can arrange pickup close to where the cruise ship docks.

tour guide on cruise ship

Private Custom Oahu Tours

If none of these tours spark your interest, then maybe this customizable Honolulu shore excursion will! Whether you want to hike through the jungle or snorkel with turtles, the folks at Mahina Hawaii can make your Oahu dreams come true.

SCUBA Diving

While Oahu is beautiful above land, it’s even more breathtaking underneath the ocean’s surface! Book a scuba dive excursion and discover an entire world of natural beauty waiting to be explored. From colorful coral reefs to WWII shipwrecks, there are dive trips for all types of skill levels.

For a complete list of Oahu activities, check out our Cruising Hawaii Guide and Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary .

Honolulu shore excursions - SCUBA diving

If you’re looking for even more to do while you’re in the area, we have a huge list of things to do in Honolulu .

Check out shore excursions for the other islands too! 11 Incredible Kauai Shore Excursions (perfect for a cruise schedule) Can’t Miss Big Island Shore Excursions for Your Hawaii Cruise The Best Maui Shore Excursions for Your Hawaii Cruise

Honolulu Excursion FAQs

Where do honolulu cruise ships dock for shore excursions.

Cruise ships arrive at the Pier 2 Cruise Terminal . This is approximately a 10-minute drive from Waikiki and a 15-minute drive from the airport.

Can I get picked up by taxi, Uber, or Lyft from the dock for my Oahu shore excursion?

If transportation is not included, you can hire a taxi or call an Uber or Lyft straight to the dock. If you want more flexibility to explore, it’s also possible to rent a car (we have more info on all the different transportation options in our Cruising Hawaii Guide ).

Do tour operators offer pickup at the dock?

Most of the tours we have listed include transportation to and from the dock. If you don’t see this option when booking online, give the operator a call and tell them you’ll be disembarking at Pier 2, they may be able to arrange transport.

Honolulu shore excursions - car rental

What should I know about booking tours in Hawaii?

Here are a few important pieces of information to keep in mind when booking your excursions:

  • Tipping your guide $10 to $20 a person is standard, although you should ultimately decide how much to give depending on your experience.
  • Oahu does have lots of sunshine, but rain and wind are not uncommon. If there is bad weather, it’s possible your tour may be canceled.
  • If you’re going on a boat excursion, don’t forget to bring motion sickness medication! Smaller boats tend to be rockier compared to the larger cruise ships.
  • Double-check the age restrictions for your tours. While some excursions are family-friendly, others require your kids to be at least 5 years of age.

By now, you should have a good idea about what you can do in Honolulu and Oahu. But for more information about cruising the islands, our Cruising Hawaii Guide is a huge help!

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Thanks for reading The Hawaii Vacation Guide! I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of the best Hawaii travel guide on the internet in our biased opinions. We enjoy traveling throughout Hawaii after living on Maui and Oahu. We share our adventures, travel tips and resources, and honest reviews so you can easily plan your dream vacation to Hawaii. Editing our videos, teaching the kids how to snorkel, and learning about the 'aina (land) and Hawaii culture are my favorite things to do. Have a wonderful trip to the Aloha State.

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Expedition Leaders & Tour Guides

Tour guides and excursion leaders are an integral part of the cruise ship staff. These guides tend to specialize in the culture, history, geography and events near cruise ship ports of call.

Cruise ship Expedition and Tour Guides Must be Knowledgeable on Areas all Around the World

Additionally cruise ship excursion guides are also charged with the responsibility of leading groups safely to shore when the cruise ship docks. Tour guides and expedition leaders also lead any specialized outings related to the area. Therefore, depending on the type of cruise, tours will likely vary. This means a land excursion guide or tour operator might be leading boating and fishing tours, hikes, afternoon adventure tours, shopping excursions, wine tastings, wildlife viewings, kayaking trips, surfing lessons, diving adventures or mountain climbing.

Nearly any activity you can think of that takes place at a cruise ship port of call can be the responsibility of an excursion or tour guide operator. In addition to actually running the tour, travel guides on cruise ships will often plan excursions, organize details, manage staff and demonstrate safety instructions. Although much of the work takes place at ports-of-call, expedition leaders and tour guides almost always travel with the ship, providing lectures and special information on upcoming places or events.

Cruise companies that specialize in nature tours fill tour guide jobs with people who are knowledgeable in natural and cultural history. Naturalist cruises have an intensive lecture program onboard, and the expedition leader coordinates lectures, plans and executes excursions from the ship, and also gives lectures. Experience in travel and tourism and a formal education are required. Many offshore cruise guides and adventure tour guides started as assistants or naturalists to acquaint themselves with the details of this career position. There are even some training facilities to educate tour guides and expedition leaders. Certification or formal training will increase your chances but will not guarantee you a position onboard a cruise ship. The website, CruiseJobFinder, has good information on this topic:

Contracts and pay are sometimes negotiable for adventure tour guides and tour leaders. Some might be onboard a ship until they are done traveling a specific region while others will stay onboard for many months or even years at a time. Because more training and specialization is involved to be a tour guide for a cruise ship, contracts tend to be longer. Some tour guides and expedition leaders can earn as much as $2,300 – $3,000 a month while on contract with a cruise ship.

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 Cruise Ship Tours & Shore Excursions

We offer private tours, day tours, sightseeing tours & small group tours & trips for the discerning traveller right throughout NZ with cruise ship tours and shore excursions available in every cruise ship port in NZ.

We don’t like to ‘toot our own horn’ so check out our 5 star Trip Advisor reviews

There are special things in each port of call that are unique to NZ, and you will get to experience all the highlights on one of our tours that are taken by local tour guides, each tour has a private guide who will keep you entertained for the entirety of your time. Our tours are packed with fun, laughter & commentary given by our locals guides that you simply will not forget.

‘We start as strangers and end as friends’

Our tours are designed for all ages so come & experience a Bookatour private tour or shore excursion - seeing NZ your way.

You have Bex personal guarantee of satisfaction on this list so enjoy!

Pickup and Drop-off Directly to your Ship

Our Private Tours always collect you from your ship or hotel and take you back to the same spot at the end of the day! No need for shuttles into the city  - enjoy your own private chauffeur!

Exploring New Zealand is exciting and fun. We offer fully customizable Private Tours in every city & port in NZ to suit everyone's requirements and budgets.

Explore New Zealand like a local with a local  and get to see what you wouldn't normally see on a large bus tour.

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What to expect on our day tours.

Firstly expect to be amazed! New Zealand is a very special place to visit with a population of around 5 million, so  it really is very ‘un-touched’. NZ has a lot of unique architectural buildings, history, stories,   wildlife , beautiful coastlines & even an old Castle BUT best of all are the people you will meet on our tours!

All tours are made just for you so your guides will become life long friends guaranteed.

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Cruise Ship  NZ Ports of Call Tours

Click the port of interest, south island cruise ship ports, picton cruise ship terminal.

Picton is a small port with 2 different berths,  both a short bus ride into Picton itself which the ships put on. However here our choice is for you to be whisked into the wine country of Blenheim where you can spend the day tasting the Sauvignon Blancs of NZ (and others) with our wine maker.  This tour is a behind the scenes and the only one in Blenheim that  is not a cellar door tour. Includes a vineyard lunch.

Akaroa Cruise Ship Terminal 

There is no official port so its a tender  to shore  and spend the time wandering this amazing French settlement!

Lyttleton Cruise Ship Terminal 

This is a working port and nothing to see here, instead grab our private tour into Akaroa the French Settlement on the Banks Peninsula, sit back and enjoy the stunning scenery before being able to stop at a local cheese factory, home to the Hector Dolphins the smallest Dolphin i the World, this is your chance to jump aboard our cruises and  take a swim if you wish 

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Port Chalmers is located 9km away from the city of Dunedin – but don’t worry there is no need for a shuttle when your on our tours we collect you from your ship! Choose your tour and let us take care of the rest!

Timaru Cruise Ship Terminal 

This port is a working port, our choice for this port is a visit to the stunning Victorian Precinct of Oamaru where you will step back in time, enjoy a locally crafted beer and wander back in time literally!

Oban Cruise Ship Terminal 

This is a tender port and yes we have tours available

North Island Cruise Ship Ports

Auckland cruise ship terminal.

This port in in the middle of town and an easy walk into Auckland – tours to Waiheke and surrounds are available but please note Auckland is a traffic bound city and tours are based on cruise ship times.

Tauranga Cruise Ship Terminal

A port located at the side of town but one of our favourite ports, you simply  must venture into the world of geysers and mud-pools, Hobbits and glow-worms on our tours to Rotorua – all small group or private at your request

Napier Cruise Ship Terminal

Napier is all about wine and art-deco - 

Join our private wine maker for a private elite glimspe into the wines of this area in a behind the scenes tour with our famous guide

Add on the ganet colony if you wish

Wellington Cruise Ship Terminal

We like to call it “Windy Wellington” because you’ll simply be blown away! Take our high country tour past the wind turbines that power Wellington to the working  farm of our guide ( 6000 sheep, 400 cattle and 40 horses)  let us take you  via 4WD to the edge of the North Island for morning tea atop the cliffs glancing out to the South Island, stopping to feed 50 year old eels and wild Kaimanua horses – once in a lifetime kinda stuff!

Or if you prefer a City Sights, cable car Winter Gardens, Parliment type day out just contact us.

Bookatour's Most Highly Recommended Tour Operators In New Zealand

Don't leave your holiday to chance. pick from our top local tour operators around new zealand ​.

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Tauranga Tours by Bookatour

Tauranga. tours taken by a local guide. The team at Bookatour know all the best kept secrets and hidden gems around Tauranga. Unique, Fun & a good time not to be missed.

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Bay of Island"s Tours by Bay of Island's Tours

Bay of Island Tours is the trusted tours and transport operator for the Bay of Island region. From Cruise Ship tours, corporate functions to exploring the whole Bay of Islands and the Northland region.

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Christchurch Private Tours by Private Tours

Welcome to Private Tours (Canterbury) - We specialize in private custom tours in Christchurch, & throughout the Canterbury regions of New Zealand.

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Napier Wine Tours by The Winemaker's Tour

Napier wine tour located in the beautiful Hawkes Bay of New Zealand. Stunning scenery along with some of the top wines in the Hawkes bay region.

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Marlborough Wines Tour by Hop & Grape

Blenheim wine tours located in the beautiful Marlborough region of New Zealand. The Only wine tour in Marlborough that is taken by the wine maker himself.

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Christchurch Tours by Cheeky Kea Tours

Christchurch tours - We are a Locally owned & operated tour company based in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand. With us you will, See more, Do more, Spend less

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Dunedin Tours by Bookatour

Dunedin tours taken by a local guide. The team at Bookatour know all the best kept secrets and hidden gems around Dunedin City. Unique, Fun & a good time not to be missed.

More Dunedin Tours by Bookatour

Dunedin Tours NZ, New Zealand Tours


Dunedin and Otago Peninsula Highlights in a day - Jump aboard our small group tours (max of 18) and enjoy a day out in our City.

Elite Dunedin Tours NZ, New Zealand Tours


Dunedin sights with a helicopter tour over the Otago Peninsula

Dunedin Private Tours NZ, Private Tours Dunedin, New Zealand


Design your own bespoke Dunedin Tour with your dream wish list of experiences,...

Dunedin Wildlife Tours in NZ, Private Wildlife Tours Dunedin New Zealand


Enjoy a tour of Where the Wild Things Are on the Otago Peninsula mixed,...

Cruise Ship Tour Trips Dunedin NZ, New Zealand Tours.


An exciting look behind the scenes of NZ honey making process with,... Add this onto any of our excursions



An overland experience

Dunedin Helicopter Tours NZ, Tours New Zealnd,


Catch a salmon and match it with wine

Private Tours In NZ, New Zealand Private Tours


Heli return trip, Dunedin to Queenstown from your cruise ship!

$2000pp NZD

Dunedin Tours New Zealand, NZ Tours


Local Luxury Dunedin Tours New Zealand.

​ Coming Soon

tour guide on cruise ship


Book one of our experiences today .

6 tips for going on a cruise as a wheelchair user

Miami Beach, Government Cut, Tourists in Wheelchair watching Cruise Ship

Traveling in a wheelchair undoubtedly comes with its challenges, but almost any wheelchair user will probably agree that cruising comes with far fewer challenges than air travel and most other modes of transportation. On a cruise, you don't need to worry about finding an accessible taxi or calling in advance to check accessibility when going to dinner.

Instead, you can hop in an elevator and in less than five minutes, you'll be ready for dinner in a nice cruise ship restaurant . Life on board a cruise ship is easy for wheelchair users because it's like an entire city is right there on the ship. Whether you want to lounge by the pool and drink pina coladas all day, see a Broadway-style show or even gamble in the onboard casino, nearly anything is possible within the confines of a cruise ship.

For more cruise news, guides and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

While cruising is one of the easier ways to travel with a disability, wheelchair users should keep a few things in mind when considering a cruise vacation. If you're planning a cruise, here are six tips for cruising as a wheelchair user to help ensure you have an enjoyable — and accessible — cruise vacation.

Book as early as possible

tour guide on cruise ship

Some of the larger cruise ships can hold around 5,000 people. Royal Caribbean 's Icon of the Seas , currently the world's largest ship, carries 7,600 passengers. However, even with that much space, wheelchair-accessible cabins can be limited. Typically, a cruise ship only offers a few dozen accessible rooms, and they are often booked quickly. (MSC Cruises tends to provide more accessible cabins than other cruise lines. MSC Seaside offers 51 accessible cabins.)

If you're thinking about taking a cruise, it's incredibly important to do the proper research and reserve your accessible cabin as early as possible. Booking a year or more in advance is great, especially for Alaska cruises . Cruises to Alaska often sell out of accessible cabins in record time, so keep an eye out for on-sale dates if there's a specific cruise you'd like to book.

Related: 6 ways to get a deal on a cruise

Choose a cruise line that works for you

tour guide on cruise ship

Generally, the bigger the ship, the more accessible it is. For example, cruise lines like Carnival , Royal Caribbean and Disney have at least a few thousand passengers on every cruise, so the ships are more likely to accommodate wheelchair users. Holland America and Celebrity Cruises cater to older travelers, so you can also expect good access on their ships. However, smaller ships (and especially river cruises ) are typically not wheelchair-friendly.

Newer ships are also more accessible than older vessels. If you see that a brand-new ship is coming out from one of the big cruise lines, you can almost guarantee that accessibility will be fantastic.

tour guide on cruise ship

To determine whether a ship is the right one for you, go to your chosen cruise line's website and pull up the deck plan of your desired ship. Accessible cabins will be indicated by a wheelchair symbol.

You can also do a Google search for "(cruise ship name) wheelchair access review" and read reviews from other wheelchair users. Nothing beats that firsthand perspective from a fellow wheelchair user.

Related: The best cruise lines for wheelchair users and passengers with limited mobility

Find out if ports of call are docked or tendered

tour guide on cruise ship

Rolling around a cruise ship as a wheelchair user is spectacular, but what about exploring the various ports of call? Visiting various destinations on a single itinerary is one of the big advantages of a cruise vacation.

Wheelchair users should choose cruise itineraries where ships dock at the ports of call. Once the ship is tied up to the pier, wheelchair users can simply roll down a ramp to disembark the ship.

The alternative is that the ship anchors offshore and uses smaller, typically inaccessible, boats called tenders to take passengers ashore. It's difficult, and sometimes impossible, for wheelchair users to board these boats and transfer to shore.

You can find out if a port is docked or tendered by viewing the itinerary online or calling the cruise line.

Related: The most wheelchair-accessible beach destinations in the US

Rent mobility equipment

tour guide on cruise ship

For many wheelchair users, one of the most difficult parts of traveling is taking along medical and mobility equipment. As someone who travels with a motorized wheelchair, a shower/commode wheelchair, a patient lift, wheelchair chargers and other medical equipment, I know firsthand how challenging it is to haul everything around once you reach a destination.

To make the process easier, companies such as Special Needs at Sea and Scootaround will allow you to rent mobility equipment that will be waiting in your cabin when you board the ship. Cruise travelers can rent wheelchairs, hospital beds, patient lifts, oxygen concentrators and more.

Related: These are the most accessible cities around the world

Reserve shore excursions with accessibility-focused companies

tour guide on cruise ship

If cruise lines are lacking in one department, it's the availability of wheelchair-accessible shore excursions. Some cruise lines do offer accessible shore excursions in certain destinations, but the choices can be limited.

Royal Caribbean offers accessible shore excursions in several port cities in the Caribbean, Europe and the Mediterranean. Passengers must fill out a request form prior to the cruise. Additionally, accessible shore excursions through Carnival Cruise Line are marked with a wheelchair icon. They include tours in Valletta, Malta; Glasgow, Scotland; Ketchikan, Alaska; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

If your particular cruise line doesn't provide a good selection of wheelchair-friendly excursions, consider booking a tour with an external company. In most ports of call, especially in the Caribbean and Europe, you can find local companies that have adapted transportation. It might take a bit of a Google search to find them, but they are out there.

For example, Sage Traveling offers wheelchair-friendly shore excursions in dozens of popular cruise destinations. Even better, the company is managed by a wheelchair user, so you can rest assured that accessibility will be top-notch.

Let an accessibility specialist plan your cruise

If researching and planning a wheelchair-friendly cruise seems daunting, let someone else do the work for you. Some travel companies specialize in accessible tours — including cruises.

Easy Access Travel specializes in both accessible cruise vacations and packaged land tours for travelers with physical limitations. The company has sailed with such lines as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess Cruises , Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line .

In addition to offering accessible shore excursions, the above-mentioned Sage Traveling organizes wheelchair-friendly cruise vacations to the Caribbean, Europe and the Mediterranean.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

  • The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise
  • A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
  • 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
  • Top ways cruisers waste money
  • The ultimate guide to choosing a cruise ship cabin


  1. PHOTOS, VIDEO: 'Walking The Wish' Full Guided Tour of Disney Cruise

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  1. Cordelia cruise cost and full guide

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  4. Your First Cruise, or Thinking about a Getaway. Please watch this for Cruise Newbies

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  6. Save Money and Hassle: Uber vs Cruise Ship Transfers #carnivaljubilee #houston #galveston


  1. Shore Excursions

    We now feature over 5,000 tours in over 300 ports around the world. ... We also guaranty to get you back to your ship on time. Don't let the cruise line scare you into only buying their tours! BEST PRICES GUARANTEED. Our prices are usually lower than buying directly from the cruise lines. We offer better value, with smaller groups, and higher ...

  2. Fodor's Cruises Travel Guides

    Sailing away on the ship of your dreams is more affordable—and enjoyable—than ever before, and this Cruising 101 guide is just the resource you need, whether you're a first-timer or a ...

  3. First-Timers' Guide to Shore Excursions

    8 min read. Shore excursions are cruise activities that take place while your cruise ship is in port. Think: snorkeling through coral reefs, exploring ancient Roman ruins, hiking on glaciers and ...

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  5. Should you book a ship-sponsored or independent shore excursion on a

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  6. Ultimate guide to cruise excursions

    Carnival Cruise Line's "Mendenhall Glacier Native Canoe Adventure" in Juneau, Alaska: $219 per adult and $179.99 per child. Princess Cruises' "Wilderness Cruise & Silverking Lodge Seafood Feast" in Ketchikan, Alaska: $190 per person. Royal Caribbean's "Best of Ephesus" in Ephesus, Turkey: $129 per adult and $79 per child.

  7. Cruise Travel Guides

    With a robust cruise guide, you can be confident you'll choose the right ship and cabin, and get the most bang for your buck. Cruise Critic's guide to cruise lines and cruise port guides, among ...

  8. Cruises

    Some cruise lines even offer fully inclusive vacations, which cover drinks and tours ashore. Cruising means seeing the world while unpacking only once. Cruises also provide a wonderful option for families, with many ships offering things like waterslides, mini-golf courses and fun clubs for kids and teens -- all for free.

  9. Planning Your First Cruise: The Ultimate Tips Guide

    Cruise Pre-Planning. The best advice I can give anyone taking their first cruise is to research, plan, and pack accordingly. The better you can plan, the better off you will be! You don't want to have any last-minute vacation anxiety or inconveniences because you forgot something important.

  10. 7 Things To Do As Soon As You Board A Cruise Ship

    Embarkation day can be hectic and overwhelming. Join a guided tour to get your bearings. David Nikel. Ship tours are ideal for first-time cruisers unfamiliar with the ship's layout and generally ...

  11. What Does A Self-Guided Tour On A Cruise Ship Entail?

    Benefits of Self-Guided Tours on Cruise Ships. Opting for a self-guided tour on a cruise ship comes with numerous benefits that can enhance your overall travel experience. Let's explore some of the advantages: Flexibility: One of the key benefits of a self-guided tour is the flexibility it offers. You have the freedom to create your own ...

  12. Symphony of the Seas Full Cruise Ship Tour

    A full tour of Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas. You'll be able to see all the public spaces onboard, restaurants, and fun things to do before you boar...

  13. When and How Much to Tip on a Cruise

    On shore excursions, it's expected that passengers tip tour guides and bus drivers. How much you tip on cruise excursions is entirely up to you, but a suggested starting price is $3 per person for a half-day tour and $6 per person for a full-day tour for the guide and $1 to $2 for the bus driver. You can, of course, increase that amount based ...

  14. The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line ships and itineraries

    The smaller two ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet are Disney Wonder and the line's first ship, Disney Magic. These two ships are 984 feet long and 11 decks high, and each has the capacity ...

  15. What To Do In Mykonos From A Cruise Ship

    These sailing tours allow for time to explore the archaeological site of Delos, but also time for a swim off the coast of Rhenia. The Mykonos boat trips to Delos and Rhenia start from Agios Ioannis port and transfer can be included. 6 Hour Delos and Rhenia Boat Trip. Yacht cruise to Delos and Rhenia.

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    For example, if the tour starts at 11:00 AM and finishes at 14:00, your cruise ship must arrive at 10:00 AM and depart from Santorini at 15:00. On the other hand, if you book a catamaran cruise or a private yacht cruise, the departure port will be Ammoudi or Vlychada Port. In this case, your cruise ship must arrive at least a couple of hours ...

  18. Tips for Hiring a Private Tour Guide in a Cruise Port

    (Guides also often have set tours, which you can then customize.) Make sure to specify the hours that your ship will be in port; your guide will need to allow plenty of time for you to get back to ...

  19. Visiting Barcelona by Cruise Ship: What to do In Barcelona for a Day

    More on this in the section below on getting around Barcelona. 6. La Rambla. Last on our list for the day is a wander down Barcelona's La Rambla - the famous street that runs from Placa Catalunya to the Mirador de Colón and Plaça Colom, where you'll get the Portbus back to your cruise ship.

  20. Cruise Packing List: The Essentials Chosen by Experts

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  21. 14 Incredible Honolulu Shore Excursions (cruise ship ready)

    1. Find a place to stay on Oahu before and/or after your cruise (we definitely recommend staying before) 2. Grab the Cruising Hawaii Guide for in-depth planning resources for each island, tailored to cruise passengers' needs! 3. Book a rental car for Oahu or any other islands you want to get around independently. 4.

  22. Top 10 Tour Guide Cruise Ship Jobs (Hiring Now)

    Global Cruises LLC. Bar Harbor, ME 04609. $50 an hour. Part-time. 10 to 30 hours per week. Day shift. Easily apply. Minimum of 1 years of experience as a tourguide or in the turism sector. Ensure that the tour group remains safe, comfortable, and engaged throughout the tour.

  23. Any idea how much to tip on cruise excursions?

    For good, I would give $5 and $2 for the bus driver, unless the bus route was a challenge, then $5 for bus driver. Some people like to give 10% of the cost of the tour. I don't agree and most would not agree with you. For ship's excursions, that are more expensive, I still tip the same as above. Yea, some dive 10%, but some never tip at all.

  24. Research Guides: Tourism and Travel: A Research Guide: Cruises

    Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. In the U.S. when we think of cruises many think of the Caribbean, but there are cruises and cruise lines operating all over the world including a number along some of the larger rivers. To keep people interested, cruise lines have been expanding their menu of activities and ship amenities.

  25. Cruise Line Expedition Leader Jobs

    Because more training and specialization is involved to be a tour guide for a cruise ship, contracts tend to be longer. Some tour guides and expedition leaders can earn as much as $2,300 - $3,000 a month while on contract with a cruise ship. Gentleman Hosts (NEXT PAGE) Become a cruise ship expedition leader or tour leader.

  26. Cruise Ship Tours

    Bookatour - The New Zealand Shore Excursions Experts. Looking for an affordable yet unique crusie ship tour? Then look no further than Bookatour's. NZ most favorite shore excursions day trips. We pick you up and dropped you back to your ship. Bookatour the name people trust. WE have tours in every port of New Zealand including Dunedin, Port Chalmers, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Bay of ...

  27. Tour in/from Qaqortoq

    I will be there via cruise ship. 7am - 5pm. I have somewhat limited mobility, and the excursions from the ship aren't suitable for me. I'm looking for a local tour guide that can meet me at the cruise port, and get me back in plenty of time to depart at 5:00. I'm interested mostly in scenery, history and culture.

  28. 6 tips for going on a cruise as a wheelchair user

    The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship; The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise; A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines; 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly; Top ways cruisers waste money; The ultimate guide to choosing a cruise ship cabin