Of all the mistakes a first-time cruiser could make, some are very easy to avoid because they are likely the easiest to identify as a pitfall.
I've shared lots of advice on how to avoid cruise mistakes over the years and most of these mistakes are the sort of problems new cruisers would have no idea exist until it's too late.
But there are plenty of mistakes that don't require years of cruise experience to identify as a fault.
I've certainly overlooked these mistakes as a given, but it's important to remember that plenty of people new to cruises try this sort of vacation every day, which means it's important to cover these topics too.
Consider this a refresher for what not to do in order to cover all your bases and not succumb to an easy first-time cruiser mistake.
Not knowing what time to be on the ship
The last thing you want to do is be late and your cruise ship to leave you behind. To that point, Royal Caribbean posts the time you need to be on the ship in multiple places and communicates it over the public address system.
To begin with, you'll need to be onboard the ship on the first day of the cruise (known as embarkation day) by a certain time in order to make the cruise.
Whether your travel plans to get you to the cruise ship are delayed, or you simply get busy in town, all passengers need to be onboard the ship by the all aboard time in order to be admitted to the cruise.
Often most passengers are competing to get the earliest check-in time for their cruise, but you'd be surprised how many guests get onboard in the final hour before the ship's gangway is disconnected.
The exact time you must be onboard by depends on the itinerary, but it's usually in the mid to late afternoon.
Similarly, you'll need to be back on the ship by a certain time in each port of call your cruise ship visits during your voyage.
Cruise ships remain docked in a port for a set amount of time and must leave by a certain time to ensure they can stick the planned schedule.
It's quite easy to avoid making this mistake, because times are posted in multiple places.
On the first day of the cruise, pick a time for check-in via the Royal Caribbean app and then get to the terminal at that time. It's okay if you're a little late (life happens), but there is a finite amount of time to get to the terminal before they will deny you boarding because the ship needs to leave.
On days your ship is in port, the all-aboard time is posted in the Cruise Compass, Royal Caribbean app, and signs near the gangway as you disembark.
Always triple-check whether the all-aboard time is based on the ship's clock or the local time.
Read more: What happens if you miss your cruise ship?
Picking a cruise ship that doesn't have the activity you want onboard
If you're disappointed in the cruise ship you're sailing on because it doesn't have a water slide, show, or activity you really wanted to do, that issue could have been avoided had you looked up information about the ship before booking.
Royal Caribbean has a fleet of over 20 cruise ships, and they are not all the same.
While the television commercials you see will show off a variety of fun things to do, these activities are not on every ship.
You don't need to spend hours researching to know what each ship offers. Understanding what features a ship has (and doesn't have) is an easy way to avoid regret later.
- Royal Caribbean ship classes guide & explanation
- See how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size
- 12 differences between the big and small Royal Caribbean cruise ships
- Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?
After one day on a cruise, you'll start noticing a few people on your cruise walking around with that beet red look to them, and it could have easily been avoided.
Getting a sunburn is never fun, and on a cruise in the tropics, it's quite easy because of how strong the sun is in that part of the world.
When you're on vacation, it's easy to get caught up in the euphoria of the excitement that comes with time away from it all, but you will absolutely regret looking like a lobster later when the after-effects of the sunburn start to kick in.
Nothing ruins your beautiful cruise photos like a giant red sun burn, not to mention how painful it can be to the person who has it.
Be sure to not only pack sunscreen, but apply it early and often.
Read more: 8 cruise ship tips from a former employee
Not putting phone into airplane mode
When you leave the country, your cell phone goes into roaming mode and that can be incredibly costly.
On a Royal Caribbean ship, you are outside your cell phone company's service area and that is what the cell phone industry refers to as "roaming." Instead of using your cell provider's network, you use someone else's cell phone tower and network.
In simple terms, this means you'll be charged an arm and a leg to get cell phone access outside the United States.
Instead, just put your phone into airplane mode, which deactivates your phone's cellular antenna.
You can still use the phone while in airplane mode to connect to wifi, take photos, or any of your apps.
Not knowing about activities
Missing out on a fun activity can be a real downer while on a cruise.
Karaoke, bingo, shows, and demonstrations are available every day of your cruise, but it's up to you to know when it's happening.
It's quite common to hear someone tell someone else about a really fun event they attended and hear the other person profess disdain for being unaware it was happening.
Moreover, some events only happen once onboard. Certain activities may only be offered once or twice, so you'll need to be aware of the schedule to avoid missing out.
All the events of the cruise are listed in the Cruise Compass as well as the Royal Caribbean app. It's a good idea to review the schedule each evening for the following day to ensure you wake up in time for anything you have your heart set on doing. You can even set reminders in the Royal Caribbean app by adding the event to "My Calendar".
It contains important information like the hourly activities, the weather, special happenings, the drink of the day, and information on the ports.
Carrying your wallet around onboard
This tip is just about comfort more than anything else, but I really don't know why people carry their wallets around the ship once they are able to get into their staterooms.
Each cabin has a safe you can put valuables, such as a wallet, into to avoid theft or losing it.
In short, there's no reason to have a wallet on you while you're on the ship. Royal Caribbean ships are cashless, so all transactions are done via the SeaPass card. You won't need credit cards or identification in the regular flow of the day.
There are still a few times cash is needed, such as in the casino or when tipping a waiter, but there's less risk in carrying a wad of cash in your pocket rather than the entire content of your wallet.
Considering most men's wallets look more like George Costanza's wallet than a svelte money clip, you'll feel far more at ease with the wallet safely stowed away in the safe.
Packing prohibited items
There's a fairly long list of things you can't bring on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and there's always plenty of people who try to bring them anyway.
On embarkation day, security will scan every piece of luggage coming onboard and if they find something you shouldn't have, they will hold your bag.
This means your luggage wont be delivered to your cabin and you'll have to wait several more hours for security to contact you. At that point you'll need to meet security and watch them confiscate the prohibited item until the end of the cruise.
Read more: What can you not bring on a cruise
It's very easy to avoid this issue by reviewing the prohibited items before you start packing for your cruise.
Not double-checking you have travel documents before leaving home
If you forget to pack underwear, you can buy more at near the port, but if you forget your travel documents, you won't be able to go on the cruise at all.
Due to government regulations, you absolutely need to have the proper travel documents with you in order to cruise.
Make sure your passport, birth certificates, and other forms of identification are on your cruise packing list. Then when it's time to leave your house, check again that those documents are with you in the right bag.
One more tip is to keep all your travel documents with you during the cruise ship boarding process. Do not pack these items in the luggage you give the porters.
Not difference between port and starboard
There's a fair amount of cruise ship lingo, but two terms you should figure out quickly to make navigation easier for yourself.
When facing the front of the ship, port is the left side and starboard is the right.
An easy trick to remember this is "port" and "left" are both four letter words.
Read more: Royal Caribbean cruise ship term glossary