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13 things I wish I'd done differently on my first cruise, from avoiding seasickness to eating at different venues

06 Oct 2023
Calista Kiper

After returning from my first cruise ever, there are some things I would do differently to save money and make the most of my trip.


I booked a 7-day sailing on Wonder of the Seas, traveling from Port Canaveral, Florida, to Perfect Day at CocoCay, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.

I had a lovely time, enjoying the ship's dining, amenities, entertainment, and shore explorations.

However, hindsight is always our best teacher. 

Looking back, I can see many missed opportunities, overlooked details, and chances for improvement.

From packing to avoiding seasickness to eating at different venues, a little introspection reveals valuable tips for future cruises. 

I’ll introduce the 13 things I wish I’d done differently.

You can learn from them too, by avoiding the mistakes I made! 

Explored more on Perfect Day at CocoCay


I had a just-alright experience on Perfect Day at CocoCay. My sister and I woke up in the middle of the morning and went out to a couple beaches. We grabbed free snacks and listened to music while lounging by the water.

By the middle of the day, it started to get more cloudy, so we packed up and returned to the ship.

Weather does make an impact on your experience there. But knowing what I know now, I think we could have maximized time on the island.

I would recommend arriving earlier and visiting the Oasis Lagoon. The pool and floating bar there looked fun, but we arrived too late to find free spaces.

I also later saw cool shore excursions offered, like snorkeling, swimming with pigs, and a glass-bottom boat tour.  Those come with an extra cost, but it could be worth it for the experience!

As far as complimentary options, I later learned that sports and fitness classes are free on Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

Although we grabbed snacks, I didn’t realize that a full lunch is complimentary, offered at Splashaway Bay, Captain Jill's Galleon, Skipper's Grill, Chill Grill, and the Snack Shack.

Gone to game shows, even if just to watch


When I scrolled through event options on the Royal Caribbean app, I saw many game shows, trivia nights, and activities listed.

While I didn’t go to all of them, I did try out a few, and they were a lot of fun!

For example, my sister and I saw the Love and Marriage game show, where the audience selected couples, and an announcer asked them funny questions.

For the most part, I avoided game shows that didn’t seem like my style. But looking back, I think I could have tried them out. 

I also chose to go to a showing of inTENse and missed the Crazy Quest game show, one of my biggest regrets. I wish that I had stayed behind and participated in the fun!

The shows and games were hilarious and a fun way to see our fellow cruisers.

Read more: 50 things everyone should do on a Royal Caribbean cruise at least once

Booked a better cabin

We decided to book a guarantee stateroom for the cruise, ensuring a cheaper rate but giving up the privilege of choosing our room.

While this saved money, we ended up being assigned a small interior cabin at the front of the ship.

This location left me feeling seasick, and the room was dark and windowless. 

Although we didn’t mind having the cabin to sleep in, I would have enjoyed a nicer view and a more spacious stateroom.

For a first cruise, I think upgrading to a better cabin and getting the most out of our experience would have been worth it. 

Tried out the casino


I know this tip isn’t for everyone, and I was initially nervous about gambling. 

However, I walked through the casino a few times and noticed how crowded and active it was.

Even if they weren’t playing or betting anything, people stood and watched around poker tables or chatted at slot machines.

It seemed like a fun and sociable way to pass the time, as long as you’re gambling responsibly.

I wish I had just tried it out—and used the opportunity to chat with other cruisers. 

Gone to movie nights instead of watching TV

Prior to cruising, I knew I would want to watch TV to relax and have a quiet moment on my cruise.

When we arrived, I saw that our stateroom on the ship had a Smart TV. This allowed me to log into streaming services using my phone and use Chromecast to stream shows directly to the TV.

However, I wish I had taken advantage of the movie nights on the ship, usually playing on the pool deck or at the AquaTheater

Although it meant I couldn’t choose which media to watch, those movies featured a bigger screen, better sound, and the opportunity to grab food and drinks or talk to people around me. 

Visited more complimentary food venues


I had heard whispers of praise about the food on Royal Caribbean ships, so I boarded the ship ready to try all the different dishes I could.

Ultimately, all the options on the cruise exceeded my expectations. Throughout my seven-day cruise, I was blown away by the variety and flavor of the meals I tried.

I visited specialty venues, including Izumi Hibachi, Wonderland, and the Mason Jar, and found that the venues provided a more private and formal experience.

However, they didn’t necessarily have the highest quality food. Some of my favorite meals were included in the fare, like the Windjammer's beef stew and cheesecake in the main dining room.

With that in mind, I wish I had enjoyed more complimentary food options.

On Wonder of the Seas, your fare includes meals in the Windjammer, the main dining room, room service like continental breakfast, and additional grab-and-go spots. 

I enjoyed the food at Windjammer, the main dining room, and Sorrento’s pizza, but I had no idea that complimentary food was also offered at the Boardwalk Dog House, Café Promenade, El Loco Fresh, Park Café, Solarium Bistro, and Vitality Café. 

If I had known about all the complimentary food options beforehand, exploring and seeing how much was included in the fare would have been fun. 

Done less planning ahead of time

Celebrity app

Before my first cruise, I did extensive planning and made every kind of list possible: packing, to-do, and checklists.

I even created a full itinerary, planning every event down to the hour. 

However, once we arrived onboard, I quickly realized that the trip would be much easier than expected. Most of my planning turned out to be completely unnecessary.

The intense itinerary I made turned out to be unnecessary, as the Royal Caribbean app has a full schedule and allows you to simply select an event and add it to your schedule.

Not only that, but the app also includes information on when and where each event is, any price included, what you may need to bring, and if there is any age limit.

It also automatically connects your schedule with cruises on the same reservation, so I could create and access the same calendar with my travel companion. 

Most of my planning turned out to be unnecessary, and I wish I’d spent more time relaxing! 

Read more: Cruise Planner Trick: Add custom events to calendar

Not packed a laptop 

Working remote on a laptop from a cruise ship

Since I purchased the Voom Internet plan, I decided to bring multiple devices to use on my cruise. 

When I’m at home, I often use my iPhone and laptop in tandem. I thought bringing my laptop along on the cruise would make sense. However, I ended up only using my phone and regretted wasting packing space on my laptop. 

Being on a ship can be unpredictable when it comes to your valuables. By bringing my laptop, I ran the risk of falling into water, getting wet at the pool, or being dropped on a deck.

Traveling with a laptop is already a risk: I had to keep it safe in a bag and make sure it was secured in our hotel room. Considering I barely used my laptop, keeping it safe was more effort than it was worth.

It also turned out that the provided safe in our cabin was too small to fit my laptop, so I had to leave it in the cabin and hope for the best.

Purchased WiFi for fewer days

I ended up regretting the amount of access I had to the Internet.

A cruise should be an ocean vacation, with time spent at various onboard activities, the beach, or exploring ports. 

But the constant WiFi connection made the cruise feel less relaxing. 

Social media can be consuming—a beach vacation isn’t the same if you can instantly pull up your email. 

My sister, who traveled with me, only purchased WiFi for one sea day. This allowed her to check any important notifications for that day and continue to disconnect and unwind for the rest of the cruise.

In the future, I would want to follow a similar plan and bring fewer devices. Being connected to every aspect of the Internet made it hard to relax. 

Packed all essentials, including medicine, in my carry-on

I had read this tip before the cruise, but not following it entirely is one of my biggest regrets.

Before my cruise, I packed a smaller carry-on bag and bigger luggage, much like on an airplane.

Since you’ll leave a bigger piece of luggage with the porters, the line recommends that you pack all of your essentials and valuables in your carry-on.

I assumed this tip was just in case your luggage got lost, so I did pack my valuables in my carry-on but left my medicine and other essentials in my larger bag.

On embarkation day, we entered the ship around 12:30 P.M. and could access our cabin around 2:00 P.M. But we did not receive our larger bags until after 4:00 P.M. 

During that gap, I wished I had packed more toiletries and maybe even a change of clothes in my carry-on. You never want to be stuck waiting around for your bag to arrive. 

Remembered that I pre-paid tips

Dining room waiter

I never want to be tight-fisted, but budgeting your money is important on a cruise, especially a longer one.

Passengers can pay a daily gratuity to cover the services of hard-working crew members. They will see a daily charge on their SeaPass card for these tips.

These gratuities are shared among the dining, bar, and culinary teams, stateroom attendants, and the hotel service team.

On the other hand, passengers can also choose to prepay gratuities, including them in the total cost of the fare.

When I arrived onboard, I forgot that we had pre-paid gratuities before boarding. 

I paid for a drink at the bar and then added a tip, cringing at how high the price became.

Later, I remembered that we had already paid tips, so tipping again was optional but not necessary.

Taken a Dramamine immediately before boarding 


I haven’t struggled with motion sickness much before, so I did not expect to feel seasick on my cruise. 

More experienced cruisers advised me to take Dramamine before boarding to offset the chances of feeling sick when we set sail.

However, I didn’t expect any motion sickness, so I opted to just wait and see.

As soon as the ship set sail, I felt nauseous and unsteady. This was aggravated by the fact that we were assigned a forward cabin through the guarantee stateroom process. 

I found that my seasickness was worse when I was at the front of the ship or looking at the water. 

Thankfully, I felt better after taking a Dramamine pill, but I could have prevented a miserable first night by taking it beforehand.

Brought a wide variety of clothes, including gym clothes


Although I tried my best to plan ahead when packing, I didn’t foresee the sheer amount of different activities we would have access to.

If I could do it over, I would pack outfits for activities like laser tag, biking, water parks, and more. I wish I had packed more pants and shorts, and fewer beachy dresses. 

Sneakers are also required for any sports activities onboard, such as visiting the basketball court or ice skating.

I probably could not have packed for every event, but my best advice would be to bring as many different outfits as possible.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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