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10 habits of successful cruisers

23 Dec 2023
Elizabeth Wright

Whether you're a seasoned cruiser or anticipating setting foot on a ship for the first time, there is a lot to be learned from each experience. Even as someone who has cruised over a dozen times, I still find myself making mistakes and thinking that I should have known better! 

When I took my first Mediterranean cruise, for instance, I waited until the week before to begin researching my ports of call and booking excursions. Similarly, I have forgotten my online check-in date more than once and gotten stuck with a later arrival appointment. 

From reserving My Time Dining reservations in advance to arriving the day before your cruise is scheduled to depart, here are 10 habits that you should make part of your cruise routine. 

Book your cruise early and reprice often


Royal Caribbean releases itineraries as far as two years in advance. Between sales, dynamic pricing, and other promotions, it can be difficult to know when the best time to book your cruise is; however, the further you book in advance, the more time you have to reprice if you notice a price decrease leading up to final payment. 

Often, the cheapest rates can be found as soon as Royal Caribbean releases new itineraries. If there's a specific ship or itinerary that you have your heart set on, the safest bet is to place a deposit as early as possible. As the ship fills up, prices are raised. 

Even if the price of your sailing doesn't decrease, you can rest assured knowing that you booked it when prices were the lowest. 

Read moreThe biggest cruise hack you're not doing that has saved me thousands of dollars

Don't wait until you are onboard to reserve cruise add-ons

After you have placed your deposit, you will gain access to Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner website. This is where you'll be able to make reservations for shore excursions and specialty restaurants, as well as book drink and Wi-Fi packages, spa treatments, and more. 

While you technically can wait until you are onboard to worry about your add-ons, it is smarter to deal with that in advance. Not only will you be able to soak up every moment of your time onboard without thinking about planning, but you'll usually save money, too. 

The actual discounts will vary; however, it is not uncommon to find sales where you can receive 10% to 40% off the onboard prices of specialty restaurants, drink packages, shore excursions, and Wi-Fi. 


Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I was able to take advantage of the Cruise Planner sale and score a great deal on an excursion in Naples, Italy. Rather than paying $285 for two people for the "Taste of Sorrento and Pompeii" excursion, my partner and I were able to pay about half, or $300 total. 

Read more45 easy ways how to save money on a cruise (2024)

Arrive the day before your cruise is scheduled to depart

Airplane in airport

Booking your flight on embarkation morning might seem like a smart way to save money since you won't have to take another day off of work and worry about a pre-cruise hotel. If, however, you fall victim to the unpredictability of the airline industry, you could find yourself missing your cruise, as the embarkation window on the first day of the cruise is limited. 

Even if you think that your arrival time leaves a lot of room to spare, you need to factor in how long it will take for you to deplane, collect your luggage, and travel to the terminal. 

Read more: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

Book with a travel agent 

travel agent

To some, booking with a travel agent might feel like you're giving up agency over your vacation. From my experience, however, it has been the exact opposite. A good travel agent will only be as involved as you want them to be. 

One of the primary advantages of booking with a travel agent is their expertise; however, they also have access to exclusive group rates, so they can sometimes get you a lower rate on your cruise fare than is advertised on the cruise line's website! 

New cruisers will benefit from their knowledge, though, as they can help them select the best itinerary, stateroom, shore excursions, specialty dining meals, and more. 

Always bring a non-surge power strip


The older your cruise ship, the fewer power outlets your stateroom will have. When I cruised on Navigator of the Seas, for instance, I was shocked to find just two American outlets and a single European one

Even if you are sharing a stateroom with just one other person, you'll likely bicker over who gets to charge what device and when. Today, most people travel with multiple devices, such as mobile phones, AirPods, cameras, smart watches, iPads, etc. 

Royal Caribbean prohibits extension cords onboard their ships since they see them as a fire hazard. That, however, doesn't mean that they aren't solutions! Rather than bringing the random extension cord you have lying around in your kitchen drawer, head to Amazon to look for a non-surge power strip that's cruise-compliant.


This will ensure that even if you're cruising on one of the oldest vessels in the fleet, you will have plenty of outlets to keep all of your devices charged. 

Understand the Deluxe Beverage Package rule

Typically, if one person in a cabin wants a Deluxe Beverage Package. Royal Caribbean requires all other guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom to purchase it, too. This is to prevent guests from sharing it. 

There is a workaround, though. If you're sharing a cabin with an adult who doesn't drink, or does not drink much, you can call Royal Caribbean and ask that they get the Royal Refreshment Package instead. 

This will save you a lot of money compared to if you were to purchase two Deluxe Beverage Packages, as the alcoholic package is more expensive than the non-alcoholic one. 

Wine at Giovanni's

Note, however, that if you get caught sharing a drink package, Royal Caribbean has the right to revoke it without issuing a refund. 

Read moreRoyal Caribbean drink package rules overview

Check-in for your cruise as soon as possible

45 days before your cruise, Royal Caribbean's online check-in portal will open. You can either complete it via the app or on your web browser, such as Google Chrome or Safari. 

During this process, you will input your identification documentation, set up your onboard expense account, and select a check-in time, which is when you'll be able to enter the terminal on embarkation day. 

The earliest time varies based on your itinerary; however, the earliest tends to be somewhere around 10:30am, with the latest being somewhere in the mid-afternoon. 

Boston check in area

While your travel plans might not allow you to select the earliest time available, there are many advantages to finishing your check-in as soon as possible. 

For instance, you won't have to worry about it as your sailing approaches, and you can focus your pre-cruise planning efforts on packing and getting everything in order before you leave. 

Read more11 reasons to get as early a check-in time as possible for your cruise

Pre-pay for your gratuities 

Guest service crew members

At the time of booking, you'll have the option to pre-pay for your gratuities. If you choose to do so, you will be able to pay them off with the rest of your cruise fare, as the total for the gratuities will be added to the amount to be settled by final payment. 

Additionally, pre-paying for your gratuities means that you will lock in the current rate. Every so often, Royal Caribbean revises their gratuity rates for their crew members. 

This just happened in November 2023, as Royal Caribbean announced that the automatic gratuity rate would be increasing from $16.00 USD for those in standard staterooms (Junior Suites and below) to $18.00 USD per day. Suite guests also saw an increase from $18.50 to $20.50. 

If you decide to book My Time Dining, make sure that you make reservations in advance

Main Dining Room

Royal Caribbean offers guests two different types of main dining experiences: traditional and flexible. If you choose the latter, known as My Time Dining, you'll be responsible for making your own dining reservations each evening, whereas those who opt for traditional dining will eat at the same time each evening with the same wait staff. 

My Time Dining is great for those who do not want to eat at the same time each night of their cruise.

You can choose what time works best for you and your travel companions, meaning that you can easily schedule dinner around the rest of your plans, whether that's a longer excursion in port or a much-needed afternoon nap after lounging by the pool. 

Main dining room

While you don't have to make reservations, it is recommended. Otherwise, you'll have to wait for an available table. 

Read moreHow to book My Time Dining on Royal Caribbean

Don't save must-do onboard activities for the last day

Oasis of the Seas looking aft from Flowrider

If there are any activities that you really want to do, make sure you do them early on during your sailing.

Unpredictable weather could deem it too unsafe to operate the FlowRider or have the AquaTheater cast perform tricks. Waiting until the last minute could mean that you're out of luck, as there won't be any other opportunities on the current sailing. 

Of course, you shouldn't try and pack everything into the first day. With all the embarkation and sail away excitement, you do not want to tire yourself out too quickly. 

Read more30 cruise ship embarkation day do’s and don’ts

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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