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6 mistakes I saw people make on my spring break cruise

25 Mar 2024
Matt Hochberg

No matter the cruise, there's always going to be a large contingent of first-time cruisers that inevitably make mistakes.

Wonder of the Seas at CocoCay

I took my family on a 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas for spring break. It's an annual cruise tradition, as taking the kids out of school during the course of the calendar year gets more difficult as they get older.

Spring break has its pros and cons to sailing this time of year, but we find the comfortable outdoor temperatures, lack of tropical storms, and built-in time off as good reasons to sail this month.

Matt at Laser Tag

Over the span of the week, I ran into many cruisers and couldn't help but notice some of the clearly new ones struggling with things I think could have been avoided. I'm far from perfect, but I've gotten a lot better at avoiding common pitfalls from experience. Therefore, I think it's helpful to share with our readers ways they can improve too.

Here are the six mistakes I saw first-time cruisers committing on my cruise.  These are the ones I witnessed, although I'm sure other first-time cruise mistakes were being committed elsewhere. 

Not knowing it's spring break

Royal Promenade

This may seem obvious, but there are always a few people genuinely surprised to be on a spring break cruise. Maybe it's because where they are from, spring break is a different week of the year. Or they don't think of March as when spring break might happen.

There were about 1700 children on our spring break cruise. To be clear, a ship like Wonder of the Seas would have been full if it were spring break or not. The difference is you have more kids than other weeks, but all the cabins would have been sold out one way or another given how popular cruising is, and how cruise lines sell their ships to sail at full capacity every week as a matter of economics.

Spring break might seem like it's one or two weeks, but in reality, it encompasses a few months.  Most people consider spring break season to begin in mid-February when it's President's Day weekend in the United States and go all the way through Easter.

Wonder of the Seas docked

That means you'll find spring breakers cruising anytime in late February, March, or early April. Depending on when Easter falls on the calendar, the season can be longer or shorter. You should expect more kids on the ship any of these weeks.

One way to double check is to spot check school calendars, especially if you're on the fringe of spring break. Google your own hometown school calendar, as well as a few others. For what it's worth, Orange County schools in Florida had their spring break beginning on March 18, while Osceola County had theirs March 11.

The good news is you don't get the rowdy college spring breakers on a 7-night cruise, as much as you would on a 4-night cruise. However, there are definitely more families onboard and that just means lines for the water slides, laser tag, or hot tub might be longer.

If you truly want to avoid a spring break cruise, try a cruise in January, early February, or May.

Not checking in online

Inside the cruise terminal

As I barely stopped in my cruise check-in process, I couldn't help but shake my head at the folks who had to stop and have the terminal staff enter their paperwork for boarding.

Royal Caribbean allows you to start checking in for your cruise up to 45 days before the cruise begins, and you really should do all the pre-cruise check-in steps while you're at home (or work, I promise not to tell your boss).

In short, the time it takes to enter your travel information in the app at home is time saved in the terminal. I'm willing to bet it's faster for you to enter the information than the terminal staff can do it.

Whether it saves you five minutes or an hour, I personally would rather expedite the process to get on the ship and not start my vacation with an unnecessary line.

Read more: Royal Caribbean check-in process

Not specifying liquor brand when ordering a drink

Pouring drink at the bar

Whether you buy a Royal Caribbean drink package or not, when you tell the bartender which drink you'd like, always specify the brand of liquor.

All too often, I see someone come up to the bar and ask for "a pina colada" or "a bloody mary" and not ask for Kraken rum or Tito's vodka.

When you ask for a liquor, you're almost always going to get the cheapest brand of liquor they have (better known as "well liquor"). It won't be nearly as smooth, and usually results in that cringe face after the first few sips.

Don't worry, most types of liquor are included with a drink package.  Unless you're asking for something super top shelf, it won't affect the price.

Read more: Avoid these Royal Caribbean drink package mistakes

Choosing My Time Dining

Line for My Time Dining

This next one isn't so much of a mistake, as it is something to think about for next time.

When you choose which dining time for dinner on your cruise, you have to pick between Traditional or My Time Dining.  There are pros and cons to both, but I really felt bad for the folks in My Time Dining.

When I walked past the Main Dining Room on Deck 4 at 6:30pm, there were two giant lines that went almost back into the casino.

Line for My Time Dining

I went back a half hour later to check, and the line had subsided, but hadn't gone away.

My Time Dining is a good choice for those that want flexibility in when they eat, but understand you may have to wait for a table.

Too much fun in the sun

Cabana pool

To be fair, experienced cruisers succumb to the sunburn just as easily as a new cruiser. But it seems like new cruisers tend to end up with that "lobster glow" more often.

Even though it's only March, the sun is strong and a sunburn is something no one wants.

Not only should you remember to apply sunscreen before you start your day on shore, but you need to re-apply. A lot.

Matt at Hideaway Beach

Every two hours or so is a good idea, and you want to take a break to avoid getting burned.  Once you're burned, it can be really uncomfortable for the next few days.  

Similarly, it's easy to start having a great time relaxing in the ocean or pool, but be sure to take breaks and remember to not over do it. 

Eating before you start day drinking is always a solid bet, and pace yourself. It's easy to get swept up in the fun and keep the drinks flowing, but drink responsibly so you don't end up being "that guy" later in the day.

Read more: 22 unpleasant cruise ship problems you aren't prepared for

Keeping luggage tags on bags on final night

Both luggage tags on the suitcase

At first I thought there was just one person that did this, but then I saw lots of bags.

The luggage tags you attached to your bag on embarkation should not be on your bags still when it's time to leave the luggage out on the final night of the cruise.

I have no idea how often (if at all) this really gets anyone into trouble with their luggage being lost, but if removing the original luggage tags is definitely a good practice to get into so there is absolutely no confusion if a piece of luggage in the cruise terminal is for a guest disembarking or a new guest boarding the ship.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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