7 Outdated Cruise Tips You No Longer Need to Follow

By J. Souza

Some cruise advice has had a short shelf-life.   It may have been a great cruise tip 10 years ago but in today’s era of cruising it could be an ancient artifact that is better left ignored.

Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

In this article we will look at some of the most outdated cruise tips that have long expired.  While some of them will still have some validity on certain ships, for the most par these pieces of cruise advice went out with the old era of cruising.

The technology alone on today’s cruise ships are leaps and bounds ahead of ships that were built even 10 years ago.  Along with changes in tech the culture of cruising has changed as well, as the maritime method of exploring the world has become more mainstream.

1. Arrive as early as possible at the port of embarkation

Gone are the days of showing up first thing in the morning to a cruise port and hoping to get on the ship as fast as possible.

Before cruise lines started experimenting with staggered embarkation times, cruisers would show up as early as 10am or 11am.  The process was slow and crowded as a bottleneck of passengers would arrive around the same time.

Nowadays, when you check in you are assigned a time slot to arrive at the port.  And if you try to arrive too early most cruise lines are enforcing this system and telling you to come back later.  For a while it was not enforced and led to more bottlenecks and frustration.

So, the advice of just arriving at 10am or earlier to your cruise port is advice you should just ignore in the modern era of cruising with most major cruise lines.  The process is much smoother and less frustrating these days.

2. Leave your phone off or in the safe

I still remember my first cell phone bill after forgetting to turn off my phone and using it on a cruise.  This was eons ago, and I learned very quickly that using the ship’s cell service was not the best use of my finances.

The best cruise advice used to be to just leave your phone off or in airplane mode.

But today, cruise ships have high-speed Wi-Fi at reasonable prices (for the most part) and also have apps that allow you to stay up to date with activities on the ship.  In fact, it won’t be long before most every cruise line will do away with paper daily planners and just use a digital one on their app.

Some cruise lines allow you to use a messaging feature within the app so you can keep in touch with your family or group using the ship’s Wi-Fi.  You can also reserve restaurants, make theater reservations, and even order room service with the apps, so you definitely can leave your phone on if you choose to do so.

Although, I do still subscribe to old school thinking of unplugging while on vacation.

3. Always pack formal attire for dinner

This can be a controversial subject in some circles.  But the truth of the matter is that most cruise lines have a much more relaxed and casual approach to dress codes these days.

Yes, there are formal dining nights on many cruise ships, but what “formal” means seems to be a blurry area.  Some of this depends on the cruise line itself.  A cruise on Cunard will require a few formal ensembles to complete your packing list.  A cruise on a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean might not need any shirts with buttons.  Don’t expect to wear a bathing suit for dinner though.

It’s all up to you as to what you want to make of your cruise.  It’s what I love most about cruising.  The experience can be different for each passenger depending on their view of the perfect vacation.

4. Be ready to get seasick

Cruise ships are not only much larger than they used to be, but they also have better technology, including stabilizers that keep the motion on the ship to a minimum.

Yes, you can still experience motion-sickness on a modern cruise ship, but most cruisers find the waters much calmer than they anticipated.  You should still bring some Dramamine or ginger with you, especially if you are prone to getting seasick.

In the event of a storm cruise ships usually try to sail around them, but if you do experience some rough waters it’s best to be prepared.

In my experience of sailing on dozens of cruises, I’ve always been surprised at how stable and still these ships are, even at cruising speed.

I’ve watched figure skaters perform incredible spins and jumps while at sea, in addition to acrobatic performances that require balance.   This could not have been done on ships of old.

And size does play a large role as well.   Carnival’s first cruise ship, Mardi Gras, was only 27,200 gross tons in volume.  Royal Caribbean’s new Icon of the Seas set to debut early next year will have a gross tonnage 10 times that at over 250,000 gross tons.

5. You have to pack extra power strips to plug in all your devices

I remember this being a big deal on the first few cruises I went on almost 14 years ago.  Most ships back then only had one or two outlets with no USB outlets anywhere in sight.

It was a common recommendation to bring along a power strip so you could plug in your phone, cameras, tablets, or any other devices you brought with you.

I should note that most cruise lines do not allow power strips with a surge protector as it messes with the ship’s electrical system.

Cruise ships built within the last few years have a plethora of outlets for your devices.  Equipped with USB outlets and several outlets around the cabin, in the bathroom, and beside your bed, most cruisers will find enough outlets to work with.

While I used to bring a small power strip with me on cruises (without a surge protector of course) I now usually just use what’s available on the ship if it was built in the last 10 years.

6. Prepare yourself for the rigors of the muster drill

I’m all about safety.  But the muster drill was always my least favorite part of every cruise.  Standing shoulder to shoulder with a sea of passengers while waiting for a few names to be called and then trying to elbow my way back to my cabin was always a challenging way to start a vacation.

Thanks to the e-muster drill (or Muster 2.0) most cruise ships no longer put you through the agony of the old way of doing muster drills.  Now, many cruise lines will simply let you use an app to check-in at your muster station, showing you know where it is, and follow a few instructions.  And this all happens at your leisure, as long as it’s before the designated time before the ship sets sail.

Some cruise lines also allow passengers to watch safety drills on their stateroom TV, but a visit to the muster station is always required.

This eliminates large crowds gathering all at once and still accomplishes the main safety goal required by cruise ships.

Cruisers have enjoyed the new muster drill format so much that Norwegian Cruise Line went back to e-muster drills after trying to incorporate the traditional safety drills for just a short period of time.

For most cruise lines the new safety drill process is one that will remain in place, and I, for one am glad for it.

7. Tipping each crew member individually with envelopes

The tipping process was not always very straightforward on a cruise ship.  A common method was called the “envelope system”.

Passengers would distribute cash tips in individual envelopes to various crew members at the end of the cruise. It required passengers to calculate and allocate tips themselves, carry cash, and could result in inequitable distribution. Nowadays, cruise lines have shifted to automatic gratuities or service charges added to passengers’ onboard accounts, providing a more standardized and simplified tipping process.

You can still give cash tips to various crew members if you’d like.  I still recommend prepaying gratuities on your cruise account and then paying extra with cash if you feel a certain crew member went above and beyond.

You can also make adjustments to your gratuities by visiting the front desk.

Final Thoughts

As the cruise industry grows it also changes.  What’s great advice today may not be great advice 10 years from now.  Just seeing the changes made in the last 10 years has me excited about what is to come as more people begin to see how cruising is one of the best ways to see and explore the world.