Planning A Cruise? Do These 5 Things Before You Leave To Make It Absolutely Amazing!

Cruising Travel Travel Tips
Ready to depart Miami on Oasis of the Seas!

Your cruise is booked and your countdown calendar is rolling. You can’t wait to board that ship and embark on a new adventure. What else can you do to make your vacation exceptional? Here are 5 things you can do before you leave home that will make your trip even more amazing.

St Maarten snorkel adventure
  1. Research your ports of call and decide which excursions you’d like to experience.

Check out which excursions the cruise ship offers. There are many benefits to booking with the cruise ship – you can use any onboard credit you might have, the trips are usually very well planned, and the cruise line will most definitely never leave you behind in port. This convenience comes with a price, though. You can often find comparable – and even better – excursions offered at your port of call for less money. We have booked both on and off board excursions and they’ve both been awesome. Why not just stick with the cruise line’s offering, you ask? Well, sometimes the cruise ship didn’t offer what we wanted to do, sometimes we found a better price with a more comprehensive itinerary. I have to add that we’ve never once been left behind at a port of call when using non-cruise ship excursions. These companies are very vigilant about this. Selling their excursions to cruise ship passengers is their livelihood and a missed departure would ruin their reputation. Keep your options open and look into both possibilities, especially if the cruise ship doesn’t offer what you want.

Daniel at his onboard PADI scuba certification class

Once you decide on your excursions, book them. Popular excursions book up quickly and after waiting this long for your cruise, you don’t want any disappointments. If you book with the cruise line, be sure to check back frequently, as excursions do go on sale. Should your excursion (or drink package, or anything else you pre-book) go on sale, you can call the cruise ship and re-book at the lower price. Yes, it takes some effort to call and do that, but we saved $250 dollars on the last cruise we took when Daniel’s PADI scuba certification course and our Labadee zipline went on sale. That was definitely worth a few minutes of inconvenience.

Labadee zip line

2. Book any drink packages and make reservations for dining and entertainment.

Drink packages also go on sale! If they aren’t on sale when you want to book, keep checking back. Odds are likely that at some point before your cruise, your drink package will go on sale. Also, each cruise ship has varying dining times, early, late, and ‘my time’ dining. If you wait until embarkation day, you may not get your preference. Some of the larger, mega-ships, have amazing entertainment, which means everyone wants a chance to see the shows – and they are awesome! This also means that entertainment can book up. Coordinating your entertainment reservations with your dining reservations can also be a little tricky, so this is best done in advance well before your cruise.

Royal Caribbean on board entertainment is not to be missed!

3. Look for and join any Facebook groups for your cruise line and/or specific sailing. We like to cruise on Royal Caribbean, so I am a member of their main page, but I also join the pages that are created for the specific ships and also the specific dates that we sail. For example, we sailed on Oasis of the Seas, which has its own facebook group, then I joined another page for the specific week we were going on Oasis. You will find the specific week groups on the main site for each ship. These pages are beneficial! People will post alerts when drink packages or excursions go on sale, reviews about excursions and dining options, pictures of the ship, news on special events, and everything else under the sun. We have learned a lot just from following these groups.

Cheers to getting a drink package on sale!

4. Peruse Cruise Critic. Cruise Critic is a website devoted to all things cruising. Debating on a dolphin encounter or a catamaran snorkel tour? Go check Cruise Critic for excursion reviews. Trying to decide which ship or cruise line to sail on? Cruise Critic has an overabundance of information about all the options out there. Cruise Critic also has a ‘Roll Call’ that you can join for your specific sailing. These ‘Roll Calls’ are groups of people travelling on the same sailing as you have booked. Lots of good information can be gleaned from participating in these groups.

Our door decor

5. Create a decoration for your door! This sounds so silly but we’ve done it a couple times and it’s been heartwarming and fun. We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas for our first anniversary/honeymoon. I made a poster with a wedding photo noting that it was our ‘Honeyversary’ and asked folks to write where they were from and how long they’d been married on the adjacent post it notes. We received many responses – by the end of the cruise, all our post its had all been written on and when we added up all the years of marriage – it was over 700! People from far and away and left us sweet notes. It made a large ship seem more intimate and we will definitely do this again for our next cruise. I did the same thing on a cruise we took for my mom’s 70th birthday, and again, we had wonderfully overwhelming responses. It was really special. If you aren’t super creative or artistic, just buy a pile of post its and stick them up with a little instruction and a pen. People will joyfully respond!


Brand new cruiser or wiley ole veteran, we hope these tips help make your next cruise vacation extra-special. What are your secrets for an amazing cruise? Leave us a comment below and don’t forget to share, like, and follow our blog! Thank you for reading!

Miami cruise port just before dawn…back to the real world!

I'm an only child who grew up on a sailboat, a lover of adventure, a mom, wife, an RN, and a friend of all dogs.

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