If you’re planning your first cruise, there are a few things you should know before setting sail. From the size of the ship and the variety of activities to the cost of extras and the length of the voyage, here are 10 things that might surprise you on your first cruise:

1. The Size of Some Cruise Ships

Many people are surprised by the size of modern cruise ships, which can be as large as a small city and have multiple decks, pools, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

World's Largest Cruise Ship - Wonder of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, the current World’s largest cruise ship

Read also: Royal Caribbean’s Ships by Age, Newest to Oldest

2. The Variety of Activities

Cruises offer a wide range of activities, from water sports and fitness classes to cooking demonstrations and Broadway-style shows. I’ve always said cruise ships are like Vegas on the water since there is something for everyone.

3. Extra Cruise Costs

While the cost of the cruise itself may seem reasonable, there are often additional fees for things like alcohol, specialty dining, and excursions that can add up quickly. Don’t be fooled by the intro price offered to you as a “discount,” because there is a very good chance it will double, even triple by the end of checking out. Even still, cruising provides way more value than staying at a hotel or resort and can be far more cost effective.

4. The Length of a Cruise

Some cruises can be quite long, lasting several weeks or more, so it’s important to be prepared for the commitment. I personally like a 7-night cruise, but for some, that can be too long. If you’re a first-time cruiser, you might want to try one of the shorter itineraries to see how you like it.

See also: Best Cruise Deals and Discounts

5. The Dress Code

The majority of cruise lines have formal nights, during which passengers are expected to dress up, so it’s a good idea to pack a suit or gown. Many cruise lines have become a bit more relaxed with their formal night rules, which really upsets the old-school cruisers.


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6. Size of Cabins

While the cabins on cruise ships can vary in size, they are generally smaller than hotel rooms, so it’s important to be prepared for a more compact living space. A great example of what new cabins look like is to take a look at my article featuring the various Icon of the Seas suites and staterooms.

New Panoramic Ocean View Suites on Icon of the Seas
Icon of the Seas Panoramic Ocean View Suites

7. Quality of the Cruise Food

Many people are surprised by the quality and variety of the food on a cruise ship, which can range from casual buffet-style meals to gourmet dinners in a formal dining room.

Azumi Sushi table on Wonderland of the Seas

Chop Grille Filet Mignon
Chops Grille – 8oz Filet Mignon

8. The Demographics of the Passengers

Cruises attract a wide range of passengers, from families with young children to retired couples, so it’s important to be prepared for a diverse group of travelers. Not to mention the folks flying in from around the world to experience unique itineraries far from their home.

9. The Availability of WiFi

While most modern cruise ships offer WiFi, the quality and speed can vary, and it can be expensive to use. Many cruise lines are switching to Starlink, which offers impressively fast speeds. My recent experience on Celebrity Beyond had fast WiFi speeds throughout the cruise, which made working far easier than my past cruises.

10. The Port Stops

Many cruises make multiple port stops, allowing passengers to explore different destinations and experience different cultures. However, it’s important to be aware that these stops can be short, so it’s important to plan ahead and make the most of your time. I recommend taking advantage of excursions offered by your cruise while at the port which will help you stay on time and enjoy the area.

These are just a few of the things that might surprise you on your first cruise. With a little preparation and an open mind, you’ll be sure to have an enjoyable and memorable voyage. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, there’s something for everyone on a cruise ship, so why wait? Start planning your dream vacation today!