Embarking on your first cruise adventure can be thrilling yet overwhelming. With these top 10 hacks, you'll be ready to set sail confidently and make the most of your vacation.

1. Pack a Smart Carry-On Bag

When embarking on your first cruise, it's crucial to pack a smart carry-on bag. Include essential items you might need immediately upon boarding, such as medications, toiletries, a change of clothes, and important documents or identification. Pro tip: Add a swimsuit and sunscreen so you can dive into the ship’s pools or sunbathe right away without waiting for your checked luggage.

2. Plan Your Activities

Maximize your cruise experience by planning your activities in advance. Research the onboard entertainment options such as shows, live music, fitness classes, and cooking demonstrations. Create a schedule of your top picks, and remember to reserve spots for activities with limited availability. Pro tip: Use the cruise line’s app to keep track of your itinerary and receive updates.

3. Explore Drink Packages

Investigate the drink packages offered by your cruise line to save money on beverages. These packages often include unlimited soda, bottled water, specialty coffees, or alcoholic drinks. Choose a package that fits your preferences to enjoy your favorite drinks without worrying about the cost. Pro tip: Some packages may offer discounts if purchased before the cruise.

4. Know Your Ship

Familiarize yourself with the layout and amenities of your cruise ship. Review deck plans and explore the ship’s website or app to understand the locations of restaurants, bars, pools, fitness centers, and entertainment venues. This knowledge will help you navigate the ship efficiently and discover hidden gems like quiet lounges or observation decks. Pro tip: Take a ship tour on your first day to get oriented.

5. Research Your Ports of Call

Research each port of call to plan your shore excursions or independent explorations. Look into popular attractions, local cuisine, shopping opportunities, and cultural customs. This preparation ensures you maximize your time at each destination and experience must-see landmarks and activities. Pro tip: Book popular excursions early as they can fill up quickly.

6. Check-In Online

Complete your online check-in as early as possible to streamline your boarding process. This step often allows you to select your boarding time, which can help avoid long lines at the terminal. Pro tip: Have all your travel documents ready to make the process even smoother.

7. Attend the Sailaway Party

Kick off your cruise vacation by attending the sailaway party. It’s a great way to start your trip with a festive atmosphere, meet fellow passengers, and enjoy stunning views as the ship departs from port. Pro tip: Arrive early to get a good spot and capture those perfect departure photos.

8. Take Advantage of Onboard Discounts

Many cruise lines offer discounts on spa services, specialty dining, and excursions if booked on the first day. Check for these promotions to enjoy onboard amenities at a reduced rate. Pro tip: Visit the spa and specialty restaurants during the first day to learn about any exclusive deals.

9. Use the Ship’s Daily Newsletter

Every evening, you’ll receive a daily newsletter outlining the next day’s activities, dining options, and important announcements. Use this resource to plan your day and ensure you don’t miss out on any events. Pro tip: Highlight or circle your must-do activities to stay organized.

10. Stay Connected with Family and Friends

Purchase a Wi-Fi package or use the ship’s cellular service to stay connected. For a budget-friendly option, find local Wi-Fi hotspots or get a local SIM card at each port. Pro tip: Download any necessary apps or entertainment before your cruise to save on data usage.