Embarking on your first cruise is an exciting adventure filled with new experiences and unforgettable memories. We always wanted to try cruising, and when we got invited for a European cruise with Princess Cruises, we enthusiastically said “Yes” without hesitation. It was our first cruise experience, and we had many questions about packing, how everything worked, and what to expect.

Reflecting on our trip, we realised that a little more preparation could have made our experience smoother and even more enjoyable. That's why we have taken the time to craft a comprehensive guide, addressing these questions and sharing tips and advice for first-time cruisers. 

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How To Pick the Right Stateroom

The rooms on cruise ships, often called cabins or staterooms, are similar to hotel rooms and come with a private bathroom and some with a private balcony. When it comes to choosing the best room for your cruise, there are several factors to consider: size, view, location, amenities, and, most importantly, price. The ideal cabin is one that fits your budget and holiday requirements.

Mini-Suite on the Sky Princess

While it may be tempting to choose the cheapest option, such as a cabin with no window, it's essential to think about the length of your cruise and where you are heading to. For instance, if you are heading to a warm-weather destination, you might want to book a cabin with a balcony. 

During our trip, we stayed in a mini-suite aboard the Sky Princess. Mini-suites offer various advantages, including a decorative central lighting fixture, a privacy curtain between the bed and sitting area, and a balcony. You can catch a glimpse of our mini-suite in the video below.

Get the Right Travel Insurance

I never embark on a journey without travel insurance, and I understand that you might think it's unlikely to use it. However, having travel insurance is crucial because you never know when you might need it. It provides peace of mind and protection against unexpected situations.

When considering travel insurance for your cruise, it's essential to review the coverage details. Not all travel insurance policies cover cruises, so be sure to select one that specifically includes cruise travel. Checking with Holiday Extras, which offers cruise travel insurance, is a good option. Take the time to carefully examine the policy to understand what is covered and what is not.

Download the MedallionClass App

Make the most of your cruise experience by downloading the MedallionClass App, which integrates with the Medallion (a small device) itself. This essential companion is a must-have before your trip with Princess Cruises. To get started, simply add your booking number and fill out a form, including scanning your passport in the 'OceanReady' Profile section.

Medallion Device

Once everything is completed, you'll be ready to go. Passengers in the United States will receive their Medallion by mail, while those in the UK or other destinations can collect their devices at the cruise port during embarkation. The Princess MedallionClass offers numerous benefits, including expedited embarkation, keyless access to your cabin, and the ability to locate your loved ones anywhere on the ship. Additionally, it enhances the level of service by allowing you to have whatever you need delivered directly to you, no matter where you are on the ship. I have already covered all you need to know about Princess MedallionCalss in a separate article, make sure to check it out.

What to Pack for Your First Cruise 

When it comes to packing for your first cruise, the good news is that there are no limitations on the number of bags you can bring. The ship becomes your home for the duration of your cruise journey, regardless of how many destinations you visit. You can leave your belongings in your room, making it convenient and comfortable.

However, it's still essential to pack smartly. Consider variables such as climate variations between ports of call and the types of shore excursions and onboard activities you have planned. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

During your time on board, pack casual clothing for relaxed days spent walking around the ship or exploring ports. Make sure you have a selection of comfortable sportswear if you plan to do exercise on the ship. 

For the evenings, make sure to pack some smart casual outfits. Some evenings on the ship have a dressier atmosphere, so it's important to pack smart clothes.

Consider the specific destinations and activities on your cruise itinerary. If you plan to visit tropical destinations, pack lightweight and breathable clothing. If you'll be exploring colder climates, bring appropriate layers and outerwear.

Don't forget to pack your swimwear for poolside relaxation and shore excursions involving water activities. Additionally, bring any necessary accessories like sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.

A comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must for shore excursions and exploring the ship. Also, consider bringing sandals or flip-flops for poolside lounging.

Pack your essential toiletries and any necessary medications. While the ship provides basic toiletries, it's always helpful to have your preferred items on hand.

Get Ready For Your Embarkation

Proper planning for your embarkation day can ensure a smooth start to your cruise experience. If you're driving to the port, it's essential to pre-book your car park in advance. This guarantees a parking spot and saves you time and stress on the day of embarkation. If you're using public transport, such as trains or buses, purchase your tickets ahead of time to secure your preferred departure times.

It's a good idea to arrive at the port a day before your departure, especially if you're travelling from a far distance. This helps you avoid any unexpected delays or travel complications. Consider booking a hotel room with breakfast near the cruise terminal. This allows you to relax, rest, and ensure you're close by when it's time to embark.

What To Expect On The Embarkation?

The embarkation day can be an exciting and slightly overwhelming experience. As first-time cruisers driving to the port in Southampton, we found that everything was well signposted, making it easy to navigate. Make sure to print your booking confirmation for the car park, as you'll need to display it upon arrival. Once you've reached the port, you'll take your bags and hand your keys to the crew. After parking your car, the next step is to drop off your luggage. The cruise staff will collect your bags, which will be delivered to your stateroom later. Remember to attach the provided luggage tags with your room number. 

Once you've dropped off your luggage, proceed to the check-in area. Here, you'll go through the necessary security checks and present your identification documents. After completing the check-in process, you'll receive your personalized Medallion, which is a key component of the Princess MedallionClass experience. With your Medallion in hand, you'll make your way onto the ship. 

Don’t Miss the Sail Away Party

After boarding the ship, you can go to your room to drop to freshen up, but make sure to head to the deck for the sail away party. It is It's a lively celebration and a vibrant start to your cruise journey. 

Sky Princess

Make sure to find a prime spot to experience it firsthand. Keep in mind that popular areas tend to fill up quickly, so consider arriving a little earlier than the departure time. 

Turn your Roaming off once on the Ship

To avoid unexpected charges, remember to switch off your phone's roaming capabilities or put it in airplane mode once you're on the ship. Princess Cruises provides convenient Wi-Fi packages that enable you to stay connected at a reasonable cost. If you opt for the Princess Plus package, you'll have access to Wi-Fi. 

With the Princess Plus package, you not only gain complimentary Wi-Fi access for one device but also indulge in a range of additional luxuries. This all-inclusive package allows you to savour the convenience of ordering up to 15 alcoholic beverages per day, along with unlimited soft drinks and speciality coffee.

Book On-Shore Excursions and Speciality Dining in Advance

If there are any activities you want to do or any restaurant you want to eat at, then try to book them ahead of time. The speciality restaurants tend to book up quickly at the beginning of each cruise, so make sure to make a reservation as soon as you can, to avoid any disappointment.

Princess Cruises offers a wide range of excursions, from cultural tours to adventurous expeditions. One of the most crucial steps you can take before embarking on your cruise is to do your homework ahead of time. Taking a little time to navigate through the shore excursions will allow you to plan your holiday efficiently. Keep in mind that availability for each excursion is not guaranteed, so it's important to pre-book your desired excursions early to avoid disappointment

Another advantage of planning in advance is that it allows you to prepare appropriately for each outing. By knowing the details of your chosen excursions ahead of time, you can pack any necessary items such as hiking boots or water shoes. This proactive approach ensures that you have everything you need to fully enjoy your excursions and make the most of your cruise experience.

Debarkation Day

To ensure a smooth debarkation day, it's a good idea to pack everything the day before. You'll receive instructions from the cruise staff, typically indicating the designated time to leave your luggage outside your room on the last night of your cruise.

If you choose to leave your luggage outside your room, remember to keep a small bag for your toiletries, essential medications, and the clothes you plan to wear on the final day. However, it's not mandatory to leave your bags if you're comfortable carrying them, just like we did. In our case, we preferred to keep all our belongings with us to facilitate an early debarkation.

Final Thoughts 

Embarking on your first cruise with Princess Cruises is an exciting and unforgettable experience. It's a great idea to take a tour of the ship at the beginning of your journey. Exploring the various amenities, dining options, entertainment venues, and relaxation areas will help you familiarise yourself with the layout and make the most of your time on board. Remember, a cruise experience is truly unique, so embrace the opportunity to have fun, indulge in exciting activities, and create unforgettable memories throughout your journey.