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If you’ve never been on a cruise before, you may not really know what to expect—other than what you’ve seen in advertisements and heard from friends. You probably have some idea that you’ll spend time lounging by the pool, indulging in gourmet food, and exploring the ports of call. But beyond that, what can you do to both stay safe and make the best of your cruise? Many first-time cruisers miss some great opportunities—or even jeopardize their health and safety—just because they aren’t fully prepared for their trip or don’t know how to get the most out of what cruises offer.


Those who are preparing to embark on their first cruise vacation should try to avoid the following mistakes.


Failing to pay attention to safety talks or drills


In the wake of the tragic Costa Concordia accident in 2012, many cruise lines have ramped up their safety procedures, and you can expect to attend a muster drill either before you set sail or on the morning of the first full day at sea. Pay close attention to emergency protocols and know where both your nearest muster station and life jacket are located. While it’s extremely rare for a cruise ship to need to evacuate passengers, you don’t want to be caught unaware should the worst happen.


Spending too much time in your cabin


Sure, your cabin has some great amenities, but the cruise ship has a lot more to offer. If you spend too much time in your cabin, you’ll miss out on things like stage performances, games, and meet and greets with other passengers.


Cruise Vacations

Trying to do it all


On the flip side, you shouldn’t try to cram in every cruise ship activity possible—there’s so much going on, there’s no way you can do everything. And never talk yourself into participating in an activity or shore excursion that makes you uncomfortable or that you believe will exceed your physical limits. Hiking around a port in Greece might sound like a good idea in theory, but if it’s 100 degrees and you’re not used to the heat, you may end up feeling sick or even hurting yourself.


Failing to plan ahead for port days


Before you even leave on your cruise, do some research on the ports on your itinerary. Find out if you will need a visa (sometimes cruise lines offer “blanket visas” for their passengers, so you may not) and make sure there aren’t any potential hazards in the area. See what shore excursions your cruise offers, and if you decide that you’d rather just explore on your own, make sure you will be able to find transportation and, potentially, a guide or translator. Don’t oversleep on a day your ship is going to be visiting a port you’re interested in exploring. There’s a good chance that your cruise will offer several shore excursion options, but you may not be able to go if you don’t sign up ahead of time, or if the excursion starts early in the morning. Even if you just want to spend the day exploring on your own, you should still leave yourself plenty of time to do what you want and make it back to the ship on time.


Cruise Ship Excursions

Not using common sense when it comes to the food


A lot of cruises offer all-you-can-eat buffets, but that doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind. Do enjoy the meals and snacks that the cruise has to offer, but keep in mind that if you have certain allergies or dietary restrictions, those aren’t going to change at sea. You should also pay attention to perishable food sitting out in a hot area for too long. While cruise lines do practice high standards of food hygiene, it is still possible to get food poisoning if you’re not careful.


Not using common sense when it comes to the alcohol


There’s nothing wrong with letting loose and enjoying a few drinks (you’re on vacation, after all), but know your limits. Cruise lines are notorious for pushing alcohol sales because it gives them more of a profit, and you shouldn’t count on a ship’s bartender to cut you off when you’ve had too many. In fact, bartenders over-serving on cruise ships has resulted in some serious accidents, including a recent one in which an intoxicated woman fell overboard.


Don’t let your first cruise be overshadowed by missed opportunities or an injury. By doing some advanced preparation and using your best judgment, you can minimize your chances of getting hurt and increase your chances of having an unforgettable vacation.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.” His experience in successfully handling numerous cruise ship accident cases recommends him as one of the most competent and skilled lawyer in the area of maritime personal injury law and wrongful death.