So my first cruise - a weeklong Bermuda cruise sailing on Norwegian Dawn - wasn't perfect (credit the rain, a couple lackluster shows and several canceled activities), but it was pretty great. It took me a couple days to figure out how to make the most of my time onboard. As the days progressed and I learned the lay of the ship, my experience improved exponentially. I might have thought I knew a lot about cruising, but until you actually experience a cruise … well, you experienced cruisers know what I mean. So what did this first-time cruiser learn?
-By Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Cruise Critic Contributor
Don't overdo it your first day onboard
Most mainstream cruise ships are bigger than you think - even if they're not among the largest afloat. Most modern ships are composed of deck upon deck of cabins and public spaces and can accommodate thousands of people. The last thing you want to do is wear yourself out trying to unearth every nook and cranny of the ship before your vacation is really even underway. It's easy to want to see and do it all on the first day - but avoid the temptation.
Photo: Gelpi JM/Shutterstock
Don't try to eat at every specialty restaurant
Most major cruise lines have made a habit of building multiple for-fee specialty restaurants into newer ships (Norwegian Dawn has seven), and while these restaurants can be fantastic, you could end up shelling out a fistful of cash by the time your cruise commences. Plus, you risk missing some of the special items found in the ship's main dining room. During my cruise, I was in such a hurry to start trying out the specialty restaurants that I neglected to realize that Night No. 1 was lobster night in the MDR. I was so sad to miss it - and those passengers raving about the quality didn't help.
Don't stay in your cabin for hours at a time
While a few short naps are nice (especially if you have a balcony to veg on), if you spend too long of a stretch in your cabin, you're sure to miss out on some fun onboard activities. It took me a couple days to realize that I was missing things like movies on the big screen, trivia sessions and game shows like "Battle of the Sexes." When cruising, there's something going on every hour of the day, and the only way you're going to have the best time possible is to venture out of your cabin and get involved. That brings me to my next point ...