This list of Princess Cruise tips and tricks needed to be written. Even after two weeks on board the Island Princess we were discovering things that made our lives better. These tips for cruising are not mysterious secrets of cruise ships, nor are they true cruise ship hacks. But rather they are things we might have known from the beginning had we read every word of the daily newsletter left in our cabin. And we were not alone, so we set out on a mission and asked officers, crew, and other passengers for their best Princess Cruise tips and tricks.
While many of these tips may feel like Princess Cruise ship secrets exposed, in fact, all of this information is readily available onboard a Princess Cruise. This is a useful list of cruise tips for beginners and experienced cruisers.
Tips for Cruising
**Important Note: Most of these cruising tips apply to any cruise line.
Table of Contents
Tips for Cruising: Things to Do Before You Leave Home
1. Fly to your embarkation port at least a day in advance to allow for delays. If your plane is late, the ship will not wait for you. It is not worth the risk. If you don’t already have your plane tickets, start with Cheapflights or download the Skyscanner App to find the lowest airfare. Once in the city, tour on your own, or join a pre-embarkation package from the cruise line. To find the best hotel deals click here for HotelsCombined.
2. Learn something about the cruise ports before you sail. Reading up on your destinations not only adds to the excitement, it also helps ensure you won’t miss anything. While there are plenty of articles and books on every city in the world, we have found the most useful books for cruise ports are those focused on cruise destinations. They spotlight things you can do in limited time, offer suggestions as to what can be booked ahead, and target the needs of cruise passengers.
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3. Don’t miss out on the things you really want! Spa treatments, shore excursions, and speciality dinner reservations can be booked in advance of sailing, usually with no penalty for cancellation within 48 hours of the booking. If you are celebrating a special occasion and want to be pampered at the spa before your special meal, book it now. Many popular activities or time slots “sell out” before embarkation. Once onboard, if desired, you can make changes to any bookings that are more than two days in the future. Also, note that some pre-boarding options are not available after you board. Look for words like “special” or “pre-boarding only.”
4. Explore external shore excursion options and compare them to the ship’s choices. While many of the excursions offered by the cruise ship are great, you can normally save a lot of money and tour with a smaller group by booking independently. The ships will discourage you from doing this, as excursions are a big money maker for them. Often their primary argument is that the ship will wait for their own tours if they return late, but not for independent ones. Viator, a TripAdvisor Company resolved this problem. Many (not all) of Viator excursions are covered by a “Worry-free Shore Excursion Guarantee” (check the inclusion tab of each tour). Check for your ports here:
⇒ Click here to see fabulous shore excursion options with Viator
(then type your city in the search box on the Viator page)
6. Verify that your medical insurance covers travel outside your home country. If not, consider getting Travel Insurance before you leave home. We have needed to use our travel medical insurance in the past and have been to hospitals in the USA, Germany, Australia and Bonaire. Other passengers we know have had luggage lost or other problems. We have always been happy with World Nomads Travel insurance. On a recent cruise around Australia, a passenger had severe chest pains in the gym and required an air ambulance back to shore. I hope he had insurance.
7. Pack light, you won’t regret it. Sign up for our newsletter ↓↓↓ and we will send you a FREE copy of our Ultimate Packing Light Checklist:
8. Use packing cubes. If you haven’t tried packing cubes before, the time is now. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical the first time I heard about them, but then I gave them a try. Not only do they keep my belongings organized, they also compact them allowing more to fit in a smaller space. It’s a big aid in packing light. Plus, once onboard or at any destination, unpacking and keeping organized is easy. Personally, I use a large one for my clothes, a small for underwear and pyjamas, another smaller cube for our emergency kit. Hubby has two for his clothing and the final is for electronics including our handheld luggage scale (a critical item whether you are packing light or not. Airlines charge huge fees for overweight items.)
Onboard Dining Tips
9. Passengers opt for either “traditional” or “anytime” dining when they book. The advantage of traditional dining is having a waiter and dining companions that know you. ‘Princess Cruises Anytime Dining’ allows you to head to the dining room at your leisure. Regardless of your dining plan, there are plenty of dining options onboard. Included in your cruise fare is a casual buffet; pizza, burgers, pastry, or ice cream bars near the pools; afternoon tea service; room service; or, snacks at one of the bars. Or, for an extra fee, you can enjoy a speciality restaurant, coffee shops, or even balcony dining.
10. At meals, you can order more than one of anything, even extra vegetables, a second lobster tail, or one of each dessert. Although, you might want to check out these tips for eating onboard without gaining weight.
11. Daily dinner reservation can be made for passengers who opt for ‘Anytime Dining.’ This allows you to be seated first at your requested time, rather than waiting in a long queue.
12. The speciality restaurants frequently serve lunch at no extra charge. On the Island Princess, this included Italian Pizza or a British Pub lunch.
Onboard Drinking Tips
13. There are several Princess drink packages or discount cards available to help combat the extra fees charged for many beverages served onboard.
- Coffee Card: 15 speciality coffees, plus unlimited filter coffee and hot chocolate. This card is allowed to be shared, as it’s not unlimited, and hubby and I shared ours.
- Soda and More Card: Unlimited soft drinks, mocktails, juices, and hot chocolate.
- Wine Card: Saves money on bottled wines.
- All-Inclusive Beverage Package: Any soda, bottled water, cocktails, spirits, wines, beers, speciality coffee, and tea up to $10 each. Although it is expressly against the rules, we saw families purchase one card to share.
- Bottled Water Card: Available only before embarkation.
14. If you purchase a bottle of wine at mealtime, the unfinished bottle can be saved for you in the restaurant or brought back to your cabin for any time drinking. If you ask your cabin steward, he will provide wine glasses and a bucket of ice. On our most recent Princess cruise, passengers were allowed to bring up to one bottle of wine per cabin onboard for consumption. Be sure to check the rules of your ship.
More Cruise Tips and Tricks
15. Prepare for the sun, don’t let sunburn spoil your fun. Depending on where you live, and where you are cruising too, the sun may be much stronger than you are used to at home. On sea days you may find yourself lounging at the pool or doing some other outdoor activity. Nothing spoils cruise fun quite like a bad sunburn. Therefore, we recommend you bring plenty of sunscreen, a sun hat, pool sandals, and a lightweight swimsuit cover-up that can serve as both sun protection and allow you to walk through the halls in your swimwear. What you don’t need to bring is a beach towel, as they are available at the pools and can be taken ashore at ports.
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16. The dry sauna and large showers at the Spa are available to all passengers, at no extra charge.
17. The limited spots in the “Sanctuary” book up early for the entire cruise. It is a posh, adults-only lounge (extra fee)
18. Some Princess Cruise ships offer Movies Under the Stars each night on a huge screen. Padding, removable pillows, and blankets convert the lounge chairs to a comfortable movie watching option. They even provide popcorn.
19. Each ship has at least one deck offering outdoor access to the bow (front of the ship) and stern (back of the ship). On the Island Princess, decks 10 and 11 forward were optimal for watching the ship enter the Panama Canal, while deck 8 at the stern was the perfect spot as we left Cabo San Lucas. To access these outdoor decks, we passed through an unlabelled door at the end of the hallway.
20. Onboard laundry uses tokens obtained by swiping your passenger card. There is no need to bring small change.
Princess Cruise’s Wifi
21. Charges for the onboard internet are on a per-minute basis. Princess Cruises wifi speed is affected by the number of users at a given time. Early in the morning or late at night will give the fastest speeds. If you purchase wifi onboard, put your phone or device in airplane mode when not using it. This will protect you from accidental usage or unexpected (and very expensive) updates. If you can, log off while onboard. It makes it easier to relax and enjoy your cruise. If you want to check email without paying the ships prices, pop into a McDonalds, or other onshore location with free Wifi.
22. On-board text messages to other passengers are free using the free Princess Onboard at Sea site. Bring your mobile device and you can also access daily schedules, your account, and the ship’s itinerary.
More Cruise Ship Hacks
23. The ship bartenders are like hidden concierges. They are an excellent source of additional cruise excursion tips or advice on ports. They learn the best and the worst while talking to passengers every day. Also, many crew members have been to the various ports multiple times.
24. Princess Cruises gratuities are automatically added to your daily invoice and can be altered or completely remove the amount – simply ask at the main desk. Even prepaid gratuities can be altered if you desire.
25. I think the best deal on board is the future cruise deposit. There is no risk as Princess will refund unused deposits after two years. Importantly, the deposit must be in the currency of the country of your residency, and you must enrol while on board.
Where We Have We Cruised Recently
- New Year’s Cruise in Rio de Janeiro on the Azamara Pursuit from Buenos Aires Argentina (return) with two ports in Uruguay, and five ports in Brazil.
- Pacific Crossing on the Golden Princess sailing from Los Angeles, California USA to Auckland, New Zealand with ports in Hawaii, French Polynesia, and American Samoa.
- Panama Canal Crossing on the Island Princess sailing from Fort Lauderdale Florida to Vancouver Canada with ports in Aruba, Cartegena Colombia, Puntarenas Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas Mexico, and Los Angeles California.
- Australia over the top from Sydney to Perth on the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas with ports in the Australian cities of Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Port Hedlands, and Geraldton. Plus we stopped in Bali Indonesia.
- Alaska’s interior passage on the NCL Sun sailing from Anchorage (Whittier) to Vancouver Canada. After first cruising alongside Hubbard Glacier, we had port stops in the Alaskan cities of Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.
- The Mediterranean including both the Adriatic and Aegean Seas on the NCL Spirit sailing from Barcelona Spain to Venice Italy with ports in Toulon France, Italy (Livorno, Rome, Naples), Greece (Athens and Mykonos) and Turkey (Istanbul and Ephesus).
- Norway on the MSC Opera sailing to and from South Hampton England to ports in Haarlem Netherlands, and Norwegian cities of Flam, Bergen, Stavanger, and Oslo.
- In the past, we also cruised to the Mexican Riviera and multiple Caribbean cruises, plus we toured the HAL Oosterdam.
Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips for cruising to add to the list?
Disclaimer: In addition to VIP treatment onboard the Island Princess, the ship provided us with many complimentary extras. The opinions and observations expressed here are strictly my own. The tips and benefits listed above are all subject to change. Be sure to read the current rules before you sail.