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14 Expert Cruise Tips You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner

Are you planning to go on a cruise soon? If so, there are some insider cruise secrets that you might find helpful. These are cruise tips that no one tells you about that you’ll wish you’d known about sooner. 

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1. Free Food at Specialty Coffee Shops 

Most cruise lines have specialty coffee shops where you pay extra to buy an espresso or latte. However, not many people know that you can get free food in these coffee shops. You don’t need to buy a coffee to get the food, and the menu varies from granola parfait to quiches and sandwiches. These coffee shops are usually located near the lobby, so they’re a great place to grab a quick snack or lunch without having to go to the buffet.

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2. Free Hot Breakfast Sandwiches at Specialty Coffee Shops

Depending on the cruise ship, you can get a free hot breakfast at these specialty coffee shops. This is a great option if you don’t want to go to the buffet or the main dining room.

On port days, when the buffet is a madhouse, my go-to order is a hot bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich paired with my favorite specialty coffee. I have breakfast before heading out to explore the port. The best part? There are usually plenty of unoccupied tables since most passengers don’t have breakfast at the coffee shop.

Expert Cruise Tips

And here’s a little secret: I sometimes order extra cookies from the coffee shop and stash them in my ziplock bag. It comes in handy, as a snack for my kids while we’re out and about exploring the port.

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3. You Can Drink Everywhere

One of the nice things about being on a cruise ship is you can drink anywhere. There are no open bottle rules, you can literally walk around the cruise ship with your wine glass. It’s great because you can bring a glass of wine to the main dining room for dinner or with you to the theater to watch the show. 

For example, if I attend a cocktail party for cruise loyalty members, I always order an extra round of drinks “to-go” to take with me to my next activity. 

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4. You Can Bring Wine Onboard

One thing that many new cruisers don’t realize is that some cruise lines will allow you to bring wine and/or champagne onboard the ship on embarkation day. However, there are usually restrictions on the amount and type of alcohol you can bring. For example, Royal Caribbean allows one sealed 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne per guest, while Disney Cruise Line allows two unopened bottles of wine or champagne. 

Do keep in mind that if you bring the bottle of wine to the main dining room, you will have to pay corkage. I suggest getting wine glasses from the bar, either bring your own corkscrew or borrow one from your cabin steward and enjoy your wine in your stateroom. You can even pour a glass of wine and bring it with you to dinner.

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5. Your Wine Follows You

One of the things that many new cruisers are not aware of is that your wine bottle follows you. That means if you order a bottle of wine from the main dining room, you can access it and drink it at a specialty restaurant. Or if you don’t finish, you can drink the rest the following day in the main dining room. 

Just ask the bartender or the server to track down the bottle of wine for you. I personally, never order wine by the glass. There is no reason to since it’s usually a lot cheaper to order wine by the bottle. 

Expert Cruise Tips

6. Dine at Popular Specialty Restaurants on the First Day

Many popular specialty restaurants sell out. If you want to be able to get a reservation at popular specialty restaurants, your best bet is to dine there on the first day of the cruise. Most people will be dining in the main dining room, so you’ll have a better chance of getting a reservation.

Looking for last minute deals? I recommend searching for last minute cruise deals from Cruise Direct

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7. Lunch on the First Day

The buffet will be very crowded on embarkation day since everyone goes up there for lunch. When you get on the ship, find out which restaurants are open. Most likely you will be able to have lunch at the Main Dining Room, maybe the pub or pizza restaurant or even the specialty coffee shop- anywhere so that you can avoid the buffet crowd.

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8. Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings 

Many new cruisers don’t realize that they can attend alcoholic anonymous meetings on board. Just check the cruise daily planner, if you see a meeting called “Friends of Bill W”, that means it is an alcoholic anonymous meeting.

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9. LGBTQ+ Meetings

Some cruise ships will have LGBTQ+ meet-ups. These are usually called “Friends of Dorothy” meetings. Check the cruise daily planner for meeting dates and times. 

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10. Free Sit-Down Restaurants to Escape the Crowd on Sea Days

Many new cruisers think that the only free restaurants on the ship are the Main Dining Room and the buffet. Everything else are specialty restaurants where you have to pay extra to eat there. 

That’s not always the case. Some cruise ships have small, casual eateries that are sit-down restaurants, and they’re free.

For example, some Princess Cruises have a little trattoria that’s usually not crowded and it’s free (they have good pizza). And some Norwegian Cruise ships have an Irish pub where you can order fish and chips for lunch and it’s free. These restaurants are a great place to escape the crowd on sea days. For more ways to escape the crowd, check out: 14 Simple Ways to Escape the Crowd on a Cruise Ship 

11. Port Talks

Port Talks and Disembarkation talks are usually recorded and will be available for you to watch on the cruise TV. So, don’t worry if you miss them, you can always watch them later. 

Even if you don’t watch the port talks, the port map and guide will usually be delivered to your stateroom with your daily planner, which is usually sufficient. 

Make sure to bring the port guide/map with you, since it will often include the Port Agent’s phone number, which you may need to call in case you miss the ship or have trouble at the port. Check out my guide: 10 Things to Never do in Cruise Ports

12. Cabin Steward Requests

Many new cruisers don’t realize that they can make requests from their cabin steward. For example, your steward can bring a mattress topper for you if you need it, reconfigure the beds if you’re not happy with them, or open the balcony partition between adjacent rooms if you are traveling with the group next door.

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13. Order Unlimited Food

New cruisers are usually shy to order more than the 3-course meal that is offered on the menu at the Main Dining room. However, food is truly unlimited on a cruise, so go ahead and order extra appetizers for the table. If you can’t decide between entrees, you can usually order 2 entrees and share them with your partner. And if you’re still hungry after dinner, feel free to go up to the buffet for a post-show snack!

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14. You Can get Free Champagne from the Art Auctions

One thing that many new cruisers don’t realize is there ways to get free champagne and drinks on the cruise. One of the ways for free champagne is to attend an art auction, these art auctions will give out free champagne and there is no obligation to buy artwork. Check out my article 10 Ways to Score Free Champagne at a Cruise (How to Get Free Drinks!)

Looking for last minute deals? I recommend searching for last minute cruise deals from Cruise Direct

Check out these cruise packing lists with free printables

Alaska cruise packing list

Caribbean cruise packing list

Mediterranean cruise packing list

Mexico cruise packing list

Bermuda Cruise Packing List

British Isle Cruise Packing List

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