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Everything you need to know as a first time cruiser

We set off on our first cruise in March 2024 and we found it incredibly hard to find any information before getting on board.

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We travelled with Carnival Cruise and could check in 2 weeks prior to travelling. When we could check in we could choose a time to arrive at port. This prevents everyone showing up at once.

Our boarding time was 12:30 however we were very early (like a lot of people) and started to board at 11:45.


We flew from Townsville to Brisbane for our cruise because we did not know the boarding time and it’s impossible to find it online we booked our flights for the day before.

Our ship was due to depart at 4pm. We would have been ok to book a flight that morning had we known the boarding times.


I googled the amount of time it takes to exit the ship so we could book a flight home. Googles answer said 3 hours.

We were meant to arrive back to Brisbane at 8am but had some schedule changes (link port of call blog with schedule changed) so arrived earlier. Disembarkation started around 7:30 and it was noted that everyone must be off the ship by 9:30.

We decided to book the last flight home that night anyway so we could explore Brisbane and left our bags in a storage locker at the airport.



We travelled VERY light. We’ve gotten really good at backing for trips as we’ve realised we don’t actually need a lot of things and end up carrying extra weight that we don’t need.

Carnival ask you don’t carry more than 2 bags per person weighing up to 32kg each on a cruise of 6 days or longer. 

Depending on how you’re feeling or what your personal travel requirements are you can really bring as little or as much as you feel.

Things I would recommend packing are:

  • A jumper – the ship was very cold with the aircon on.
  • A Elegant outfit – I wore a simple black dress and heels but some ladies went all out in ballgowns and men in tuxedos
  • Casual clothes – don’t forget to bring some more dressed down outfits – not every night you’ll want to get done up.
  • Themed outfits – if dressing up is something your into than make sure you bring your best outfit.

We weren’t aware that there was going to be themed nights on board, this wasn’t sent out in an email so we were quite surprised when on board.

One night was a white night so I had actually brought a white dress and wore that.

The other themes were 80s and a superhero night. You can imagine we were quite surprised to see so many people dressed in their best superhero costumes.

If you don’t want to take part in the theme nights then that’s ok there is no pressure to take part and I think only about 50% of the people on our cruise did.


Depending on your location and how much luggage you’re bringing you might want to bring things like snorkels or hiking boots, all depending on your interests.

Bring a lanyard to attach your room key to. You can buy one on board but if you already have one then I recommend bringing it. Your key is your everything whilst onboard. It becomes a hassle having to take it in and out every time you need it.

Bring snacks, this one is definitely not obvious and don’t get me wrong there is plenty of food on board but sometimes you just want a bar of chocolate or a packet of crisps (chips). You can buy these on board but they are pricy and a very small selection.


The first day we felt pretty lost of the ship, not just because we didn’t know where everything was but we didn’t know how everything worked.

Your key card to your room is literally your key card to the ship. Your bank card is attached to the room key.

If you are buying anything on the ship, drinks, food, gift shop items, activities, everything and anything they will swipe your key so it’s very important to have it with you.


All meals are included in your ticket but not all restaurants are included. They have a buffet which you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner at and any in between meals. There is also a dining room which you can attend as part of your ticket which has a different menu every evening.

There is other speciality restaurant on board which you do have to pay for – like the Carnival Luminous has a steakhouse.

You don’t have to attend the speciality restaurants, we didn’t. We usually love going to a steakhouse but we were loving the dining room and the changes it had each day.

I think it definitely made me venture out on what to order, because it was included in the costs I didn’t feel like I would be wasting money if I didn’t like it.


Carnival cruise has an app called “Carnival Hub”. Everything will go through here. You can book your table for dinner, check out the itinerary for the entire cruise duration or check how much you are spending on your key card.

Most cruise operators will have their own app for you to manage everything on. I would recommend everyone having this downloaded on their phone before boarding. Once we were out at sea it wasn’t possible for Rob to download the app. He couldn’t see what was happen on board himself then and it just made it more awkward.

Being a first time cruiser was very exciting and we already can’t wait to go cruising again. The staff were very helpful and so were other people on board who had previously been on cruises. With carnival you can tell who’s first cruise with them is depending on their key card colour. Ours was blue, the more your sail the more loyalty points you build and your cruise card changes colour.


I hope this blog post will help you with being organised for your first cruise. If you’d like to book a cruise check out Cruise Critic to compare the different cruiselines and ship routes.

Think its going to be too expensive? the cost might surprise you. 


Hi Im Ana, I’ve created the blog to share all my travel experiences. Im currently in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. 

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