Lorraine McLeod has gone on over 100 cruises and she's seen first-time cruisers make mistakes.
Independent excursions can be risky for first-time cruisers and not all cruise lines are the same.
Always read the cruise ship's website and the materials you're given when you board.
Lorraine McLeod, an HR manager and mom of five from New Jersey, has gone on over 100 cruises in the past 28 years.
She said she tries to go on four to five cruises a year with her husband, kids, and other relatives and loves how convenient and activity-loaded this type of travel can be.
Here are the biggest mistakes she sees first-time cruisers make.
Going on independent excursions, especially when you're not too familiar with the port you've arrived in
Once a ship arrives in port, passengers can go on a cruise-sponsored excursion or independent ones.
McLeod, who has done independent and cruise-line-sponsored excursions, said booking an independent one may not be a good idea if you are a first-time cruiser just getting your feet wet. They may be cheaper but they come with a higher risk — unlike with cruise-sponsored excursions, the ship doesn't have to wait for people on individual ones to return.
"The main thing about going on a cruise-sponsored tour is that they will make sure you get back on time. And if they can't, they will alert the cruise officials and the ship will wait," she told Insider.
If you choose an independent excursion, McLeod said, bring your passport with you so you'll be able to meet the cruise at the next port or otherwise return home if the ship leaves without you.
Not reading through cruise information packets and websites before you embark
It's important for first-time cruisers to do their research and read everything about their ship before stepping foot on it. If you don't, you could miss out on a lot.
"When you get on the ship, everyone is given an information packet. But often I think people are so excited when they first go onboard that they just want to go out and do everything before really understanding what the cruise ship has to offer," she said.
She said that a bit of reading and research is also important before you board, especially when it comes to knowing what you're able to bring on the ship. You'll also want to know which clothes to pack for different events on the ship, like formal or theme nights.
Another important way to get to know your ship and its offerings is by using the first hour or two of your trip to explore the vessel, McLeod told Insider.
"Once I went on a cruise with my children and I discovered there was laser tag on the second to last day — which was the last full day on the ship. I was so mad," she said. "If I knew beforehand, I would have gone every day."
Skipping the chance to go on a cruise because you don't have people to go with you
McLeod said some people may be scared to go on vacation alone and convince themselves that they can't on a cruise because they don't have friends or family to accompany them.
"Honestly, you don't really have to be alone if you don't want to," she told Insider. Many cruises organize mixers and activities geared toward solo cruisers, so there are opportunities to meet others in the same situation.
"There are always lots of solo or single cruisers on board. It's a great place where you can meet people and get to know other people who have also gone on a cruise by themselves, too," she added.
Thinking that all cruise lines and ships are the same
"Not all ships are created equal," McLeod said. Each cruise line and ship has different designs, entertainment options, food, and more.
If you're having issues deciding which ship is right for you, she said, research different cruise lines before booking. Read reviews and look up photos and videos from passengers for a more realistic perspective.
"I find that, usually, the cruise ship's website doesn't really give me a good picture of the room, so I always like to go on YouTube and find someone who has already reviewed the room. This way, I can see what the interior, outside cabins, and the balcony actually looks like," she told Insider.
She also said travelers should check if the cruise line they're interested in caters to various age groups. Many cruises have kids' clubs with activities and some are even specifically targeted toward families. Others have a more "grown-up atmosphere," she said, and have adult-only decks or ships.
Read the original article on Insider