How To Prepare For a Cruise: A Pre-Cruise Checklist

How to Prepare for a Cruise: A Pre-Cruise Checklist from

The weeks before your cruise are often filled with nervous energy. Not only are you excited for your upcoming vacation, but you may be experiencing some uncertainty about how to prepare for a cruise.

Because cruise planning doesn’t end after you’ve picked out your stateroom and purchased your plane tickets. There are so many other questions that need to be answered.

Like: What are you going to do in your ports of call? Who’s going to watch your house while you’re gone? Is your passport valid? Do you even need a passport?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’ve got you covered with this pre-cruise checklist. It’s a pretty comprehensive list of what to do before a cruise, from the three-month countdown to the night before you set sail.

Three Months Before Your Cruise

Ensure your passport is up-to-date.

Now’s the time to take out your trusty passport and check the expiration date. If it’s more than six months past the departure date of your cruise, you’re all set! If not, you’ll want to start the renewal process pronto. The U.S. State Department says processing times for passports is around 5-7 weeks for expedited service and 8-11 weeks for standard service. And that doesn’t include mailing times.

(Note: If you’re doing a closed-loop cruise (meaning, your cruise departs and arrives in the same port of call in the United States) you may not technically need a passport, but I always recommend people travel with one, anyway. You know never what may happen on the high seas!)

Reserve your excursions.

The most popular excursions tend to sell out quickly. So if you’re eager to go flightseeing in Alaska or hug a sloth in Honduras, you’ll want to pop into your cruise planner and reserve those now. If they’re already sold out, or the prices are a little too steep for your budget, you can always book through a third-party site like Viator.

Buy travel insurance.

I’ll admit: before I started cruising, I never once bought travel insurance. But now I’ll never go on a cruise without it. Why? Because if you fall ill onboard and need a medical evacuation, it can cost upwards of $50,000.

And medical evacuations are not that rare. I actually saw one on my first cruise! The evacuation then caused us to miss one of our ports of call. Guess what? Our travel insurance then gave us $100 per passenger because of our missed port coverage. So the policy paid for itself.

One Month Before Your Cruise

Check in for your cruise.

Check-in usually opens well before one month, but there’s no particular rush unless you’re eager for a super early arrival time at the departure port. But now’s a good time to get that over with. You’ll need to supply your passport number, take a photo, and select an arrival time to board the ship.

Pre-purchase onboard amenities.

If you think you’re going to spring for an unlimited beverage package or a Wi-Fi connection while you’re on your cruise, you can order them through your cruise planner now. Pre-purchasing these items will save you a bundle. If you wait until you’re onboard, you’ll often pay quite a markup.

Secure a pet sitter.

Now, if you’re type-A like me, you’ll have already booked your pet sitter the second you plunked down a deposit on your cruise. But if it’s slipped your mind, you’d better get that booking in now before all the best pet sitters are taken. If you don’t have a regular sitter, you can find one through services like Rover or TrustedHousesitters.

One Week Before Your Cruise

Start packing.

The final countdown has begun! This is when I start finalizing my capsule wardrobe and writing out my packing list. As the week goes on, I’ll start filling up my compression cubes and putting my suitcase together.

Do last-minute shopping.

Once you’ve written out your packing list, you’ll be able to identify anything you’re missing. Need a travel-size shave gel? A layering tank top? A white noise machine? Now’s the time to order it. Don’t worry, Amazon Prime will get it there quickly.

Arrange a COVID test, if necessary.

This is quickly becoming a thing of the past, but some cruise itineraries still require you to get a COVID test before you board. Check the documentation for your specific sailing. If you need a test, make an appointment right away to make sure you’re not left out in the cold.

Stock up on medications.

If you have take prescription medication, ensure you have enough of it to last you throughout the duration of the cruise… and maybe a few days extra, just in case. (Travel is unpredictable! Better safe than sorry.) And if you’re concerned about seasickness, now’s a great time to ask your doctor for a prescription for a scopolamine patch. I wear these on every sailing and they work like a charm.

The Night Before Your Cruise

Arrange transportation.

This cruise is so close you can smell it! Make sure your ground transportation and transfers are all set up for tomorrow so that you can get to the port without a problem. Same goes for getting to the airport, if you’re flying to your cruise. (Don’t forget to check in for your flight, too!)

Triple-check your documentation.

Make sure you’ve got your passports, boarding passes, and COVID test results and vaccination cards (if necessary). Also make sure you’ve got another form of identification, a credit card, and some cash. I like to put everything into this document wallet so my important stuff is organized in one place.

Load up your Kindle.

There is truly nothing worse than sitting by the pool as the ship sets sail only to discover that you forgot to download your new books to your e-reader. Even if you buy an internet package, connecting your Kindle to the ship Wi-Fi is a pain, and downloading those books will be slow. Do yourself a favor and take care of that now.

Get a good night’s sleep.

It’s gonna be a busy day tomorrow! Rest up so you can party down!

What Do You Do To Prepare for a Cruise?

Is there anything I missed? If so, let me know in the comments. What are some things to do before a cruise to make sure it’s your best, most stress-free vacation ever?

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