Ask the cruise director: What’s your best advice for first-time cruisers?

Nov 11, 2020

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One of the most popular cruise directors of the past decade, Matt Mitcham, is offering his insights to cruise fans in a series of pieces for The Points Guy. Presented in a question-and-answer-type format, the pieces originally appeared in The Points Guy’s cruise newsletter (sign up here). Mitcham retired from Carnival Cruise Line in August. 

Today’s question for Matt: What’s your best advice for first-time cruisers?


I have three big tips for first-timer cruisers: Get involved, get to know the crew and try all the food.

Get involved

After 14 years at sea, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen it all. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a veteran of the sea, one common ground you share is just the willingness to have fun. From the moment you walk on a cruise ship, you’ll leave all your worries behind you…but don’t worry, they’ll be waiting for you in the car park when you return, so make the most of your cruise.

Photo courtesy of Matt Mitcham

One of the best parts about being on a cruise is that nobody knows who you are. This means you can be whoever you want to be. Gentlemen, if your dream has always been to walk the sundeck in a Speedo like a scene from Baywatch, then go for it. Nobody cares, and…you’ll never see them again. Just remember though, if you make a big enough splash, you’ll be all over social media quicker that I can wrap a towel around you.

Related: How to plan a cruise with points and miles

Would you sign up for a “hairy chest contest” on a Carnival ship? Why not? (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Throughout your cruise, there will be so many amazing events and activities. Just say yes to them. The people that have the most fun on the ship are the people that just get involved. This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for the hairy chest competition. Maybe trivia’s your thing. As long as you’re doing something you wouldn’t normally do at home, and just having fun, you’re on the right track.

Get to know the crew

Where else in the world can you go on vacation and interact with over 50 different nationalities. Being on a ship is very different from being in a hotel on land, where you just exchange pleasantries with the staff each morning. On a ship, the crew has one common goal, making sure you have the best cruise ever!

I encourage you to go sit at a bar and strike up a conversation with the bartender. It’s always wise to build a strong relationship with the person that pours your drinks. Be sure to ask them about their day, and what country they come from.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

The crew is the backbone of any cruise ship. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

The team members are the backbone of any cruise ship, and you’ll see just how hard they work during your stay. It’s not uncommon to get up in the night to go to the restroom, come back and your bed is made…they literally sleep underneath your bed. I’m teasing. They sleep in the wardrobe.

Take a little time to get to know the crew, and it will be the thing you remember most about your cruise 10 years later.

Try all the food

One of the main highlights for most cruisers is the huge selection of food at their fingertips. This can sometimes be mistaken as a challenge: How much food can you consume in seven days? Just because it’s already paid for, doesn’t mean you have to eat it all. That’s what Tupperware is for. Tune in next week, when I’ll be talking about smuggling food off the ship.

Never tried rare tuna? A cruise is your chance. Here, a rare tuna dish at the Prime 7 restaurant on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Splendor. (Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises).

Seriously, though, from the buffets to the main dining room, one thing you won’t leave the cruise ship as is hungry. Most cruise ships will have themed evenings, which range from Mexican to Caribbean, and it gives you a great opportunity to taste food that you wouldn’t normally taste at home. So make sure you taste a little bit of everything, even the green stuff too, which is commonly known as salad.

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Mitcham has served as cruise director on several Carnival ships including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze. Known for his six-pack abs, shirtless selfies and effervescent personality, he was recently profiled in People magazine as the “hunky cruise director.” He was named the cruise world’s best cruise director in 2019 by the cruise industry’s leading magazine, Porthole. You can find him on Instagram at @mattcruisedirector. 

Featured image courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

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