I recently went on my sixth cruise with Carnival and thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over the years. After 5 different departure ports, countless islands, family and friend vacations; I feel like I’ve gotten the process down.
*Pick your cruise based on your airfare – I’ve traveled on cruises during several different seasons and I’ve always paid around the same price for a 7-8 day cruise. Once I find a few that I’m interested in I monitor the airfare in to the departure port location. This can increase your vacation price immensely depending on your location. Finding cheap airfare is the key to keeping a cruise affordable.
*Book a flight the day before your cruise leaves – The second cruise I went on we decided to do a red eye flight in to Florida. We were scheduled to arrive at 5:00 am leaving ourselves with plenty of time to make it to the port, right? Wrong! Everything that could possibly go wrong did due to numerous issues. After a long and stressful night we finally made it to Florida with 45 minutes to spare and were some of the last people to get on the cruise ship. Needless to say I will never do a red eye the night before a cruise again, because you have no guarantees of making it there on time! I think it is worth it to get a hotel and enjoy some extra time at your departure port.
*Book the late dining option – The 5 o’clock dining option is too early if you are planning on taking full advantage of the islands. You typically have to be back on the boat around 5. This is when I like to get a good nap in before showering and getting ready for dinner.
*Pack a few of the necessities in your carry on – On my last cruise I met some people whose luggage was lost and didn’t show up until our first port (2 days later). 99.9% of the time this shouldn’t be a problem, but I don’t want to be one of the .01% of the people this happens to. I usually pack a swimsuit, a tank top, shorts, and a change of clothes. This is also important to do because when you go through customs the cruise line takes your luggage and delivers it to your room later. If you want to hit the pool right away you need to have what you are planning on doing in your carry on. Usually it doesn’t take long for your bags to arrive but sometimes they take a couple of hours.
*What you should pack – You need to make sure you have what you need, but you shouldn’t over pack. Those cruise cabins can be tight especially if you have a few people in your room. Check out 20 Items to pack on a cruise!
*Consider a drink card – There are a couple of different options in the beverage department. If you aren’t planning on drinking too heavily but you’re an avid diet coke fan like me, you should buy the soda card. For a few dollars each day you can buy the soda pass which adds a sticker to your card and allows you to have soda for free. It is worth it if you plan on drinking a soda or two each day.
The other option is the all inclusive drink pass – this is worth it if you plan on partying it up. The cost of buying alcohol can add up really quickly to the point I’ve had friends have $900 alcohol bills when they get off the boat. The only catch is that everyone in your room has to purchase the pass.
You are allowed to bring a bottle of wine per person on with you. Just don’t forget the wine opener.
*Do your own excursions – I like to look through the options of each island and kind of have an idea of what to do in each port. I haven’t booked an excursion through the cruise line for years. They are often really expensive and put you on a tight time schedule with a bunch of random people from your ship. The one benefit is that they guarantee you will get back to the boat on time even if something happens. I like to find locals that offer the same excursions, this is usually much cheaper, and you have more control over your day. Be smart about it though and leave yourself plenty of time to get back to the boat. They will leave you if you aren’t there! I’ve seen spring breakers sprinting to their boat from Senor Frogs, don’t be those people.
*Take advantage of everything the cruise ship has to offer:
- Order 2 entrees and every dessert at dinner… anything goes!
- Attend one of the dance or comedian shows
- Gamble in the casino
- Participate in one of the day activities by the pool
- Stroll through the picture display area – it’s fun to find your pictures
- Go dancing in the night club
- Watch the sun come up from the top deck
Mainly, just get out there and get involved. There are so many things you can do to keep yourself entertained. Happy cruising!