Wanna cruise like a pro?
It had been a long while since I last went on a cruise and boy, did I enjoy it. The various offerings of food, entertainment, relaxation and sun make a cruise so much fun! The last time I went on a cruise I was underage and relied on my parents heavily to take care of things, but this time I had to take things into my own hands and do some research. There are a few things I did and others I wish I would have done, so here are my tips for your next cruise!
- Before you book – Personally, my husband and I tend to be very active on our vacations, so we weren’t sure how we were going to like the cruise with 3 days at sea. We took a 7 day Eastern Mediterranean cruise with Carnival and really enjoyed it. We would do another cruise, but likely 5 days long with 3 stops if we could. During this cruise, we liked the excursions we took (visit the forest, Snuba, waterfall adventure and a beautiful beach) but we also really enjoyed the relaxation that came with it. Bottom line: always think about your travel preference (active/relaxing) when booking your cruise to ensure you don’t get bored/overwhelmed. The days at sea are really relaxing and although there are things to do, you may feel a little cabin fever so if you don’t like a ton of downtime, then choose a cruise with less sea days. If you love the down time and enjoying all the boat’s amenities then a longer cruise or cruise with less stops is best for you! If you are traveling in a large family group, look into group rates. Large family groups are common on cruises due to the price and convenience, so try to get the most for your money and get that great rate!
- Read the FAQ’s about your drinks very carefully – Whether you are a big drinker or not, buying drinks on the cruise can get a little pricey. Personally, I do not drink soda, only with alcohol, so that made no difference for me but there is a package for those that do and want to get “bottomless” soda. Remember that on a cruise the water, tea and juice is included but not everything else. There is also a “bottomless” alcoholic beverage package that you may want to buy if you plan on drinking more than ~5 drinks per day on the cruise. If you are a heavy drinker consider buying the package. Keep in mind, however, that you will likely not be on the boat much on the days you dock. Make sure to weigh your pros and cons on each end. In addition to this, also check the amount of drinks you can bring with you on board. We cruised with Carnival and they allowed 1 bottle of wine or champagne per adult. Take advantage of that! You may also purchase a case of waters which is convenient if you don’t want to drink tap water – whatever works for you!
- Print your luggage tags and boarding passes– Although many places don’t care for paper, some allow you to print things upon check-in at airports, that was not the case with th cruise. When we checked into our cruise at the Miami port we were expected to have our bags tagged up and our tickets printed. Make sure you have yours pre-printed if needed.
- Decide if you will get WiFi – In our particular case, we had to get work done so we bought WiFi. It is pricey and the connection is pretty bad. This is a plus or minus on your cruise depending how you see it. If you really want to unplug, you can. If you need to get work done or still use social media while on board, you can… at a slow pace. This is another perk if you are going wit family because the kids are forced to interact and engage without electronics.
- Explore your excursion options PRIOR to getting on the boat – Do some research on your destinations – what are top things to do there? What do you want to ensure that you see and do during the time you dock? Your time is short, so you want to ensure that you make the most of it. The ship will have some excursions available on their site, so look through them and the reviews to make sure you are picking what best fits your interests. It is best to do this before the cruise so you can just relax onboard and avoid lines, as well as avoid lines on board to book the trips. Remember that there is no Wifi on board unless you purchase it so your research capabilities are limited once onboard.
- Lanyards are key – literally! You are given a card that is to be used as a room key, credit card and ID for the entire time on your cruise. Everyone either buys a lanyard or has one with them to facilitate carrying the card on you. They sell lanyards on board and they are expensive, so if you already have one, take one lanyard per person to save you some money. This also allows you to leave your wallet and other valuables in the safe in your room.
- Get to know your boat! – Once you are on the boat, you want to know where things are. Walk it deck by deck and explore what is on each deck. You start to get a feel and open up your mind to the different things to do while onboard and it helps you better plan your days out at sea.
- Read your daily itinerary – The great thing about the boat is that every day there are a ton of things going on all day, for all ages. Carnival has an app that you can use onboard where you just favorite things and it will remind you when they are starting. It doesn’t require an internet plan to use it, so it is very convenient for a variety of things such as dining options, show times, location of things, etc. Checking your itinerary on a daily basis also ensures you don’t get bored and engage while on the boat.
- Pack smart – When packing, try to use the smallest luggage you can possibly pack all your things in. Your space is limited, so you want to ensure you aren’t tripping over your bags in your room. I would even recommend packing the small travel sized toiletries so you are comfortable in your shower. Always pack a light jacket regardless of the destination. They are blaring the AC, so you want to ensure you aren’t freezing. Also check how many “formal” nights your boat has. These fancy dinners are nice to go to because there is entertainment, photographers everywhere and it’s fun to dress up with your family.
- Enjoy! – Our favorite part about going on a cruise was that it was a worry-free vacation since everything was done for us – food, transportation, room service and cleaning service. Entertainment was awesome and it was given to us for such a low price. We got to see some great ports, just enough to do some fun excursions and we relaxed a lot which is what we needed. There is a gym on board so you can still get your workout in to help offset all the yummy things you are eating, which is also great!
What cruises are you considering in your future? Do you have any additional tips?