It’s no secret that the Hubster and I are pretty obsessed with cruising. We’ve agreed that cruising is just about the only way we’ll vacation. Even with the Triumph mess that happened two months before our Carnival cruise, we still had no worries that our cruise would suck. I wouldn’t have minded a few extra days at sea either way. If you’ve never taken a cruise, you have to try it.
- Bring your own wine or champagne. Some cruise lines, such as Carnival, allow each adult over 21 to bring one 750ml bottle of wine or champagne on board in their carry-on luggage. I’m a fan of $5 supermarket wine, which happens to cost somewhere around $32 on the ship. You can save yourself a few bucks by bringing your own. On Carnival, they charge an uncorking fee in the dining room. The best way to avoid that charge is to call room service for a corkscrew and glasses. You can also bring your own 12-pack of bottled water or soda in your carry-on for free.
- Do your research on your excursion options. Typically excursions purchased on the ship cost a little extra. If you know what you’d like to do in each port, you can usually Google tour companies that offer that type of excursion and book directly through them. You can also check out sites such as TripAdvisor for excursion ideas as well as reviews. There are plenty of ports that you can catch a taxi to the beach for cheap and avoid having to pay insane prices to then have to fight for chairs.
- Choose your room wisely. Through experience with rooms in several different locations, we’ve realized that the higher you are, the more movement you feel. So, if you suffer from motion sickness, I’d suggest staying lower in the ship. I’ve been told that the mid-ship locations feel less movement as well. Hubs and I are also huge fans of interior cabins. Not only are they cheaper, but we also feel more relaxed in them. The interior cabins are just about pitch-black when the lights are out, so there is no sense of urgency to get moving when the sun starts to come up.
- Use your TV. I was super surprised on our last cruise that none of our tablemates at dinner knew that you could do so many things from the TV in your cabin. For one, the excursions that we did book though Carnival, were booked through the TV. The onscreen menu provided details about the excursions and after a click of a button, our tickets were delivered under our door. We were able to check how much was spent on our ship account, to avoid going way over budget. The nightly dinner menu was also available. There are channels that show the ship position and ship cameras as well.
- Room service is 24/7 and free. It’s late at night, you were too drunk to make it to dinner, and now all that’s available is pizza and ice cream. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t my idea of dinner. At least not on a cruise. Room service has a pretty good selection available at any hour. I also love to use room service as an alarm clock. On the mornings that we have early excursions, I request breakfast at the time that I want to wake up. The knock on the door alerts me that it’s time to get up, and I get to enjoy breakfast right away while I’m getting ready.
- Read the onboard newspaper. Carnival has what’s call The Fun Times. It shows up on your bed every night, and has details about everything happening on the ship the next day. There is even a section that tears off for you to carry around with you with the times of everything happening on board such as games, parties, comedy and dance shows, as well as what time certain shops or restaurants are open. I was shocked to hear that some of our tablemates would just wander the ship aimlessly hoping to find an activity to do.
- Don’t try to do everything. Whoever thinks that cruises are for old people and that there is nothing to do, is seriously mistaken.The entertainment staff tries to keep everyone on board occupied, especially on days where you’re at sea. There are so many activities jam packed into the schedule that you simply can’t do them all. We made this mistake on our first cruise.Since then, we’ve learned that if there is something that we’d really like to attend, we’ll go. If there comes a time were we’ve relaxed enough, and there is something that might interest us on the agenda, we’ll check it out.
- Want something? Just ask. You’d be surprised at how accommodating the ship crew is. Really, one of their main goals is to ensure that you have a great vacation. One time at dinner I asked our waiter, “Can I -” and before I even finished my sentence he said yes. So if at dinner you want two or three appetizers, go for it! Want three lobster tails on formal night? They’re yours.
- Bring the right clothes. Depending on your cruise, there may be a formal night or two. Make sure you pack the appropriate clothes so that you arent turned away from the dining room. If getting all fancy isn’t your thing, the buffet usually has most of the same items available. There are gyms on board, so if you plan on visiting them or doing an excursion such as zip lining or hiking, don’t forget to pack your sneakers.
- DON’T GET LEFT BEHIND. Be sure to keep your phone/watch/whatever on the ship’s time. All of the times given on the ship are according to ship time. If they tell you the ship is leaving at 5:00pm, it’s 5:00pm ships time, not the time at the port. Ship time is generally the local time at your port of embarkation.
This list is already longer than I was anticipating and there are still a few more things that I’d like to add, but I think that’s a pretty good start. If you’re planning on taking a cruise I’d definitely recommend checking out Cruise Critic for more information and tips. I’d also be happy to answer any questions.