If you’ve never been on a cruise, this is the perfect blog post for you. I have added in all of the information I can think of at this time, and if I think of any more, I will add it at a later date. Going on a cruise is one of my favorite vacations because there’s just so much to do, to see, to eat, and it’s a relatively low cost vacation compared to doing everything on your own. All inclusive is the best way to go and enjoy your vacation
Make sure that you complete all of the pre-registration and check in information, so that you are not delayed when you get to the port. Plan to get to the port at least 30 minutes prior to your given boarding time. If you are caught in a delay, you at least need to arrive 90 minutes prior to sailing time as Carnival will need to do a boarding count to send to Homeland Security.
Most importantly, make sure that you have a passport, OR at the very least the documents required to cruise. Your original or copy of your state/county issued birth certificate with or without a raised seal and a photo ID. Carnival will actually allow a legible Xerox copy of your state issued BC as well per Carnival FAQ’s. (Carnival doesn’t require a birth certificate to be certified.) A passport holder is ideal too, like this one.
Make sure that you have all of the cash you want to take prior to boarding, you can not use cash on the ship though, unless you’re giving it to guest relations to put directly on your Sail & Sign card. You will not need any local currency anywhere in the Bahamas, Caribbean, or Mexico. They will accept US Dollars.
However, if you are cruising to Europe, it would be in your best interest to get some Euro currency before you leave home (from your local bank possibly). You’ll need it as soon as you arrive for taxi fare and the exchange rate will likely be better than you’ll get in an airport.
Be sure to notify your debit/credit card company/bank before leaving the country. In doing so, you’ll be protected, as well as your accounts won’t be “frozen” as a precaution against fraudulent use.
Make sure that you have planned carefully your arrival day and time at the cruise departure port. It’s smart to plan to travel to arrive there a day early, especially in winter months, or hurricane season due to weather delays. Also, if you will be required to make flight connections. You don’t want to miss your cruise due to a flight delay.
Pack for the various activities and excursions you may be taking, including active wear, swim wear, formal wear, casual clothes for the daytime and resort casual clothes for after 5:00 PM or so. After you pack, take a look at what you have and try to eliminate as much as you can. I like to take less bottoms, and more shirts, then I can switch up outfits. You can always do laundry on the ship if needed.
Make sure that you pack shoes for the different activities and excursions; beach shoes, sandals, flip flops, sneakers, and dress shoes for formal night. Remember, no flip flops in the main dining room.
Make sure that you have any prescription medicines for the entire trip plus a few extra days. Your cabin will have bath towels and soap provided, including pool and beach towels, as well as a hair dryer. Each shower also has a shampoo and conditioner dispenser, so you don’t need that either unless you want a specific brand. Don’t bring an iron or steamer, they are not allowed. You can bring a flat iron or curling iron for your hair though.
Pack your clothes using those vacuum seal travel bags, so you can get more in your suitcase. You can use travel cubes too, or even roll up your clothing to save room.
It’s important to include necessities in your carry-on, phone with a charger, camera/ charger or extra batteries, a book to read; a large insulated cup with a seal-able lid is a good idea if you’re not purchasing the Cheers or Bubbles drink package. Always pack your medications in your carry-on as well. ALWAYS pack your jewelry, camera, phone, iPad, money and other valuables in your carry-on bag as they’ll obviously be with you at all times.
Plan carefully what you want to wear when you board the ship because you will be taking a boarding photo which you may want to purchase from Pixels . You’ll be in those clothes all day and evening until your luggage arrives. You never know, your luggage may arrive late to your cabin. Two of the cruises I’ve been on, I had to actually go search for my luggage, as they were placed at the wrong rooms
Other Important Tips
If you are taking your cell phone, laptop, or other electronics that may need to be plugged in, take an extension cord or power strip (No surge protectors, as they are prohibited). Typically there’s only one outlet in the cabin and they are generally not in the best places.
– If you plan to get into the pool or hot tub as soon as you get on the ship, make sure you bring those clothes in your carry on bag or wear them under your clothing. Your other luggage may not get to your cabin until much later in the afternoon or evening.
– Most cruise ships will push drinks on you, especially the first couple days. You can quickly run up a very high drinking bill, so I tend to recommend the Cheers package. Other days of the cruise the drink of the day is usually cheaper than others by $1-2. Don’t be ashamed to ask how much the drinks are. Order drinks in plain a normal cup vs the souvenir glass and they will be about $1.00 to $1.50 less.
– The cruise line will offer a lot of interesting excursions, but they are pricey. You DO NOT have to buy excursions to get off the ship in port. You can go off on your own and many times in Caribbean and Bahamas ports you can find cheaper excursions right off the ship in port. The cardinal rule of going on your own is DO NOT be late getting back to the ship; it will not wait for you if you are late getting back. Make sure you stay on the ship’s time, which will be announced when docking.
– Carnival will take a ton of photos of you and your family while boarding, getting off in ports, at dinner, formal nights, around the ship, etc. There’s a package on Carnival’s website through Pixels that you can purchase ahead of time for $99. You get 5 photos and a large canvas. If you’re not interested in pictures, you can still view them while on the ship. If you don’t want to purchase any, that’s okay too. Take your camera with you all the time and you can ask others to take photos of you.
– Your gratuities will be $13.99 (or if in a suite it’s $15.99) per person, per day, in your cabin and you can pre-pay these gratuities or you can pay in cash or charge it to your on board charge account that will be set up when you first board the ship. Gratuities cover your cabin steward (who will clean your cabin, turn down your bed, get you ice, etc), your waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter, as well as behind the scenes people. You don’t have to plan to tip anyone else; but each drink order will have a 18% gratuity added to the check. Remember the service workers on ships get the majority of their income from tips, so please make sure to take care of them. If you do have a problem with service from any employee, just go to the purser’s desk and ask them to adjust the gratuity amount. If you prefer to pay cash you can get envelopes from the purser’s desk as well.
-Carnival allows a 12-pack PER person of NON-alcoholic beverages in cans or cartons in your carry on ONLY. The can’t be greater than 12 ounces EACH. Also, one bottle of wine (750ml) per person 21 and over (pack corkscrew in luggage, you don’t want Carnival to open it as you will incur a corkage fee $10+) or you can bring ONE box of wine per TWO people.
-I recommend to reinforce the paper luggage tags with these wonderful plastic luggage tag holders, and they’re super reasonable only $4.95 for 5. Make sure you put a luggage tag on every piece of luggage, even carry on bags.
-It’s a good idea to add something extra colorful to your luggage with some kind of bright colored item. I just like a strand of colored ribbon. Super easy.
-When setting up your onboard account, I recommend using a credit card. Debit cards are subject to holds which can cause delays/issues with your bank account (credit cards have holds as well, but you never see them and they won’t tie up your immediate funds).
–Magnetic hooks for the cabin are awesome to have too, as you can use them to hang up swimsuits, towels, and more