As most you know, I just got back from my first cruise last week (and it was AWESOME). Before my cruise, I spent countless hours researching the do’s and dont’s of cruising. To say I was a little nervous about my first cruise would be an understatement. I didn’t know what to pack (or not pack), what the boarding process would be like or really what to expect at all if I’m being honest.
Luckily for me, my extensive research really helped out and I had an absolute blast on the cruise. In fact, my first cruise experience went so well that I’m in the process of booking another cruise for this summer. I just think that cruises are such a fun and unique way to get out and explore the world (and as you can clearly tell from my constant traveling, I LOVE exploring new places!). Even though I only have one cruise under my belt (so far), I thought it would be helpful to share a few tips for those who haven’t been on a cruise yet but are seriously considering it.
Here’s 10 things you should know before going on your first cruise:
1. Set Up Your Cruise Account Online BEFORE the Cruise. Sail & Sign is Carnival’s cashless on board credit program, which allows guests to charge on board purchases and gratuities directly to a personal account for convenience throughout the cruise. The Sail & Sign Card must be utilized for all money transactions on board as cash will not be an accepted form of payment. Before your cruise date, simply log into your Carnival account and set up your preferred payment form. If you fail to do this before your cruise date, you’ll have to wait in the LONG guest services line once you board.
2. Look Into Your Cruises Dress Code. Yes, you read that correctly, some cruises have dress codes (but don’t panic, it’s not as bad as it sounds). While most evenings abroad Carnival Cruises are ‘Cruise Casual’ (meaning summer dresses, casual skirts, pants, capris, dress shorts, jeans (no cut-offs) blouses, slacks, khakis, etc.), there is usually one (or two depending on the length of the cruise) ‘Cruise Elegant’ night were guess have the opportunity to showcase their more elegant attire. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that you must follow the ‘Cruise Casual’ dress code when you are eating in the main dinning rooms or specialty restaurants. Although, it is okay to wear daytime attire (bathing suits with cover ups, jeans, shorts, tank tops, etc) when you are eating in the buffets.
3. Come a Day Early. This is something I can’t stress enough! If your cruise is due to set sail from Port Canaveral on July 5th and you live in Seattle, DON’T arrive/fly out from Seattle ON July 5th. The truth of the matter is, anything can happen. Your flight could be delayed, you could get a flat tire on the way to the airport, your ride from the airport to Port Canaveral could be running late. Basically what I’m trying to say is expect the unexpected (any Big Brother fans out there?!) because your cruise ship can not (and will not) wait for you. For my cruise, I booked an awesome hotel/bus package that included one night at the Holiday Inn by Orlando International Airport the night before my cruise, a shuttle service from the hotel to my cruise ship at Port Canaveral and then a shuttle ride back to the airpot from Port Canaveral following the cruise (all for just $100!).
4. Pack A Day Bag. Before boarding your cruise ship, all luggage is picked up curbside so it can be hand delivered to your stateroom. Since this may take awhile (my luggage wasn’t delivered to my stateroom until about 6pm that night), it’s smart to bring a carry on/day bag filled with all the essentials (medicines, passport, ID, swimsuits, change of clothes, etc) that you’ll need while you wait for your luggage to be delivered.
5. Take Advantage of Free Room Service and Free Buffets. During the duration of your cruise, you will have either one of two scheduled dinner times: early (6 pm) or late (8:15 pm). Although, you are free to eat at the buffets whenever you want (and you can eat as much as you want!). If you’re ever feeling hungry but you don’t want to leave your room, you can order FREE food service. Oh, and did I mention room service is available 24/7!
6. Check out Specialty Restaurants. Speaking of food, while the dinners, buffets and free room service are lovely, nothing beats having a meal at one of the specialty restaurants. On the last day of my cruise, I had dinner at Scarlett’s Steakhouse and it was seriously amazing. Everything was so delicious. It honestly felt like eating at a five star steakhouse here in Chicago.
7. Don’t Skip the Shows/Entertainment. There’s so much to see and do on a cruise. From live music to comedy shows to dance parties, there’s literally something for everyone!
8. Research Ports Ahead of Time. Since you have a limited time at the ports (usually anywhere between 8am and 5pm), it’s important to do a little research ahead of time so you have sort of an idea of the things you want to do/visit while you’re there. For me, I knew I had to visit Atlantis Paradise Island, Señor Frog’s and the Straw Market while I was in Nassau, Bahamas (luckily, we had two days to explore Nassau so I was able to see everything I wanted to!).
9. Don’t Try and Do Everything. Like I said earlier, there is SO much to do on cruises. From hitting up the casino, to participating in trivia games, to movie nights, to relaxing at the spa, there is always something to do while you’re on a cruise. The thing is, you don’t have to do everything. In fact, you don’t have to do anything. If you want to relax in your stateroom all day, by all means, do that! It’s your vacation, so enjoy it however you’d like.
10. RELAX & HAVE FUN. This one should be a no-brainer but oddly enough, one of the things a lot of people forget to do while they’re on vacation is to have fun (and isn’t that the whole point vacationing?)!
Any fellow cruise lovers out there? Stay tuned for more cruise and Bahamas related posts coming SOON!
*This post is in partnership with Carnival Cruise Line. As always, all opinions are my own.