Some ideas on how to make your cruise a little less stressful and a little more cost effective:
1. Bring your Own Dramamine.
You don’t get motion sickness? Bring your own Dramamine. You don’t like taking medicine? Bring your own Dramamine. You were fine on a prior cruise? Bring your own Dramamine. The ship will sell you a 12-hour dose for the low price of $3.75, or you can buy enough Dramamine for your whole family for the whole week for that same price. You can’t tell what the waters will be like when you board the ship. Do yourself a favor, pack your own sea sickness medicine and you will be prepared to enjoy the full duration of your sea days.
2. Bottom Middle of the Boat.
If you know you have a tendency to get motion sickness, book a room in the bottom of the middle of the ship. It will be the least rocky and will also probably be the cheapest. Extra bonus: There isn’t a window so you can take a nap easily if sea sickness becomes an issue (also read number one).
3. Go to the Orientation.
On the first night the ship will likely have an orientation. Go! You won’t have anything better to do, and chances are high that you’ll win something, like a bottle of champagne!
4. Need an Extra Outlet? Call Your Steward!
Your cabin will likely have only one or two outlets, which can be problematic if you have four people with four phones, 2 iPods, a camera, a kindle, and a C-Pap machine. You have two options: You can bring your own power strip if you think ahead, or call your steward. They usually have some on stock (in addition to extension cords – especially helpful with a C-pap) and are very willing to provide you with one.
5. Free Lanyard at the Casino!
Did you forget to bring a hole punch for your sail and sign card? Are you wishing that you had thought to bring a lanyard from home to carry your sail and sign card? Skip the pursers desk which has long lines, and don’t wait until you set sail to buy one from the gift shop; Stop by the casino! They will likely have both a hole punch for your card and a free lanyard to put it on so that you can conveniently play the slots without losing your card. Casino participation is optional (and there’s no pressure since most of the games have to be closed while the ship is at port)
6. BYOS (Bring Your Own Soda)
Most cruise lines will allow you to board the ship with a “reasonable” amount of soda, and up to two bottles of wine. If you aren’t an avid drinker consider purchasing a case or two of soda when you get to Miami (or wherever your ship is docked) and carry it on board. This way you don’t have to pay the extra for a soda card, drink too much soda, or worry that you won’t get your money’s worth of soda that week. If you want to bring your own wine take note of two things: 1. Be aware that some places won’t sell you wine on a Sunday before noon (namely Florida), so that could be a problem if you leave on a Sunday and were planning on buying some at your ship’s location. 2. If you choose to have your wine served in the dining room they will probably charge you a “nominal” corkage fee. You can decide if it’s worth it to you.
7. “Private” Balcony
Assuming you booked yourself for the bottom middle of the ship, you may feel a little disappointed that you didn’t get your own private balcony. Fear not, the next best thing lies on deck 6 and 7 forward on a Carnival ship. It’s a little deck that anyone can access but few actually do, so you can get an unobstructed view of your ship leaving/arriving at the port of call.
8. Consider Booking Your Own Excusions
I’m not going to tell you to ONLY book your own excursions, but at least consider it. You will be able to save a significant amount of money (especially if you’re cruising with your family) for starters. You also have more options of what you do (and you can almost always find the same excursions that the cruise line will – often it will even be at the same venue!) and you’re guaranteed to have more adventure along the way. You just have to do your research, either via google or getting travel books which are often available at your local library, to figure out what is available to you at each port of call. On our last cruise we were able to swim with manatees in Cozumel, Mexico. Our cruise ship didn’t offer that excursion, although they did offer swimming with the dolphins at the same venue for a higher price. The only real “con” to booking your own excursion is if your ship can’t dock at your port of call you may not be able to get a full refund like the cruise line will. Your cruise line will often tell you that it is “dangerous” to book an excursion with outside parties because if the trip gets delayed the cruise ship will leave you behind, but if it’s through the cruise ship they will wait for you; all you have to do is do your homework and make sure that there’s wiggle room between the estimated end time of the excursion and the departure of your ship (keep in mind that you are required to board the ship about a half hour before the ship sets sail).
9. Bring a Watch
Most likely you won’t want to carry around your cell phone on the ship because it won’t be able to make calls, send texts, or browse the web (unless you’re into paying a lot of extra money), and you need to be able to know what time it is so you can get to dinner on time.
10. Eat Up!
While you are aboard the ship you are free to eat as much or little as you would like. Do two main courses sound really good to you? Order both! Not sure if you will like something but want to be adventurous? Order it with something else! Or if you realize two bites in that you just don’t care for those frog legs tell your waiter! They can easily grab you something else from the kitchen. Remember, you’re on a cruise and if you don’t love something, don’t eat all of it! Now is not the time to be determined to “clean your plate”
You are also free to order as many desserts as you would like, sometimes I had three in one night.
While you are on the ship you are free to have as many pictures taken of you as you would like. Need a family portrait? Want some senior pictures? Want proof that your family cleans up nicely? The cruise is a perfect time to get your pictures taken – theoretically you have less stress, you don’t have anywhere else to be, you’re already wearing nice clothes, why not? That being said, if you do not want to (or do not have the money to) purchase the pictures, do not look at them. The photographers are paid to take good pictures. The more you take the more good pictures you will want to purchase. At $20 a pop you may want to limit yourself before hand, or just plan to not buy anything else aboard aside from pictures.
12. Photo Store
One “Secret” of the photo shop is that if you find that your formal pictures are absolutely perfect except for the extra softening that was added, fear not, they can remove it! All you have to do is ask, sometimes they’ll make you purchase the new picture before you see it and have you pick it up the next day. They really do aim to please
13. You Don’t Have to go to Every Show
While some people do that and have a blast, it’s not for everyone. You can do whatever you feel like doing. Go to bed early. Watch a movie by the pool. Go to the gym. Read a book. Play a game in the library. Listen to the music in the atrium. Get your picture taken. Take your own pictures. Grab some free cards by the pursers desk. Watch the stars from a balcony. Explore the ship. Eat extra desserts from the buffet. Go to the hot tub/pool.Whatever floats your boat.
14. Hot Tubs are all Full? Try the Gym
We found that even when all the hot tubs on the upper decks of the ship were full, the one in the gym was empty, quiet, clean, well decorated and most importantly, covered during the many rain storms. When you’re done just grab a towel from the locker room and walk back to your state room!
15. Wear Sunscreen
You don’t burn? Wear sunscreen. It’s 3pm? Wear sunscreen. You’re only going shopping? Wear sunscreen. It’s raining. Wear sunscreen. You put some on two hours ago? Reapply. The Caribbean sun has a mind of it’s own. Wear the sunscreen and you’ll be so glad you did when you see everyone else is as red as a lobster on the second formal night.
Enjoy Your Cruise!
Enjoy the 21+ gourmet meals that they feed you because on Monday morning you’re going to have to make your own.