How to Cruise Like a Pro: 15 Travel Tips You Should Know As a First Time Cruiser

How to Cruise Like a Pro: 15 Travel Tips You Should Know As a First Time Cruiser

Still on the fence about whether a cruise vacation is right for you? I feel you. I felt the same way.

My first cruise was way back when. At a time where I didn’t have to color these grays I’m getting…say circa…the dawn of the new millennium. It was a honeymoon cruise and was a special treat for the two of us just starting out on our new journey together. After our honeymoon, I took a break from travel in general. No cruises. No flights. A road trip every summer was about all I could handle between work, college, a new marriage and a toddler. And then, about five years ago, the tide began to change. I was no longer a 20-something, newlywed, college student with a toddler. I was a seasoned wife with a teenage daughter. A daughter and husband who loved boats and me, the girl who loves to travel. It was time to revisit cruising. And revisit we did…again and again. Six cruises in the past 12 months alone. It helps that we live on a peninsula surrounded by water with more cruise ports close by than we can count on one hand. But I digress. If you’re thinking of booking a cruise vacation (and I emphatically petition you to) here are tips that I wish I had known as a first time cruiser:

1. Power Strip – Put four or five family members in a stateroom and see how much jockeying for plug-in-time ensues. Or just pack a power strip. This way, mom can charge her phone at the same time that Dad is charging his camera battery, while one of the kids is charging a tablet. Problem solved. Use caution though – a power strip with six or seven electronic devices charging all at once might cause unforeseen problems. You should also consider bringing a brand new power strip (still in packaging), because cruise line personnel can confiscate a power strip that’s deemed to be potentially unsafe.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

2. Cash in Empty Travel Shampoo Bottle – Most cruise lines are a cashless experience. You put a credit card on file and then charge everything to your room including drinks, souvenirs, and optional dining. You really only need your room key the entire time you are on the boat. Unless…you are visiting the casino. You will need cash if you are gambling and it’s also nice to have some while in port. Want an inconspicuous place to stash your cash? Try an empty travel size shampoo bottle. Simply roll your bankroll insert it in an empty bottle and screw on the top. You can even stash it in your toiletry bag in the bathroom.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

3. Bring permitted alcohol and/or mixers on board – Cruises are “all-inclusive” vacations. That’s the beauty of them. However there are a few areas where add-on’s can really add-up. A few glasses of wine here and a cocktail here and there can lead to a big bill at the end of your cruise vacation. Check out your ship’s alcohol policy before boarding and BYOBooze. Most cruise lines will allow for you to bring at least one bottle of wine onto the ship. My husband doesn’t drink wine so he will bring his mixers on the ship and then order a bottle of his favorite spirits and have it delivered to the room on embarkation day. This method saves us a few dollars on each cruise we take.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

4. Bring closed-toe shoes/water shoes – You may want to throw a bathing suit and a pair of flip flops into your suitcase and call yourself packed. Especially on a Caribbean cruise vacation. However, you may want to pack yourself a pair of closed-toe shoes. Some Carnival cruise ships have a SkyCourse, which is a super fun ropes course and closed-toe shoes are required. Also, flip flops may fly off if you are doing a Zip Line excursion. Additionally, those white sandy beaches may be rocky once you get out past the waterline. A cheap pair of water shoes will do the trick.

5. Magnetic dry erase board – I pick up one of these at the dollar store before every cruise. Most ships are made of metal. Especially the doors. Bring a magnetic dry erase board and stick it to the inside of the cabin door so that you can leave messages for your family members.  They are also fun to stick on the outside of your cabin door. We always pose a “question of the day” on the board to encourage other guests to interact with us. It’s fun to read all of the responses at the end of the day.

6. Don’t skip formal night – REPEAT: DO NOT SKIP FORMAL NIGHT! Gone, for the most part, are the days of tuxedos and ball gowns on “formal night.” There are still cruise lines that require formal wear, including sports jackets for men on formal night. However, in general, cruising has become more casual. Carnival, for example, is mostly Cruise Casual dress code in the evenings, with the occasional Cruise Elegant evening where you have the opportunity to get as decked out as you’d like. But don’t feel like you have to be dressed to the nines to enjoy that lobster dinner. Throw on a sundress and a collared shirt for guys and get your lobster on.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

7. Ship is like a glorious ghost town on port days – On a longer cruise with multiple ports of call? Stay on the ship during a port day. No lines at the self serve ice cream dispenser. You might have the hot tub all to yourself. You might even get the pool to yourself! There are so few people on the ship during port days. This would be a great opportunity to read that book out on a lounge chair on Lido Deck in complete silence and take photos of the ship without anyone in your shot. I like to order room service for lunch and sit out on my stateroom balcony and people watch on port days. It’s fun to see all the families coming and going.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

8. Skip the elevator, take the stairs – It’s vacation! They cook, they clean and you enjoy all the deliciousness. Who can turn down three-course meals and all night pizza and dessert buffets? Not I. Vacation calories don’t count do they? One thing that I have found that helps burn off some of those “vacation calories” is to opt to take the stairs instead of taking the elevator. You get a good cardio workout a few times a day throughout the duration of your cruise experience. Also, cruise stairwells tend to have a unique piece of artwork hung on each landing. It’s a good workout and a great way to get to know the ship.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

9. Embarkation day discounts abound – Most folks are checking out the ship and getting settled in on embarkation day. Check out the “embarkation day” specials when you board. Spas most always have an embarkation day special.  Also, specialty restaurants people haven’t happened upon yet are easy to get reservations at on the first night. Carnival’s Steakhouse offers a free bottle of wine if you dine on embarkation day.

10. Pop up laundry hamper – While you’re at the dollar store picking up your magnetic dry erase board, think about picking up a cheapie pop up laundry hamper as well. They are easy to stow in your cabin closet and will keep all of the dirties corralled in a designated area. When you are packing up on the last day simply dump all the dirties into a suitcase and fold the hamper back flat and slide it into the suitcase or leave it on the ship. It was only $1.

11. Battery operated tea lights – Another dollar store find. These make amazing nightlights for bathrooms.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

12. Always pay attention to SHIP’S TIME – You don’t want to be the knucklehead running down the dock as the ship is throwing off tie-lines to sail away. Ship’s time rules on the high seas. It doesn’t matter if you’ve sailed into a different time zone. Keep your watch set on ship’s time. Don’t rely on your cell phone, which may switch to local time if you are in port and take your phone off airplane mode. A wristwatch is always best.

13. Purchase an international cell package before leaving – My husband had a whopping cell phone bill after our last 8-nighter. Of course, if had he pre-purchased a Caribbean plan before we left port it would have been a whole lot cheaper. Contact your cell phone service provider and let them know where you will be traveling. They will likely offer a package to suit your needs.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

14. Last minute deals – Almost every cruise I have been on has been at a discounted rate. Frequently check in with cruise websites to see what kinds of deals they are running. Last minute cruise deals can save you over 50 percent! Also, once you have one cruise under your belt you will qualify for a return-cruiser rate. If you book another cruise while you are “on” the ship you will likely get a better rate or reduced down payment amount.

Carnival Cruise Line - 15 Cruise Travel Hacks

15. Bring a backpack carry-on – Remember how we discussed BYOB in number 3? You are going to have to carry that on with you and not put it on your checked luggage. Checked luggage may take quite some time to arrive to your stateroom. Be sure to pack your bathing suit and change of clothes/toiletries in your carry-on so that you can enjoy the pool and have a change of clothes for dinner just in case your bags haven’t arrived by dinnertime.

Have another tip you want to add to this list? Sound off in the comments section below!

This post was created as part of my collaboration with Carnival. As always, all of the opinions, thoughts, and ideas in this post are my own.

110 Comments

  • FreudianSlip says:

    In addition to tips given to crew at the end of the voyage I like to bring a good assortment of little gifts from our part of the world to give to crew members. Don’t give them t-shirts though, they get tons of those.

    • Bob Savino says:

      Crew members prefer cash as a tip, not trinkets, clothes, troches, or gadgets. They have little use or storage space for non cash “gifts”.

      • FreudianSlip says:

        In addition to generous cash tips I generally put an assortment of gift items in a little travel bag if they wish to also choose a little gift…and they generally do. It’s like Christmas and great fun! I like to pick up wholesale items at the San Francisco Jewelry Market, watches, earrings, little necklaces are popular.

        • Roswell Green says:

          No, you still don’t get it. Crew members are there for months and have very little space to store things. And plenty of time to find trinkets they really want.

          • FreudianSlip says:

            Yes, I get it. Lighten up for once. Try being a little ray of sunshine on occasion. You are sounding like a union government bureaucrat demanding everything be done your way or get pounded into submission. Go do what you want. Just leave the rest of us alone to do what we want. You arguing over my choices of “giving” extras to others working on cruise ships rather than your not “giving” little extras to others is ridiculous. Happiness is a way of traveling, it’s not a once in a lifetime destination.

            Please, just go in peace with a smile. We will all live longer.

          • Janet Julien says:

            Interesting idea, I was thinking, when I go, about getting a bunch of those gold foil-covered chocolate coin bags to staple to the envelopes I slipped the tips in for the crew

          • kathy says:

            Crew members love alcohol, if you have extra they really appreciate that…….it is true their cabins are small and don’t have room for many extras. My brother has worked on ships for 8 years.

          • fotoflo85 says:

            I would think if you were going to bring a trinket to give to crew members make it something that they can use up.
            I live in Va.
            I can take some small cans of peanuts that we known for and since they are cooked and sealed no problem with Customs or anything like that.
            Just try to make something small that is native to where you are from. something that can be used up so they don’t have to worry about storing it.

  • tbest says:

    Great ideas. The only I change is I turn my cell phone off for a week. No texts, no emails from work, no voice mail from work, no chilling in the cabin and surfing the net, etc. Emergencies only. You’re there to relax, so relax!

  • Roswell Green says:

    There is no good reason to hide cash. Your wallet is safe. And unless you live in Florida, the last minute cruise discount is most times offset ( or over powered) by the need to book last minute airfare. Remember, unlike a hotel, there is NO late check in with a cruise line: be there on time or be left behind with no refund.
    One other thing. GET OFF THE SHIP in ports. That’s the whole reason for a floating hotel. Until you have been to the different islands or countries several times, you are missing so much of a really different world. Your pictures of the ship’s pool and deck chairs pale when next to the mountain, lakes and people of the ports of call. And that way you can find places you might want to fly in and enjoy an extended vacation.

    • jazrobean says:

      Being a retired Merchant Marine captain, I have seen ENOUGH third-world countries for a LIFETIME. I take a cruise to enjoy the SAFE, FRIENDLY environment and having a wonderful, WORRY-FREE time where everything is taken care of for me.

  • IDontThinkSo2 says:

    Cruise tip #16 – Try cruising something other than Carnival.

    • Richchayes says:

      I have and came back to Carnival

      • Mischelle McClain says:

        me too! everything I love is on Carnival! And the Steakhouse is fabulous!

        • Richchayes says:

          Have not tried the Steakhouse yet but maybe one of our cruises.

          • Mischelle McClain says:

            Oh you must give it a try, book it when you book your excursions to make sure it is on the day and time that’s best for you. Its dressy but you had that stuff anyhow. It is extra but it’s a 5 star restaurant and it is so! good. Just have to resist the other goodies as it is a lot of food. My fillet was perfection.

          • Keith says:

            Regent, Regent, Regent … Without the littlest ones. Just once in your life and you will know what a REAL cruise is like!

          • Mischelle McClain says:

            I have no little ones (thanks for assuming I do) we took my daughter and her husband last February and they loved it. So here’s my question, I have looked at, read reviews etc. and still find Carnival to be the best price and why should I pay more (other than alternative itineraries – which is becoming a small issue) Looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

          • Codie Joy says:

            We are in Australia and none of the cruise lines mentioned are available to us unless we fly to another country first. Carnival was the best option for me and my husband as we were told princess cruises and royal caribbean are more suited for older people (we are both early 20s). We leave in a week, I hope it will be good. We have booked an Ocean Suite and it is for our honeymoon.

          • BMal says:

            We have done Royal Caribbean, Holland and Carnival. Just returned home from cruise on the Dream in August. Let me say, there is no such thing as a bad cruise, but with a small increase in the price, the decor, service level and food are a bit better on the RC and HAL ships. We have always had good service with the staff, but noticed the cabin staff was less attentive on Carnival.

        • Jack Deez says:

          Carnival is shady. I have seen two Romanian bus-boys in a physical altercation near an elevator. I also watch two Panamanian engine room grease monkeys cut down a large American flag with a steak knife and let it fall several floors in the atrium. Then watch the same pair go wad it up like a filthy beach towel and haul it off. Carnival is french fries and pizza. I can get better chow at my son’s middle school.

          • Jack Deez says:

            And screw Carnival with their $50 “soda card” they pour you 1/2 a can of hot coca cola that is flat from sitting out for an hour. They won’t give you the whole can. And my GAWD, someone teach these F’n idiots how to make sweet tea or any tea for that matter. It tastes like cow piss filtered through a dirty gym sock. JFC

        • Angel Bowed says:

          Carnival is low budget I’m sorry..AKA. GHETTO Cruise line..you should really try a different fleet and you will see the difference..

          • I have tried another fleet. I’ve been on three of the four Disney ships. I don’t think Carnival is “ghetto”. There are over 20 ships in their fleet and some of them are older and are scheduled for overhauls soon. I have found that the ships that have been remodeled and the newer ships in the fleet are right on par with the Disney ships.

    • I agree. Life is cheap on Carnival.

    • kara says:

      Carnival is good for your first cruise but the other lines are SO much nicer. Sort of like going to Walmart when Nordstroms is just next door. Our favorite is Norwegian Cruise Lines as they’ve never disappointed us.

  • Mischelle McClain says:

    Carnival is so awesome!!!We are headed out on cruise #4 in February 2015!!! We don’t live in Florida so it is a tad trickier for us but I can’t wait again!!!! Carnival has the best prices best staff and without a doubt the best food! We have friends that have used other lines and then came back to Carnival – we have a blast comparing trips.

    • Obzervur says:

      You have to be kidding!

      • Mischelle McClain says:

        Not really pricewise especially the earlysaver Carnival gives a lot of bang for the buck, we like the busy cruises where you have a port a day, We have compared others why would I pay more when everthing about Carnival is great. The food the staff the room the service!!!

        • Mnu GRad Grad says:

          Carnival is the best for the low price, there are better cruise lines for a price. Disney and Royal Caribbean are my fav’s. I tend to go on carnival because of price. If I wasn’t currently pinching pennies, I would choose one of the others. Disney has so much to offer, more activities than any other line. Royal Caribbean is just better because it’s upscale and has the BEST food! My next Carnival cruise in in 1 week

          • Disney Cruiser says:

            Only Disney for us – we got spoiled by taking them first and feel like anything else would be a step down, especially with a little one.

    • Seola says:

      Your standards must be pretty low…

      • Mischelle McClain says:

        I don’t think so… I enjoy a nice room, variety of entertainment, food that is delicious, what more could a cruiser need!

    • captainalan says:

      I agree with Seola….Carnival is a crappy line for young cruisers and people who can’t afford any better or worse yet, don’t know any better

      • Mischelle McClain says:

        I respectfully disagree and am confused as to why you would feel this way, assuming that you have cruised on Carnival. As I said previously lovely rooms, awesome staff, great food – what is to dislike?

    • Angel Bowed says:

      Carnival was the worst cruise I have ever been on..The same food almost every night hot dogs hamburgers everywhere..maybe it was my ship however staff was not engagibg at all. CARNIVAL PARDISE stay away..

      • Mischelle McClain says:

        I am sorry that you didn’t enjoy it. We have had nothing but fun times at a reasonable price.

      • I’ve never been on the Carnival Pride. I’ve also never eaten a hot dog on a cruise ship. But I have had my fair share of burgers at (Food Network Star) Guy’s Burger Joint. Paradise does not have Guy’s Burgers nor Blue Iguana Cantina. In fact, that ship has not been refitted with any of the new Carnival 2.0 enhancements like Guy’s, Blue Iguana, Alchemy Bar, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, Bonsai Sushi or Cucina del Capitano. The Carnival Sunshine has all of these new restaurants and bars. And they are all amazing.

  • Chloecybil says:

    Take advantage of the awesome shore excursions that are truly once in a lifetime experiences.

    • teddies tips says:

      review the excursions,and read up on the destinations,Get a map,and use your feet.The excursions are a big profit center,you can do the same things for 1/4 the cost

      • Mischelle McClain says:

        I personally like the guarantee and ship communications so I have no worries and they are worth every penny. Awesome each and every time. Wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for the unknown.

        • Bob says:

          Both are correct …. You CAN do shore trips a lot cheaper
          if you book them yourself. AND … the ones booked via the ship offer the safety of communication and having been checked out by the cruise line. Keep in mind that if you book with a private excursion then it is your responsibility to
          make sure you’re back at the ship prior to sailing. The ship WILL leave people running down the dock trying to get back to it. (Seen it happen.)

          On a bit more somber note, we were on a cruise once where someone died while on a shore trip. The body was not allowed back on the ship even though there was a morgue available onboard. We were told that if the guy
          had died on a ship-sponsored shore trip then he would have been transported back on the ship to the final (excuse the pun) destination. (Minus the food and beverage service, I’m sure.) Keep these things – and more – in mind if you think you’ll check-out before the end of your cruise.

          Weigh it all – cost vs. peace of mind – and then go from there. Bottom-line … enjoy life on the ship when at sea and get off it and explore when you reach a port.

        • CeeHowUR says:

          Also consider that by booking your own excursion through an outside agency, or even just getting a cab, you can often customize the excursion for what you want, as the group is smaller allowing more flexibility. And the last thing a tour operator wants to do is be late back to the ship. They rely on word of mouth and can’t afford the bad publicity. Just take the time to do some research before you decide. 1st time cruisers are best using the ships excursions. Repeat cruisers become more comfortable with taxis or outside excursions.

    • Mischelle McClain says:

      I agree Carnival guarantees shore excursions and is notified if you should run late which I have never had happen. Each one is very awesome and a great variety of things to do. I would never go with someone unknown because I wouldn’t do that at home. We have learn to scuba, done snuba, power snorkled, and gone on trips to Tulum, down Wallace river in Belize and more. Each one was special and I always book one in each port. Money well spent!!

  • Cheryl says:

    Bring a couple of clothespins to hang out washables on the little line in the shower.

  • MG says:

    Here’s a crazy tip… if you have underwear or socks that have seen better days, clean them one more time and bring them with you on vacation. After wearing them, simply throw them away. Your luggage will be slightly lighter on the way back from vacation, and you have less clothes to clean when you return

    • kathy says:

      One thing we do is bring a decorative item for the cabin door, if travelling with a group we get something special to signify each cabin. The doors all start to look alike and this helps us to find our room quickly. Don’t forget tape though to hang the decorations.

  • Clong says:

    MG
    The old underwear tossing out is something my wife and I have done for over 35 years.

  • trix says:

    Bring walkie talkie instead of phones.

  • justgr8fl2cruise says:

    Carnival is great. So are the others.
    Another tip… bring a bungee cord to hold the balcony door open. Can’t beat those tropical ocean breezes.

    • Bob says:

      Never thought of a bungee. I’ll try that – sounds like a good idea. Another thing I thought of that we always bring are a few carabiners. (The larger mountaineering types that can take a lot of abuse.) We always like to do active type shore trips and these allow us to clip things to ??? (could be a kayak, raft, etc.) so as to keep our hands free. Don’t weigh much and pack easily.

      Also, we pack clothes in “cubes” (zippered pouches from sporting-goods type stores) in our luggage and then can easily transfer those to the drawers in the cabin. When traveling to the ship, we tend to mostly use heavy-duty duffles since they store in the cabin much better than a large suitcase.

      Thanks – I’ve said enough for one day!?!

    • IDontThinkSo2 says:

      Small binder clips are great for clipping on the bathroom door closer that always seems to be broken.

  • james says:

    Use texting packages… It’s a whole lot cheaper.. All,of the cruise ships I have been k. Have safes int he rooms…on carnival yiu will pay a “corkage” fee for one bottle of wine… We pack some alcohol ( clear) in water bottles and put them in our luggage, double bagged in ziplock bags.. Also carry on pints in pockets when at ports..
    Definitely being a power strip. There is usually one outlet in bathroom and one in room.
    The for,al notes are getting crowded with rude people anymore. We have startedskippinghtme and taking in. The better shows on formal notes

    • KatJ says:

      I’m sorry james, I can’t understand your last 2/3 sentences & they seemed to be important.

      • Know Fool says:

        I THINK it says “The formals are getting crowded with rude people anymore (ugh). We have started skipping them and taking in the better shows on formal nights.”

      • Vingee says:

        formal nights are crowded so they skip them and eat in room and the entertainment is better on formal nights

  • nickfromnj says:

    Spot on suggestions… we followed many of them on our recent Carnival cruise.

  • sam says:

    If you opt to bring a bottle of wine on board, bring your own wine opener just in case you desire a glass of wine in your room. Every cruise I’ve been will charge a corking fee. If you want to drink your wine in the dining hall, you will be forced to pay the fee.

  • Brian says:

    Stay by your phone days before cruising. Many cruises will call and offer cheap or free upgrades to better rooms because they haven’t filled the ship. Don’t expect them to leave a message! (Missed out on this one last time around)

  • Robbie Lane Jackson says:

    Great restaurant in the Marriott right at the port. One of the best seafood meals we’ve ever had. Also, be sure to take your meds and a sweater or jacket on board the first day, plus your bathing suit. We get on very early to avoid the long lines. There’s usually only one cafe open for your lunch. So what’ll you do before you can get in your room? Go to the changing rooms in the exercise area, put on your bathing suit, and you’ll need your sunglasses, hat and sunscreen. Stores on ship are generally not open until you’re outside the port.

  • Craig Kenneth Bryant says:

    I’m still just baffled that people will put with “no outside liquor” policies on cruise ships. I won’t take that from a hotel–I won’t take it from a vacation rental–and I sure won’t take it from a cruise ship. And people with their fake bottles and concealed flasks…what is this–a college football game?

    • Steve Bonning says:

      Their house, their rules and should be respected no different than your friend or neighbor’s home. You signed the contract, have the integrity to honor it

  • grumpygirl says:

    Always fly in the day before your cruise and stay at a hotel that offers transportation to the cruise ship. If you fly in the day of, if your flight is delayed you might miss the ship.

    • Mischelle McClain says:

      we always do because we live in the middle of nowhere and can’t make the connection if we try to do it the day of sailing

  • Karen says:

    If you will be cruising without children you might not want to be around a lot of children on your cruise. Empty nesters being just that don’t necessarily want to hear other peoples children having a melt down while on vacation. The best advice I was given before our first cruise was there will be less children on cruises more then 10 days. It goes without saying a cruise line that advertises kid friendly activities will have more kids on the cruises.

  • Gary Klein says:

    Take a pair of walkie talkies. When we are shoping or when we take different excursions they work great for keeping in contact

    • Ham Guy says:

      Be careful about using radio equipment without a license. Many countries have stricter radio regulations than the USA. If you have an amateur radio license, you may be OK.

    • Malinda says:

      We have been on many cruises with our family. We always took walkie talkies and they were Awesome. When you have 3 kids and friends running all over the ship it’s hard to find them. With the walkie talkie I can page them and they answer in minutes. I can let them know when we are going to be somewhere and at what time. If u have kids always bring them. Saves on your cell phone bill for calling or texting on ship.

  • Alabama_Al says:

    Washing your clothes onboard ship can enable you to pack less clothing, saving valuable luggage space. (An especially important consideration if you’re flying to and from the cruise.) I’ve observed many passengers wait hours for their turn with the machines. If you’re going to use the ship’s laundromats, and want to avoid the crowds:
    1. Bring a roll of quarters with you beforehand. Saves you having to stand in line at the ship’s purser’s desk to get change.
    2. Bring 2-3 travel packets of detergent. Cheaper, and the ship dispensers might run out.
    3. Wash your dirty clothes about halfway through the cruise. Most passengers wait until the last day or two.
    4. Use the laundromat on a port day. Most passengers use it on sea days.
    5. Use the laundromat during the day, not evening.
    6. Try not to get a cabin too near the laundromat. It can sometimes get noisy late at night.

    • Elisabeth says:

      In the past Carnival Cruises I’ve been on, I would take an iron or steamer with me … much easier to press your own clothes, instead of having to wait for someone else to finish using the equipment.

    • John davis says:

      Carnival Dream is using your sign and sail card instead of quarters on washers and dryers. nice touch.

  • Bob says:

    Good suggestions on the power strip, water shoes (for trips to warmer areas). Also, bring your own water bottle, sun lotion and/or bug spray (for some tropical ports). We always bring a lanyard for the cruise/ID card that will be issued to you. Also, while the food is usually excellent in the dining rooms, you can also make a special request. I LOVE the pesto on Princess Cruises and usually have it about 3 or 4 times on a 10 day trip!

    If you opt to schedule shore excursions through the ship, review and book them BEFORE you board. (Meaning … WEEKS before you board!) Especially the popular shore trips when you’re sailing during peak times. You can also double book during a given time period/port if you’re unsure what trip you’d like. We found this approach useful when traveling with large (10+) family group where people didn’t make up their mind what they really wanted to do until everyone was together on the ship. You can turn unused tickets back to the shore excursion desk for full credit. Just remember to do so before the deadline. Usually the deadline is a day or two prior to reaching a given port.

    • Mischelle McClain says:

      Hadn’t thought of the lanyard thanks what a good idea! I will be packing differently this trip for sure! I so over packed the first trip and I keep eliminating stuff before each time we go. At this rate we may only need one suitcase lol!

    • Mrorangemnm says:

      Good tip for the lanyard! My wife and I cruise Carnival, so I can’t speak for other lines, but we always go to the casino and ask for a lanyard for our room keys, whether we gamble or not. They are free, convenient, and make a decent souvenir.

  • wiley says:

    This year was our first cruise my girlfriend pushed me into it i never flew on a airplane never been on a boat i was not feeling this but i am so glad she pushed me cant wait to go back loved it but it is pricey especially on the alcohol , she over packed of coarse she always over think things but overall it was worth it go to go again she wants to go to a hawii cruise but she wants the boat to dock for at least one night cant seem to find a cruise that dose that plus its is like 1000 or more per person

    • Xpert says:

      How old are you? Please go back to school and learn how to write properly. Do it for your own good son.

    • kathy says:

      Pride of America on Norwegian. They do only Hawaiian islands and dock overnight in some ports, so worth the money.

  • ted says:

    We love cruising!!!!! Something to also note. Battery operated Fan for your room… This helps in the lower levels. And also take a extra empty carry on bag… The back pack is great while at Port but on 8 day cruises the souvenirs add up and one realizes the need for extra bags. Also our first cruise we had a private table for two for dinning. Our second we requested and was unable to get one. We have been on 5 cruises since and we have always sat at group tables. This is what makes cruises so awesome. We have made so many what we call “cruise friends” that after our cruise are friends on social media. Cruises are like Vegas what happens on them stays on them. Although the friendships last forever. We have met so many different walks of life from older couples to young people like our self and even a Dr. Cruise friendships are where it’s at. So go out of your comfort zone and mingle. OK that’s my advise

  • Will H. says:

    I just came off the Carnival Triumph two days ago and I had the time of my life six days of fun and relaxation in Mexico (Progresso and Cozemel).I agree with those tips as well just remember if you dont know that in the casino the cruise will charge your stateroom card for what you win if you cash out in the casino but other than that one of the best times of my life and I can’t wait to go back.

    • Terri Gilliam says:

      Trying to understand the casino charging you for your winnings? please explain should we not gamble in the casino?

  • Ncat says:

    Bring one large compression storage bag. Use it for dirty laundry. On last day seal and roll to get out air and compress flat. The small size will leave you room in suitcase for all extras you bought. Then you open it at home directly into the washing machine!

  • Alkivista says:

    As a 6X cruiser, Mexico east and west, Caribbean west, east, south & Panama Canal, and East Mediterranean, and 4 cruise lines, as they say in the western ballad, never was heard a discouraging word. Everyone has valuable stuff to say here. Even the folks that disagree on the best cruise line. My thinking on that is that everyone who prefers a different line than the ones I want leaves more room and less price pressure for me. So I say Go Carnival, Norwegian, Princess! What’s good for you is good for me.

  • Oldbear60 says:

    Many good Ideas, we’ve only done 5, can’t afford multiple cruises. This does however read like an advertisement for Carnival. Heck, give me a free cruise and I’ll write glowing reports.

  • Oldbear60 says:

    Oh yeah, if you’re buying breakables, bring a hard sided samll EMPTY suitcase and a roll of bubble wrap. Saves a lot of breakage.

  • specialkkc says:

    I have always packed a small travel iron and haven’t had trouble bringing it onboard. Wellll….about 4 years ago they started confiscating my iron, but strangely, never do they take my tiny coffee maker. Both have heating elements, so why confiscate the iron? Here’s why; coffee is always free on the ships, and ironing services are not. So what’s a girl to do? I’m ashamed to admit that I hang all my wrinklies in the tiny bathroom and turn on the hot water, and go in periodically to “iron” them out with my hands until they’re wrinkle-free. Works like a charm, and I’m not paying $8 per piece for ironing. And go away, environmentalists! This California girl conserves water like crazy….at home.

    • Dana says:

      I am going to try this on my upcoming cruise!! I used the ship’s iron and can you say crappy? The irons are attached to the wall; so you really can’t iron your clothes like you want too and they don’t get hot at all!!! How was I supposed to iron my clothes with a mildly warm iron!!

      • Malinda says:

        I bring my steam iron. Hang up your dress clothes heat up steam iron and within 10 minutes wrinkle free. Works Great!!!!

    • Karla says:

      I wonder if a flat iron for hair would work on clothes?

    • Maineiac_Girl says:

      We mix a small amount of liquid fabric softener w/ water for “wrinkle release” on clothing at home. For travel I put it in an old mini hairspray container. You hang your clothing up, spray it on (certain fabrics will stain – check first!), and then “snap” the clothing downward to release the wrinkles. I do this the night before. Works amazing & you can use scented fabric softener so your clothes smell great too! 🙂

    • Queena Knox says:

      Irons are notorious for causing fires. I’ve personally known of 3. Thats why mine has been auto off since it’s invention. That would be my guess.

  • bg says:

    Pack a blow up a blowup raft or a beach ball for the beach to avoid renting something. Easy to pack unopened. Buy it at the dollar store, and if you leave it behind – no big deal!

  • sherrie says:

    Make sure your bank knows you are traveling abroad if you have to use your card in an emergency, pack light, you find yourself not wearing all those clothes, and don’t book excursions on thr ship wait until you get off and pay cash for parasailing or any activity. I got mine 1/2 off that way. .

  • john says:

    For the allowed drinks, bring as much root beer as you can…with the included ice cream you have tons of root beer floats!

  • Malinda says:

    Love to cruise. We are gold members heading to platinum. Some things we have done in the past. Empty a water bottle at home. Add any of your favorite alcohol to help splice in on those high dollar drinks on board ship. Bring a 12 pack or 2 of your favorite soda. You can bring them (carry them) on board and it saves so much $$$. If you run out pick up more at the local pharmacy convenient store at port. You will find most ports have these stores and plastic bottle drinks will be 50% less off ship. They can be carried on in a store bag with no problems. Pack a small makeup bag or something like it for all types of medicine. Take 1 each of everything you may need. The medicine on board is expensive and you may find yourself with a headache or a sore throat. I have had to use several things in the past and was glad I did bring them. Got sick from a tropical depression rocking that huge ship like a toy on my 1st cruise in 2000. I learned to bring my own meds after that. Excursions research them before the cruise. Know what to expect and what to take on that excursion. If you don’t you may find yourself spending lots of $$$ for snorkel gear shoes etc on that trip. We have taken many excursions both cruise directed and some on our own. Stay in groups if u book off ship. These places want your $$$ but you don’t want to go by yourself. You could get beat up or robbed. If you get a group to go in together to book the excursion off ship it will save you 50% or more and it’s safe. Do it often and it works great. Once we booked a snorkel trip off ship in cozumel with a private catamaran owner and it was $49 per person. Same exact trip by a group next to us snorkeling paid $99 per person. Remember if you don’t feel comfortable doing it dont. Trust your instincts. Get out to pools early. They never have enough deck chairs to go around. Don’t leave your things or your ship towel to hold the chair as it will be gone when you return. They do not want you doing that so if your towel is taken up by cruise or if it’s stolen you owe the ship for that towel. Have fun. Looking forward to my next cruise.

  • Jason says:

    Fill an empty mouthwash bottle with alcohol…few drops of food coloring and say goodbye to your bar tab

  • caribbeangirl says:

    Just wondered why you keep calling it a BOAT when it is a SHIP? Hugh difference.

    • Queena Knox says:

      Who is Hugh? Lol! You must not remember the very popular TV show “Love BOAT!”

      • jainsley says:

        A boat is a submarine in the vernacular of Navy folks, while the floating objects are ships. Of course, I don’t know why they refer to the life ships as lifeboats. LOL

  • Queena Knox says:

    I have one VERY important suggestion! Whatever you do don’t get the bright idea (if you have the opportunity as we did) to upgrade to a “nice suite!” At LEAST pay attention to where it is located! The level they are on is directly under the main deck! What is up there? The bar, the smoking deck, the DANCE floor, the buffet dining area, and so on! We were under the smoking deck! Chairs scooting ALL NIGHT LONG! Finally on the 4th night of NO sleep – day or night – we demanded to be moved! At first they wanted to play, “we don’t have anything!” But when you threaten to call corporate suddenly a room appears! It was WAY down in the cheapest available I’m sure! Lol… dark as a dungeon and I slept like a baby! We didn’t have to move everything or give up use of the suite during the day so we still had the balcony and nice big bathroom. But I’m going on a cruise in may and the cabin is the moderate priced with a slide window and a shower! And quiet at night! By the way. ..that was Royal Caribbean not Carnival! I’ve cruised Carnival! We had a great time!

  • sjc says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m soon to be a first time cruiser, and am putting together the various information I’m gathering (such as this) in a Cruise FAQ

  • Melinda LaCour says:

    I have to say, I am an avid reader and like to know everything about my vacations before I go, and we are leaving for my first cruise in 3 days. I have been on 20+ websites to get information and yours is the best I’ve read, yet! Thank you so much for all of the great tips. Other people had a couple, but some of yours really were things no one else had mentioned! 🙂

  • Laura Lee says:

    Bring a few prepaid phone cards with you and hand them out as extra tips to your cabin crew and favorite bartenders/bar runners. You always get great service, but this extra step will have them going above and beyond. ?

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