Carnival Cruise Tips and Tricks

If you are new to cruising, or maybe even if you’re not, I hope you’ll find some tips here to help you on your next adventure.  I made these with Carnival cruises in mind, but many of these tips can work for all cruise lines.

A cruise.  Is there really a better way to travel?  And this is coming from a girl who worked in the airline industry.  Think about it.  A cruise will consist of your hotel, your transportation between destinations, your meals, and your entertainment in one (basically) all inclusive price.  And there is something for everyone that you are vacationing with.  No more wondering if Aunt Martha, Grandpa Joe, or your college aged child are having a good time.  To me, that peace of mind alone is worth taking a cruise.
They say once you go on a cruise, you’ll never want to travel any other way.  I won’t necessarily go that far.  I do love cruising, but there will always be a time and place for road trips and flights in my future.  
With that said, I am a bit (okay a lot a bit) of a planner- especially when it comes to vacations.  I can’t help it.  It’s not so much that I need to control every aspect and know what we are doing down to the minute- it’s just that for me, it’s fun.  I love imagining what each day could be like- what I might see or do or eat.  It adds anticipation leading up to the vacation.  You can plan for weeks or even months, but the trip itself is over in the blink of an eye.  I know a lot of people will disagree with me and not enjoy the planning part of a vacation.  Well- that’s what I’m here for!  I figured I’ll share a lot of the tips that I’ve found for going on a cruise so that you don’t have to do all the research yourself!  I say these are Carnival Cruise Tips because that’s the only cruise line I’ve been on, but I’m sure most tips would work for any company.
So let’s get started!
Before you leave:

  • If you’re worried about possibly getting seasick- try to get a room that is on the lower floors and in the middle of the ship (not forward or aft).  You will feel less movement lower to the ground and in the middle.  (My cruises so far, I haven’t felt any movement since the ships are so big, however I always did this in case.  Many agree that this is where to book the room for the lease amount of movement)
  • While we are on the topic of seasickness- pack some Bonine (seasickness medicine) to bring with you.  This is an over the counter medication that you can grab for just a couple bucks at Walmart or even Amazon.  Take the first one before you get on the ship so that it is in your system and you don’t ever have to feel queasy.  (I did this and felt fine.  I decided to be brave and not take any the next day.  Turns out I felt fine,  but I was glad to have it just in case)  This is what it looks like:

  • Carnival does not allow you to bring your own liquor on board- however each adult is allowed to bring on 1 bottle of wine or champagne in CARRY ON luggage only.  We found out the hard way. to make sure it’s in your carry on and not your checked bags.
  • Research your ports.  Know what there is to do while you are there.  The ship excursions are usually way  more expensive than if you just book directly with the locals which you can do online ahead of time.  Plus, in some ports, there is nothing to do within walking distance, you will want to have something planned.  A great site to answer any cruising question from tours in the port area to what to wear to formal night to what is the food like:  Visit and scour the message forums.  It is a wealth of information!
  • Pack everything you think you’ll need.  Then, take out half of your clothes and double the money.  Golden travel rule that works well for cruises too.  (wait, more money?  I thought I already paid for everything???  There are still things that sneak in there- alcohol, gambling, photos that you want to buy, tipping in port, souvenirs, etc)
  • Speaking of tipping- bring a good amounts of $1s.  Between the porters taking your bags on and off the ship, taxi drivers in port, tour guides that you may have in port, room service, etc- it’s always nice to have some extra small bills.
  • Save all of your change in the months/weeks leading up to your trip.  Cash them in for dollars.  We had over $150 extra for incidentals that way.
  • Ladies- 2 pairs of shoes should do it.  Really.  1 day pair of flip flops or sandals and one evening pair.  High heels aren’t really your friend on a boat-or sightseeing new towns.
  • Pack a bathing suit and a change of clothes in your carry on.  That way if your suitcase doesn’t make it up to your room right away, you can still enjoy the pool/sunbathe and change without worry.
  • Call your credit card companies and let them know where/when you will be traveling so they don’t put a freeze on your account
  • If you will be flying- please arrive a day ahead of time to where you will be cruising out of.  I worked for an airline and I cannot tell you the number of times people either missed their flight, or flights were cancelled due to bad weather or mechanical issues, etc.  You do not want that stress on your vacation.  Check out Priceline- they offer great deals on hotels, especially when you name your own price
  • Bring sunscreen-  This may be easy to forget if you are cruising in the middle of winter and don’t remember what a beach looks like or what 90 degree weather feels like
  • Think about bringing a power cord-there are not many outlets in your cabin
  • If you are bringing children with you- Carnival Kid’s Club is amazing.  Check it out.  Even if you think your kids won’t like it.  My son is shy, you can go and check things out the first day.  If they feel comfortable, tell them you’ll check back on them in about an hour….chances are when you check back, they’ll beg to stay longer….and keep wanting to go back every day! lol
  • Wondering what you might do on board?  Google “Carnival (your ship’s name) Fun Times” for a sample list of everything they have going on.  For example, I’m going to be going on the Sensation in August.  Here is an old Fun Times from that boat..  This is for a 3-day trip and mine will be a 4 day one, but it gives you a good idea of activities on board.
  • Decide to have a good time before you even leave.  Vacations are what you make of it!
During Your Cruise:

  • In the dining room, you can order more than one entree (or appetizer or dessert).  If you think the portions are small, order another.  If you can’t decide between two great sounding meals- order both!  If you end up not liking what you chose to eat- pick something else!  People do this all the time and the workers expect it.
  • Right before you leave every port, there is a “pilot” that jumps off the ship onto a smaller waiting boat.  It’s pretty cool to watch him do that.  It’ll be a small boat with the word “Pilot” written on it that will pull up along one side of the cruise ship.
  • Plan to catch at least one sunset and one sunrise.  There’s nothing like seeing the sun peek out or dip down over the ocean.  It makes for some excellent pictures as well.
  • Let the photographers on board take as many pictures as they want to (especially on formal night).  It’s free for them to take the pictures and you will have more options and a better chance at getting some good shots to bring home if  you do end up wanting to buy any at the end of the cruise.
  • Always read the Fun Times the night before.  It lists everything going on the next day such as casino contests, liquor tastings, bean bag toss tournaments, love and marriage show, magic shows, comedy, etc etc etc.  Bring a highlighter to highlight what you don’t want to miss!
  • If you’re looking for some peace and quiet on your cruise-check out the Serenity Deck.  It’s for adults 21 and up, usually in the back of the ship with a lot of plush loungers overlooking the ocean.  Great place to relax, sunbathe, read.  They also have hot tubs and a bar there.  
  • You don’t have to have a spa service (massage, facial, etc) to use some of the spa facilities.  They have a sauna/ steam room/ showers there that anyone can use.
  • Get to your cruise early.  If your cruise is supposed to leave at 4pm, they usually start letting people on by around 11:30am.  It is a cruise day and you’re paying for it, you might as well enjoy it!  Have lunch, relax, explore the ship when there are less people, etc
  • Do NOT be late getting back on the boat at a port- they WILL leave you.  Plan to be about 2 hours early.  You never know if you will run into traffic getting back to the ship, if your “taxi” breaks down (it’s happened), or any other possibilities
  • Each ship has a “secret” spot on a deck or two.  Usually it has a great view and is a place that you can steal some time to yourselves on a crowded ship.  They aren’t so much a secret as much as it is a little known fact.  Just search for “secret deck on carnival (and the name of the boat you will  be on)”
  • On your last night, when you pack up and set your suitcases outside your door for them to take- make sure to leave a change of clothes for the morning, medicine, ID, cruise documents, etc out so you have them all the next day when it’s time to leave.
After Your Cruise:

  • go through all of your pictures and reminisce
  • write all about it and share your knowledge with us who will live vicariously through you
  • Book your next cruise  and if you’re like me- start planning for it right away in order to escape the fact that you are now back home and vacation is over 🙂

Pilot boat


I will probably continue to update this list.  If you have any great tips you’d like to add, please leave them in a comment below!

Check out my Carnival Sensation Cruise Review- Bahamas (Nassau and Freeport)

Ready to start planning your next cruise??  Click here!

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