Things to Know
Just want to share something’s to know & do before, during and after your cruise. As of date we have only been on Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Disney, Princess & Celebrity Cruise Lines. Check with your desired cruise line to make sure all of your questions are answered in full. Also some of the cruise lines will be on Facebook or Twitter and other past guest will be more then helpful when it comes to answering any and all of your questions. The most important thing to know on your cruise is to have FUN!!! Our cruise director Josh says it best, it will be a time where you don't have to work or clean or even babysit. Also to make the cruise what YOU want it to be. If you want to sit in the sun and sip Pina Colada's or get involved in all of the on board activities then do it. GO CRAZY, because you will never see those people again. Since our first cruise back in March of 2011 we have made tons on new friends and became very active in the social media world, along with this blog.
Before you Cruise
What makes cruising any different than other vacations?
Everything!!! Nothing is better than going to sleep in the middle of the Caribbean then waking up to a new island or country each day. All you have to do is book, that simple! Everything you could possibly want to do will more than likely be on a cruise. Land vacations you’re restricted to that one place, on a cruise you can do whatever, whenever you want. That is some of the joys of cruising. Don’t worry about the negative things people say or you hear about it. Each cruise ship is different; each time will be different from the last. Don’t get me wrong there will be things you love and things you hate. You learn each time what you enjoy and dislike from each trip, so the next time you book you can get a better idea of what fits you.
Is cruising expensive?
Depending on what you want to do and need and how long you’re gone for things can really add up. However the overall price of the cruise can seem high, but don’t forget what you’re paying for. Included are accommodations. Meals in dining venues, activities (not including children’s) and nighttime entertainment. Also travel from one country (or port) to another. Compare that to a land vacation and you will see the difference. We often compare a 7-night on a cruise vs. a 3 or 4 night at Disney World and the pricing and almost the same. We choose 8 times out of 10 to cruise rather than go up to Orlando.
Are cruises all-inclusive?
No they are not. It does include a various amount of things. You will have to pay for certain things throughout the cruise, some of them include specialty restaurants, coffee bar, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, spa treatments and gratuities.
Are all cruise ships alike?
No way! Each ship on each line is different. Some may look the same on the outside, but the inside will be very different. Each cruise will take on a life of its own. Many offer a large variety of things to do, see or eat. Check it out for each ship that you wish to go on.
What are some of the most popular cruise lines out there?
Here are some of the most popular cruise lines.
Carnival Cruise Line
Costa Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line
Holland America Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean International
Each line is totally different from the next, along with the ships. Some may be similar looking on the outside and in however don’t think they are the same. Each ship on each line is different and the vibe changes from cruise to cruise.
When it comes down to size, is bigger really better?
As of right now the largest cruise ship in the world is Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (RCI Oasis of the Seas is 4 inches shorter). Which the ship is much longer, wider and over 225,000 ton. The average large ships now are in between 100,000 – 140,000 ton. So for a ship to be over 225,000 ton is really impressive. We have been on ships all sizes. At first we thought it mattered, but realized it really doesn't make a difference. Just means the larger the ship the more people on board. It may however offer a lot of things to do. So bigger isn't always better.
Is cruising safe?
Cruise lines must follow an extraordinary number of rules and regulations in place to protect passengers’ (and crew-members’) safety while on board. The Coast Guard conducts rigorous, quarterly inspections of all ships that operate from U.S. ports, looking to make sure they comply with emergency-response requirements. The rules also require that within the first 24 hours of sailing, everyone on your ship is required to participate in a safety drill that includes instructions on locating and putting on life jackets and locating your assigned lifeboat.
How much money do I need once we get on board?
That all depends on what you want enjoy doing. Drinks are usually $10 for each drink (including tip), than if you want to dine out that will be anywhere from $5 to $195 per person. Check the ship for dining options. Spending money will vary, so it is better to put on more than you need. You can always add money at any time to your account. The casino (if you play) bring cash, try not to charge it to your on board account. Keeping it separate is much safer. Some cruise lines make you do it this way, which is better. Again it is different for what you want to do and how long you are gone for. For a 3-night we will do maybe $150 to $200 total, for a 7-night anywhere from $300 to $500. We treat on board credit for either drinks or use it for specialty dining.
What type of cruise should we do?
There are so many options to choose from and so many ships to choose from. Luckily there is one for every budget, you can also book in a far enough advanced to pay it off in a long period of time. Research the cruise line, the ship and the price. Check out pictures of the ships before you book. If you’re into the looks anyways. See what is "included" in the price of the cruise. You might have to pay for some things, so do research & ask, ask, ask!
Is a cruise for our Honeymoon right for us, even if we never cruised before?
YES, ABSOLUTELY!! This is how we became hooked on cruising. Our first ever cruise was for our honeymoon, we took a 7-night cruise. For the first couple of days we were a little annoyed, mostly because we didn't know the lingo of things and what to do and getting lost all of the time. However once we were on for a couple of days everything became much easier and before we knew it we had to go home. Let the cruise line know if it is your honeymoon or any special occasion. They will more than likely go the extra mile for you and surprise you with something. We have seen over the years more people on their first cruise over their honeymoon become like us and be “hooked” then anyone else. So it is a perfect trip for anyone.
Do I need a passport?
Make sure your passports are valid. If traveling from the US round trip you do not need a passport to leave the country. When you’re at port they tell you just bring your room key (on board account card). You will need it to leave and enter the ship. However if you have a passport great, bring it. Also it doesn't hurt to have one anyways. Check with the cruise line to confirm any questions. Also another reason to have a passport is if the event that you miss your ship you will need a passport in order to make things go a little bit easier.
What is “Formal Night” on a cruise?
Formal or Elegant night is a very special night on a cruise. This is where you get all fancy and dress up for the evening. The crew photographers are set up all over the ship taking pictures of you. Also you will sometimes get to meet and talk to the captain of the ship. It really does make the cruise feel nicer.
Can I get a cheaper cruise?
When we book with Carnival we had best price guarantee. When you book your room and if your price goes lower they will (depending on the details of the section and room type) give you a credit or room upgrade for the difference. Carnival only guarantees the price if you book Early Saver and not Past Guest. Being watchful of the prices can get you a great deal on "On board credit" if the price goes down. You just go to their site and fill out the form! Free money is GOOD!! They give you the difference on your Sail & Sign card. Some lines you are allowed to cancel at any time up until a certain point. If you see the cruise cheaper you can cancel and rebook or if you just change your mind for whatever reason. Try calling the cruise line to for a better price or upgrade, you never know?
What if I want to cruise alone?
The price rate for a single cruiser is almost the same price as for two. Be prepared for that. However a single cruiser will have just as much fun if not more than a couple or family cruiser. Cruising is really for anyone. Some of the newer Norwegian Cruise Line ships (Epic, Getaway & Breakaway) have single person rates and cabins that are dedicated for solo guests. Some lines will offer from time to time single cruiser rates.
How much are the gratuities and tipping?
Each line will have their own standard charge. Sometimes more for suites. Most of the time they are automatically taken off of your account once onboard. However if you choose to tip or self (or not at all) then you can adjust them off completely and give out tips on your own. Keep in mind even though you may not see the crew onboard that is taking care of you believe us they are there. Tips can sometimes be paid before a cruise, depending on dining options. Feel free to tip as little or as much as you want.
What do I need to pack?
Make a list of everything you will need for the amount of days you are going away for. Include everything from a toothbrush to sun screen to tampons, EVERYTHING. However do not over pack. The ships usually have a laundry room. We found ourselves on every cruise bringing way too much clothes and shoes. This will happen and it is hard to think about what you will need for a day or a week or a month. Research the weather, down to the day before you leave. You never know what you will need. Even a Caribbean cruise during the summer months you might need a sweater when out. Always good to have one. Dress for the location. Just try to think about it ahead of time. Also some cruise lines have some toiletries available inside the cabin already. Just call and find out. If you forget to bring something you can either get it at the next port if your near a store or in the shops when they open up.
Do I have all of my documents and boarding passes?
Make sure you have all of your documents and boarding passes for the cruise along with if you are coming from out of state or country by air. Most cruise lines make it easy for us to get everything in order to make the process as easy as possible.
How will you get to the port?
When we travel we like to use a car service. They pick us up and drop us off and gave us instructions on what to do once we get back into port. If you are local to the port, shop around, check prices. Sometimes you can get a discount in a local paper or magazine. Tips included are a plus, the driver gives you a flat rate and you don't have to worry about anything else. Taxi cabs are another option, Port of Miami had them lined up to take you anywhere. If you want you can also park at the port, but check the prices because a car or taxi might sometimes be cheaper.
What do we do once we get to the port?
For us we got to the terminal and gave the porter our luggage. They will take them to the desired location, just make sure you give them a nice tip, usually a buck a bag. Once inside the staff helps you out every step of the way. The process is pretty easy. Once through the security you get a Zone Number/Letter. The number is for boarding, once the ship is clear to board they will call the numbers. Usually goes by quick. Once the number is given to you go to the kiosk or front desk to set up your on board account. This account is basically your credit card and cash for the next few days. However the casino has an ATM with a nice little fee attached. Also the casino you can play with actual cash, but you must put it on your card and cash those winnings at the casino desk. Again each line is different so double check with the line you are sailing on.
During the Cruise
What is the “Cruise Lingo”?
Well now that you have made it on board and ready to start enjoying your vacation for the next few days here are some things you may want to learn about the ship;
· Aft: The back of the ship.
· Bow: The front of the ship.
· Bridge: The control center of the ship.
· Cabin: Your room on board the ship.
· Crossing: The term used to describe a transatlantic or a transpacific cruise.
· Decks: Floors of the ship.
· Departure Port: The city your cruise begins.
· Embarkation Port: The city your cruise begins.
· Formal Night: The designated evening when passengers are invited to dress formally to dinner.
· Galley: The ship's kitchen.
· Gangway: The entrance / exit area of the ship used while docked.
· Lido: The term often used to describe a deck, where pools are located.
· Maitre D': The officer in charge of the dining room and its wait staff.
· Muster Station: The designated meeting spot for passengers during emergencies or evacuations also sometimes called an assembly station.
· Ports of Call: Destinations you visit during the cruise.
· Portside: The left side of the ship when facing the bow (the front of the ship).
· Purser: A customer service representative, responsible for answering general questions, handling complaints, and generally monitoring passenger happiness. Also called Guest Services, usually in the lobby or atrium.
· Starboard: The right side of the ship when facing the bow (the front of the ship).
· Stateroom: Your room on board the ship.
· Stern: The rear of the ship.
· Steward: A housekeeper responsible for maintaining passenger cabins.
· Tender: A ferry that transports passengers from the cruise ship to the dock when the ship cannot be accommodated at the port facilities.
What do I do once I board?
Well we just head straight to the Food Deck (or buffet) and grab lunch. You cannot go to your room to around 1pm (on certain ships, each vary and they will tell you an estimate time) so you have plenty of time to just relax and grab a drink. Sometimes we go to our room before 1pm (or the desired time) and check it out, but just wait for them to be open. We like to be nice and have the crew get stuff done without moving through everyone. So check out whatever is open on the ship. - Check your daily guide to the activities that go on during your day, either at sea or in the port of calls. It will be filled with fun things to do and where to eat, what time things in the ship are open and closed. Get in with all the fun stuff to do. You can always win some great prizes, even a free cruise. What's better than that?!?
Will I be bored?
Depending on what you want to do (if anything at all) you always can take a look at the daily activities that are planned out for you. From morning classes in the aerobics studio to afternoon trivia to the late night dancing, you will be able to find something for everyone.
Who is the Cruise Director?
The cruise director is the person in charge of the entertainment on the ship. We were very fortunate to have a really amazing one on a couple of our cruises. Some people do not really like to hear from them at all. Us we prefer to hear and see them all the time. Letting us know about all the fun stuff to do and when it is okay to get off the ship at port and being just over the top nice and fun. We became good friends with our cruise director and he was the reason we wanted to book again with him. Try to find out who your CD (Cruise Director) will be on your cruise. Look them up online (YouTube or Facebook). See what they are like. Also once on board and you need any question answered as them; they will be more than happy to help you.
Do I need to take my passport off board when on different ports?
NO!!!! Leave it in your cabin safe, too many people get it stolen, pick pocketed or just lose it. A thing about the safe, you can open and close it with an I.D. card or credit card. You can always take a copy of your passport with you, that's always another option.
Can the ship leave without me at the port?
Yes!!! They can and will leave you if you are not back in time. Check with the cruise line to see what they do in the event that should happen. I would assume they transport you to the next port of call or back home. We also heard that they send you back to the departing port and you pay for the flight back home.
Need a laugh?
Make sure to check out the comedy clubs. They usually have anywhere from one to four comedians each trip. There are family shows along with "R" rated shows for adults only. They do numerous shows on numerous nights. Be careful the shows do fill up quick and to capacity with only having a majority of the time only standing room available. Shorter cruises might only have one performance in the main show lounge, just depends. Some lines do not offer comedy clubs.
How about some drinks?
You are never too far from a bar. Check your cruise map and see where the hot spots are. Also for Carnival if you get 1,500 points while playing in the casino with your Sail & Sign, you get free drinks. If you like to gamble then this is your best bet. If you don't just pay for them. You might get a free drink here and there or a bottle of champagne if you win a game. Other lines have similar things, check them out. Most lines offer a drink pages (average is $50 per person per day), which all vary per ship/line. Some offer drink vouchers, MSC did this and it worked great! Some lines now offer several perks that you can choose from, including free drinks. It does have you booking a more expensive cabin but if the price works for you then go for it. Drinks don't have to be alcoholic they can come from the cafe as well in the form of a milkshake or coffee, spiked or not!
Are you going crazy and need the Internet?
Don't worry most cruises have a section dedicated to this. On Carnival's Conquest class and pretty sure Destiny class they are usually near the cigar lounge. It is a bit pricey (by minute is about $0.75). Or you can check out some of their plans and see what fits you. The internet on the ship is pretty slow so be careful. Most of the different lines have all sorts of packages and an area just for the internet. Each line offers different packages for internet so check them out once on the ship.
Internet Packages per Cruise Line (CLICK HERE)
Internet Packages per Cruise Line (CLICK HERE)
Are you a Smoker?
Each line has their own rules on if the ship allows smoking and where you can do it. Here is a link for a very helpful place to get that information.
Smoking Policies per Cruise Line (CLICK HERE)
Smoking Policies per Cruise Line (CLICK HERE)
Shopping for you or someone else?
They have some of the best shops. We always pick up a post card and shot glass from all of our cruises and each port of call we are at. Check out the jewelry and t-shirt sales that they have. Sometimes they change out the items and bring out different things later on in the cruise. Also sales go on a lot so check them out.
How are the shows?
Depending on the cruise line and ship each show will be different. Some are really good and are a must see, some are the total opposite. Best way to know for sure, YouTube them or ask people about them. Some have game shows available which are a lot of fun to play. Hasbro the Game Show is one of Carnival's new games that are being placed on several ships. Norwegian has Deal or No Deal, which is just like the tv show. Check out your daily guide for all the information. Production shows are a big part of every cruise and they are a MUST DO! Very entertaining, however some shows are not for everyone.
Looking for games outside?
You can always play mini golf or play basketball or ping pong. No charge for them. FYI, if you play outside during a port day or any day make sure you stay hydrated and have plenty of water or a sports drink handy. We were up during the afternoon and it was super-hot and no one was around. It is very easy to pass out and no one notice for a while. So just keep that in mind. Some tournaments are held where you can win some small prizes.
Looking for games inside?
Carnival has tons of trivia and scavenger hunts and game shows. Something for everyone, make sure to check your daily activities for any and all events. They give out some really great prizes. Other lines also have trivia or Nintendo Wii, just depends.
Looking for some quiet time?
We found several areas throughout the ships that were perfect. The spa we felt is the untold most relaxing place on the ship. Some have a pool (not big) and a hot tub where usually no one in it. It is indoors and viewable from the gym. However it is a good place to kick back and relax. Some ships have an "Adults Only" area. Well during the day and sometimes at night will have kids around. Usually at night you can cuddle up with your loved one in one of the comfy couch-chairs and look up at the stars, very romantic. Some of the lounges are other great place to kick back. Open deck on the sides of the ship. You can go and sit outside and just listen to the waves hit the ship.
Where are the best views?
Head up to the observation deck in the front of the ship on deck 9 (Check the ship; we were on the Conquest Class on Carnival). You are not allowed to go to the front, where you can see from the top. You will see a pool but that is not for you but for the crew. The observation deck is above the bridge and is great when leaving and entering the ports or just looking around. Usually very quiet up top. Keep in mind there are rooms that face that deck so don't have a party or be crazy up there. Be careful of the high winds. Each ship is different and bridges and observations decks will be on different levels and areas. Check the deck plans and ask around.
How are the Specialty Dining Restaurants?
Every line has different options for pay restaurants, some lines more than other. A lot of the menus can be find floating around on the internet. We been to a few on different ships some excellent and some not so much. I say try it out. Most of the time tips are included in the price of the meal. You sometimes can order more than one appetizer or dessert, usually the entree is only one per person. Check with the restaurant once you are onboard.
Feeling the rocking?
Drinking played a good role in our vacation (not for that reason). Every cruise we taken prior to our 3rd we did not really drink too much, and once we got off the ship we felt the rocking for about a week or so. We noticed by drinking every day we did not feel it at all once we hit land at home. Now that does not mean we got drunk as skunks. We had maybe a drink or two a day, either watching the shows or playing in the casino. Also take motion sickness medicine like Bonnie. Take one a day starting the day before the cruise until a day after the cruise. Really helps.
Ready to leave?
Face it, no one wants to go home, but sometimes you just have to. Disembarkation can get a bit crazy for some. We usually get very lucky with this process. Our first cruise we let them take our luggage the night before so we can pick it up the next day once our level was called. The last few times we ended up just walking off with our luggage. By the time we get home our row would have probably just been called. Each ship and port is different, our first few cruises we got off on deck 3 (lobby), and some we got off on deck zero. This can also be a headache, you figure everyone on the last day just wants to just get off already, so lines can be formed quickly and the ship will not let you go until Customs clears the ship.
Is alcohol free?
No, it is not. However some nights you might get free tastings or free drink vouchers, stuff like that. Coffee, tea & hot chocolate is free and have multiple stations on board. As well as ice cream machines on certain lines. Drink packages are available above.
Should I bring towels?
No need to bring them. The ship does have them available in your room. If you take it to the pool and it gets too wet or you just need a new one, they will just replace the towel for you. Make sure not to lose the towels, or you will be charged for them. Also you have the normal hand and bath towels in your stateroom. If you need more just ask your room steward.
What is better the buffet, main dining room or one of the specialty restaurants?
Let’s start with breakfast, the main dining room serves it daily, but the buffet has more options and variety to choose from. Now lunch, on Sea Days the dining room serves lunch, the menu is small so check it out before hand to see if anything catches your eyes. The buffet has different menus every day or you can stick to the classic burger and hot dogs. Off to dinner, the dining room has menu changes every night, your television in the room should have it every morning to view (on certain ships and lines). The buffet has similar items and many other items. You can always eat an early dinner then go back to the buffet later at night maybe even watch a movie in the theater and enjoy some food. Late night snacks vary from ship to ship, so check out the daily guide to see what is being offered. Also some specialty places will be free so look before you go so you know what is free. Specialty restaurants might have a charge at night, however sometimes are free during the daytime. Check them out, usually the food is best there. Also here is a quick tip, look at the children’s menu. We often see desserts on there that we have to have or even macaroni and cheese.
How is the room service?
Room service can take a long time sometimes; it is available 24 hrs a day. For breakfast you place the tag outside of your door the night before (time is on the tag). The menu for regular service is small, but the food is good. Make sure to tip them a few bucks. Some lines charge after certain times also some just charge.
Have more questions that we didn't think of?
There are always a lot of questions when it comes to cruising hopefully we can help answer some below, if you have specific questions feel free to comment. Let us know of any other questions that you want us to add. Enjoy!!!!