I have talked about it a couple of times on my blog, but I will say it again...we love cruising! My husband and I just completed our fourth cruise, and have planned two more to happen in the next year. We have several reasons for why we enjoy cruising as a method of travel, but to name a few: great food, low stress, great entertainment, outstanding service, and just plain fun! Cruising, especially in the Caribbean is a great vacation options for people of all ages!
On our past cruise we took my father-in-law and mother-in-law, as well as a friend who had all never cruised before. It was a really fun experience for us to be able to share cruising with them! The experience of taking someone on their first cruise also triggered an idea for me, and that is to write a blog about some tips that I shared with them! Cruising without these tips is still a great experience, but knowing these might help make your trip run smoother!
So here is a list of tips that I have compiled from my own experiences of cruising that I feel might help improve your first Caribbean cruise experience!
- For the best prices in booking, start looking for a cruise 1 year out from your sailing date. We always plan our cruises for April or early May because it is just after the main Spring Break time, but still not quite summer. This is the most affordable prices we have found! This time frame is also not during hurricane season, so that is nice!
- Try and book your flights and hotel (if you don't live within driving distance of the port) as far in advance as possible. Note that some hotels plan for cruisers to be a main source of income and will raise their prices knowing that cruises will be leaving port. The sooner you book, the better!
- Check in for the cruise online at least 3 days prior to your sailing date and have all your paperwork printed out for smooth sailing through the check in process (P.S. pun was intended)
- When you arrive to the cruise port the morning of embarkation, crew members will unload your suitcase and tag it for what room you will be staying in. You can print your tag when you check into the cruise online . We didn't do this and were frantically trying to find our room number and deck number as the guys were trying to get our suitcases moved and out of the way. The guys work for tips and can be pushy if you don't tip, so have a couple bucks ready.
- Have a folder with all your information in it. Flights, hotel, & cruise info. It will save you so much time when you get to the places!
- Once you are on the ship (around 12n) you cannot get directly into your room. Plan accordingly and have your essentials in a purse or backpack. Don't bring anything too heavy because you will be miserable lugging it around for a couple hours (been there, done that!) . I typically carry my backpack so that it is easier to haul around. I keep my camera, sunglasses, etc. so that while I wait for our room to get ready I don't need anything from my suitcase.
- Bring a backpack! My mother-in-law said that this was probably the first thing she would suggest to anyone planning their first cruise. We use our backpacks all the time on the trip! During the flight, during the first day, all days at port, etc.
- Don't eat before you get on the ship! Save yourself the cost of breakfast and just have a late brunch when you get on board. As soon as you get on, you can go to the buffet. This is also a great way to kill time while you wait for your room.
- Take 20 minutes to unpack once you get into your room! Honestly, you are there for 7 days so you may as well get comfy. I put all our clothes and toiletries in all the drawers and closet. I put our suitcases under the bed and it makes it so much easier to get around the smallish rooms. On this same note, I always pack a few extra hangers in my suitcase because I find that there never is enough hangers for us on the ship!
- Irons are not allowed on board, and your room will not have an iron in it! Most cruise lines have a formal night on the ship where you will wear a cocktail dress/suit. Not having an iron can put a kink in your outfit- literally. I suggest finding a portable steamer at a local Target that you can pack with you. If you don't want to hassle with it, my husband and I have turned our shower on as hot as it will go and hung all out clothes in the bathroom for about 10 minutes with the door shut. It works, but it's not the best. You can also pay to have your items pressed. A shirt is around $2 to have pressed.
- You do not use your credit card or cash once you are on the ship. When you check in at the port you give them a card number. Any purchases you make onboard you use your SeaPass (Royal Caribbean's name for it) and it charges to your account. On your last night you get a bill and you see what will be charged to your card. You can also check your current balance on the tv screen in your room.
- Right when you board they will try and sell you souvenirs. Hold out! They go on sale near the end of the cruise and you can get shirts, drink cups, and trinkets for 25% or more off.
- Be cautious using your phone on the ship. Once you leave the port, your phone will hook to the ships signal. We haven't had it happen to us, but we've heard the cost is outrageous!
- If you are traveling in a group, sticky notes and a pen will make your life 10x easier! It is so easy to get separated on the ship and then not be able to ever find each other again until dinner. Bringing sticky notes allows you to leave a note on your group member's door telling them where you went and when you will be back to your room. Some cruisers will bring walky-talkies on their trip and communicate that way! This is also a great option!
- Most importantly, if you are worried about getting seasick, don't! We have been on four cruises now and have yet to see one person get seasick! I do tend to get a little vertigo returning home, but while I am on our trips I have never once felt queesy.
I hope that these tips help you plan your first Caribbean Cruise! I'm going to share some fun images from our most recent trip next, as well as a video to our cruise that I filmed! Enjoy!
And lastly, here is our video of our trip all filmed on a Go Pro Hero 5!