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25 Cruise Secrets Everyone Should Know

Must Know Cruise Secrets | Tips for Cruising | Planning A Cruise | Budget Travel Tips | Cruise Tips for First-Timers

This weekend my family and I are heading to Fort Lauderdale to board the newly refurbished Carnival Freedom for eight days of fun & sun in the Caribbean.  Needless to say, we are pretty pumped!  Cruising is by far our favorite way to travel.  Not only is it a great value and relatively easy to find fantastic deals, it is so relaxing to just get on the ship and have everything taken care of.   No hassles, no decisions, no worries.

I realized it was high time I write a blog post about this topic, not just to list the benefits of cruising (which are many), but to actually share some of the best-kept cruise secrets we’ve learned along the way.  Here are the 25 “insider” secrets to successful cruising that I think everyone should know.

Must Know Cruise Secrets | Tips for Cruising | Planning A Cruise | Budget Travel Tips | Cruise Tips for First-Timers

Booking & Travel

You can guarantee about 80% of the success of your cruise vacation by taking a good amount of time to research and thoroughly plan for your trip in advance.

1.  Choose the Right Ship for You

Choosing the right ship is the most important step in determining how successful your cruise vacation will be, and believe me, not all ships are created equal!  Take the time to research the amenities of the exact ship you will be cruising on, not just the cruise line.  We have cruised on Carnival, Norwegian, Holland-America, Royal Caribbean, and Princess, but our favorite ship so far has been be Carnival Sunshine.  (Hard to beat a 4-slide water park and P.Y.O.B. (pour your own beer) on the Lido Deck!)

To avoid the cost of airfare, look for ports within driving distance, whether it be Florida, New York, New Orleans, California, or Seattle.  Cruise Critic has an extensive searchable database of cruises where you can sort by destination, ports, special interests and more during specific travel dates.  Or, if you are looking for a top rated cruise line, Conde Nast Traveler has an annual Gold List with the best cruise ships based on their readers’ choice ratings.

2. Check for Special Interests

Whether you are interested in a romantic trip for two or a trip the whole family will love, look into cruises that fulfill your and your guests’ special interests. Many cruise lines offer themed cruises or special events for singles, families, music lovers, etc.  Carnival is now even offering big name concert events on some of their ships.  This concert series, aptly named Carnival Live brings in some of the biggest names in classic rock and country music to do on-board concerts.  For just $15 a ticket you can see big names like Lady Antebellum, Daughtry, Chicago, Kansas, and many more.  (For $100 you can get a VIP ticket that gets you a front row seat and a chance to meet the band!)

3. Book at the Last Minute

If you are willing to be flexible with your travel plans you can get some amazing deals on last minute cruises!  One of the smartest way to book a last minute cruise is to first find out how close to the departure date a traveler can cancel their reservation without a penalty. This time is typically 2-3 months prior to departure, and it is the exact time you will want to call and check back for better deals. Cruise lines will often  try to sell any available space at this time by reducing fare.  If your cruise is already booked, this is also a good time to call to check for cabin upgrades.  On Norwegian we were once able to upgrade our inside cabin to a full suite (complete with butler service) for just $250 per person by calling a month before the cruise to check for cancellations.  That same suite normally would have cost several thousands of dollars more had we booked well in advance!

4. Ask for Special Discounts

It doesn’t hurt to ask, and more than likely it will be worth the time it took to ask the question. Just like hotels, cruise lines have incentives for different travelers… seniors, teachers, military, FL resident, etc. Cruise lines master accommodating all types of passengers and love to incentivize you to cruise with them over their competitors.

5. Compare Prices

When you are shopping for a cruise, there are numerous sites such as Priceline that you can use to search for best rates. Find a great deal? Call the cruise line directly to get an even better deal!  Sellers will compete to get your business and can often discount the price you see online or give other perks such as on-board credit, free wine at dinner, or priority boarding.  And remember, even after you book, keep checking back for additional deals or upgrades!

 6.  Check in After 2pm

Most cruisers are eager to get on the ship as early as possible, which means that the cruise terminal can be really busy–and more than a little stressful–during the first few hours of boarding (generally from 11am-2pm).  And while you may be able to get on the ship that early, chances are you won’t be able to get into your cabin until later in the afternoon, which means your first few hours on board will be spent hauling your stuff around.  Not exactly the most relaxing start to a vacation!  Instead, avoid the rush and the crowds by waiting to check in until after 2pm (assuming your ship sets sail at 4pm or later!)  You’ll be able to walk right on without waiting and then go straight to your cabin.

7.  Pick the Right Time to Go

Want to get a great deal on a cruise?  Book your cruise for just after Labor Day when kids are back in school–the 2nd week in September offers some of the very best deals of the year.  Coming in at a close second is the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time when most people are too busy to travel.

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Cabins

Once you decide on the ship that’s right for you, look into room options that best accommodate you and your guest(s). Then, plan what to bring with you carefully and make yourself at home once you’re there.

8. Spring for a balcony

Room options are typically either Inside (no windows), Outside (window/porthole view to the outside), Balcony (a room with a balcony on the outside of the ship), and Suite (a larger cabin often with separate living and sleeping areas and more amenities). If you plan on taking advantage of in-room dining, have kids who will be taking naps or typically get seasick, you will really appreciate the extra space and killer view you get from a balcony room or suite.

9. Make the most of an interior cabin

If cost is your primary concern, plan on spending most of your awake time enjoying the ship and excursions, making the time spent in your room mostly for sleeping and getting ready.  To avoid seasickness, keep the TV turned on to the ship camera which will create the illusion of having a window when you have an inside room.

10. Don’t Take Too Much Stuff!

Make a list of clothing you need on the trip.  Then cut that in half!  While ship cabins do make the most of a small space, they are still small, especially when you are traveling as a family!  No one cares if you wear the same clothes over again, and all ships offer laundry service if necessary.  Find out ahead of time how many “formal” nights the cruise has, if any, and also how strict the dress code is.  If you don’t like dressing up, you can always choose room service or Lido dining those evenings to avoid having to pack a tux or formal gown.

11.  Bring Magnetic Clips

An often forgotten detail about cruise ships–they are made out of metal!   These handy magnetic clips make it easy to hang important items, such as your ship card, dining menus, reminders, and even notes to your family and friends if you split up for the day.

12.  Take Time to Unpack

Though you’ll see many destinations while on your cruise, you only have to unpack once! Do unpack. Whether you are on a cruise for 3 days or 3 weeks, making yourself at home by unpacking will make your trip (and getting ready for each event) SO much more enjoyable.  Room stewards are experts finding out-of-the-way places to stash suitcases, and even the smallest cabins have a surprisingly large number of drawers and closets.

13. Keep Things Tidy

Even “large” quarters on ships are a much smaller space than you are used to living in. Take a few minutes each time you come back to the cabin to keep things tidy in order to avoid feeling like the walls are closing in on you.


Must Know Cruise Secrets | Tips for Cruising | Planning A Cruise | Budget Travel Tips | Cruise Tips for First-Timers

Food & Drinks

Cruise ship cuisine is pretty spectacular!  It is best enjoyed when you know all of your dining options and take advantage of them.

14. Don’t be Afraid to Order What You Want

You are on vacation! Many first time cruisers don’t realize that even in the main dining room, you can order as many entrees, appetizers, or desserts as you please.   And if you have special dietary needs, there are always healthier options you can mix in with the meal of your choice. Ask for a special diet menu that may include lower sodium and lower fat options.

15. Plan Meals Ahead

Ask to see the main dining room menu for the week. That way you can plan your meals accordingly and book specialty restaurants for the evenings that the main dining room fare doesn’t excite you.  On Carnival you can receive a free bottle of wine for booking a reservation at the steakhouse on the first day of your cruise.

16.  Don’t Miss the Specialty Restaurants

Most cruise lines have now begun offering specialty fare at a slight up charge (between $5 and $25 per person, depending on the restaurant.)  While your first inclination may be to skip the specialty dining in favor of all the free options, it is worth setting aside a little extra room in your budget for at least one night of specialty dining.  Carnival’s JiJi Asian Bistro ($15 per person) is downright phenomenal, and the steak house on our Norwegian ship was absolutely amazing.  Of course not all specialty dining has an added cost, and even some of the premium restaurants are free at lunchtime–just check your ship to see what is offered!

17.  Take Advantage of Free Room Service

Most cruise lines offer free room service, which makes for a relaxing evening in.   Don’t feel obligated to go to the dining room – this is your vacation!  Room service breakfast is also a very nice way to start the day, particularly if you have a balcony room.

18. Drink Smart

While cruising is mostly all-inclusive, drinks are not generally included!  Therefore it is smart to get creative on how you partake. A tip for wine drinkers? Bring your own wine.  You may be charged a cork fee but it will be significantly cheaper than buying a full bottle on the ship.   For non-alcoholic drinks you can typically purchase a drink card that will give you access to unlimited soda.

 19.  Eat Lunch in the Main Dining Room

For a quieter, more relaxing lunch,  try eating lunch at least a few times in the main sit-down dining room rather than the busy Lido deck buffet.  The dress code is still casual but the food is usually amazing and the service impeccable.  Carnival also offers a Sea-Day Brunch that is absolutely to-die for!

Must Know Cruise Secrets | Tips for Cruising | Planning A Cruise | Budget Travel Tips | Cruise Tips for First-Timers

Excursions & Entertainment

Depending on the ship you choose, chances are each day you will wake up in a new place with the option to go onshore and explore or stay on the ship. By knowing what activities are available to you on and offshore, you will be sure to be entertained in a way that’s best for you!

20. Explore Your Ship.

There are tons of on-board amenities you can take advantage of when you are out at sea or want to stay on board vs. going on an excursion. In the first couple of days, be sure to walk around and familiarize yourself with the ship and its offerings. Also – ask others what they are looking forward to on the ship or have enjoyed doing thus far.

21. Choose Excursions Wisely

Cruise lines offer shore excursions at every port – from bus tours to activities like snorkeling and zip lining. You may also have the option to tour around yourself, but be mindful of time and language barriers. You are best off reviewing excursions in advance of the cruise and booking them online to avoid any confusion or overbooking the day-of. This will also give you time to carefully read the fine print and excursion restrictions.

22. Don’t Miss the Shows

While the shows do vary from ship to ship, they are almost always really good and very entertaining.  You may even have the opportunity to see a big name performer for a concert or comedy show for almost nothing.  Because of the smaller size of a cruise venue vs. an arena, these events are more intimate and enjoyable than typical concerts–there is literally not a bad seat in the house!

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23. Take Advantage of the Kids Club!

A ship typically has well-organized camps and activities for children, organized by age, typically 3+.  (For younger children there are sometimes classes or special babysitting times offered.)  These interactive classes and activities will keep the kids entertained while giving parents some free time as well.  We have personally been most impressed with the quality of kids club facilities and variety of activities on the Carnival ships we have been on, but all the cruise lines have been very good.  The best part is that aside from late night babysitting, it is completely free!

24.  Research Ports Ahead of Time

Take the time to find out a little about the ports you will be visiting to find out what you might like to do or see while you are there.  You may also find some highly rated excursions at a better price than you would find if you purchased on the ship.  Our all-time favorite excursion in Alaska was this Sea Plane excursion to Taku Lodge, which is significantly cheaper when not booked through the ship, and our favorite excursion EVER in was Dolphin Discovery, which we booked online before our cruise.  We went to the one in Cozumel, but they have locations all over Mexico and the Caribbean.

25.  Find a Favorite Hangout

Every ship is different but all are purposely designed to offer comfortable spaces for a variety of tastes.  Often your favorite memories from a cruise will come from having found your “special” place somewhere on the ship, whether it be a particular bar or restaurant, deck chair, or cozy corner in the atrium.  The staff assigned to that particular spot on the ship will generally stay the same through the duration of your cruise, which can come in handy, and it is also a good idea to have a designated meeting spot in case you get separated on board, since cell phones don’t usually work at sea!

Whether you plan to cruise for three days or three weeks, knowing some of these “insider” secrets can help make your next cruise your best trip yet.  Bon voyage!

Must Know Cruise Secrets | Tips for Cruising | Planning A Cruise | Budget Travel Tips | Cruise Tips for First-Timers

 

All photos courtesy of Carnival.

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Do you have any other cruising secrets to share?  What is your favorite ship?

110 Comments

  1. Jenny
    June 20 at 10:31AM

    We have been talking about planning a cruise so this post is perfect timing! Thanks for all the tips!

    • Anonymous
      February 5 at 09:54AM

      I went on my first cruise last October it was nice but I have motion sickness and m doctor prescribed me a patch it was making my eyes puffy when I got home I read not to wear in Extreme heat soon next trip I would just try drama mine it was fun except for side effects of patch

      • jan
        February 17 at 09:27PM

        Try Bonine instead of Dramamine. Same effect without the drowsiness.

        • JoAnn
          March 28 at 10:52PM

          I am sorry that happened to you. I was on a 2 week Holland America Cruise, and I got motion sickness. I was given 1 Dramamine, and wrist bands for motion sickness. The band had a hard marble like ball in it which I placed on the inside of my wrist. It was acupressure which totally cured it. I did not take it off the whole 2 weeks! I will be going on another cruise in May, and it will be on when I board the ship! So simple, so effective.

      • Anonymous
        February 24 at 12:30AM

        Try taking ginger pills, drinking ginger tea or ginger ale. Ginger pills sold over counter helped me. Learned in Australia from a sail to Great Barrier Reef. They work and not sleepy from Dramaine.

        • Anonymous
          September 7 at 03:08PM

          Ginger pills are great I’m Australian so I also know from travel to and from reef but be careful not to take to many and try and rely on tea or wristbands as side effect of pills is something we call jelly butt and no one needs that on hols.

      • Anonymous
        February 27 at 10:53PM

        I get very seasick and found something called a Relief Band. It looks like a watch that you wear on the inside of your wrist and works like a charm. They’re available on amazon.com and are worth every cent! There are no drugs, so no nasty side effects. I can’t cruise without it.

        • Anonymous
          March 19 at 10:47PM

          I thought these armbands were a joke until I put one on each arm. They worked. I also had a ginger pill. I am so glad this worked out, but did not believe until it happened.

        • Sandi
          March 20 at 09:41AM

          I had the bands for our first two cruises , now I don’t need them unless the weather is ruff. Just love to cruise 🙂

      • Colleen
        March 1 at 07:05PM

        We just came home from Carnival Splendor, 7 day cruise, my family were all seasick at one time or another during the week. We did wear the wrist bands which sell on ship, but more expensive, of course, also bonine worked wonders. My son googled and found that green apples were the cure. Coinsidently, the food court had tons of green apples, and my son swears by the green apple theory. I went to vitamine shop and purchased Ginger candy, i believe this helped me the most, maybe more mind over matter but whatever works.

        • Ed and Jewel Cavinee
          February 15 at 10:38PM

          On our last cruise, my husband became very seasick. I was able to purchase a small bottle of essential oils called Motionease. I applied it behind each ear and it took care of the motion sickness in just a few minutes and for the remainder of our cruise. We were amazed! You can buy it at many stores. Just google it! 🙂

      • Anonymous
        April 4 at 10:17PM

        The patch is strong and dries me out so much that I cannot even read the menu. My doc told me to cut the patch in half and it works wonderfully!

  2. Allison
    June 20 at 10:32AM

    LOVE cruising! We were just on the Carnival Sunshine a few weeks ago & it was our favorite ship too!

    • Anonymous
      May 6 at 09:13PM

      We were on the Sunshine last Summer and it is our favorite ship as well!!! Doing the Sunshine out of New York July 2016!! Carnival Breeze August1!! Can’t wait!!

      • Anonymous
        February 15 at 05:47PM

        We sailed on the Breeze last month. We loved it and you will too!

    • Linda
      March 29 at 11:08AM

      Those of you who agreed Carnival Sunshine was your favorite….what was it exactly that made it your favorite?? Thanks!!

  3. June 20 at 10:51AM

    Awesome! I think the last tip is so relevant, especially if you’re travelling with a group! Having a “spot” makes finding people and making plans for the day so much easier!

    • Anonymous
      November 3 at 05:54PM

      and walkie-talkies.

  4. June 20 at 10:55AM

    This post is perfect timing for me right now! I’m about to go on my first cruise in July. I’m super excited, but it’s also a whole new experience so I’m a little nervous as well!

    • Anonymous
      January 27 at 12:43PM

      Don’t worry you will enjoy it so much .. I have been in 30 already and I love it everytime

  5. Karen
    June 20 at 11:09AM

    My tip would be use the Purell whenever you see it. Our kids got a stomach bug that confined them to quartered it was so contagious. Purell might have radically altered that trip.

    • Anonymous
      January 4 at 08:50AM

      The Noro virus, so prevalent on cruise ships, needs a chlorine based sanitizer, not an alcohol based one. The Purell would be ineffective . So bring a different sanitizer.

  6. June 20 at 04:26PM

    These tips are great!! We are talking about going on a Disney Cruise with our neighbors next year. Enjoy your trip!!! 🙂

  7. Sheila
    June 21 at 11:19AM

    It’s a good idea to bring seasick bands or pills.especially for first timers,also walkie talkies to keep in touch with kids or your other members,as cell phones don’t work at sea. Most important,if possible bring some bottled water for each person! Never leave your kids alone to walk around,never let just anyone in your cabin and never talk too much about yourself to strangers. Have a great safe trip!

  8. June 21 at 02:36PM

    My husband and I went on a cruise with Royal Caribbean for our honeymoon a few years ago. It was fantastic. We’ll definitely be going on another one – so these tips will definitely come in hand! Especially the upgrade because after being in a room with windows & balcony, I don’t think I could do it any other way!

    • Anonymous
      March 21 at 08:38AM

      I felt the same way, but one time we got a really good deal on an inside room so we took it because we’re only in the room to sleep and get dressed. That trip we ran through a very bad storm and it was nice to go to our room and close the door and it was like there was no storm going on around us.

  9. June 21 at 11:01PM

    Great tips. Also, you can often get shore excursions cheaper than getting them through the cruise companies.

  10. cathy kelemen
    June 22 at 07:05AM

    I would say pick a port you can drive to……huge savings if you don’t mind the drive! Also become part of the cruise forum…this allows you to chat with people who have been on the cruise you will be taking or meet people who will be on the same ship as you. Always always research the ship deck plans before you go. Cruise with friens if possible. Do NOT stay in your room….the ship has so much to offer…..at least Carnival does! Kick back & enjoy!

  11. Elizabeth
    June 23 at 12:09AM

    Our first and only cruise was when our son was 16 months old… and it was awful. He was considered a full priced passenger as the 3rd person in the room because of the “special programs onboard tailored to his age group”, which made sense considering that we pay for him at the swimming pool, children’s museum, etc. Once onboard we realized that there were no programs for him, he wasn’t allowed in any pool including the kiddie pool (not potty trained), and we couldn’t even play with him in the kids area because the area was only for kids programs. We spent the week wandering the halls, looking at the water, and learning how to crawl backwards down the stairs. It was like vacationing in an office building. I would absolutely go again…after the kids are old enough to enjoy being left in the daycare area by themselves (maybe 5yo?)

    • Anonymous
      July 18 at 03:36PM

      Not a fair comment. Cruises are definately not the place to bring a 16 month old. There is no way you could possibly enjoy your vacation.

      • Anna
        August 12 at 01:00AM

        As I said in my comment to the above poster, we really loved our cruise with our 17 month old. You just need to cruise on a ship with a drop-off nursery. We don’t have anyone we could ask to watch our child for several days, and I think we have every right to still be able to go on vacation. Especially if we are sailing a family-oriented cruise line.

    • Anna
      August 12 at 12:57AM

      I am truly sorry you did not have a good experience! We cruised last winter with our then 17 month old, and although there were a couple things we couldn’t do (like certain excursions and staying up really late) ensuring that we picked a ship that had a drop-off nursery for his age was essential. (Only on Royal Caribbean) They also had a baby splash pad for diapered babies. We spent the mornings having breakfast together, then swimming in the splash pad or off to port, then we split his naptime 50/50, the one who stayed in the room read or napped on the balcony, the other explored the ship. Then after nap he was dropped off to the amazing nursery to play with his new friends until bedtime. And we got to have our alone time. I hope you will consider looking into that program in the future. We all deserve a vacation! And I know that we as parents don’t always have someone who can take our kids for long periods of time.

    • Anonymous
      February 4 at 01:46AM

      Please…why would you want to take an infant into a confined ship when they are known for harboring Norovirus? Also I did not save up for a cruise to have a bawling baby onboard

    • Anonymous
      February 14 at 12:12AM

      I went onot a Carnival cruise when my son was 19 months & I was able to drop him off at their kids area. They also had a Build-A-Bear workshop for kids (extra $). It was a little chilli for us to swim, but we didn’t have any issues. I even left him with the kids area when we went offshore (b/c the horror stories with kidnapped children in other countries). Of course, leaving him on the ship without me was terrifying as well, but their childcare attendants were awesome.

    • Diane
      July 18 at 03:59PM

      Royal Caribbean has a sale every so often where kids sail free! Well worth it!!

    • Anonymous
      September 7 at 03:15PM

      Definitely a good example of why doing homework or research on a particular cruise is so important. If you booked this one with a travel agent get a new one that was their job

  12. Jillian
    June 23 at 01:17PM

    Regarding shore excursions – BE AWARE!!
    If you book an excursion through the cruise line, and something happens to delay you, the ship will wait for you!
    If you book an excursion through an outside company or group and are delayed getting back to the ship (for whatever reason) you will be watching it sail away without you, and it will be your responsibility to either get yourself home, or get yourself to the next port of call to re-board the cruise.
    Is the minimal savings of booking with an outside company really worth the risk?
    This is why it is a great idea to book your trip with a Travel Agent – they are there to help you and have loads of knowledge about these kinds of issues!

    • jjtravels
      February 24 at 12:38AM

      Oh yeah, we’ve seen people running down the dock as we sailed away. The ship WILL NOT wait for you, and once they’ve closed the door they will not let you on. We’ve seen people standing on the dock as the gangway was pulled up and it didn’t matter.

    • Debra
      June 22 at 07:29AM

      We booked 3 excursions with http://www.shoreexcursioneer.com in May and it was the best ones we have ever been on! So much better than the overcrowded, overpriced cruise excursions. We had 6 people & 2 crew on a catamaran sail & snorkel in Cozumel, fresh pineapple, guacamole, chips, margaritas, & the best instruction I’ve ever heard on snorkeling! They DO have a guarantee and will pay to get you to next port if anything happens. They wouldn’t be in business for 15 years if they didn’t care about getting cruisers back on time. It is just a scare tactic about booking only with cruise line. Most people that miss the ship have gone out on their own and didn’t allow enough time to get back. I’ll never book with the cruise line again!

  13. June 23 at 08:56PM

    Great tips! If you get to the port by 10-10:30 am there is not a wait and they will start boarding as soon as the ship is ready, before 11 am! Yes it’s true you can’t get to your room, just pack a beach bag with the essentials and then enjoy lunch on the lido deck, they start serving at 11am! Also walkie talkies are essential!!! you will always be able to get in touch with your group, anywhere they are on the ship the entire week. The walkie talkies were the best investment we made, especially when traveling with a large group of family or friends! Make sure you look at the itinerary for each day, there are often events that do not get announced that are awesome and you would otherwise miss if you do not pay attention, like free liquor tasting a few hours after boarding, on the first day!

    • Anonymous
      March 1 at 10:56PM

      What kind of Wilkie talkies did you have?

      • Kimberlie Brashear
        May 9 at 07:07PM

        I would also like to know which walkie talkies people have found to work best. I’m going on Princess alaska cruise and I imagine it will be mostly non school age kids but mine are 13 and 16 and will run off on their own and I’d like to be able to contact them (not sure if I can get my 16 year old to carry a walkie ?)

  14. Curtis Holloway
    June 25 at 09:40PM

    I agree with every single tip you said. I’ve been on 5 cruises, enjoyed them all immensely, and am about to take my 6th in a couple weeks.
    Having breakfast in the main dining room is a great way to go, also. Usually a spectacular view, great service, and you can get such niceties as eggs benedict, or even make unusual off-menu orders. I love the coffee onboard also, and it’s nice to not have to go to a line to get a refill.
    Be sure to tell the cruise lines of any special events. Our first cruise ever, we were celebrating our 20th anniversary. The cruise line went out of their way to make it special. We had our own private dinner table in the rear of the ship, with an absolutely glorious view. When our daughter went on her honeymoon, it was the same treatment.
    Lastly, when you go on your cruise, turn your cell phone off, throw it in a drawer, and leave the world behind. Plan to completely disconnect, and trust that the world will continue to turn, the people you put in charge WILL manage without you, and relax. Don’t even call. Don’t even try to email. Enjoy your spouse, your time, your food, the entire experience. Sing karoake, even if you stink. Go sit in the hot tub. But you are NOT allowed to turn on your phone. (BTW, it costs like $10 per minute anyway. So don’t do it.)

  15. Shannon
    June 26 at 01:06AM

    I second the suggestion to use a travel agent. We got way better deals with agents than direct from the cruise.

  16. Susan
    June 26 at 02:26PM

    I’ve been on numerous cruises, but only a handful with the kids. One thing I just discovered is a money-saver (and sanity-saver) when traveling with the family. In the past, the four of us have stayed in the smallest suite room type (on RCCL this is a jr suite). What I have found is that it costs less to book two balcony rooms side by side with a CONNECTING DOOR. I was surprised this was a cheaper alternative and we get the bonus of two closets, two bathrooms, and two tv’s.

  17. Tom
    June 27 at 08:24AM

    My wife and I recently finished a ten day East Bound Trans-Atlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2 and it was great! We booked through Expedia and got incentives (coffee mugs) plus I applied for the Military Discount and got all our gratuities paid. The service on-board was top notch and the meals were delicious. Too bad the weather wasn’t nice, but that wasn’t Cunards fault. Our next cruise is QM2 West-bound.

    • John
      September 24 at 07:30AM

      Tom: I’m sure you and your wife will enjoy the QM2 westbound transatlantic transit too. We did one a few years ago and the approach to NYC / Statue of Liberty was awesome ! Because it was westbound, part of the entertainment was (for the Brits especially, going to the “Colonies”) live music “representative” of American culture: great music of the Jazz Era, Big Bands, etc. Cheers !

  18. Kim in Cincinnati
    June 27 at 04:51PM

    Ruth, one of the BEST tips we were ever given was for us to pack our swimsuits and sunscreen in a carry on and then you are the ONLY ONES at the pool while everyone else is running around in their travel clothes while waiting for their bags to be delivered to the room……..this has always been our favorite tip! 🙂

  19. Margaret
    June 28 at 02:59AM

    We love cruising, we find Princess suits our family perfectly. Sadly there are no interconnecting rooms on our ships of choice, so my tip is to get two cabins if you’re a family of four. Two cabins side by side, with one adult and one child in each, is much roomier than all of us crammed into a quad share cabin, and on Princess doesn’t cost any more, as our 3 & 5yr olds pay full adult fare!
    Also, if travelling with young children, have Passenger Services block purchases on their cruise cards. Preschoolers don’t need to be able to shop on their own. This way, if they lose their card, nobody can find it and go on a shopping spree.

    • Anonymous
      February 8 at 08:47AM

      We just recently (very recently) went on to crown princess! It was nice and the dining rooms were completely free! The drop of spots were very nice as well. It was my whole families first time and for a first cruise it wasn’t bad at all. It was a very pretty ship. One thing I don’t recommend that she did is booking when kids are in school.. We did that and there were only 36 teenagers (13-17) on the whole ship. And only 7 out of that would go into the teen lounge. Other then that they it was a great cruise!

      • Anonymous
        April 30 at 05:15PM

        Our teens went to the teen room and reported back to us that no one was there. Seems they all peek in the door, fail to see anyone and leave. We sent them back to stay for 30 minutes. A couple hours late we spotted them with a huge group of teens on a scavenger hunt. They enjoyed the entire cruise with their new friends.

  20. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all your tips for cruising! I have not tried cruising yet, and when I do I am glad I’ll be we’ll prepared with this helpful information! Thanks!

    Lindsay ~ Omnitrition IMA, Supervisor
    OmniBody@msn.com
    Better Sleep | Stonger Workouts | More Energy | Improved Mental Clarity | Weight Loss

  21. June 30 at 07:19PM

    Crusing is such fun. I agree that you should research your trip and go through a travel agent as they do get better deals.

  22. cargo13
    July 19 at 09:26PM

    I agree, summer 2014 is the time to cruise. With a family, there are kids sail free offers.
    Disney Cruises is always an unforgettable family experience.
    There are last minute cruisedeals posted to this website: http://www.cruisedeals.com/last-minute-cruise-deals/
    Follow them on Facebook and you will be the 1st to get the offers.

  23. holly
    August 17 at 11:49AM

    Take a deck of cards in case of a rainy day, carnival allows one bottle of wine per person (doesn’t matter how large the bottle is), takes lots of batteries bc you do not want to pay the ship prices, and take cash bc the on board at charges a pretty hefty fee

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  25. Anonymous
    December 31 at 06:23AM

    I have taken wine in my cruises in the past. Carnival let’s you take 1 bottle per adult. Never had a problem at all. It’s nice to be able to take a bottle or 2 along.

    • Anonymous
      January 15 at 06:05AM

      If you have it in your carry on there is no problem, but I know for a fact that they will confiscate it if it’s in your checked baggage.

      • jjtravels
        February 24 at 12:34AM

        I’ve done both. Usually in checked luggage and never had a problem, but they say that it will be confiscated, so I assume that they sometimes do so. Once a porter tried to extort us for a bribe to make sure our wine got on so we just carried our check luggage on, and didn’t have a problem with 2 bottles per suitcase.

    • Anonymous
      September 15 at 11:51AM

      On Carnival, you can order a full bottle of alcohol on the first day. We ordered Gin about 50.00. We brought on board tonic water as your non-alcoholic beverage. Then everyday we got our consierge to have ice and cut limes in our room for 3:00 so when we got back from port, we’d enjoyed our gin and tonic on our balcony. It was great!

  26. Mike
    January 5 at 03:07PM

    Bojams.com‘s prices are pretty hard to beat for walkie talkies. I buy more and more stuff from there, whether it be walkie talkies or anything else. Way cheaper than any other place I’ve seen.

    But if you find better prices than Bojams.com for walkie talkies somewhere, please share! I’m always looking for deals.

  27. January 19 at 04:41PM

    Great info and photography!

  28. Andrea
    January 27 at 03:30PM

    The food is free! Order whatever you want and as many as you want! (If you liked an appetizer order more) Send back a meal if you don’t like it! Make friends with the servers at each meal and servers around the pool! They will seek you out! Tip Well!
    Our Carnival cruise had a tour of the kitchen! Take advantage! Attend all meetings with the cruise director and book your excursions through the ship!! Ask your room steward for whatever you want..drinks iced down, fruit in room they will do anything you want! Definitely splurge for the room with a balcony! It is worth the extra money!
    Check out the ports; we went to Martinique and they were celebrating the Bastille EVERYTHING ON THE ISLAND WAS CLOSED! Saw a parade! BIG waste of a port of call!

  29. Andrea
    January 27 at 03:35PM

    I forgot one other thing! Stock up on bottled water and snacks for the day you leave!

    When you arrive on the ship EVERYONE cannot wait to serve you and make you comfortable! On the day you leave,
    you will be lucky to get anything. FYI they do a turn around the same day you get off another group boards the ship. the entire ship has to be cleaned before the new people arrive!

  30. Anonymous
    February 6 at 11:35PM

    I LOVED THE MAGNET TIP! ~ ~ I LEAVE TOMORROW FOR MY CRUISE. I WILL TRY IT. ~ ~ MY TIP WOULD BE TO SIGN UP WITH SHIPMATE ON YOUR CELLPHONE. YOU MIGHT MEET A NEW FRIEND AHEAD OF TIME THAT IS SAILING THE SAME WEEK & SHIP AS YOU. YOU CAN KEEP TRACK OF IT WHERE IT IS AND LEARN WHERE EVERYTHING IS AHEAD OF TIME. IT MAKES YOUR WAITING TIME, MORE EXCITING!

  31. jjtravels
    February 24 at 12:31AM

    Ugh, you could not get me back on the Sunshine if it was FREE. Had that misbegotten ship on our honeymoon and while the honeymoon itself was still great, the ship was terrible. Ugly, first of all. Weirdly designed due to the revamp, and hard to navigate.

    I did enjoy the waterslides, and pour your own beer, but would still prefer an actually well-designed new ship over that Frankenstein.

    • Elizabeth
      December 27 at 09:03PM

      I would not go on any Carnival Cruise even if I was paid to. I had a cockroach in the bottom of my coffee cup…after I had drunk the coffee. They didn’t care. Blamed the waiter and the ship was dirty.

  32. Anonymous
    March 1 at 03:02AM

    carnival also has a “faster to the fun” fun pass you purchase in the excursions section under the embarkation port. its 50$ per cabin, and you get all sorts of special treatment like boarding faster, immediate access to your room and luggage, and earlier debarkation!!! also, the cheers card is now offered and you pay a flat rate for your alcohol for the trip!!

  33. Shannon Moore
    March 15 at 10:22AM

    If you have a child on the Autism spectrum – check out the program “Autism on the Seas” – they travel with some major cruise lines and provide special programming and support!

  34. March 21 at 10:18AM

    Great tips except the check in after 2.. I did that once and it was crowded and slow. If anyone is sailing our of Galveston on Sept 26 2015 Come join our face book page..

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  35. The silly stuff post is definately the most effective i have seen today.

  36. Kathy
    May 16 at 03:09PM

    Bring an extension cord!

  37. July 17 at 12:46AM

    Excellent post, i did read it two times so sorry for that, i’ve passed
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  38. July 17 at 07:11PM

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  39. Captain Mark
    July 29 at 02:32PM

    Cruise lines will invite you to manage your own luggage for disembarkation. Do it. That way you won’t be delayed searching for your bags on the pier.
    Drinks served at poolside and elsewhere usually add in the tip on the voucher. The server will not tell you this so do not add a tip unless you really wish to.
    Don’t book the late dinner seating. Sometimes they are out of various dinner choices and service is quite slow.
    Honor the shipboard dress codes.
    Ask the cruise director about the “mutiny” night. Just kidding.

  40. Elise
    October 5 at 08:53PM

    These are great tips! We took our first real vacation as adults last year and went on a cruise as well. Here is one of my blog posts talking all about our carnival Experience! http://booksbottlesandbags.com/cruising-baja-our-experience-part-one/

  41. Fathiya
    October 9 at 09:16PM

    I’ve been on several cruises especially on Carnival. I prefer the larger ships like the Dream, Freedom and Breeze. They have more activities like cooking demonstrations where you get to taste the food, and Salsa dancing classes. I also love Tea time on some of the cruises which is so cozy and reminds me of Tea time in the English country. If you love Art, don’t miss the Art shows wwwhere you can buy Art for unbelievably cheap. If you buy any Art it will be shipped directly to your home. Also join the VIFP club. We get our laundry washed, ironed and folded since we are Platinum members of the club. One last thing, you can check in to your cruise online at least 30 days prior to departure. This will make checking in very easy. If you have kids, check them in to Camp Carnival online, print your paperwork and bring to the Orientation. This will make your registration much faster and easier. For those going on your first cruise, you’ll be hooked forever!

  42. December 31 at 07:56AM

    We just wanted to say how great these tips are. We regularly refer our customers here to give them some ideas of ways to save money whilst onboard. It’s great that you mentioned about ordering multiple appetizers and desserts etc as this is something not many people know. It’s also great you mentioned about haggling for the price of your holiday, I work for a cruise agency called Cruise Nation and we always work with our customers get the price down to suit their budget. The last thing you want to do is book a holiday and then feel guilty about the cost so getting the price down as much as possible is key!

  43. December 31 at 09:53AM

    Interesting tips. Love cruising and we have been recently to Ensenada Mexico and we had a great time. We try to check in as early as possible as to check out you have no option but to wait for our turn. Also use the kids facilities as much as possible if you have small kids if you need to entertain a little bit without drinking too much then you would forget to pick up your kids.

  44. Susanne
    February 1 at 08:29AM

    Windstar was our first cruise, chosen by our Travel Agent who really knew us. She chose well. We have been on two more Windstars, a Carnival Splendor and a Norwegian Pearl. Windstar still ranks number one for privacy, intimacy (there are only 135 passengers) and service (there are 185 staff people) and the food is unbelievable. Scuba, snorkel, water ski, windsurf, banana boat etc. right off the back of the ship. There is no dress up for any meal. The Captain’s table is open to anyone that wants to dine with the Captain. Guests are free to tour the bridge. It is a 440′ four masted sailing ship. Brilliant cruising that spoiled us for massive amounts of people and cattle calls for disembarking on larger cruise lines.

  45. April 27 at 03:12PM

    Thanks for sharing your tips! My family and I will be going on our first cruise soon and we didn’t know what to expect. Now we have a little bit of a clue!

  46. August 15 at 09:02PM

    Another great way to save money on a cruise is to work with a knowledgeable travel agent. Most offer their booking services and tips at no additional cost to you, and some will even help you plan your entire trip! They can help you figure out the best time to go, which activities your family would be most interested in, and help you find any discounts that may apply to you. For Disney Cruises there are even agents who work specifically with Disney so they know all the best secrets!

  47. Donna T
    October 1 at 01:10PM

    One error that glars is the last minute booking. Book 1-2 years out as Early Saver and you will always pay the lowest fare offered (while getting the date and cabin you want). You will be discounted as the fare drops or get OBC if drops occur after payoff. We cruise ALOT and would never dream of booking last minute!

  48. Manuela
    November 28 at 09:47AM

    I am a heavy cruiser, well over 145 days at sea. I travel mostly with Carnival and I’m almost a Diamond member. I have cruised Norwegian, Celebrity and they all offer specials on a regular basis. But I have learned staying loyal with one cruise line will get you the most bang for your buck. All the topics listed above are true and I could add tons more. And I agree cruising is relaxing not to mention fun. It’s what you make of it. You can go all out or hide and relax and yes even on a ship with over 3,000 people. You get to decide what you want out of the cruise. Have fun and anchors away.

    • Teresa
      December 4 at 10:45PM

      Manuela, you know a lot about cruises, please give us more tips! I’ve never been on one but sooo want to vacation this way in the near future!

      • Manuela
        December 7 at 10:05PM

        Let’s see one of the most important person on the cruise ship is your cabin stewards. Besides the fact that all of them work 10+ hours a day and have to clean many rooms several times a day I value them the most. When I board the ship I test my steward by simply asking him for one extra hanger or an extra towel. If he gets it to me in a reasonable amount of time usually about 30-45 minutes. I will give him $$ a very generous tip. After which if I happen to need something he will be very eager to help me out. Now granted this does not mean that one should take advantage of their stewards. But there are times I may need something and it helps to have some extra help. Remember the staff works long and hard hours and get paid so much less than what we would ever work for. I always keep my room very clean which makes their job so much easier. Your primary waiter is another one you want to keep close to you. Oh and your cabana waiter. I’ve had waiters up on the deck that once they see me my drink arrives shortly after and I never have to worry about my towel being removed from my chair. Cruising is fun and can be very relaxing if you know where to go and where to hide on a ship. Ask me anything and I’ll try to answer if I have the answer. I know Carnival is coming out with a new ship in 2018 and I’m planning on being on it. I’ll be cruising with a lot of crew friends who will be opening the ship. Can’t wait. Hope this helps a little.

  49. January 13 at 08:42AM

    I feel like my husband and I are seasoned cruise travellers, and your information is spot on! We don’t spend a lot of time in the cabin, so we choose an inside cabin on the Carnival Vista for our last trip, in Oct 2016, the cost saving was substantial.
    I would say check the location of your cabin choice, depending on mobility of course, but the further away from the elevators the better. While most traveller are very respectful, the closer you are to the elevators the more traffic will be by your room.
    We pre-purchased a wine package; there was some savings compared to purchasing by the bottle or even the glass each night in the dining room. We were allowed to take two bottles of wine on board with us, with a small deck just a few steps from our door we could enjoy an after dinner glass of wine without the cost of restaurant prices.
    cruise critic as great information on the different ports regarding what to see and what to avoid.
    Enjoy the free activities that are offered; we particularly enjoyed the ballroom dancing and the art lectures, although the art auction was not something we attended. The shows were often quite crowded, so go early for a better selection of seats.
    We love cruising; with stressful jobs we want our holiday to be relaxing, once aboard the ship everything is taken care of! We have travelled with Carnival, Royal Carribbean, and Holland America, and have never been disappointed.

  50. January 31 at 01:25PM

    Thanks for mentioning that you should book a cruise as late as you can. That could help you ensure you get a good price! My wife and I have wanted to go on a cruise since we got married. We are finally going to make it happen this year! I will take your advice on when to buy our tickets, thanks!

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