• Rachael Dowling

9 Tips If You've Never Been On A Cruise...

Remember that time you got married... and were so broke, you never took a honeymoon?

Oh yeah. That was just us.

Even though it took us 10 years to finally take our honeymoon trip, it was so worth it! As people who had never been on a cruise before, these are the 9 tips I wished I would have know before...

View from our balcony, Key West, Carnival Cruise

*We traveled with Carnival Cruise. So, these tips might not exactly apply to another cruise line. But I'm sure they're still relevant.

Number 1: Bottled Water When booking your trip, you'll be given the option to add things to your stateroom. Fresh cookies, a fruit basket, champagne, decorations... But whatever you add... GET THE PACK OF WATER!! Yes, you can get free cups of water on the ship. But if you're looking for bottled water to take with you when you dock, this is the best deal.

image by jarmoluk, pixaby, bottled water
image by jarmoluk, pixaby, bottled water

Number 2: Coffee Fix If you're a coffee addict, and need your daily fix... FEAR NOT!! You can find a regular cup of Joe 24/7 for free! Along with lemonade, fruit juices, and tap water (ice too). But if you're looking for a speciality coffee... Like the ones served with the fancy green straws, stop by the Coffee Cafe! These speciality coffees do come with a price tag... but when you're at sea, these simple pleasures are well worth it.

The cafe uses Ghirardelli Chocolate shop coffee and has the most amazing deserts! Check out these awesome chocolate cakes we found for under $4.00! They were so amazing to look at, people were stopping and asking where we found them! But, before you leave... don't forget to grab a punch card! You're daily coffee treat could earn you a free drink!

Number 3: Is It Crowded? If you go on the "off season" or midweek, it's really not that crowded. Before we left, I did some cruise research. The blogs I read left me in tears and panic.

We went on our cruise in Mid-April. It was after Easter. And after Spring Break. We also opted for a Monday through Friday cruise... And with school still in session, there weren't many families aboard the ship.

Don't believe me? Here's a photo I snapped of the main pool deck at noon...

Carnival Cruise, Poolside, Cruise Tips
Carnival Cruise, Poolside, Cruise Tips

See! Open lawn chairs. 6 people in the pool. No crazy lines at the bar. This was a totally manageable crowd.

Number 4: No Free Stuff A cruise ship is not like a hotel. If you forgot something at home, be prepared to pay for it.

While packing my bag, I left my razor at home. And dental floss. And my hubby forgot his toothbrush. Oops! Easy mistake. On the second day, I walked down to the concierge desk and asked if they had any razors or toothbrush I could take.

I received a polite, "No, we don't. but you can check the ship's store."

Hmmmm... Odd. But, okay!

WOAH! Do not go to the ship's store unless it's an emergency. A razor cost $17 and a toothbrush was almost $10 (and I'm not talking anything fancy).

Luckily, that morning, we docked in Key West, FL. There was a Walgreens and a CVS Pharmacy within walking distance. Phew. Crisis averted. And, can I just say, the prices at CVS never seemed so reasonable!

Walgreens, Key West FL, Drug Store

Carnival Cruise, Eating Food, Always Hungry

Number 5: When Do You Eat? When on vacation, we're very laid back people. No 6:00AM wake ups for me! For us, a late dining time was preferred! We originally had an 8:00PM dining time, and I panicked and changed it.

That was a bad move.

Generally speaking, we at breakfast around 9:30AM, lunch around 1:00pm, and dinner at 8:00PM.

The ship has food available 24/7, so there's no need to worry about being hungry.

Number 6: Get A Sim Card and Data Plan from your Cell Phone Provider When booking our trip, the agent on the phone assured us there was nothing to worry about. Even stating that "There are phones in your room to keep in touch with family."

While there is a phone in your room to keep in touch, it's gonna cost you... about $2 a minute to make a phone call. Totally didn't know that UNTIL the bill came.

There is internet service on the ship, but you have to pay for that as well. You can use the Carnival Cruise App all you want - that's free. But if you feel the need to connect with people on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Checking Emails, etc.) you have to buy the internet package.

I was told the ship had computers available to use - but you still need to pay for internet. On the plus side, it's truly a no-work vacation, right?

We didn't purchase the internet plan - and it was pretty easy to find Wifi when we docked.

Number 7: No Quite Hours Maybe it's because we traveled with Carnival - known as the party ship - but there were no quiet hours.

And, don't get me wrong, I'm the first person on the dance floor... and totally rock an adventurous spirit! Seriously, have you seen my crazy colored hair?

I'm the last person to care about people walking or running in the hallways. But the ship's overhead announcements could be heard from 6:00AM - 12:00AM. With a loud speaker in your room, it was a little much.

Number 8: The Ship's Time Changes As You Travel This is SUPER important if you plan on taking any excursions - or if you want to make the most of your time when you dock.

If you ship passes through different time zones during your trip - the ship's time changes too!

Number 9: Find Out What Side You Dock On! I'm not sure if every ship docks on the port (left) side... But ours did! So, we had our room on the starboard (right side). And I'm so glad we did!

When we docked, we had a lovely view to look at. Not to mention, no one could see us. Even if we didn't leave our room, we could still enjoy the ocean view.

All in all, we had a great experience with Carnival Cruise - and we're planning to travel with them again!

Hopefully these tips have helped you plan your vacation too - if you have more tips that I missed, comment below, and I'll add them!

#carnivalcruise #tipsforacruise #firsttimecruise #Ghirardelli #whattobringonacruise