Cruising Tips

Carry cash in small denominations

You’ll be expected to tip the bus driver (to and from the ship and on excursions), the person who handles your luggage and your tour guides, among others. Having a wad of one dollar bills will ensure you don’t have to wait for change and that you don’t over tip (e.g. you give them a five when they really earned $3). The other benefit of small bills will be evident when you go ashore to do some shopping. The price on everything you buy is negotiable and it’s easier to barter them down to ten bucks and simply hand them a ten rather than be seen standing there with a twenty in your hand.

Bring Your Own Power Strip

Your cabin on the ship only has one electrical outlet. I’m not kidding. If you bring your own power strip you’ll have plenty of outlets for charging your digital camera, cell phone, hair dryer, curling iron, computer, etc. We had all these things plugged in at the same time and never blew a circuit.

Book Your Own Flight (Or Have a Travel Agent Do It for You)

Planes are never on schedule. The one hour layover you think you have with the cruise’s package deal suddenly translates to several hours of stress when it becomes obvious that you will miss your connection, and in turn, your boat and your well deserved vacation. We had to sprint across terminals to make our connection (that plane was late, too…or we wouldn’t have even made it) and we barely made it to the ship (we were one of the last six people on the boat).

Get the Second Seating for Dinner

We asked for the second seating, but Carnival Cruise gave us the earlier 6:15pm seating. We felt rushed after our excursions to get back to the ship, shower and get ready all in under an hour. The 8pm seating would have given us some time to relax and enjoy a glass of wine before dinner. I’ve heard (too late) that you can ask the Maitre d’ on the first night to change your time if the cruise line does not honor your original request. On a 7 day cruise you’ll spend over 12 hours of your vacation at dinner…make sure you get what you want.

Bring a Travel Alarm Clock and Mini Flashlight

The Carnival cruise we were on didn’t have a clock in the room and so we never knew what time it was in the middle of the night. Plus, if we wanted to wake up early or take a nap, we had to rely on the ship’s wake-up service (and after some of our experiences, we didn’t feel we could trust them). Since you are in a one room cabin, if you have to get up in the middle of the night to do your business you wake up everyone in the room when you turn on the lights. Next time we’ll bring a small flashlight and keep it on the nightstand.

Bring a Knapsack

Bring a knapsack or bag that can serve as your beach/excursion bag…we brought a traditional ‘beach bag’ with small handles, but is was cumbersome to carry around while waking around the towns before/after the excursions. Something that could more easily be worn on my back or around my shoulder would have been much more comfortable.

Review Your Bill the Night Before You Leave

They will slip your bill under your door the night before you leave. It’s better to check for mistakes the night before so you can go down and take care of it right away…otherwise, you’ll be waiting in line with 200 other people in the morning and you will be stressing about whether you will make it to the airport on time for your flight home.

Buy a Rowenta Travel Iron

We saved 3 hours of ironing before the trip because we purchased this little gem. We just threw all of our stuff in the suitcase and worried about the wrinkles later. Your stuff is going to get wrinkled packed in suitcases anyway…why not just run a quick iron over it in your stateroom? It was only $30.

Bring 2 Bathing Suits

Bring two bathing suits as sometimes they don’t dry overnight and it feels nasty putting on a damp suit.

Bring Moisturizer

Don’t expect to find moisturizer in your stateroom amenities, bring your own. The sun will dry you out quickly…and you’ll need it. I can’t believe Vaseline® hasn’t made a deal with Carnival to provide free moisturizer…seems like a crazy missed branding opportunity.


Once you arrive at the airport where the ship is located, you’ll need to put special tags on your luggage so the cruise people can identify them on board. We brought along a little ‘mini stapler’ and had those bad-boys on in 5-seconds flat. It may seem insignificant in the reading here…but saving just those 15 minutes noodling around meant we were on the bus quicker and less stressed out. And in our case…15 minutes meant the difference between missing the ship, and our vacation!