I've been on many cruises over the last few years and wanted to share some tips that I've learned along the way going on all these cruises. These are mostly based on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. Here's my top 10 tips:
1. Book With a Travel Agent. I always wondered why people still use travel agents and now I know why! With cruises, you get a little bonus of receiving an on-board credit and sometimes additional extras such as free wine. For a 4-day Carnival cruise, I got a $25 on-board credit and for a 4-day Royal Caribbean cruise, I got a $100 on-board credit plus gratuities were paid for and the agent sent me a coupon book for additional savings. I use Crown Cruise Vacations and they are awesome!
2. Park Off Site. There are plenty of off site parking lots near the cruise ports that are much cheaper. You’ll save at least 30% in parking costs.
3. Bring a Hat and Sunscreen. Even if it's cloudy, the sun is brutal out in the middle of the ocean. Make sure you protect your skin with sunscreen and/or a hat.
4. Get a Balcony Room. If your budget allows, get a balcony room. The rooms are typically larger and your deck is usually in a great location not too far from the main events. You’ll also get to enjoy more of the beautiful views right from your room.
5. Get the Drink Package. Drink packages are great, especially if you’re on a short cruise. If you drink 5 or more drinks in a day, it’ll be well worth it. If you figure you have a Bloody Mary in the morning, sodas for lunch, frozen drinks by the pool, wine for dinner and more drinks in the casino, bars, and nightclubs, you’re already looking at 6-7 drinks a day. Plus, it gives you piece of mind and won't have to worry about how much your bill is going to be at the end of the cruise.
6. Do Not Get the Internet Package. In our experience, the internet service was VERY slow. We could barely check our email and forget about uploading photos. Plus, you’re on the cruise to relax! Unless it’s absolutely necessary, I would stay away from purchasing the internet package.
7. Eat Breakfast Early or Late. If you arrive to the breakfast buffet around prime time (9am-10am), you’re stuck in the mad frenzy of hungry people. The lines are crazy for live stations, such as fried eggs and omelettes, and it is very difficult to find an open table. The crowd is pretty insane. To avoid these crowds, arrive at the buffets early at 8am or late at 10am. It’s much more enjoyable without all that madness.
8. Grab Your Beach Chairs Early. You’ll want to grab a beach chair first thing in the morning if you want to get some rays, especially on Sea Days. They get snatched up pretty quickly and are almost impossible to find by the time it’s 11am. Once you grab a beach chair, make sure you’re able to keep an eye on it or don’t stay away for too long. We saw people just snatch chairs that already had towels on them.
9. Avoid Long Lines at the Popular Bars. Popular bars on the boat, such as the pool bars and lobby bars, are the busiest and can take forever to get your drink. Avoid the wait by making a few extra steps to one of the quiet lounges, like the Viking Crown on the Royal Caribbean. You’ll save so much time AND get better drinks. The bartenders in the quiet lounges tend to mix the drinks way better.
10. Attend the Love and Marriage Show. This is one of the best entertainment shows on the boat. They usually choose a newlywed couple, a couple who’s been together for about 10-20 years, and an older couple. Their answers are always hilarious, especially from the older couple. Guaranteed you’ll be laughing throughout most of the show.
Do you have any additional tips? Let us know in the comments below!