As a recent cruise convert (I initially thought cruise ships were for tacky tourists that needed cattle prod), I have some wisdom to share for your ship to shore experience. I now “sea” the beauty of cruising, you are aboard a floating hotel transporting you from one fabulous port of call to the next, no worries, no work, with the bonus of fun and fabulous food onboard. Cruise tips:
1. The ship matters so do your research. Carnival is great for families – it truly is “the fun ship” with loads of activities and venues for everyone from toddlers to teens. Royal Caribbean is making beautiful ships with unique features like rock walls and flow riders, Central Park and multi story Promenades, even cantilevered hot tubs overlooking the sea. I have yet to experience Holland America, Princess, or Windstar but these lines sound very classy if not as crazy on the entertainment scale. Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean have countless nightlife options aboard from piano bars to discos and nightly shows.
2. Don’t pack too much clothing. You don’t need six pair of shoes and three pair of jeans. Staterooms just aren’t that big for huge suitcases, so you’re best off coordinating your outfits ahead. That being said, it is tradition to dress for dinner, especially formal night, so plan some elegant , or rent a tux on the ship for about $90.
3. Get to know the crew – these people will be your extended family for the next few days (and the providers of service). Living aboard the ship is an internationally diverse staff, all miles and months away from their home working tireless hours. They genuinely enjoy interacting with passengers (and getting tips at the end of your cruise). We danced with our headwaiter, conga lined with the cruise director, worked out with the show dancers and learned to fold towels into funny animals from our stateroom attendant.
4. Disconnect and don’t pay for the internet or cell phone service. Turn off your devices since roaming fees can be ridiculous, and instead chat with your ship mates. Our teenage daughter enjoyed her withdrawal from facebook and texting – meeting kids from the UK, the Cayman Islands, Canada, Italy and Germany. I give that a big “like”.
5. Get involved with the Cruise ship planned activities, shows and games – that’s part of the experience even if it means you look goofy or find yourself in a line dance (I have serious disdain for line dancing but I got up out of my lounge chair and found myself laughing doing the electric slide). You won’t likely see these people again – so go for it! What happens on the ship stays on the ship – unless you buy the DVD.
6. Know that there will be linesgetting on & off the ship, for dinner seating and show times, etc. Logistics exist on a ship shuttling 3,000 people around – you will have moments of mayhem and patience is an important virtue to possess here – talk with your fellow travelers to pass the time, and marvel at how the cruise industry manages thousands of people every week – turning over an entire ship in port in just hours.
7. Send your kids to the organized kids camp on the first day – they will meet friends and have more fun, making for a better trip for everyone. Remind them that they are in the same boat (ha literally)not knowing anyone. The counselors do a fantastic job engaging the kids and offering supervised activities, and it’s all included in your cruise fee. Our kids went reluctantly the first night and then we had to schedule time with them since they were so busy with new friends. Check out the age categories, since Carnival for example adheres strictly to their age brackets and cards kids for the 15-17 year old Club O2.
8. Be prepared for a big bar tab, drinks add up at $7 each and they flow daily on trays from 10am till 1am. It’s so easy with your sign and sail card, you don’t need any cash and you don’t think twice about buying that beautiful Pina Colada served by the pool. Unlimited drink packages are about $50 day, Wine packages and soda fountain cards at $30 a day, are available and can be wise.
9. Don’t get too carried away at the buffet. The Spa and Fitness director told me the average cruiser gains a pound a day, I found that shocking till I witnessed the buffet beaters at breakfast, lunch and dinner, later snacking on the 24-hour pizza and soft service ice cream, plus the midnight buffet. Hit the gym, usually in the scenic bow of the ship with state of the art equipment and hourly fitness classes.
10. Get off the ship in port, stretch your sea legs, and explore new land. There are numerous excursions offered through the cruise or you can just stroll the shops or catch a cab to the nearest beach club. Think of the ship as your floating hotel, you unpack once but travel to exciting new ports of call each day. You can get back on board anytime. Note: the ship does offer spa discounts when in port to tempt you to stay on the ship. See our Cruise ship ports reviews of Labadee, Haiti – Royal Caribbean’s Private Island, Castaway Key, and Roatan Honduras and Cozumel Mexico.
Read on about Cruise Vacations for your family:
Carnival’s family fun ships
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum – Anthem of the Seas
Cruising Royal Caribbean’s Freedom
Azamara Cruiseline in the Adriatic – the ultimate adults cruise
MSC Divina Cruise Review
Cozumel Mexico Cruise Excursions
Labadee, Haiti – Royal Caribbean’s Private Island
Roatan Honduras Cruise Ship Port Review
Fort Lauderdale Cruise Ship Port Review
Port Miami Cruise Ship Review