When it comes to vacations, usually I’m game for almost anything. As long as I have a drink in hand, and I’m near the beach or a body of water, I’m happy. Over the past few years, I’ve discovered a love for cruising.
Carnival Breeze docked in St. Maarten.
With a few cruises under my belt in partnership with my friends at Carnival Cruise Line, I thought I’d share my top tips for cruising. Whether you’re a first timer or an experienced cruiser, I think these ideas will help you have the vacation of a lifetime and take advantage of all the benefits of cruising.
Choosing a Cabin
On cruise ships, there are many stateroom options. There’s something for everyone, from an interior cabin (inside the ship, no windows) to a suite (includes a balcony and has more space). Before selecting your cabin, think about how you will use your cabin. If you like lots of quiet time by yourself, a balcony or suite might be a perfect option. However, if you’re more of a social person and plan to take advantage of every amenity the cruise offers, an interior room could work perfectly for you.
Caribbean Sunset on Carnival Breeze.
I’ve always opted for a balcony because I like to look out on the water when I sip my morning coffee. However, I was talking with a couple on my last cruise who always choose interior rooms. They don’t spend much time in their room so purchasing an interior room allows them to save money and take more cruises. (I’d easily give up my balcony for another cruise each year.)
PRO TIP: Be honest with yourself about how you will use your cabin and go from there. Keep in mind that with all the ship has to offer, you’ll probably spend less time in your room than you think.
Unless you are naturally a light packer, you will not wear everything you pack. I promise. Even after five cruises, I still haven’t learned this lesson, but I’m trying. Again, what you pack depends on how you plan to enjoy your cruise. For a typical day at sea, I’ll start with breakfast, take a walk or exercise a bit, lounge at the pool or on deck, and then go to dinner and evening activities. That means I’ll need attire for the morning, my swimming suit (which I’ll wear most of the day), and another outfit to wear for a few hours at night. One thing I love about Carnival is that you can get away with being pretty casual if you wish. Meaning, if you’re a guy, you could spend the whole day in a swimming suit and t-shirt and then dress up for dinner.
Swimming on Carnival Breeze docked in St. Maarten.
Sand Beneath My Toes in St. Marteen.
For me, the less luggage I have to haul around, the better. So I suggest choosing things you can wear multiple times in different ways to get a variety of looks. Also, keep in mind that there are usually a couple formal nights on the ship. While you don’t need a tuxedo or long gown, do plan to bring something a bit dressy for these evenings. Besides, who doesn’t love dressing up every once in a while.
PRO TIP: Take fewer shoes. Try to find a pair of sandals, casual shoes, and dressy shoes that will go with all of your outfits. This will eliminate the need to pack something to match every color.
Typically, a cruise consists of sea days and port days. On a sea day, you’ll be on the ship sailing to your destination. On a port day, you’ll be at a beautiful location with the opportunity to leave the ship and explore. Getting off the ship is optional. Most ports have shopping and activities right as you exit the ship. You also have the opportunity to book excursions which take you a bit farther from the ship. These activities range from a relaxing getaway to a secluded beach to touring a nearby town to zip lining through the forest. I highly recommend planning ahead to find the excursion that works best for you. Read up on your adventure before booking. I like to check reviews of the excursion, the activity level, and how far it is from the ship.
View from the Top. Gondola Ride in St. Thomas.
Cabana Life in Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.
PRO TIP: Port days are great and people love getting off the ship. If you’re looking for a more relaxing day and aren’t interested in the particular port, keep in mind that the ship will be pretty quiet since most people have disembarked. This is an opportune time to find the perfect lounger and settle in with a good book.
Explore the Ship
During the first day or two of the cruise, set aside time to fully explore your ship. Walk around every floor, check out all of the exterior decks, find all of the restaurants and bars, etc. Not only will this help you to get comfortable with the layout of the ship, but you’ll be able to plan which places you want to visit.
Checkmate. Deck 5 – Promenade Carnival Breeze.
With so much to do and see on every ship, you’d be amazed how much you can miss if you don’t explore. For example, on my last cruise, I didn’t realize there was an outdoor deck on the fifth floor until halfway through our voyage. It turned out that I really liked that deck and spent a lot of time there once I found it.
Golden Hour. Deck 5 – Promenade – Carnival Breeze.
String Trio in the Breeze Bar – Carnival Breeze.
Also, if you enjoy a few libations while on vacation, you can look into the bars on the ship. Two of my favorite Carnival bars are the Alchemy Bar and the bar in the lobby area. However, get a feel for the atmosphere of all of the bars on your ship and see what you like best or what matches your mood.
PRO TIP: I love exploring the ship with my camera during the “golden hour.” This is the hour when the sun is either rising or setting. The light is beautiful and golden which creates the perfect backdrop for stunning photos.
Speaking of exploring, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of your ship’s specialty restaurants. For a nominal fee, these specialty restaurants are designed to offer exceptional, personalized dining experiences.
Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse on Carnival Breeze.
Carnival Breeze Atrium View.
On my last cruise, I visited Fahrenheit 555 (steakhouse), Cucina del Capitano (Italian), and Bonsai Sushi. While all were delicious, my favorites were the steakhouse and sushi restaurant. The service and presentation at Fahrenheit 555 was at the level you find at a fine dining steakhouse. I also loved my meals at Bonsai Sushi. (Yes, I went a few times.) Living in Central PA, it’s a challenge to get good sushi, so I took advantage of it on the ship. The rolls are made to order, and everything is delectable.
Depending on your ship, you’ll also want to check out the Taste Bar which offers samples from the ship’s various restaurants so you can get a taste of their menus.
PRO TIP: Plan ahead and book your reservations as soon as possible. This will allow you to get the dining time that works in your schedule.
My final tip is to say “hello.” Granted, your goal for your cruise may be to relax and enjoy quiet moments by yourself. However, I recommend meeting some new folks while on your cruise. On each of the cruises I’ve been on, I’ve become acquainted with at least a few of my fellow passengers, some of whom I still stay in touch with via social media. Not only is it fun to meet new people and share this experience, but other cruisers can be a source of really helpful information.
Lido Deck Fun in the Sun on Carnival Breeze.
Just by talking to people, I’ve learned about good excursions, new drinks to try, and the best shows to attend. It pays to interact with others on the ship.
Totally Tubular. Carnival Breeze WaterWorks.
Sail Away. Carnival Breeze docked in St. Thomas.
I also think it’s important to use your cruise to “say hello” to new things. You’d be amazed at the new foods you can try, new adventures you can take, and new experiences you can have. With not much to lose, take advantage of all of the things this vacation has to offer. Even if you don’t end up loving every new thing you try, you won’t regret the adventure. And who knows? Maybe zip lining in the woods, riding waterslides, singing karaoke, or swimming with the dolphins could be your new favorite thing!
PRO TIP: Engage with the cruise staff as well. Over the week you’ll build wonderful relationships with your room stewards, bartenders, and waiters. By the end of the week, they’ll know your name, drink orders, etc. This really adds to the whole experience.
Caribbean Dreaming. Carnival Breeze docked in St. Maarten.
While I could talk about cruising for days and offer lots of ideas for making your next cruise the best possible adventure, it’s been my pleasure to share my top tips with you. I hope you found them helpful.
This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.