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Cruising With Charm: Ports of Call

Back in January, I set sail again with Carnival Cruise Line. My mom and I boarded Carnival’s new ship, Carnival Vista, for an eight-day vacation through the Southern Caribbean. As you might guess, we made lots of fabulous memories – just what we needed to help us trudge through these last few weeks of winter.

While there are many reasons to love cruising, one of mine is the chance to visit the different ports of call. Typically, a multi-day cruise is made up of days at sea (the ship is just sailing over the vast ocean) and port days (the ship stops for an extended time at a beautiful, tropical location). With stops lasting anywhere from 6 to 10 hours, people have the opportunity to get off the boat and spend time relaxing on the beach, hitting up the local shops, or jetting off on an adventurous excursion. It’s the passenger’s choice.

I’ve been on quite a few cruises at this point, so today I thought I’d share a few tips for getting the most out of your port of call experience. Whether you’re planning to book a cruise or already have one scheduled, I hope you’ll find these suggestions helpful.

1. Plan Ahead
The Internet offers a wealth of information on every port of call. Do some research to figure out what the options are when you dock. Is there a beautiful beach nearby? A cool excursion you want to take? A must-see attraction? Planning ahead is the best way to get the most out of your visit.

Eagle Beach, Aruba

On my most recent cruise, I knew I wanted to go to Eagle Beach in Aruba. I had heard and read marvelous things about it, so it was a must for me. Before sailing, I researched its location, figured out how to get there (cab, public transportation, bicycle) and noted a few things nearby. Be sure to find out how much time you have at the port and plan accordingly. It’s very important to know your ship’s timetable to ensure you’re back on board before the ship leaves the dock.

2. Book an Excursion
If you’re not thrilled about planning your port of call experience yourself or are just not sure what to do at each destination, then you’re in luck. For every destination, Carnival has a selection of the best excursions so you can relax and focus on having fun.

La Romana, Dominican Republic

There are excursions for everyone. You can swim with the dolphins, explore ancient ruins, hop on a catamaran to go snorkeling, tour the local city, or just relax at a beach.

Once you book your cruise, check out the excursions available for each of your destinations to see what strikes your fancy. On our recent cruise, Mom and I felt adventurous and decided to zip line in La Romana in the Dominican Republic. I was so proud of my mom who managed 12 different zip lines through the jungle that varied in length and speed. I think she’s now a zip lining pro!

3. Try Something New
What I love about the hundreds of excursions that Carnival offers is that there is bound to be a lot of things I’ve never done before. For my Mom and I, zip lining was a new experience. Yours could be deep sea fishing, driving an ATV through the jungle, or even learning how to make salsa while salsa dancing. (Yes, that is an actual excursion, and it’s one that I greatly enjoyed.)

Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands

If it’s within your physical abilities, try something new and different. You never know what might become your next favorite thing. You’re on vacation after all, so why not?

4. Experience the Beach
Thanks to cruising, I’ve seen some incredibly beautiful beaches. In fact, when we stopped in Aruba and Grand Turk on this most recent cruise, I saw the bluest and clearest waters I’ve ever seen.

Eagle Beach, Aruba

If your perfect vacation is simply lounging on the beach, then that’s what you should do at each destination. Again, do your research and find the best and closest beach or book a beach excursion with Carnival. Be sure to note things such as public restrooms and places to grab a snack or rent beach chairs. Knowing this in advance will give you more time to enjoy those crystal clear blue waters.

5. Shop
As you might imagine, when a cruise ship with a couple thousand guests pulls into a port almost daily, there’s going to be some shopping. I don’t spend too much time shopping, but I do like to bring back a few souvenirs. (You can check out my post for decorating with travel souvenirs here.)

Willemstad, Curaçao

When possible, I like to find local shops that sell items that are handmade or indigenous to the area. Naturally, there are many tourist shops, and while those have their appeal, I prefer unique items.

Also, if shopping is high on your list, you should know that Carnival will have sessions to guide you through recommended shops prior to each port of call. Plus, they offer shopping guides, tips for finding the best deals, and even a few coupons. You can shop until you drop!

Miami, Florida

Bonus Tip: With all of this being said, it’s YOUR vacation, so do what works best for you. I will admit that there were days when I decided to stay on board and skip a port of call. (Usually, it was because I had already been there.) If your vacation goal is to relax, don’t feel guilty about parking yourself on a lounge chair with a cocktail and your favorite book. The choice is yours, and you have oodles of options for making the cruise the vacation you want and need. That’s one of the many things I love about cruising.

I hope you found these tips useful if you’re planning to set sail anytime soon. As always, safe travels and happy cruising!

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.