In February, Chris and I embarked on our very first CRUISE ever! Sadly, it was NOT a Disney cruise. We went on a Carnival Cruise to Baja California, and I’m happy to report that I very much enjoyed it! Cruises offer such a wide variety of activities and dining options, all at a VERY reasonable price. I am definitely looking forward to my next cruise – be it Carnival or otherwise!
However, there were a few moments where I was thrown for a loop and I wish I had looked in to what to do as a first time cruiser a BIT more before I boarded. So, here are 4 tips for first time cruisers to enhance your time on the ship.
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Assume You’re Going to Get Sea Sick
I naturally get a little nauseous on roller coasters and in the car, so I figured I was going to get a little seasick. I just didn’t realize HOW seasick I was going to get. Before leaving I purchased Dramamine, but even that wasn’t enough to stop me from getting VERY sick the first night. Part of the problem was that it was raining the first night, as well as the last night. The rain definitely makes the water much choppier, and you could feel EVERY movement of the boat.
Before leaving, I highly recommend you pick up the following anti-nausea trinkets. Yes, I recommend getting ALL of them. Some of them may not work for you, and buying them on the ship is much more expensive than buying them on Amazon!
My Top Picks:
- Dramamine – I recommend taking this BEFORE the ship gets underway for the evening. It is much more effective if you have it on board before the nausea actually hits you. Otherwise, if you try and take it after you’ve already started to feel nauseous, it may not work as well. There are many different types of Dramamine. Some of them cause drowsiness, and some are more “natural” alternatives. Full disclosure – I tried the natural one, with ginger, and didn’t feel like it did much for me.
- Anti-Nausea Wristbands – these wristbands apply pressure to a nerve that is supposed to help you keep seasickness at bay. Honestly? These worked better than the Dramamine for me! I recommend picking these up before you get on the ship because they were SUPER expensive in the shop on board. There is no harm in using these in conjunction with your Dramamine either. Fashionable? Maybe not, but who cares if you’re feeling better with them on!
- Anti-Nausea Patches – These handy patches are sticky and put on right behind your ears. I did not personally try these because they didn’t sell them in the shop on board, but I saw many people wearing them. The couple at the dinner table with us also had them on and said they were a great investment! Once again, these can be worn with other forms of anti-nausea preventatives to make your sailing experience more enjoyable.
Buy BEFORE Leaving!
Considering the cost of all those items COMBINED is only about $30, I would recommend picking up each of them before you go. If you’ve never sailed before, you may not know which one works best for you. This way, you’re not like me and have everything you need to keep from getting sick!
Budget by Bringing Both Cash AND Card
The appeal of Carnival Cruise was, naturally, the cheap ticket price. However, we knew that meant that everything that wasn’t included was going to have a charge associated with it. The most convenient way for us to purchase things was by using the card I had on file. The key card we had for our room key was used as a charge card, so we could put everything from coffee purchases to gift shop items on the account. However, there were a few instances that we needed cash, such as:
- Gambling in the casino – If you charge on your card for casino chips, you’ll get hit with a service fee. However, you can use cash for chips, just as you would in the casinos in Vegas. Additionally, drinks are not free in the casinos and require a card, but it was still nice to tip using cash for the waitresses.
- Exploring after Shore Excursions – Not only can you tip your bus driver for the transportation to and from the shore excursions, but it is helpful to have cash on hand to purchase things. Sometimes stands will not accept credit cards.
You can also add cash to your account, sort of like a prepaid debit card, if your cruise offers that service. They will let you know about these services when you check in if they’re available!
Either way, be sure you budget adequately for your trip. Be sure you have cash on hand for emergency purchases (like anti-nausea wristbands!) as well as enough to allow yourself to book shore excursions or activities if a charge is involved.
Don’t Stress About A Schedule!
I didn’t realize until I got on board that there is literally ALWAYS something going on during your cruise! I knew that shore excursions would be scheduled activities, and figured we’d hang out on the ship most of the time or look around at the shore stops when the boat was docked. While we did get out and check out Catalina Island and Ensenada on our cruise, we also spent a lot of time doing fun activities on board!
Chris and I LOVE trivia. Lucky for us, trivia was running almost every afternoon! They had a variety of themes, including Harry Potter and Friends themed trivia! They also had free shows running almost every night, and BINGO going most days as well. Some of the extra activities had a charge, but you can add those to your bill at any time. For example, there was a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast that we decided to do. It was only $5 per person, and with one call to the front desk, we were able to add it on. The flexibility provided on the cruises is unbelievable.
I also loved that most of the activities were offered on multiple days as well. Missed BINGO because the art auction was going on at the same time? Catch it the next day!
Prepare Adequately for Check In
Check in and out was definitely the most stressful part of the whole cruise. When you arrive at the cruise check in, be sure you have all your travel documents out and ready to go. Keep them on you and don’t put them away because there are MANY checkpoints that you need to pass through to get on the actual ship. This should include your reservation confirmation, an ID, and your passport. Additionally, you need to have your luggage tags on you if the cruise as provided them, as they will likely take your luggage from you to load separately on to the ship. I can’t tell you how many people wasted time trying to get their tags out of the bags when the bus dropped us off!
Getting on the Ship
Once the check in process is complete, you’ll most likely have free time on the ship if you arrived early. They will take your luggage when you arrive at the port, so you will only have your carry on bags with you. Still, it’s good to prepare and make sure you have enough things to keep you occupied. The Lido deck will likely be open for food, as well as the bars, to keep you busy, but remember you’ll still have your bags on you! Sometimes it can take a few hours for your bags to make their way to your room as well, so if you want, be sure to pack a change of clothes in your carry on bag. Chris and I headed to the bar, of course, and started our trip off right with a drink!
Finally, this should go without saying, but make sure your flight is either the day before you leave OR early enough that if there is a delay, you can plan for it! Yes, you’ll have some free time to roam the ship before you can go in to your room, but trust me – you’d rather have a few free hours of time to kill on the ship than cutting it close and possibly MISSING your cruise entirely! Check out my guide on how to find the BEST flights using travel credit cards here!
These following tips are nice things to know for first time cruisers. They’re not really advice, but just fun things for you to learn before you head on the boat!
- When you’re attending dinner, which is included in your ticket, you can order multiple dishes!
- You are allowed to bring bottled water and other soft drinks on to the boat, which I highly recommend, because it’s not sanitary to fill up water bottles with water from the bathroom sink. I recommend doing this, as the price of the water bottles are hiked up once your start your cruise.
- Bring portable chargers! There is usually only one or two outlets in each room, so make sure you have backup charging methods.
- Bring a fancy outfit, because they’ll have a fancy cocktail dinner one night during your cruise. People will get REALLY into it, but simple cocktail attire will do.
Do you have any other helpful tips for first time cruisers? Drop your favorite piece of advice for first time cruisers below! And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get blog updates and Disney newsletters sent straight your inbox!