Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cruising 101

For many of you this is not just your first Backstreet Boy cruise, but this is your first cruise period. So I wanted to put together a list of my most important cruise tips, tidbits, and recommendations. For many of these categories I’ve already given a full run down in previous posts, but here is the cliff notes version of the tips I think are most important. Plus a few new ones as well.

  • If possible, arrive a day early. Too many things can go awry with flights so it’s nice to give yourself a little buffer. That ship will not wait for you if you’re late.
  • Make sure you have all your passports/visas/ID/documentation all set to go as soon as possible.
  • Approximately 2weeks prior to boarding you should get an email from Rose Tours instructing you to “check in” for your cruise and print out your Fun Pass, which acts as your boarding document for the cruise. Don’t forget this!
  • Plan for all sorts of weather. Yes, you’re in the Caribbean but you’re on the water thus it gets chilly at night on the deck or in the main theaters.
  • Think about what you want in your carry on. Similar to a flight, you have the option to check some of your luggage and Carnival will deliver your suitcases directly to your room. If you choose this option, make sure you pack items in your carry on that you will need those first few hours aboard. For example, if you want to get your door decoration up right away, make sure you have everything you need with you. Or if you want to take a dip in the pool right away, take your swimsuit.
  • Despite my massive packing list, my biggest tip is to not over pack. Consider exactly what you will need and want you want to wear for each event. Pack no more, no less.
  • Finally, don’t stress too much about packing! There are shops on board that will contain some of the essentials you may have missed. Plus there are tons of other friendly girls who would be more than willing to lend you a hair dryer should you forget.

  • Get to the port early- While they instruct you to get there between 1 or 2 and don’t set sail until 5pm; they will almost always let you board between 11-12.
  • Bring proof of citizenship and a credit card/cash deposit. Also make sure your name matches exactly with what Carnival/Rose Tours has on file. I’ve seen newlyweds not able to get on the ship because their documents didn’t match.
  • You will be issued a Sail and Sign card which acts as your room key acts, ID while on board, as well as a ship charge card. But like with any credit card, you have to pay it off at the end of the cruise.
  • Tipping- Don’t worry about it! Tipping for any of your cabin stewards or dining room staff is already covered in your Rose Tours fees. And if you’re getting drinks at the bar, Carnival automatically adds 15% to your bill. No need to double tip.
  • Most everything is included in the cost of your cruise EXCEPT for soda, alcoholic drinks, specialty dining, spa treatments, internet, casino (bingo), excursions, and shopping. 
  • Make a budget so you don't overspend.
What to do first
  • You can’t go to your room until 3:00 or so thus keep this in mind when deciding what to do because you may have your bags with you.
  • Stepping on the ship can be daunting especially if its your first cruise so I recommend you get a lay of the land and take a quick tour of the ship when you get on board.
  • Lifeboat drill- You are required to do this the first afternoon, no way around it. Only lasts about 15 minutes though.

    Just as much fun as it looks
  • Expect a small room, even if you booked a suite. Cruise cabins are not comparable to a hotel room.
  • If you have an interior room, remember you won’t have any natural sunlight. I like to change the TV to the channel that is a live stream of a camera from the bridge so I have some resemblance of sunlight.
  • Be prepared for the fact that there aren’t many outlets in the room.
Contacting Home
  • There are computers/internet available on board but at a very steep rate.
  • Cell Phones- Typically you won’t get a signal when at sea, but once we are in port you should be okay. Just check with your cell carrier about roaming rates before you leave, so you are fully prepared. I typically turn my cell phone off the entire trip to avoid roaming charges.

    Internet Cafe on the Carnival Imagination
  • Food is free and plentiful. The quality is debatable, but personally I enjoy it. I’d recommend you take advantage and try new foods. If you don’t like anything, you won’t be going hungry.
  • Take advantage of the free beverages. They include lemonade, ice tea, water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate. During breakfast they will also have cranberry juice, orange juice, apple juice, and grapefruit juice.
  • There are usually specialty bakeries or coffee shops that will charge extra, but I find there are plenty of good free options.
  • If you drink a lot of soft drinks, buy a soda card. You pay a flat fee for the entire cruise and can get unlimited drinks.
  • Room service- Its free on a cruise so why not order some pancakes to be delivered to your room as a wakeup call? I wish I could do that at home.
  • Talk to the maitre d if you have any special dietary restrictions.
What to do on Board
  • Backstreet Boys, duh! Though I don’t think we really need a tip for this.
  • There will also be shops, a casino, a spa, a gym, night clubs, pools and more.
  • Ugh, my least favorite part. Be prepared to leave EARLY! They typically want you off that ship around 8am. There is usually time to squeeze in a quick breakfast though.
  • Review your bill before you leave. Last year they accidentally charged me for my roommates expenses. It’s easier to take care of when you’re still there.
  • You have 2 choices for disembarkation. Self-debarkation is when you bring your luggage off the ship yourself, allowing you to leave when you want. Your second choice is assisted debarkation, which is where Carnival will carry your luggage off the ship for you. With this option, you need to place your luggage out the night before and you are also at the mercy of when Carnival calls your section to leave in the morning. I always do and recommend self-debark unless you need assistance carrying your luggage. And if you have an early flight to catch, definitely do self-debark.


  1. laura, i dont know what youre talking about...lifeboat drill, not fun? come on now...i LOVE putting on my orange life vest and heading for my muster station...haha!!!! =)

    these are some great tips!!! awesome entry per usual!!!