We are a cruising family and I pride myself on knowing how to cruise well. But even the pros make mistakes and we made a fee on our recent cruise onboard the Carnival Freedom. Take our advice and don’t miss these 7 ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks that we learned by mistake recently.
Before we cruise, I review the cruise line website’s FAQs to determine what I can and can’t bring onboard. I make a list of outfits for each event for each kid (and myself of course). And I painstakingly pour through TripAdvisor reviews of all the ports to determine the best cruise excursions. Heck, I even put together this list of Top 50 Tips for Cruising with Family.
I am prepared to cruise y’all.
But even the most seasoned cruiser forgets some of the best tips before even stepping onboard the ship. During our most recent cruise onboard the Carnival Freedom, we made a few mistakes. Not anything that impacted our enjoyment we had, but easy to fix with a few helpful tips. Take heed my friends before boarding your next ship!
7 Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks
Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks: Check Your Luggage
Depending on the port you are leaving from, check to see if you can drop off your luggage before you park. We made the mistake of parking in the long term lot first and then schlepping all our bags over to the port terminal. In Galveston, you can check your bags and then go park – just make sure to arrive early enough.
Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks: Parking
Do your research on all the parking availability before heading to the port. Check out all the parking options online ahead of time. Many places offer parking discounts if you reserve online in advance. Don’t just settle for the first parking lot you come to.
Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks: Travel Day Dress
Dress comfortably for boarding the ship. There are many lines to wait in while boarding and it can take awhile, so don’t feel like you need to dress-up and look all “cruise chic” just yet. And the safety briefing, depending on where you have to muster, can be hot and tiring – no need to dress up! You will have time before dinner to look all fancy.
Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks: Ship Time
Make sure you keep your phones and watches on ship time – no need to confuse yourself on what time to get back to the ship. That said, be cognizant of what local port times are in case you have booked an excursion independently. We booked an excursion in the Grand Caymans and island time was an hour ahead of ship time, so just be aware. Excursions booked on the ship will always go by the ship time – no confusion there!
Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks: Try Something New
Since cruises are all-inclusive, this is our chance to try a new dish at dinner. This past cruise, our waiter was excellent and convinced me to not go with the steak but to try the lamb shank our second night. Having never eaten lamb, I didn’t know what to expect. Y’all, it was my favorite meal of the entire cruise!! From then on, I had him pick my dinner each night and it was SO MUCH BETTER than what I would have picked.
One evening, he even made me try the escargot (snails, y’all!!) and you know what? I liked them!
Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks: Excursions
When it comes to excursions, it is worth the extra cost to book an excursion through the ship. To have someone else completely make all the plans for you – transportation, tickets, snacks, etc. – is worth the extra cost in my eyes.
If that’s not a concern of yours – safety should be. We booked a zip lining excursion in Jamaica at a location that was about 30 minutes from the port. Montego Bay, Jamaica doesn’t have a lot of things to do, so if you are wanting to get off the ship, it’s easier to book an excursion. Our transportation was late to pick us up from the ship, which put us behind to begin with. We were just completing our zip lining when we were suppose to be back to the ship. But because the excursion was booked through Carnival, the company was in contact with the ship about our late arrival and there was no concerns with the ship leaving without us. If you book on your own, you do not have that assurance.
Ultimate Cruise Tips & Tricks: Disembarking
When you disembark on your last day, you are given 2 choices – get off the ship on your own with your luggage OR lave you luggage outside your door the night before and have an assigned time to get off the ship. The benefit to the first option is to get off before everyone else and have less of a line to wait at customs. The benefit to the second option is to take your time in the morning, eat one last meal on the ship and walk off without all your bags.
With 3 kids and 5 pieces of luggage, I opted for #2. We were group number 15 and it took us an hour from when they first started letting people off the ship (option #1) to get called – it sounds like a long time but it went by fast. And from the time we were called til we got on the road, it took us exactly 48 minutes – and that was getting through customs! The Galveston Customs was efficient.
And the fastest way to get to your vehicle in the other lot is to have your group wait with the luggage at the terminal and send ONE person to get your car. The line for the shuttle with everyone carrying their bags was terribly long, so I hopped on the “no-bags” shuttle, grabbed the car, and swung back around to pick everyone up. Super fast & easy!
I hope these 7 quick cruise tips & tricks help you on your upcoming cruise. If you have any more tips or ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!