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Whether or not you’ve been on a Carnival Cruise Line cruise before, these tips can help you maximize your cruise vacation by taking advantage of some resources you may not even know are available to you.
1. Make sure you use Carnival’s website.
Carnival’s website is a unique and expansive resource for your cruise. There, you can view a particular ship and read about all the amenities and venues it offers. Or, conversely, you can search for a particular bar or restaurant and view which ships it is available on. Carnival’s website even includes pricing for everything – whether you’re interested in booking a spa appointment, what drink packages are offered, how much Internet access at sea will cost, etc. There’s also an FAQ section for questions about things like kids programs, luggage, gratuities, and more. If you have a question about your cruise, there’s a good chance you can find the answer at carnival.com.
2. Study the ship’s layout.
Before you get onboard, find your ship’s deck maps – whether on Carnival’s website or via the handy ShipMate app – and try to get an idea for the flow of your ship. For example, although on many Carnival ships Deck 3 is the lobby of the atrium where you can find the Guest Services desk, many cruisers get confused because there’s no way to get to the back of the ship on Deck 3 due to the galley being located in the middle. Instead, cruisers have to go up to Decks 4 or 5 to be able to walk through to the aft. Studying the ship’s layout in advance will help you know little tricks like these beforehand so you don’t get turned around.
3. Sign up for the VIFP program.
If this is your first cruise with Carnival, be sure to take advantage of the benefits of being a loyal Carnival cruiser by enrolling in the VIFP (very important fun person) club – it’s free. You earn a point for every day cruised with Carnival (7-day cruise = 7 points), and the more you cruise with Carnival the more perks you receive, like stateroom category upgrades or even priority boarding.
4. Download the Carnival HUB app.
Currently available on almost every ship in the fleet, the Carnival HUB app is available to download on any smartphone or other similar device. The app does not require wifi, and it only works when you’re onboard. It allows you to access and view all the activities going on around the ship, as well as view the times that certain bars or spaces are open. It also keeps you on ship’s time, no matter where you are.
5. Bring limited cash on your cruise.
Once you’re onboard the ship, there’s no need for cash. All transactions will go through your Sign & Sail account, which will either be linked to your credit card or set up with a pre-paid amount of money. If you choose to do the latter and need to add money to your account or if you need more cash for the ports, there will always be an ATM on the ship. Otherwise, the only time you may need cash is to tip a tour guide on an excursion, or your porter at the cruise pier. As far as shopping in port goes, you can use your normal credit card for that (but be wary of international fees).
6. Make onboard purchases in advance.
No one likes standing in lines, so why stand in line onboard to book a shore excursion when you can do it online in advance? You can also purchase drink packages and book and pay for spa treatments or packages in advance as well. Also, paying in advance means the bill at the end of your cruise will be even less. Plus, the more you take care of ahead of time, the less you have to worry about on your vacation!
7. Make dining reservations in advance.
If you plan to dine at one of the specialty dining venues like the steakhouse or do The Chef’s Table experience, it’s best to book your reservations online in advance. This way, you can ensure that reservations don’t fill up before you get in and that you get the particular day and time that you want. It also means you’ll have one less thing to worry about once you’re onboard, and that’s always a plus!
8. Don’t overpack.
This is all too easy to do no matter the length of your cruise, especially since packing for a cruise can seem overwhelming. Between day wear, swim wear, evening wear, formal wear, and athletic wear, the possibilities of what you may need to bring on your vacation seem to add up quickly. Pack smart by choosing clothing items that are versatile for multiple activities, and save room in your suitcase by only bringing one or two pairs of dress shoes instead of 7 pairs of shoes to go with 7 different dinner outfits.
9. Come hungry.
As cruise lines increasingly lean into the trend of offering specialty dining venues with additional surcharges, Carnival continues to offer venues like Guy’s Burger Joint (from Food Network star Guy Fieri) and BlueIguana Cantina free of charge. Also on the free menu is the Pizza Pirate, Mongolian Wok, deli, and (as always) the buffet and main dining room. Many of Carnival’s newer ships also feature the new Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ or the similar Ol’ Fashioned BBQ spot – both also free. Of course, if all that isn’t enough for you, several Conquest-class ships now feature Seafood Corner, which is practically identical to the seafood shack on the new Carnival Vista, with à la carte pricing. Also priced à la carte is the popular Bonsai Sushi. Dining venues with flat feels are the steakhouse ($35), Cucina del Capitano (free at lunch; $15 at dinner), and JiJi’s Asian Kitchen (free at lunch; $15 adults, $5 kids at dinner).
10. Have FUN!
The word “fun” is practically a trademark of Carnival Cruise Line, and it’s exactly what you can expect: lots of entertainment shows, live music, and a variety of bars and dining venues. If you’ve never cruised before, you may encounter things on your vacation like lines on embarkation day or deck chair hogs on the lido. Don’t let these things take away from your own fun! Sit back, relax, order a Fun Ship Special, and leave your worries behind you.