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39 Carnival Cruise Tips



There are people out there who will tell you that all cruise lines are the same. But we’re here to tell you that they’re wrong. And while some pieces of advice are true no matter what line you cruise on – such as “don’t overpack” – others are going to be unique to the line you’re sailing. So what tips would we give to those who are sailing on Carnival Cruise Line for the first time?

Here are 39 Carnival cruise tips.

1. Pricing depends on the time of year.

Carnival carries over 700,000 kids per year, so it should be known that you can expect premium pricing when school is out. As is with most cruise lines, pricing is set based on supply and demand.

2. Set price drop alerts.

A feature that launched a couple years ago is that you can now monitor your cruise rate by putting in your price and sail date. You’ll automatically get an email if the price rises or falls more than one percent.

3. Buy travel insurance.

Travel insurance is something you don’t think you need until you really need it. It costs a fraction of your cruise price and delivers an unbelievable amount of protection against delays, cancellations, lost baggage, and injury. Every policy should be read thoroughly. The cruise line insurance policies are blanket policies covering a group of people. You’re better off exploring options from a third party travel insurance company like

4. Get Faster to the Fun.

For a set fee per cabin, you can board the cruise ship first and go straight to your room. The rooms aren’t typically ready until 1:30 pm. You also get priority tendering, disembarkation, and dining reservations. Faster to the Fun rates start at $49.95 for three and four-day cruises. One price includes everyone in your cabin.

5. Bring plenty of $1 bills.

Take extra singles to allow yourself to tip baggage porters, taxi drivers, buy a bottled water in port, or extend a gratuity to your guide.

6. Midship cabins have less motion.

There’s less motion in the ocean if you book a cabin closer to the center of gravity. On a cruise ship that would be midship and lower level. Picture it like a seesaw, the more outward you are, the more you move. Find Carnival Cruise Line deck plans here.

7. Take a picture of where you park.

It doesn’t matter if you park at the pier or at an offsite parking lot; make sure you take a photo of where you’re parked. Keep in mind that while you’re gone, ships can be coming and going, so the same cars might not be around when you get back. It’s better to photograph something more permanent like signage.

8. Watch the sunrise and sunset.

The best sunrises and sunsets can be seen at sea. There is nothing around you but water; no city lights, no buildings. Just you and the sea.

9. Purchase luggage tag protectors.

It wouldn’t hurt to pick up some luggage tag protectors from Amazon. These plastic sleeves protect your bag from having the luggage tag torn off in the process of getting from the pier to the ship.

10. You can take cans of soda onboard.

You can’t take bottled water or sodas onboard anymore, but no one says you can’t take cans of soda. Load up with your favorite 12 pack of soda before you get on the ship. You’ll pay about $2.50 per can once onboard.

11. Take half the clothes you think you need.

Yes, we mentioned it earlier, but it’s true. No one changes that much on a cruise. You are going from one place to another so much that you don’t have time to get all dolled up… except for on elegant night, of course.

12. Writing your own breakfast order doesn’t work.

Don’t try to write a specialty order down for the room service breakfast menu. You’ll get a kind note saying that it is not offered. Don’t go off the menu when room service is concerned!

13. The chef can make any appetizer an entrée.

I recently learned that if I REALLY like an appetizer, I can request it as an entree. So if you really like the escargot or one of the pasta starters, ask for it as your main course.

14. Sleep with bridge cam on.

This is mostly for cruising in an interior room. You can set your channel to the bridge cam so when the sun rises, you’ll be awake with the sunlight.

15. The cruise line hold funds on your debit card.

Depending on how long your cruise is, determines how much money the cruise line will hold on your debit card. For instance, on a recent three-night cruise, they held $100. By the end of the cruise it was balanced out and the debit hold was lifted.

16. Buy souvenirs early and wait for sidewalk sales.

Before you buy the t-shirt, watch, or whatever must-have you find on your cruise, ask the port shopping guide or the store clerk if there’s going to be a sidewalk sale. Oftentimes you’ll see the watches marked down 75% or the shirts two for one. These sidewalk sales typically happen on sea days, but double check to make sure!

17. Some specialty venues offer free lunch.

Most of the specialty venues onboard charge a nominal fee to have dinner. For example, the steakhouse will run you $35. For a complimentary meal outside of the main dining room at lunchtime though, check Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, Ol’ Fashioned Barbeque, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, or Cucina del Capitano for a large selection of pastas.

18. Porters have an express disembarkation line.

If you set your luggage outside your door on the night before debarkation, find a porter to help you get your bags and take them to your car. Baggage porters work on tips and normally have an express disembarkation line that could be ten times shorter than the general line everyone else is waiting in.

19. Don’t miss the sea day brunch.

Every sea day Carnival has a sea day brunch that has everything from soup, steak, eggs, and french toast to signature dishes and even bar service! The hours are normally from 8:30 am to 1 pm. You can see the Sea Day Brunch menu here.

20. Try the banana split.

A secret menu item that is only available on the kid’s menu is a banana split. Depending on the mood and how nice you are to your servers, they may just get adults one too if you ask.

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21. Late dining is more fun.

The servers seem to be a little more relaxed during late dining because they aren’t under pressure to get you fed and out the door before the next seating comes in. The late dining servers also seem to let loose and be a little more talkative.

22. Watch out for the free seminars.

Be wary of anything that is offered for free on the ship. There is barely such a thing as free. There is also a catch at the end or a high-pressure sale. If you think you’ll cave under those kind of sales tactics, consider sitting the seminar out.

23. Swap your used beach towels.

If you take the towel off the ship or use it by the pool and want to swap it for a new one, there are stations to do so. There’s a towel swap station when you first get back on the ship after security and also by the lido deck pool.

24. They have a lot of gluten-free options.

Carnival has more gluten-free options than you might think. Pizza crust, hamburger buns, cake, even beer! Ask your head waiter or buffet attendant for the options.

25. Get an early Dive-In Movie seat.

If you’re planning to watch a movie outside on the big screen, grab an early seat. Some of the best seats are around the pool and on the riser part of the lido deck. If you sit on the sides you’ll have people walking in front of you throughout the whole movie.

26. Eat breakfast and lunch in the main dining room.

For the full dining experience, head to the main dining room for breakfast or lunch. You’ll have a nice selection and portion control.

27. Plan your specialty venues in advance.

Know what specialty dining venues you want to go to before you board the cruise. On embarkation day they have representatives from all of the venues set up around the ship and let you book on the spot. If you want to book the Chef’s Table, this can be done by visiting guest services on embarkation day.

28. Take photos right when the photographer opens.

Try to get your photos taken when the photographer first opens or before he closes. The mad rush is in between; my last cruise had a 30 minute wait to get elegant night photos.

29. Locate the quiet spot on deck 6 forward.

Most of the Carnival ships have a couple decks on the forward part of the ship that are accessible by walking all the way forward and going through the side doors. No one knows about these spots and they’re almost always empty. If you prefer a quiet sailaway, check out these spots.

30. Pay attention to the lunchtime hours.

The lunch hours can surprise you. Don’t assume that a venue is always open. Some venues are only open for 2.5 hours for lunch, others are open six hours. Check your Fun Times before grabbing food so that you aren’t disappointed.

31. Allow extra time to get to the dining room.

Dinner hours can be a mad rush on the promenade. Give yourself a few extra minutes to get to the main dining room, especially if you’re all the way forward or on a higher deck.

32. Pre-book a shore excursion.

Research your shore excursions, because a lot of time they can be found for up to sixty percent cheaper from a third party company like When you find a good price, go with it. Excursions do sell out.

33. Monitor your onboard spending.

The drinks, putting the casino on your sail card, and excursions can add up quickly. Make sure to check your folio daily. A good tip is to make small cash deposits on your sail and sign card throughout the trip. It’ll be less of a sting when you get your bill at the end of the cruise.

34. Go to the comedy show early.

A lot of the comedians on the ships have been on HBO, The Tonight Show, David Letterman, and have many accolades. They are funny, but also popular. Sometimes it’s standing room only, so get there early to ensure a seat.

35. Try samples from the Taste Bar.

Before or after dinner you can swing by the Taste Bar to get tastings of different venues around the ship. Located on the promenade deck, you can expect offerings from the steakhouse, Italian restaurant, and sushi venue. The hours are generally around 5:30 to 8:30 pm.

36. Have breakfast in bed.

You’re on vacation, why not have coffee or a bagel in bed or on your balcony? You deserve it, and you won’t have to be around people first thing in the morning!

37. Self-assist gets you off the ship faster.

If you want to be one of the first ones off the ship, carry your bags off. If you don’t want to deal with the madness of carrying your bags off the ship, through the gangway, and down the escalator, then go to guest relations and ask for zone 1 debarkation.

38. Room temperature is set by a master control.

You might as well crank the AC unit all the way down because it will eventually bottom out around 68 or 70 degrees. The air conditioning is set by a master control in the engine room and will only drop to a certain temperature.

39. The in-room bottled water is pricey.

The bottled water in the staterooms cost around $5 per bottle. If you think you’re going to drink a lot of water, consider pre-ordering the water from Carnival at $4.50 for a 12-pack. You can also buy a case of water onboard but it’s a little pricier.  Another great option is to bring your own reusable water bottle and just continue refilling it throughout your voyage.

Do you have any Carnival cruise tips?



Review: Day Use Hotel App Helps Cut Down Post-Cruise Airport Time



Chances are that if you’re a regular cruiser, you also spend a fair amount of time in airports. And you probably dread doing so. Especially if you’ve just had the most amazing cruise and now your post-vacation buzz is immediately going to be killed by the fact that you have to sit at the airport for six hours waiting for your flight home.

That’s exactly the prospect I was facing recently after a great cruise out of Miami. I’d gotten a great deal on a flight home, but it wasn’t departing until 5 p.m. Since we had to be off the ship by 10 a.m., that left me with a whole lotta time to kill.

It’s worth noting that like a lot of people do, I was up pretty late the night before. So, the prospect of sitting in the airport all day was definitely not appealing. Instead of renting a car for the day or looking for an excursion, I turned to Google in the hope of finding a hotel that offers day rates.

And that’s when I discovered Day Use, a company the lists hotel properties that offer day passes. While you don’t have to download the app to use it, I prefer apps over smartphone browsers, so I opted to download the app… especially since it seemed like the kind of thing I’d get more use out of in the future.

Finding My Hotel 

While you can easily use the app to find a room the day you need it, you run the risk of nothing being available. Instead, it’s probably smarter to try and find something in advance. Once you’ve booked your flight and know when you’ll need a room, it’s a good idea to try and book your day pass at a nearby hotel if you want to make 100 percent sure that you have a place to relax.

The app is about as user-friendly as they get. Simply type in the city you want to find a room in and the date, and a variety of options are presented. They’ll typically give you the time range during which the room is available for use (for example, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is pretty common) and the price.

In this case, I wound up going with the Homewood Suites by Hilton. For $69, I was able to have access to the hotel room from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. which was a great deal, especially since this particular room was a suite with a kitchen, living room, and a large bedroom. My flight was at 5 p.m. and the hotel was only about 10 minutes from the airport, which meant I could check out at 3 p.m. and still get there with time to spare.

Notes on the Booking Process

  • Once you enter in the name of the city you want to find a room in, you’ll be presented with a list giving you the name of available hotels and prices. You can also click to see where they are on the map.
  • Search options allow you to look at the choices based on which is nearest, which are the site’s top picks, which are priced lowest to highest and which are priced highest to lowest. (Although really, who asks to see the highest priced first?)
  • To find out more about a specific hotel, click on it. You’ll find a lot of information, including what amenities are offered and which aren’t. For example, some will show that they have a shuttle to the airport, which is definitely a great perk.
  • If you’re picky or want to do something specific – like maybe get in a workout or sit by a pool – make sure to see if the hotel in question has the facilities you’re looking for!
  • When it comes time to book, you’ll be given the option to either create an account (which will make it easier to make future bookings with fewer steps) or do so as a guest.

It’s important to note that no credit card information is required to use the app. Once you find the hotel you want, you’ll be prompted to enter your first and last name, email, and phone number. You’ll then get a text and email confirmation.

Arriving at the Hotel 

If you poke around the site a bit, you’ll find that at most of the hotels, the earliest check-in time available is 10 a.m. If the hotel you selected has a hard-and-fast 10 a.m. check-in time, it’s probably worth staying on the ship and enjoying breakfast rather than rushing to be one of the first people to disembark. Some do offer the option of letting the hotel know what time you plan to arrive, so if you want to check in earlier, it’s worth seeing if that’s an option. But once, having gotten off the ship earlier than I should have, I tried checking into a room at 8:30 a.m. and none were yet ready.

Checking in is pretty much exactly the same as if you were staying for the night. You simply tell them you’ve rented a room for the day and they’ll look up your information.  It’s always a good idea to have the email or text confirmation available in case they don’t have the paperwork yet, especially if you did a booking on the same day as you are arriving.  They will take your credit card for incidentals. Like any hotel, they will place a temporary hold on your card and then release it a few business days later. The amount they hold varies based on the individual hotel’s policy. When I stayed at the  Homewood Suites in Miami, they placed a $75 hold on the card I presented them with.

What I Liked Most About Day Use 

There’s actually a lot to like about this app, even aside from the fact it means you don’t have to hang out at the airport all day! For one thing, the app does not require you to input any sensitive information when holding the room. In this day and age, when it seems as if we’re hearing about data breaches on a regular basis, that’s a real plus. The simplicity of them texting and emailing you the confirmation is great because it gives you what you need immediately.

If you decide to create an account on the app, the functionality improves even more. For example, it allows you to bookmark your favorite hotels, look at your past history and, as I mentioned before, it really streamlines the process the next time you want to use the app. All in all, the app (whose website can also be accessed on your laptop at is one I’d definitely consider a must-have for all cruise travelers.

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15 Overlooked Cruise Experiences



The best cruising advice I often hear people give on the show is “don’t try to do everything, because you just won’t have enough time.” It’s true – there’s never enough time to enjoy every little pleasure on a big-ship cruise because there’s so much happening all at once. That being said, there are some experiences that many cruisers overlook or discount, and we’ve made a list so you don’t miss them on your next cruise.

1. Tastings

Who knew there were so many different types of margaritas?

As a sales incentive, the shops onboard the ship will often hold free liquor or wine tastings to incentivize guests to buy some products. There’s no obligation though, so why not go and get some free alcohol. You might just try something new that you like.

2. Onboard Classes

From cooking classes to yoga to salsa dancing and mixology lessons, there are endless classes available onboard for almost any interest. Most of these are free and also come with free giveaways like food or alcohol tastings, souvenirs, or other swag.

3. Chef’s Table

So many people pass on the Chef’s Table because of the extra surcharge to dine, but if you can afford the extra cost then it’s an absolute must-do. The Chef’s Table is more than just a 7-course dinner; it’s an experience that includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the galley, entertainment, private meet and greets with the top chefs, and carefully selected menus of mouth-watering food that you won’t find anywhere else on the ship.

4. Adults-Only Spots

Carnival Sunshine

Serenity deck on Carnival Sunshine

Not that kids aren’t great and all, but the peace and quiet of the adults-only deck on a cruise ship – plus the lack of crowds – are a refreshing change for many. Some ships also have VIP deck spaces that are both adults-only and are even more secluded thanks the surcharged required to access them, but the added privacy is worth the extra fee.

5. Staying on the Ship in Port

Although there’s always something to explore in any port of call, there’s also something to be said for staying on the ship on a port day. The ship becomes nearly empty, so you more or less have all of the venues to yourself. No lines on a cruise ship is a pretty appealing concept.

6. Star Gazing

Out at sea, away from the city lights, the stars burn brighter than ever. So don’t forget to take the opportunity to stargaze from the ship while sailing at sea. If it’s cold and windy outside, many ships have an indoor observation deck, where you’ll also find a late-night bar.

7. Main Dining Room for Breakfast or Lunch

Fun cereal french toast on Carnival Vista

The lido buffet can be one of the busiest places on a cruise ship, but even specialty dining venues can get crowded when they’re open. Many cruisers mistakenly think the main dining room is only open for dinner, but it’s usually open for all three meals, especially on sea days! Having a waiter serve your meal is much more relaxing than waiting in a long buffet line and then battling the crowds to find an open table.

8. Booking a Balcony Cabin

There’s nothing better than starting and ending your cruise days with your own private piece of the deck. In the morning, order room service breakfast and enjoy it in your PJs on your balcony. At night, grab a nightcap to go and wind down under the stars in your own room. Of course, a private balcony is nice in the middle of the day too when the lido deck gets busy.

9. All-Access Tour

Most cruisers skip the behind-the-scenes tour either because of the surcharge, or because they just haven’t heard of it. But if you have the chance to take the tour, don’t miss it. It takes you behind public areas to places like the ship’s bridge, engine control room, and main galley.

10. Buying a Spa Pass

Norwegian Escape spa – photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

For most, the main purpose of a vacation is to relax. So why not treat yourself to the ultimate form of rest and relaxation by booking a spa pass? On most ships, this means VIP access to thermal suites that include saunas and steam rooms, jetted pools, and more.

11. Using the Jogging Track

Believe it or not, every ship has an outdoor jogging track in addition to its indoor gym facilities. Why run inside on a treadmill when you could walk, jog, or run around an outdoor track that boasts open-ocean views and sea breezes?

12. Complimentary Lunch Dining in Specialty Venues

Specialty dining venues, which come with a surcharge, are becoming more and more popular on cruise ships. However, many that charge during dinner service are open during lunch hours for free. This is a perfect way to check out some different cuisine without the dinnertime fee.

13. Sunrises and Sunsets

Sunrise in Mohogany Bay

There’s simply nothing more captivating than watching the sun rise or set at sea. Even if you’re not a morning person, make an effort to get up early at least one day on your cruise to witness the beauty of a sunrise at sea. Unless it’s completely overcast, I promise you won’t regret it.

14. Meet and Greets

Almost every cruise line offers meet and greet opportunities with characters. Disney Cruise Line of course has Disney characters, Carnival has Cat in the Hat characters, and Royal Caribbean has DreamWorks characters. Disney even allows you to make reservations for a meet and greet, so be sure to bring a book for autographs for your little ones!

15. Professional Photos

Some people shy away from taking the professional portraits on cruises because of the cost to purchase the final prints. However, the cost of taking and purchasing a professionally shot and edited photograph on land is typically much more by comparison. These photos are priceless memories, and you can buy as few or as many as you’d like.

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Menu: Carnival Horizon’s Bonsai Teppanyaki



Among the new venues to be rolled out onboard Carnival Horizon will be Bonsai Teppanyaki, a first for Carnival Cruise Line. Clearly, the line expects the Teppanyaki experience to be popular, as it will also be featured on their next ship, the currently-under-construction (and open for bookings) Carnival Panorama. So what can you expect from the restaurant… and how much will the for-fee experience cost? Read on for all the details.

How Much Bonsai Teppanyaki Will Cost

Photo via Carnival.

Located inside the popular Bonsai Sushi on deck 5, the Teppanyaki restaurant is the perfect place for groups, as it is a combination of a great meal and entertaining show as the chefs juggle, joke, and cook for 16 guests at a time. Because there’s limited seating available, it’s definitely recommended that you make reservations. And obviously, the bigger your group, the more important it becomes to make a reservation. Also, note that this isn’t only available for groups. As with similar restaurants, parties will be seated together in a communal style (which also makes this a fun way to meet new people).

Meals at Bonsai Teppanyaki will consist of an appetizer, soup or salad, main course, and dessert, and cost between $25-$30 per person, depending on what protein you decide to go with for the entrée. (And yes, lobster tail is an option.)

What Is Dinner Like In A Teppanyaki Restaurant?

Photo via Carnival.

For those who’ve never eaten in a Teppanyaki restaurant before, the good news is that there aren’t really a whole lot of decisions to be made! This isn’t like going to a place where there’s a huge, expansive menu. Instead, there are really only a few choices you have to make, especially since the appetizer portion of the meal is the same for everyone. It includes:

  • White shrimp in soy butter and a salsa vinaigrette
  • Pork belly yakitori with sesame asparagus fries and seaweed salad
  • Sprice Tuna on the Rocks with an onion sesame sauce and den miso

All guests will also have a choice of either Miso soup or a Kabuki salad with ginger dressing. Then comes the part where you have to make the big decision, because you have to pick the protein for your entry (all of which are served with fried rice and stir-fried vegetables).

The options are:

  • Teriyaki salmon with savory and sweet teriyaki glaze
  • Lobster tail with yuzu cream and citrus kosho
  • Shrimp with young lettuce and gyukuro tea
  • Shichimi spiced grilled chicken in a teriyaki sauce
  • Grilled tofu with vegetables, yaki udon, and a teriyaki anticucho sauce
  • Black cod with a soy reduction
  • Filet Mignon with trufae salt and garlic chips

Guests can also choose to do sort of a mix-and-match, with the following combos available:

  • Filet Mignon and Shrimp
  • Shrimp and Spiced Grilled Chicken
  • Filet Mignon and Teriyaki Salmon
  • Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail

And should you still have room after the meal (trust us… it’s more food than it sounds like!), dessert is a Chocolate Bento Box with green tea ice cream

Making  Bonsai Teppanyaki Reservations

As we said before, reservations are highly recommended as the restaurant has both limited hours and seating. If you’ve never made reservations for one of Carnival Cruise Line’s specialty restaurants in the past, let us walk you through the process!

While logged in at, go to the Manage My Booking section and select your sailing. That will take you to My Cruise Manager, pictured above. Scroll down through the various options until, toward the bottom, you see Specialty Dining Reservations. See how in the example above, the names of the specialty restaurants are in a different font color? Click on whichever one you’re interested (in this case, Bonsai Teppanyaki) and it will take you directly to a reservations page that shows which times are available. In the example below, they have three dining times available: 5:30, 7:15, and 9 pm.

Now, it’s possible that no reservation times will be available on the night you want, or perhaps only one option. You’ll also have the opportunity to let the restaurant know if you have any specific food allergies, and if it happens to be a special occasion. Then simply hit “submit reservation,” and the system takes care of the rest.

Should you need to make a change to your reservation once onboard, you can either call or stop by the restaurant. If there aren’t reservations available when you attempt to book in advance, it’s also worth swinging by after you’ve boarded the ship to see if something has opened up (or if perhaps there has been a cancellation). As with all specialty dining reservations, the cost will appear on your final bill at the end of the trip.

Will you be giving Bonsai Teppanyaki a try? 

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