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39 Carnival Cruise Tips

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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 Cruiseline.com 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 TripInsurance.com.

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 CruisingExcursions.com. 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?


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