Congratulations on booking your cruise! I just returned from my 3rd Carnival cruise and it was as magical as ever! I learned a few Carnival cruise tips on the way about what to do (or not to do) while you are sailing. Here are the most useful Carnival cruise hacks about dining, free alcohol and more on-board you will be glad you knew before getting on the ship! Let’s start!
1. Do Your Research
I know, cruises are all-inclusive and you want to do the least amount of planning you can before your trip. However, you should research and find the cruise that will work for you. Read as much as you can before your cruise, otherwise you might end up in a small port without the slightest clue of what to do for the next eight hours. In terms of port info, cruise lines rarely give enough information.
On our recent trip to Ocho Rios, we didn’t have any excursions planned. When we arrived, we didn’t know where to go, there was already a lot of people on the island and we didn’t feel very safe just walking around on your own. We made the most out of this experience, but I do wish we had booked an excursion in advance or planned that stop better.
2. Pricing Depends on the Time of Year
Carnival carries more children than any other cruise line, so you can expect prices to go up when school is out. Cruise trips will be a lot cheaper during the times when school is in session. So, if you don’t have to depend on the school calendar, you can definitely save some money. Also, since the summer is not the best season to go cruising, it gets even hotter in the Caribbean, the cheapest season to go on a cruise is during summer. The most expensive – thanksgiving break, Christmas break and spring break!
3. Set Price Drop Alerts
You can monitor your cruise rate by putting in your price and sail date on Cruiseline.com. You’ll automatically get an email if the price rises or falls more than one percent. It can be helpful if you are not tied down to a specific date and you can wait a few months before you book.
The tropical Caribbean climate changes from pouring rain to heat. On our last cruise it rained at least once every day, so one of the must-pack items is a lightweight, waterproof jacket.
I wrote a handy Packing Cruise Checklist that will give you more information about packing and things that you wish you had on your cruise. Among other tips in this article, I recommend taking a reusable water bottle on-board. You will be able to refill your bottle on the top deck and you won’t have to pay for expensive water in your stateroom. It is also a good idea to bring a power strip since there are always a shortage of outlets in the stateroom.
For more things to grab with you on your cruise, check out the Bring It On a Cruise list. This list has all of the things I wish I had on a cruise last time and I even found the best deals on Amazon for you!
5. What to put in your carry-on bag:
Pack everything you may need the first day – documents, wallets, bathing suits, cameras, medications, sandals, sunscreen, a change of clothes and toiletries. This packing strategy will save you if the cruise line loses your bag, as you’ll have many necessities on hand.
6. Not all Cruise Ships are Created Equal
There are 25 ships in Carnival’s fleet, and they’re all different. Check out what’s offered on your ship before you board. For example, being a newer ship; the Carnival Dream has a mini golf course and water slides, while an older ships will have fewer modern entertainment options. A pretty easy rule to go by: longer cruises have bigger and larger ships, while shorter cruise ships are smaller and less crowded, but might have less food options and entertainment.
7. Book Your Activities and Dining Early
Do you want to have dinner at a specialty restaurant? You should schedule it in advance on your online Carnival account to make sure you get a space. By booking excursions early you can also save some money through early-bird discounts!
8. Download the Carnival Hub App
With the Carnival HUB app, you can text your fellow travelers, check the daily schedule and deck plans, track how much you spend (or earn if you are lucky in the casino), and get info for upcoming ports of call. The app is free to download and you can communicate with any of your friends on-board for just $5! I think it is totally worth it.
9. Purchase Camera Protectors
It wouldn’t hurt to buy a camera protector from Amazon. This plastic cover will protect your camera when you are taking pictures as you swim with stingrays or dolphins and taking that perfect photo of the Caribbean Sea. I go a lot more in-depth on what you will need in my Bring It On a Cruise list!
10. You Can Take Soda Cans or a Bottle of Wine On-board
Drinks on-board can get pretty expensive. Feel free to grab your favorite 12 pack of soda before you get on the ship. Otherwise, it will cost you about $2.50 per can once on-board. You can also bring a 750ml bottle of wine or champagne on-board per person. If you would like to cork your wine during dinner at your dining room, it will cost you $15 per bottle.
11. Carnival Cruise Tips – Buy Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is something you don’t think you need until you need it. It costs a fraction of your cruise price and delivers an unbelievable amount of protection against delays, cancellations, lost baggage and injury. Read your policy thoroughly. Check out options from a third party travel insurance companies like travelguard.com.
12. Consider a Drink Package
Do you drink two soft drinks per day? Then the soda package is worth the $6 per day charge. The same is true of the alcohol package — it’s about $50 per person per day if you order in advance online, and you get up to 15 drinks per day. Normally, one drink in the bar costs around $9 each.
How to Get the Best Food Experience – Carnival Cruise Tips for Dining
One of the best experience on the cruise is the variety and the wonderful food that you get to try. One of my favorite experiences was going to the dining room in the evenings – the food is a lot better than in the buffet on the Lido Deck. But you also get to build a relationship with your server, learn more about another person’s culture and have a good time during the Dining Shhhow time!
Related Post: How Much Does a Carnival Cruise Really Cost?
13. The Chef Can Make Any Appetizer to an Entrée
If you really like an appetizer, you can request it as your main course. Or, maybe more than one of the entrees looks appetizing, order both and eat what you want. Don’t feel weird about doing either, it’s totally fine!
14. Late Dining is More Fun
The servers seem to be more relaxed and talkative during late dining because they aren’t under pressure to get you fed and out the door before the next seating.
You’re on vacation, why not have coffee or cereal in bed or on your balcony? You deserve it, and it is no extra charge!
16. Have a Sea Day Brunch and Breakfast at a Dining Room
Dining rooms on Carnival offer brunch on sea days and breakfast on port days. You can find there everything from soup, steak, eggs, salmon bagels! All of that is included in the price, but some may not know about it and have breakfast in the crowded buffet upstairs.
17. 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.A Taste Bar can be found on all ships in Carnival’s fleet, but has a its own location on different ships. You can expect offerings from the steakhouse, an Italian restaurant or Bonsai Sushi. Snacks from the Taste Bar are free of charge.To find out which eatery will be featured or operation hours, check your daily Fun Times schedule.
18. Some of the Best Food is on the Pool Deck
Guy’s Burger Joint, Pizzeria, and Blue Iguana have some of the best on board and they are complimentary. You might have to stay in line, since they are all made to order.
19. Don’t Overtip on Alcohol
Don’t forget that Carnival automatically adds 15 percent service charge when you buy a drink at the bar. Unless the service was amazing, there’s no need to add another tip.
Carnival Cruise Tips – While You are Onboard
20. Monitor Your Expenses
The drinks, the casino, photos and excursions can add up quickly. Make sure to check your expenses daily on the Fun Hub App.
21. Go to the Comedy Show Early
A lot of the comedians on the Carnival cruise ships are popular. Sometimes it’s standing room only, so get there 30 to 45 minutes early to ensure a seat. Last time we came 10 minutes early and had to turn around because there was no room!
22. 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 through the cabins and going through the side doors. No one knows about these spots and they’re almost always empty. If you prefer a quiet sail-away, check out these spots.
23. Carnival Cruise Line Holds Funds on your Card
On my recent seven-night cruise, Carnival held $100 per person from our credit card. By the end of the cruise it was balanced out and the hold was lifted.
24. Not All Stuff on the Ship is Too Expensive
That surprised me too, but T-shirts, alcohol, perfume, handbags and hats are actually cheaper on board and there are a lot of sales going on! If you are already planning to buy any of these, wait until you are on-board and see if you like anything. However, if you would like to purchase a phone charger or hair conditioner that you forgot at home, it will be a lot more expensive on the ship! Make a list of things to pack for your cruise so that you don’t forget anything and have to buy it on-board for triple the price!
25. Carnival Cruise Tips – Free Alcohol On the Carnival Cruise
Be sure to attend the Captain’s Toast party or an Art Auction, which usually offer free champagne. Also, the first day there will be an alcohol tasting event to encourage you to buy alcohol on-board. There will be some free samples served!
You can also get free alcohol by spending money in the casino. If you earn enough points in the on-board casino, the drinks sold in the casino area are free for the rest of your cruise!
26. Watch Sunset While on the Ship
While you are doing all of the fun activities on the Promenade Deck, don’t miss the sunsets. Sunsets are even more beautiful when you are on the cruise ship. Go outside, have a drink on the pool deck, take your time to enjoy the waves and the view!
27. Carnival Cruise Tips – Gratuity
Carnival recommends $12.95 per person, per day, for gratuities ($13.95 per person, per day, for those in suites). This amount is divided between dining room services, cabin services and alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel services. The amount is automatically added to your account, but it can be changed at the guest services desk. Visit guest services the last day of sailing and decide what amount of tip you would like to leave. Don’t forget that a 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills and spa treatments!
After Your Carnival Cruise
28. Self-assist Gets You off the Ship Faster
If you want to be the first ones off the ship, carry your own bags off. You could also go to guest relations and ask for zone 1 debarkation which will help you get off the ship faster. You will have to stay in line to get your bags back which can be a hassle.
I hope these Carnival cruise tips help you when you are considering your first cruise. If you are already booked for one, use my tips and have a wonderful time!
Tell me: Do you have any Carnival cruise tips that I missed? Leave them in the comments below!