What You Should Know Before Taking a Cruise

Hello Lovely,

I just got back from my summer vacation and I’ve got to say, IT…WAS…A…BLAST!!! I took my second cruise on Carnival (my first cruise was 2001, and also on Carnival). While it wasn’t my original plan to spend my summer trapped on a boat with my family, the fact that my dad was getting married kind of made it a priority, regardless. We boarded the Carnival Glory on Saturday 7th July, 2018. The first part of the trip was a little stressful because we were supposed to do an online check in, but no one told me that we were supposed to do an online check in until the night before. But the moment I walked up and saw the Carnival Glory (in all its glory) I was overwhelmed in awe. Luckily it wasn’t too much of a hassle for me to get checked in at the ship. When I realised how many things were limited, prohibited or simply not included, I just knew that I had to write this guide to help anyone considering a cruise vacation. Keep in mind, ships may have different regulations or the small stuff, but in general, they all follow the same guidelines.

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1.      Wi-Fi is not included

I was pissed to find out that for the S1100 I had invested, it did not include Wi-Fi. To make it worse, there were different internet packages for different services just to force you to spend more money. The most basic was the social media package (access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc.) for $4 per day. That came out to $28 for me for the entire trip. If you wait until you're onboard, it's $5 per day. The Value Wi-Fi plan adds access to email, airline sites as well as news, entertainment (not including streaming sites), sports, weather, banking and finance. Pre-Cruise price: $10.25 USD per day | Onboard price: $12.00 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $16.00 USD.
Then there's the Premium Wi-Fi plan which truthfully provides nothing worth paying for as you still can't stream Netflix, Hulu or, well anything. This plan just boasts having the fastest internet speed. Pre-Cruise price: $14.88 USD per day | Onboard price: $17.70 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $25.00 USD.
 

2.      Online check in is preferred

U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires Carnival Cruise Line to submit a final departure manifest with specific guest information at least 60 minutes prior to departure. This allows you to print out your boarding pass and luggage tags in advance. Don't feel bad if you don't get a chance to do it, as the site wouldn't allow me to complete my online check in the day before. I was still able to check it on the ship, it'll just take a little longer (like 10 minutes).

3.      No plastic bottled beverages are allowed

Carnival’s  Liquor and Beverage Policy states that guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard that are packaged in bottles. This also includes juices. But if it's in a can, you can bring it on board. You'll meet two litre-sized bottles of water in your room on embarkation day but they costs $4 each. A complimentary bottle of water will be delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day. Bottled water may also be purchased onboard by contacting Room Service (gratuity fees apply).

4.      That means you can’t bring your own alcohol

The ship has bars all over so it makes sense they wouldn't want you bringing on your own alcohol, which would cut into your profits. But there are ways you can sneak them on, like in travel sized clear bottles (you know the stuff you put your shampoo and what not in), or even in the Listerine bottle. Shh! Don't tell anyone I told you that.

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5.      If you’re not a US citizen, you need a US Visa

Because I'm Bahamian to go anywhere in the US, I need a US Visa. And because a lot of the ports were US territories, my US Visa was definitely a necessity. I'll never forget travelling to London last summer and thinking everything was fine, until I got stopped at the airport check in because I needed a Canadian ETA just to connect through Canada. Guests should check with their travel agent and/or government authority to determine the travel documents necessary for each port of call.

6.      Luggage restrictions

This one isn't so bad and it's pretty much just like flying. Each checked suit case and carry-on suit case should not weigh more than 50 pounds, and when lying flat, bags must not exceed 16 inches high by 24 inches wide (the length of the bag is not a factor). For security screening purposes, all luggage should be unlocked. Oversized luggage and locked luggage may cause delivery delays. The common sense thing here is to pack sensibly, so limit your luggage to a maximum of one bag per person, if traveling on cruises of 3-5 days duration, and no more than two bags per person, for cruises of 6 days or longer.

7.      The rooms are really small

You know how hotel rooms are usually tiny? Well subtract about 20 square feet and that’s the cabins on a cruise. It’s not small enough to trigger claustrophobia (unless you have it bad) but don’t expect a grand space. The bathrooms are tiny and there are only five drawers, only two of which can actually hold clothing. There are three closets, but the hangers aren’t the best if you have the type of clothing that easily slides off the hanger.

8.      Bring a drop cord, not a surge protector

I am not kidding, there is literally one outlet in the entire cabin. ONE!!! And the way it's set up, it's at the desk so an outlet won't fit in the socket, only a drop cord. So if you have a cabin of three, it's going to be hell for the three of you to charge all of your electronic devices. However, we were told that surge protectors are not prohibited so make sure your drop cord is not a surge protector.

9.  Beware of hidden charges

On the last day, we were all shocked to find out that our accounts had been charged $90.65 for “Gratuity”. I was grateful that I didn’t attach any of my cards to my account so technically my account was in the red, and I had to pay it back. Other hidden fees include having to buy soda and juice from the bar as it’s not available from the free beverage dispensaries, having to pay for photos that are taken of you from the photo gallery, and a few restaurants and coffee shop that are not free.

10. Pre-booked shore excursions sometimes cost more

How many of you like to pre-book your activities before you get to your destination to save time and money? I know I preached this with my trip to London, but guys, after this recent experience, I have learned that does not apply to everything. When we got to Amber Cove, DR we were surprised to see the ziplining that was advertised as $75 per person, was only $20 per person at port and came with unlimited use. Had we actually booked it, I would've immediately demanded a refund! Then a guy for the waterfall excursion told me it was $110 to go to the waterfall. There was no way I was paying that much! When we got a taxi for $20 per person and the driver said he would take us to the waterfall, imagine our disbelief to see it only costs $10 per person. That is a HUUUUUUUUUGE difference! So please be careful when book shore excursions in advance. In fact, you're probably better off just doing a tour.

11. There is ALWAYS something to do

I looked forward to reading the itinerary every night for the next day so that I could know what to expect. On the last night we had a Mardi Gras party, which was full of energy and live music that simply brought the ship alive! The waiters would put on a show at dinner time that was really adorable. We had a Motown show, 80s and 90s music trivia, trivia games, raffles every day for art work and jewellery and even free fitness classes in the gym. There are several opportunities to score free booze with free rum tastings, and free champagne at the raffle events.

12. The pools suck

I've never seen people go to a pool to literally just stand in it! There are two actual pools and everything else is a whirlpool so that was disappointing. Then the pools deepest part is only 4'7". But let's be realistic, it's a giant floating hotel so naturally you can't have massive pools; and the way lawsuits go, the pools couldn't be too deep. Lastly, the pools are almost never free so don't expect to go swimming. Just stand up in your swimmy with your drink and take a few photos.