Carnival has moved from open boarding (when everyone shows up when they want during the entire boarding window) to staggered check-in. Now you select a 30-minute window of when to board. This keeps things running smoothly and avoids having too many passengers show up at once, such as right when the ship opens up to passengers. If you show up before your boarding window, you could be asked to return later. If you show up after your boarding window, they will still let you board.
Want to watch your favorite show on your cruise? Then you’ll want to download them beforehand. The stations on a cruise television are limited (you can see the full lineup here), and most of the big channels you get at home aren’t available. In fact, most of the time the channels are specific to the ship, like info about port shopping or safety information.
If you’re short on cash but have plenty of time before you book your cruise, then keep an eye out for Carnival’s famous $50 deposit sales. During these times, which usually occur a few times a year, you can book your cruise for just $50 down and then pay off the rest later. It makes it affordable to book that trip you’ve had your eye on.
It can be intimidating going to a foreign country. After all, most people don’t speak a foreign language. The good news is that cruise ports are built for tourism. Most people in ports speak English, so you don’t have to struggle through trying to speak another language. In addition, U.S. dollars are widely accepted.
It’s a smart idea to have a passport when you take a cruise. It makes it much easier to get home should need to leave before your cruise is finished. However, when you bring your passport, keep it in the cabin safe. We suggest taking a color copy of the front page of the passport (the page with your passport number and photo) to bring with you into port. Should you need your passport on land, this will suffice until your actual document can be retrieved from the cabin. This way you don’t have to worry about your real passport getting lost or stolen while you are off the ship.
Do you wear a pair of old flip flops where the tread has been worn off? If so, it’s time for an upgrade. Decks on cruise ships can get slippery. Between rain showers, splashes from the pool, or cleaning by the crew, there are lots of times you’ll find wet decks. If you don’t have sandals with grip then it’s not just a nuisance — it’s downright dangerous. You don’t want a slip and fall ruining your vacation.
Want to drink but not break the bank? Just head into port. While drinks on the ship can be pricey — $6 for a beer and $8-12 for a cocktail — the bars in port cater to thirsty cruisers with cheap drink specials. Just taking a walk down the pier can save you tons. Beers for $2-3 are common, so you can easily save 50% in some cases, while also getting to enjoy the local scenery.
If you like playing poker, then you can potentially make some money on the ship. The casinos host poker games regularly throughout the cruise. It’s an unintimidating place to play and you’ll find lots of beginners trying their hand. If you’re a pro, take it easy on these players. You don’t want to ruin their vacation!
When you book your cruise, Carnival will give you the option of buying the Carnival Vacation Protection. It’s definitely worth it to have some insurance for your trip (recent hurricanes emphasize the point), however, we think you’re better off going with a third-party insurance policy. These policies are usually the same or cheaper in price than Carnival’s policy and cover more. For more on cruise insurance, you can read our article here.
Some people don’t mind kids. Others want to relax without them running around. If you fall into that second group, check out the Serenity area on your Carnival ship. This spot is for adults 21-years and up. It features some cozy and comfy seating you won’t find elsewhere on the ship and often has its own dedicated bar area and hot tubs. Even if you don’t care about kids one way or the other, you’ll often find the Serenity area less crowded than the pool area and has more cozy, private spaces.