Horizon tips

Formal night? Where what you want, except these items

What to wear on formal night can be stressful. The truth is, you can get by wearing most anything, as long as it’s not too casual. You don’t have to wear a tux or an evening gown (but many people do). The official rules from Carnival explicitly say not to wear jeans, sleeveless shirts, shorts, t-shirts, sportswear, baseball hats, flip-flips, or bathing suits. In other words, just about anything outside of what you’d wear to the beach is just fine. Our suggestion is to try and dress up some, but don’t stress. And if you don’t want to change out of shorts and sandals, it’s your cruise. You can skip the formal night dining altogether and just eat somewhere other than the main dining room.

The age limit to gamble on a Carnival ship is 18

While you have to be 21 to drink on the ship, gambling is a different story. Carnival allows those 18 years and older to play in the casino. So while you might not be old enough to play in Las Vegas, you can still play the slots, roulette, or blackjack on the cruise ship.

Save that deck chair… but only for 40 minutes

Chair hogs. Perhaps no one draws the ire of cruisers more than the person that goes down early in the morning and puts a towel down to reserve a prime location by the pool… only to leave it for hours. Yes, you are allowed to save chairs on Carnival, but the official rules are for only 40 minutes — enough time to go grab a bite to eat. After that time the cruise line employees can remove your items to let someone sit in the chair.

Room service is free (sometimes)

Go ahead, live like a king or queen. Order room service. It’s complimentary for many dishes such as breakfast and sandwiches. But cruise lines — including Carnival — have moved toward charging for some premium items. It can be $5-6 to get a plate of wings or a pan pizza. It’s still a deal compared to what you’d pay on land, but not as nice as when everything was on the house. Be sure to tip your room service attendant a couple of bucks, too!

Get ready to be marketed to… constantly

Think you’re done spending money once you get on the ship? Think again. The name of the game is sales on cruise ships these days. From art auctions to spa treatments, you’ll be be sold to constantly on the ship. It’s never pushy, but there are always reminders of places where you can spend money.

Guy’s Burger Joint is popular. Try it for dinner for shorter lines

Haven’t heard of Guy’s Burger Joint? That will change. The free restaurant is on most Carnival ships and serves up some great burgers. It’s also extremely popular. Hours are normally 12-6 p.m. and lunch can see long lines. If you don’t want to wait in line, check it out before it closes for the evening. Most people eat dinner elsewhere, so the lines are much shorter. If you’re an early eater, than grabbing a burger without a line is a smart move.

Be prepared for poor cruise payouts in the casino

It’s common sense that with a boat full of people looking to be entertained, the casino should make money hand over fist. And with a captive audience and no other casinos around, the onboard casinos aren’t generous with their payouts. Expect blackjack that pays 6-5 (instead of the usual 3-2) and video poker machines that pay 6/5 instead of the optimal 9/6 payout.

Wait for sale before shopping on the ship

If you have your eye on a souvenir or gift in the onboard shops, have some patience. With a boat full of potential shoppers that have a lot of time on the ship, the stores run sales regularly. Use the first couple of days of the cruise to see what catches your eye. And then spend the rest of the time waiting until it goes on sale to save some money.

Where to find the cheapest beer on the ship

Six bucks for a beer can be tough to swallow. If you want the cheapest beer, then head to the buffet. Some ships (not all) have self-serve beer stations. At these spots you simply swipe your card, and then you pull the handle to dispense beer. Brews are sold by the ounce, and a full-sized glass runs about $4 (the price on our most recent cruise was $5.25). Options are limited as for as the brand of beer, but if you don’t care what you drink, it’s a good way to save money.

Ordering a pack of water is a smart move

Before you board, go online and order a pack of water. It costs about $5 for a dozen bottles and it’s nice to have in the room. Passengers aren’t allowed to bring on bottles in their luggage (cans/cartons only), so you can’t bring on most water containers. Plus, having some water in the room is nice to keep from having to head to the dining room or buffet to get a drink. It’s always right there waiting for you.