(Photo – Carnival Pride – carnival.com)
This is the wonderful ship my family and I spent seven glorious days on recently – the Carnival Pride, docked in Baltimore, Maryland. Last week’s cruise was the second I have taken, and my second time on this beautiful ship.
Though after only two cruises I cannot be considered a seasoned or veteran cruiser, I do feel as though I’ve learned a few things while on the high seas. Some are common sense things, some are things you’ll only learn with time – and after making some mistakes.
The cruise line we took (Carnival) has food available virtually around the clock, and with that goes an endless supply of coffee, tea, lemonade, iced tea and water. There are cups provided for your use – and while they are plentiful, they are small. After my first cruise, I remembered to take a large plastic cup with a lid and straw. This enabled me to have what I feel is enough to drink (and especially with my recent kidney issues, it was more important than ever for me to stay hydrated). I was going to do the same with a reusable coffee cup – you know, one of those reusable ones. I decided against that, but I saw quite a lot of people who had those with them. I can’t speak for other cruise lines, but Carnival provided milk and half and half – but no flavored creamers. If they’re essential for you, I’d suggest bringing a few of those little creamers you get from convenience stores – or getting a small bottle of the powdered kind. I think they even sell boxes of the little liquid creamers. I know they did a few years ago when I was hooked on a certain flavor and I had a trip planned.
As far as clothes go, don’t over pack. Just don’t do it. When we were waiting to disembark last year, I sat I made a list of what I’d needed on that cruise. I looked at the list before packing for this year, and while I stuck to it for the most part – I went overboard again. There are two elegant nights on the cruise when you need to dress up (if you don’t want to, that’s fine – these nights are just a little fancier than the other ones). This time I brought two different dresses that each needed a different pair of shoes. Next time I will bring two dresses that the same pair of shoes can be worn with. We left out of Baltimore, so the first day and most of the second day it was still cool. Coming back it would be the same thing – so for these days, one pair of jeans or pants on your body and one in your suitcase would be enough. You can wear one long sleeve shirt and as long as you have a hoodie or sweater or sweatshirt, you’ll be fine. Footwear – my recommendation is one pair of closed toe shoes (I wore flats), one pair of flip flops, one pair of nicer sandals and the heels to go with the dress. That’s all you need. As far as everything else goes, besides a bathing suit and cover up (they provide towels) you’ll need an outfit for each day – and no more than that. Next time I am going to REALLY try to follow this advice.
Do not forget to bring extension cords. The bathroom in our stateroom only had an outlet for a shaver, and there was only one electrical outlet by the desk/vanity area. That clearly is not enough. There were three of us in our room, so we plugged an extension cord in and then one into that – giving us access to five outlets. That suited us just fine. Check with your cruise line – Carnival prohibits using ones with surge protectors. This meant that the plain, basic ones we had worked well.
If you want to attend the comedy shows, get there early. The nightclub where the comedians appeared on our ship was sort of small – not tiny, but seating for the most part was limited. Getting there early ensured we got a seat. The comedians they bring in are usually hysterical, but after a long day of cruising we were tired – and just didn’t feel like standing. You will probably have better luck with seating in the bigger theaters. This is usually where the big shows take place. Don’t miss them – they are fantastic!
Check out Facebook, and see if your specific cruise has a group dedicated to it. Ours did, and all through the months planning and leading up to leaving we made great friends. There were events that had been planned, different kinds of contests to enter – it was great fun. One of our group members took it upon herself to order and sell (for a nominal cost) lanyards printed with our group name. You know, the lanyards you carry your Sign and Sail card in. It was a great bonding experience high fiving other “green lanyard people” even if you didn’t know who they were – you knew they were part of your group.
Get involved. Step out of your comfort zone. Dance with your waiters if they ask. Sing (even just with a group) during trivia contests. If you’re not brave enough to sing karaoke solo, sing along with whoever is on stage. Smile at your fellow passengers, who undoubtedly will be smiling at you. I swear, cruising is one of the few activities where EVERYONE seems happy. And no matter what you do, even if you don’t participate in your ship’s version of the QUEST, by all means attend – you will be so happy you did. The laughs are beyond compare!
Little things for your stateroom – bring magnets with hooks – they’ll stick to your walls, and will be convenient if you need to hang things. Running a cord between two of them will give you an extra wash line of sorts. There is not a lot of room for storage, though there is some. I left most of my clothes in the suitcase under the bed (remember though we had three in the room). Also, bring extra hangers. The closet we had included a second bar we could put halfway up, to double the hanging space. We never used it though. A small pen flashlight might be a good idea for the middle of the night – those rooms get dark! There are also no clocks on the wall, so if you need (or like) to see the time in the middle of the night, keep your phone close by – or bring a travel alarm clock.
Whatever you do, do it comfortably. You will eat on the cruise – a LOT. And eating a lot makes you feel bloated, big and uncomfortable. Bring elastic waist garments – you’ll be glad you did. One night after dinner we were planning to go to one of the comedy shows. I knew I wouldn’t last through half of the first performance feeling the way I did. So do you know what I did? I went back to our Stateroom, and I put on my pajamas – well, just the pants. I was so comfortable! I had my nice blouse showing through the zippered sweatshirt I wore, and I had my black sparkly slippers on. I can’t say that I noticed anyone else in pj’s, but I wasn’t really looking. My pajama pants also didn’t scream out PAJAMAS – they kind of looked like sweat pants or jogging pants. The funniest thing was that the comedian who came out first was a woman who had just turned 50. Quite a bit of her act was saying how being 50 was great, because you’ve lived your life and you’re at the point when you don’t care what people think. I thought to myself “wow, how true. Here I sit in a nightclub, in pajama pants and slippers. Guess I really don’t care what others are thinking!”
Food on a cruise – it should be an entire post by itself. The amounts of food available and consumed on a cruise is unbelievable. It is the perfect time for you to try something you’ve never had before, and to eat massive amounts of things you love. You can have a buffet breakfast, or you can go to the restaurant for a sit down meal. The buffets have made to order omelettes, and the restaurant has amazing offerings that are without a doubt very deluxe. Everything is delicious. There are plenty of buffets open from lunch until past dinner, offering sandwiches, salads, all different choices of different cuisine (Mexican, Chinese, etc.) and desserts to go along with it all. There’s a great Burger Bar also that was really popular on our ship. The fancy dinner at night is beyond compare – you can order whatever you want off of the menu, and however much you want of it. You can get three appetizers and four portions of dinner – it’s ok. When dessert comes, you don’t have to decide on just one – you can have three if you just can’t choose. The table you get is the same for all nights of the cruise – your wait staff gets to know you, and they make each meal fun – they make dining with them an experience you won’t ever forget. A few of the nights they even do performances, and the guests get to participate. The made to order Pizza station is open 24 hours a day, and so is the Ice Cream Station (though, besides bowls and cones we think they should include sprinkles). Rest assured, you will never go hungry on a cruise. And if you do, it’s no one’s fault but your own! It’s not right to talk about food on a cruise without mentioning the drinks. They are so good – they are fruity and strong and tropical and delicious! The bartenders make sitting at their particular bar fun – they’ve usually got smiles on their faces – you can tell they enjoy being there. You can have practically unlimited drinks if you purchase the CHEERS package, but if you do – everyone in your stateroom needs to get it as well. That is the only drawback. Of course, buying alcoholic drinks costs extra money. If you decide to not drink alcohol and only have water, lemonade or iced tea, you don’t have to pay another cent for anything onboard (with the exception of small gratuities here and there – these workers really earn these tips).
Deciding to go on a cruise was one of the best travel decisions I have ever made. The memories are wonderful, and the value – it can’t be beat. In closing, I have a few more tidbits to help you enjoy the cruise I hope you take…
Stay in your departure city the night before you leave – there would be nothing worse than stressing out about if you’re going to miss the boat or not. And while you’re at it, investigate and then stay at a hotel that offers parking and transportation to and from port. Have a bunch of 1’s handy – you’ll want to (and you should) tip many of the wonderful workers who take care of you. Put your phone on airplane mode as soon as you board – you want to avoid high charges. Take Ziploc bags and Wal-Mart bags in your suitcase – you’ll never have enough of these, trust me. If you like flavored water, bring a few of those packets for individual bottles along. For your carry on, if you have one – use a backpack. It will be especially helpful when you’re leaving to go home. It’s sad enough when you leave, and everything will annoy you – best to be able to have your hands free if possible. Be extra careful with your passport – losing that is not something you want to have happen. Call your credit card company before you leave to inform them you’ll be away, and make sure your debit card is up to date. Pack yourself a health kit – with anything you think you’ll need, like sea sickness tablets, bandages, cold pills, pain relief, especially something to treat potential sunburn. Put your room key in a holder on a lanyard, around your neck. If you’re a wine drinker, bring a corkscrew. And last but not least, staterooms are not big – scents travel fast – bring room deodorizer spray (or poo-potpourri). It will help, I promise you that.
Have a fun time on the high seas…