I’ve been on two Carnival cruises, both very enjoyable experiences. Carnival caters towards younger couples, so you’ll never be bored. Food is included and basically unlimited, too! I have been informed that you WILL need a passport for all North American travel now, if you’re traveling to a country that is not the United States. Luckily, they have made something called a “Passport Card”. This card allows you to travel anywhere in North America via land or sea, not by air. These cards cost $45, a fraction of the cost of a regular passport. So if the only international travel you’re planning on doing in the near future is this cruise, I’d just go for the passport card http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html
I never did shore excursions. They were, IMO, over priced for nothing. I wanted to do the swim with dolphins thing, but at $180 pp, I would have rather taken my chances of stumbling upon a dolphin while swimming in the ocean for free. If you absolutely HAVE to do it, then go for it. But, really consider if you’d rather do without the experience and have the extra money for drinks on the ship, or something else.
Here are some valuable cruising tips:
Soda and alcohol are not included in the cost of your ticket. What we did is put canned sodas and a bottle of liquor in our suitcases. Nobody will check your suitcases once you’ve given them to the busboys to load onto the ship. This will save you a ton of money if you just have to have soda (they charge about $2.50 per CAN) I would alott a certain portion of your travel budget for alcohol on the ship, though. You’re going to want those yummy mixed drinks when you see them being passed around.
When you arrive at the dock, you will place your suitcases on a cart and the busboys will carry them off to be loaded onto the ship. Once you board, it may be 9 or 10 PM before your bags arrive at your room (my first cruise, the bags came about an hour after we boarded. second cruise, they came after dinner). Be absolutely sure to pack a carry on bag with a change of clothes and showering essentials to clean up once you get on board. You’ll probably be in need of refreshing after travelling to the port. Remember to also include any medication in that carry on bag, too!
When you book, Carnival will send luggage tags. DO NOT forget to fill these out and attach them to your suitcases (not your carry ons) before you arrive at the port. This is the only way they’ll be able to get your bags to your room.
If you plan on having dinner in the formal dining room, you MUST dress up for this meals. Cocktail dresses and suits are acceptable. You can’t wear shorts and flip flops to the formal dining rooms. The meals are really fancy, four course style deals. If you don’t want to dress up, you can go to the buffets for dinner, or just order in room service.
It is customary to, on the last night of your cruise, leave a tip to your restuarant waiter. You don’t HAVE to do this, but it is a nice gesture. Also, you can tip your housekeepers and people who have brought room service.
When you board, be prepared to endure the dreaded lifeboat drill. You will have to suit up with a life jacket and go to a “muster station”. Each floor has it’s own muster station, which you will be informed of by a sign in your room and in the hallways of your floor. Upon arriving at your muster station, you will be briefed on emergency procedures and then escorted out to the deck to see the actual lifeboats. This process takes all of 30 minutes. Annoying, but once it’s over the party really starts!
Be VERY cautious and careful at ports of call. Remember you are visiting a foreign land, although it is very close to us. I’m not sure how the Bahamas is, but I know that Grand Cayman Island and Jamaica had some pretty shady people. Stay in heavily populated areas and don’t carry a lot of cash.
People WILL try to braid your hair WITHOUT your permission as soon as you step off of the ship. I’m sorry, but this is how it will be. Just say you’re not interested and keep walking.
Pay very close attention to when your ship is scheduled to leave a port. You would not want to find yourself left behind.
Lol, I know this was long, and I think I remembered everything. But, if I remember something else, I’ll let you know =] If you have any other specific questions, just ask me!