In summer 2016, a girls’ trip with 2 of my longest friends was planned after 5 years of not being together as a trio. We traveled to the port of Miami in Florida to commence a 5-day cruise with the Bahamas as the destination. The Carnival Cruise line’s ‘Carnival Fantasy’ was the vessel that would be our home for the next few days, and is definitely an experience to remember. This was the first time I departed Jamaica in 3 years, which I believe was one direct result from my gateway to travel more.
A list of expectations below is based on my experience, most of which I assume would apply to many other cruises. If you’ve had your fair share of cruise ship vacations, please let us know in the comments how many of these points have mostly proven true in your experience 🙂 :
First Time Cruise Tips (Carnival Cruise)
1. It’s Not as Expensive as You May Think
Before this, I hadn’t considered a cruise for a vacation because I thought it would exceed my budget. It was a pleasant surprise that the cost for the 5-day cruise and most of its amenities was less than $500 USD in total!
2. Alcohol is a luxury
The base price of the trip is inclusive of non-alcoholic beverages. If you’d like an extra buzz, you’d have to purchase spiked drinks onboard. Luckily for my group, a complimentary bottle of wine was all the buzz we needed.
3. WiFi is also a luxury
Wanna be the envy of social media as you experience the many great moments on board? You can, but it’ll cost you. With so many options to keep you occupied, you probably will only miss WiFi in regards to communicating with loved ones back onshore. Paper notes acted as our version of Whatsapp. Though the messaging may not have been as instant as we’re all used to, writing and leaving notes had a refreshing personal touch.
4. You Will Get Lost
Cruise ships are huge, and much of the interior looks similar. Wrong turns will be taken numerous times, expect it. Though a map was provided, it won’t always be on your person, especially considering many outings may be impromptu. After 5 days, the only route I [almost] memorized perfectly was from the bedroom to the elevator area.
5. Awesome Customer Service
Besides friendly workers throughout various departments, our trio received exceptional customer service on 2 occasions:
- A surprise package was addressed to a member of our group whose birthday was 2 weeks away. She received a free spa treatment, a complimentary bottle of wine (second photo above), and small dessert plate.
- An apology for “substandard service” on the previous night was delivered in the form of a note and a dessert plate. On the night in question, our group attended a fancy dinner event where we had a wait time of approximately 30 minutes to be seated. We passed time in a game room until an assigned buzzer indicated a table was ready. Though the wait wasn’t of much issue to us, apparently it was below their standard and warranted an apology we didn’t know we deserved.
6. Unique Folding Skills
Each day we could look forward to a critter folded from rags and towels sitting on a new bed spread. The soft, fluffy animal would be accompanied by a list of the day’s scheduled events, and a map of the ship’s numerous venues. The presentation would be so impressive that you almost don’t want to use the towels and ruin the creation.
7. Dozens of Activities Each Day
There is no time to be bored, day or night. Activities of many kinds for all ages are available to enjoy, including games & entertainment, exhibitions, parties, freebie pop-up services and more.
8. A Plethora of Food, All the Time
24 hours a day, a buffet station is open somewhere. There’s a wide spread of food options available on board along with exercise options to help curb your guilt. A number of persons have been overheard postponing their diet start date for the umpteenth time. To those with the discipline to not overindulge on a cruise, hats off to you!
9. Mesmerizing Sunsets
Who doesn’t appreciate a beautiful sunset? Every day during the golden hour, it is a ritual for many to sit on the ship’s deck and admire the sun as it disappears into the sea. The sky’s orange and violet colour combination reflecting on the ocean’s gentle waves is a lovely sight to behold.
10. It’s Easy to Make Friends
With so many events happening during the cruise trip, you’re bound to meet new people of various backgrounds. Some of them will be friends for 1 song, 1 activity, 1 meal, or 1 excursion, while some have the potential to go beyond that.
11. One Big Party
On the first night, everyone on the ship descended from their rooms to be in view of the main area. Enthusiastic workers on microphones at the central bar engaged the crowd with catchy tunes and dances spanning generations. Everyone enjoyed doing the bump, electric slide, and the wobble in unison on the multi-level vessel as it lit up with neon lights. I was so busy having fun that this was one of the rare occasions I forgot to whip out a camera!
12. Various Music Genres
Partying at different venues throughout the ship all had a similar experience. Deejays play multiple genres in segmented slots in an effort to include a majority of the cultures in attendance. Mainstream pop, hip hop, and r&b are accompanied by oldies and music of the Caribbean (mostly Jamaican) and Hispanics.
13. Early Excursion Bookings Recommended
Excursions are reserved on board and have a limited number of spaces available for each time slot. They also come at an extra cost. For the two designated stops in the Bahamas, Nassau and Half Moon Cay island,two full days were enjoyed. We walked through the Bahamian popular attraction, Atlantis, before heading the Dolphin Cay to interact with dolphins and seals then stopping at a small local restaurant for lunch. On a separate day, we traveled to the remote Half Moon Cay where we snorkeled for a collective first time above a huge reef before enjoying the sands of its picturesque beach. Enjoyed it so much I had to snorkel in Negril when I returned home.
14. Genuine Interactions with Locals
Once off the ship, you’re put right into the epicenter of town activity which provides a glimpse of local life. On our stop in Nassau, the capital of Bahamas, we strolled through the town trying hands playing a roadside steel pan, peeking into shops, purchasing from the craft market, and even getting a free share of guineps from generous locals (gladbag buss!).
15. Returning to the Ship is A Lengthy Process
If departing the vessel, you’re expected to return by a certain time. With each person being required to have documents processed before boarding, lines and waiting around the specified time can become extensive.
Where would you like to cruise to next? What cruise(s) have you been on, if any?
Let me know in the comments if we have any cruise experience similarities 🙂
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