If you are a first-time cruiser - this is totally the article for you!
I will attempt to answer some of the most common cruise questions for you guys.
To start off, this was my 9th cruise with my husband. We are a 20-something year old couple with no children that began cruising in 2010 and quickly became obsessed with the convenience and glory of it all!
For this cruise, we went with Royal Caribbean’s 5 Day sailing on the Majesty of the Seas which departed November 30, 2015 from Miami, FL and headed to Nassau, CocoCay, and Key West before returning to Miami on December 4, 2015.
We like to do a little bit of everything on our cruise vacations. Sometimes, we’re in the mood to do nothing but relax all week. Other times, we’re feeling far more adventurous and spend our time sight-seeing and doing as the locals do.
But this time, one of our closest friends came along with us so we took advantage of our youth and did as much as we possibly could in our short trip.
No matter what kind of vacationer you are, there is something to do for EVERYONE whether you are the type that likes to indulge in some island history with your family, snorkel or scuba dive around some pretty sweet shipwrecks, read your favorite book with your butt parked in some soft white sand, or if you’re the kind that likes to dance on bars and relive your 20s! Hey - it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere!
Nonetheless, I have some great information for you all!
First, everyone always asks “what is there to do on a cruise ship?”
Well, I made sure that this time around, I kept all of the Cruise Compass sheets that our lovely stateroom attendant left for us each day.
No matter which cruise line you are on, your stateroom attendant will leave these handy guides on your cabin. They give you a complete and total rundown of what is going on around the ship.
Some of what is on these sheets will look like some mumbo-jumbo to you. But, there is a lot of helpful information on the front and inside of the guides like the weather forecast, where you can get fresh pool towels, any sales or promotions the ship has going on, descriptions of the entertainment or shows that are coming up, and so on.
Then, on the back side of the guide, there is a timeline of the daily activities for you.
I typically tear this page off and stuff it in my purse so I always have it handy.
We flew Southwest Airlines to Fort Lauderdale and got an Uber to Miami because the flights to Miami were almost triple of those going into FLL.
The uber ride was a short 40 minute ride for a total of $66. Totally worth the extra savings because we would have had to pay for a taxi from the airport in Miami to the cruise terminal anyway.
The flight arrival times to Fort Lauderdale were also much better for us personally. Don’t totally rule out flying into to Fort Lauderdale as the hike to Miami is truly not that bad at all.
Continuing, our driver dropped us off right in front of the cruise terminal.
There will be kind employees waiting there to take your luggage.
If you did not print your luggage tags at home - do not fret! These guys have their own tags that you will quickly fill out and place on your bag. Super easy.
Once inside, it is sort of like an airport as you will walk through security and need to show proper identification.
From there, you will start waiting in the check-in line to get your sea pass cards.
One frequent question we’re always asked here is whether or not guests in the same cabin can have different credit cards tied to their seapass account.
The answer is YES! You totally can.
You will simply present them with your identification as well as the card that each person wants to use if the cards are different regardless of your cabin assignments.
You also have the option at the end of the cruise to pay off your seapass account with cash instead of having it billed to your card.
And parents --- don’t worry, you can refuse spending rights on seapass cards for your children if you wish!
These seapass cards make cruising cashless if you want them to as you can even use them in the casino. However, if you prefer to use cash for your games, that is also an option.
Should you lose your seapass card, you simply go to guest relations to get a new one printed.
Whoever else is using your same credit or debit card will also need to get a new one printed as well.
Once you’ve got your seapass cards, that is it! You’re all set.
These little cards become your way on and off of the ship in almost of all the ports.
There are a few ports out there that will require you to take your passport with you but you will be notified many times before getting off of the ship if you are in one of those particular ports.
Otherwise, it is a good idea to leave your passport on the ship and only take your seapass card and government issued photo identification.
Typically, your stateroom is ready for you once you get on the ship.
However, it takes a little time for your luggage to arrive.
So, if you want to change out of your road-trip or flight ensemble, you may want to have a spare outfit in your carry-on tote.
What the heck is a muster drill, you ask?
A muster drill is a mandatory exercise with the objective to familiarize all guests and crew with the location (muster station) where they are to assemble in the unlikely event of an emergency. During this drill, additional safety information (i.e., how to don a lifejacket) is presented.
This is totally mandatory on every cruise line.
Each person is accounted for at their preset station indicated on your sea pass card so everyone must attend even if you have cruised before.
Everyone has to pile together in their designated area. It takes 15-30 minutes depending on how many stragglers are taking their time to get to their area.
You will think it is a total pain in the butt, but safety is absolutely necessary and it is relatively brief!
One of the greatest debates in cruising is whether or not you should purchase the drink package. Is it really a good value or just another gimmick for the cruise line to make money?
We’ve carefully taken the time to comb through all of the major cruise lines out there and provide you folks with specific pricing for the packages as well as what you can expect to pay for individual drinks.
My personal opinion as a 20-something year-old relatively experienced cruiser is that you should purchase your drinks individually -- unless at the time of booking you were able to snag a free drink package as part of the cruise line’s current promotion.
Drink’s really aren’t THAT expensive.
We purchased a bottle of wine almost every night at dinner and it didn’t break the bank.
Most bottles start around $30 and go upwards from there. This is a pretty typical price of what you’d pay if you were dining out at a normal restaurant.
Domestic beer bottles start at $4 with mixed drinks and shots averaging $7 a piece.
The main reason I find drinking the value of your package so hard to do is because you are in port from the morning until dinner time usually which only leaves you the evening to drink your value.
Also, most cruise lines these days require everyone in your cabin to get the package.
Unless everyone in your cabin plans on drinking their value of the package, you may be better off purchasing your beverages individually.
Some of the cruise lines, like Norwegian, even offer pub crawls on their sailings where guests can pay $25 a person to join a group of fellow cruisers on scavenger hunt type game guest in which they will receive at least 5 different drinks from 5 different bars on the ship.
You can also purchase other drinks during the pub crawl at a discounted price.
Plus, if you win any of the games, you are awarded with freebies.
What to Wear:
Guests frequently ask this question.
And, unless you’ve sailed before, it isn’t a crazy question to ask.
Feel free to dress as you please during the day on the islands and around the pools onboard the ship.
But to eat in the buffet or some of the casual restaurants around the ship, you’ll want to throw on at least a swimsuit coverup or a tank top.
For evening dining, no matter if you have the first, second, or flexible dining time, you will want to dress as if you are going to a nice restaurant at home.
Men can wear anything from jeans to a suit on casual nights, but sleeves of some sort must always be worn at all times. Simply put, no tank tops or cut offs.
Shorts are also acceptable.
There is typically always one formal night on each sailing, but sometimes there are two or three depending on the length of your sailing.
Ladies can be seen in anything from sun dresses or pants suits to full length beaded gowns.
How you dress for this night is up to you and your comfort level, but casual shorts and flip flops are typically frowned upon for this night.
Men usually are seen wearing slacks and a button up, slacks and a blazer, a suit, and sometimes a tuxedo. Again, it is up to the cruiser and their comfort level.
Is it necessary to book excursions through the cruiseline before I go?
The answer is no, not at all.
However, if there is an excursion that you really want to do, book early because the popular ones will sell out!
Otherwise, you can wait to add them once you are onboard the ship.
I would also like to add that booking shore excursions through the cruiseline is almost always non-refundable so please make sure it is what you want to do before purchasing!
Additionally, you can save yourself a huge chunk of change by booking your excursions off of the ship when you are in port - especially in the Caribbean.
I personally have been to almost every single Caribbean cruise port and know all of the ports that will have kind guides waiting in the port area for cruisers to get off of the ship so they can offer them great deals on shore excursions.
Grand Turk, along with all of the privately owned Cruise line islands, are among the few that will not have these discounted excursions for sale in the port area.
To give you a recent example of an excursion I booked in the port is when we got off of the ship in Nassau this time, we shopped around with all of the tour guides there and decided to go with Marco Polo’s Bahamas Tours.
Price is set by group size typically. This time, we paid $30 per person for a round trip tour that took us in an air conditioned mini bus on an island highlights tour.
A similar tour would cost upwards of $105 per person through the cruise line.
We also stopped at several private beaches for photo opportunities, the straw market for shopping, the Queen’s Staircase for a guided tour, Fort Charlotte (we actually got to go inside), and then back to the port if you’d like or you can opt to be dropped off at Junkanoo Beach which is what we did.
Junkanoo beach is just a short 5 minute walk back to the port when you are finished there.
There is also a Fat Tuesday’s bar with free wifi if you make a purchase right next to the beach area.
There are also many other vendors there selling cold drinks and snacks for you to enjoy.
In CocoCay, we booked our excursion on the cruise ship the day before.
It was an adult- only snorkeling and floating tiki bar beach party.
The snorkeling was phenomenal!
We were given really nice equipment (to our surprise) and were taken to a surrounding island.
We saw a few puffer fish, multiple eels, couple of wild stingrays, lionfish, several crabs, a giant family of lobsters, and countless sand dollars, starfish, sea biscuits, and conch shells!
The food is amazing!
The cost of all of your meals is included in your cruise fare.
You do not need to spend any additional money on meals unless you purchase something on the islands or dine at one of the specialty dining restaurants.
The buffet is open for the vast majority of the day. Of course, times vary from cruise line to cruise line but the hours of operation will be in your handy guide that your stateroom attendant leaves for you.
Most cruise lines also offer complimentary room service that you can order 24 hours a day. We ordered something literally every single night on our trip this time.
My favorite in terms of dining is the evening dinner.
You get to select your starter, main course, and dessert from a different menu each night.
The best news is that there is no limit to how much you can order!
Never had escargot but really want the golden tiger shrimp as your appetizer? Well, order BOTH!
The same goes for your main course as well as your dessert. You can sample it all if you have room for it!
You have the option to place your luggage outside of your room on your last night of your trip.
If you pick this option, you will get off of the ship at a pre-set time with other guests that are in your same disembarkation group.
This is assigned by which deck your on.
It is convenient because you don’t have to haul all of your luggage off yourself.
Additionally, you can wake up, wander the ship one last time, enjoy a hot breakfast, and truly go about at your leisure until your group is called.
But, if you’re anything like me, you book the earliest flight home because you’re in a race to get back to your fur-babies!
Most of the time, cruise ships are scheduled to clear customs at 7 or 8 a.m.
If you have an early flight, you just want to keep your luggage so that you can just haul it off yourself.
This process is called the self-checkout.
Around 6:30 a.m., you will want to proceed to the main deck with your bags and get in line so that you can walk off of the ship as soon as it clears customs.
Once you’ve got through the U.S. Border Patrol security check, there will be countless cabs and shuttles waiting for you outside to take you to the airport.
My personal opinion is to take a cab, Uber, or Lyft to your destination instead of a shuttle.
Most of the time, these shuttle vans are only a few dollars cheaper per person if cheaper at all.
You have to wait for them to fill all the way up and are totally crammed.
Waiting for a shuttle van to fill up resulted in a close call for us one time with our departing flight so I prefer to spend just a few more dollars and not have to wait or squish!
Have questions? Email me! Tasha@MilitaryCruiseDeals.com