We got back from our very first cruise back at the end of August and whilst we had the most amazing holiday, there were some things we wish we had known beforehand.
- Make sure you check-in online in good time before your cruise and print off all the documentation. You can also sign the kids up for Kids Club, book excursions and treatments in the spa and register a payment card before you sail, which will save lots of time onboard and guarantee you a place.
- Download the Carnival Hub App – not only is it a cute countdown tool before you go, but whilst you are onboard it is your itinerary, map and helps you keep on top of your on-board sail and sign purchases. You can also use it without purchasing a wifi package.
- Don’t be seduced by drinks packages – they are great if you know you will buy a lot of drinks, however we bought bottomless bubbles for each member of the family which gives you unlimited soft drinks and we hardly used it. Free water, traditional lemonade, iced tea, tea and coffee are available in the Lido Restaurant. With a bottomless bubbles package you can go back to the bar to claim a free drink every five minutes, so buying a couple for the whole family would work.
- Take lanyards – you need your sail and sign card for almost everything so keeping it around your neck is recommended. You also need the card to get on and off the ship as they scan you to ensure they know you have left and returned again.
- Choose your excursions wisely. You are best off reviewing excursions in advance of the cruise and booking them online to secure your space. Many excursions are not suitable for young children, however, they are able to stay onboard in the kids club whilst you are off the boat. If you book an excursion with lots to see it can feel rushed.
- Take advantage of Kids Clubs. Carnival has well-organised activities for children, at Camp Ocean, organised by age. There are a plethora of activities to keep the kids entertained while giving parents some free time as well. The best part is that aside from late night babysitting, it is completely free, although be prepared to carry a brick of a phone around with you, just incase of any issues.
- Spend time on the ship when it is in port. You don’t have to get off the ship in every port and it is the ideal time to take advantage of everything it has to offer as it is much quieter. We did the waterpark on a port day and literally walked up to the slides with little or no queuing.
- Be aware that service gratuities of 15% are automatically added to your sail and sign account towards the end of the cruise. The majority of the tipping amount goes to employees such as stateroom stewards, assistant stewards, dining room waiters and assistant waiters and those behind the scenes and equates to around $14 per person per day of the cruise. Also be aware that it will also be added to any treatments, drinks and food.
- Children who are not toilet trained, including those in swim nappies are not allowed in any of the water facilities onboard, as per United States Public Health Services. There are also no lifeguards on any of the pools so close parental supervision is needed.
- The food is out of this world, but don’t discount the pay extra restaurants. They are an experience in themselves and it would be a shame to miss them. At JiJi Asian Restaurant each member of the family had to roll a dice and choose who is gonna be lucky, the winner the chooses the menu for table, expect to be serenaded in Cucina Del Capitano and Fahrenheit 555 has the most amazing steak dishes to try.
We were one of five Carnival families aboard the Vista and you can see what everyone’s experiences of the cruise were by clicking the links below.