Carnival is actually considered the "poor man's cruise" compared to some of the more luxurious lines. But I live in a budget. And I am a firm advocate for CCL.
When Peppy suggested we go on a cruise for our first anniversary/babymoon when I was pregnant with Gage, I was kind of on the fence about it. Wouldn't it be crowded with obnoxious drunk people pushing all over the place? And what about how I get motion sick in the car? Was I going to be puking exorcist style in every direction?
I actually feel a little weird about this post, because I'm not a certified cruise expert or anything. This is just the fourth cruise that I have ever been on. But I can honestly say that I love going on cruises so much that I would go on them for every vacation (only to different locations) if I could. Where else can you get your lodgings, food, entertainment, and the ability to go to an exotic location for one price? So I've put together a little list of things I've learned from cruising so far.
*If you have a flexible schedule, book at the last minute. During one cruise Peppy and I began talking to an older couple who had basically the same type room that we did. They had booked months in advance and paid $600 a person for a 5 night cruise. We booked two weeks in advance and paid $179 a person for a room with an ocean view.
*Cruise ships are going to be crowded, that's a given. But it's not as bad as you might think. The only times we ever have to wait for anything was if we were eating at one of the buffets during a peak meal time. (Although we ate a majority of our meals in the dining room. Peppy and I have both spent too many years being servers in restaurants, so we take advantage of being waited on.) There are so many activities going on at any given time that the guests are spread out all over the ship.
We had a balcony once. See, it was mini size. And no, Peppy doesn't have his legs. And yes, he probably hates me for sharing this picture.
*Ok. Let's talk seasickness. Out of the three cruises I have been on, I felt queasy for one evening on two of those trips. Both times it was in the middle of our trip and the weather got bad for the evening. Both times I popped a Dramamine and was out until morning and felt fine. Peppy has no problem with seasickness. I was actually surprised that it took such rough waters to make me queasy, because I can travel on dirt roads and feel like I am going to puke. Aside from those rough nights, I couldn't even really tell when the ship was moving. This time around I am going to bring some Bonine on board with me. It is supposed to make you less drowsy than Dramamine.
*I don't drink alcohol but if I did, I could easily see how the price of your trip could be doubled (or tripled) without you even realizing it. Whenever you order a drink, all you do is show them your room card and sign a piece of paper. So you really don't know how much you are spending until the night before you reach home port, when your receipt is slipped under your door. I am a big Diet Coke drinker, and I will usually purchase a soda card for around $20, which gives you unlimited soda for your entire trip. BUT you can also bring your own soda in your luggage, if you'd like. And I am pretty sure that you are allowed to bring a bottle of wine for every person in your party that is over 21.
*The activities on board range from the fancy and pricey, like spa treatments, to the absolutely free.....like a hairy chest competition. We are always down for the free stuff. Every night you will get a detailed itinerary for the next day, so you can make your plans for where you want to be in advance. There are always games and scavenger hunts going on, Bingo, shows in the theatre, or just lounging around in the sun. I also find great enjoyment in watching the drunk people perform in the karaoke bars.
Formal night. I never went to my prom. So this is as good as it gets.
*What about the ports? Be sure to do your fair share of research for the ports you will be stopping at. Cruise lines will offer shore excursions (like snorkeling or tour guides)...for a fairly hefty price. We generally just rent a moped or jeep and drive around doing our own thing. Also, if you plan to go shopping at any of the ports, put on your sunglasses and don't make eye contact when you first step off the ship. Most of the docks are right at shopping centers, and you are going to get hassled the moment you step onto land. Just smile, say 'no thanks' and keep on walking. Generally you can find much cheaper prices if you get out of the main shopping area.
*The shops on board are expensive. One time I forgot to bring deodorant, but the only kind they offered in the gift shop was around $8. So I just used Peppy's and smelled like a man. No big deal. If you do find something that you like in one of the shops, wait to buy it. Most of the time, by the end of your trip they will offer a 50% off sale.
Remember, no matter what you're doing, a trip is going to be what you make of it. Go in with a good attitude and (hopefully) you'll have a blast. Just be willing to accept that not everyone on board is just like you. But you all are there for the same reason. To have a good time.