After leading the Crafty Chica Art Cruise for ten years (with 50-70 guests in each group), I thought it would be a good idea to share my tips! Here is my guide on how to prepare for your cruise! I’ve sailed on Carnival and Royal Caribbean, and at the end of this month, we’ll see what Norwegian has to offer! I can’t wait!
There is soooo much to cover! If you are thinking about taking a cruise – that’s great! I LOVE cruising! It’s like walking into a floating hotel where the staff aims to please. For reals. You can ask for anything and they’ll do their best to accommodate. It’s a great feeling to shut off from normal life and not have to worry about cooking or cleaning or worrying about anything. It takes a day or so to settle in, but your only goal becomes to enjoy the day ahead.
About motion sickness: I was worried about this on my first cruise. I used this trick where you wrap your finger around your wrist and press (here’s a video) and it worked. Of all the cruises, I’ve never been sick. The majority of our cruisers haven’t had a problem, but there is always one or two people who spend the first day in bed from motion sickness. So, if you are prone to motion sickness and want to take a cruise, make sure to buy the over-the-counter wristband that helps.
Next, decide where you want to go and when. I always love to visit Mexico and we live one state over from California (where they have several ports). All the cruise lines have similar destinations. NOTE: Once we went during spring break and hated it – that’s usually during the month of March!
Then choose your cruise line – each one is a little different. Carnival is the most affordable and is very family-oriented. I haven’t cruised on Disney, but I know that line is You’ll see a LOT of kids. RC, I noticed is more focused on adults. Both are awesome, you just have to choose the vibe you want!
Choose your cabin: We always get a standard cabin with a window. I like that I can see the sky and water and the new port we’ll be visiting. They also have a cheaper option of a no-window room. Once we tried the balcony room, but we were so busy with activities, we didn’t even use it.
Before your cruise, you’ll want to check out the excursions they offer. You book the official cruise packages, or when you get off the ship at each port, they have tours there as well. I’ve done both!
What to pack: Casual and comfy! Take a nice outfit for dress-up dinner night, a swimsuit and flip flops if you want to visit the pool. Also, make sure to take sunscreen for when you visit the ports. Think light, because you want to leave room in your suitcase for any souvenirs you buy at the ports. If you forgot something generic, no worries, the ships always have stores where you can purchase items. And you room usually comes stocked with toothpaste and antacid medicine.
When you pack your suitcases, you should have received luggage tags, make sure to put those on!
Once you get to the ship (usually you can board from noon-3), there will be porters who will take your bags. Make sure to tip them, and make sure to keep all personals on you. You won’t get those bags until later in the day, so if you have medicine or your phone charger, keep those with you. You’ll go through the ship’s entrance and check in.
Parking: We always arrive a day ahead and stay at a Park and Ride hotel that has a shuttle to the port. If you drive directly there, there is a daily fee to park at the port.
Tipping: They’ll ask for a credit card for tips, usually it’s $10-12 a day per person. What this means is that you don’t have to worry about tipping on the ship for all the things the staff does for you (housekeeping and servers). If you want to forgo this, you have to tell them you want to pay cash tips. It’s a very complicated process though. I think it’s easier just to do it all upfront! Bottom line: Make sure you have a credit card ready for this! And like a hotel, they will keep your card on file, so all purchases made on the ship are run through your card.
Drinks: These tips are not included in the above. A standard tip is added to your alcoholic beverages and drink packages, so make sure you don’t tip twice!
Passport: They’ll check your passport if you are going on a cruise that leaves the country, even if you don’t plan to exit the ship, you still need a passport. Make sure to have your passport ahead of time!
When all that is done, you’ll go to the Lido deck to relax and wait for your room to be ready for you. Usually around 1ish. This is where I always get my first rum punch! It goes down sooos month, especially because I know I’ve been waiting all year! After you get to your room and ship sets sail (usually around 4), everyone has to participate in a drill. It takes about 40 minutes, then the adventure begins!
Food: There’s lots of it! From buffets to sit-down service to late night taco and/or dessert bars, it’s all there! And you can even order room service!
Laundry service: Yes, they have it!
Sanitize like crazy! The crew works very hard to keep everything germ free. You can help by using the hand sanitizer everywhere you see a stand. They’re all over the ship.
Bring some cash for when you visit the ports, for buying smaller items. Be careful when using your debit card in Mexico – make sure to let your bank know ahead of time that you are traveling or they could but a hold on your card! This happened to us in Puerto Vallarta and it was such a headache! now I know to call my bank and let them know!
Water: Read your cruise contract to see if you can bring your own bottled water to save money!
Internet: As soon as the ship leaves the dock, turn your phone on airplane mode. They do have an Internet cafe and wifi service on the ship – but it is mega pricey! I always buy a package deal and quickly check my email each night. You will not have reception otherwise. WARNING: When you are in Mexico, make sure to connect to free wifi on your phone – or make sure to set up an international plan with your cell provider. One year I used my phone and came home with a $300 bill. Now I call to use set up an international plan beforehand!
Photos: Photographers will be EVERYWHERE to snap a picture of you! Every day they post them all for you to see. Each photo starts at around $20. We always get a group photo of the cruisers! And I always get one with the family.
If you go on a long cruise, like 7-8 days, I bet one day in the middle (usually after the first port because it really drains you for all the activity), you’ll get really burnt out and even homesick. Just relax and sleep and I promise you’ll wake up feeling energized!
The ships always have lots of fun things to do – casinos, coffeehouses, karaoke, fancy music shows, live bands, dance lessons, contests, etc. You’ll have a TV in your room and you can see a live feed from the Lido deck, as well as other channels.
Once the cruise is over, the night before you leave, you have to put your luggage outside your door and the bellhops will take it. Then early in the morning you’ll gather to the middle deck to leave the ship, pick up your luggage and go through customs. They’ll check your passport again!
All I can say is – indulge! Enjoy the experience! I truly love all of it. I have yet to take a cruise that doesn’t involve me teaching six workshops. Some day!
If you have any questions, just leave below and I’ll answer!