18 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Carnival Cruise

Over the summer, I went on my first cruise. My little brother and I wanted to go a trip but we didn’t feel like planning the trip or really being responsible. So we thought, what the heck! Let’s go on a cruise. I spent WEEKS researching for the best cruise deal for our money and cruise secrets but I felt lost. 

So two weeks before the cruise was scheduled to depart, we booked our tickets for a balcony room with priority passes and the drink package. We split the room cost 3 ways and we all enjoyed a 5 day cruise for less than $1000 bucks! None of us had ever been on a cruise before so we had no idea what to expect…

From arriving at the terminal with our luggage – we were completely lost. Luckily, they had luggage tags for us to use and they directed us to our line. From there, the three of us managed to survive our first cruise. With that being said, we learned A LOT! Here are 18 things I wish I knew before my first cruise.

1. Priority passes are a must.

There is no better way to filter yourself on the cruise than with priority passes. From my experience, hardly anyone splurge on the extra priority passes. I felt like VIP being able to skip lines or hardly ever wait in line. I can’t tell you how much I thought Gosh, I’m so glad we got the priority passes – from boarding to dinner reservations – our priority passes paid off.

2. Bring a lanyard or grab a free one at the casino.

I didn’t realize that I would be carrying a little card everywhere for everything – I needed it at the bar, when I left the ship, to get in my room, literally EVERYTHING! I never wanted to carry my purse so I had to make sure not to lose the card. So bring a fun festive lanyard or grab a free one at the casino! I learned that you can go to the casino and ask a cashier for a lanyard, and they will give you one for free! For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know I’m a frugal gal.

3. You can bring your favorite snacks on board.

Yes, Andrew, you can bring your favorite snacks on the cruise!! It must be unopened, prepackaged, and ready to eat! Therefore, if you are one of those people who must enjoy a bag of almonds with your coffee – you’re in luck! You can also bring a maximum of 12 sealed cans of cartons such as soda, juice, or milk per person. I wish I would have known this before my first cruise. I would have brought little snack cakes and diet coke.

4. Treat the daily cruise itinerary like your bible. 

Each morning they hang a little daily itinerary in your door. TREAT IT LIKE YOUR BIBLE! It literally answers all of your questions- What events are going on today? When is that restaurant open? Is there a show tonight? What time is dinner? Etc. Make sure to carry it with you and use it as your tour guide.

5. You can bring your own alcohol.

You know those wines with screw caps? Bring those! You are allowed to bring two bottles of unopened bottle wine or champagne per person (of age, of course!). If you open it at dinner and it’s a cork top – they charge you $20 bucks. Sometimes you just need to enjoy a class on wine in your room with a good book… buy the screw tops!  

6. Make friends wisely.

Simple right? Don’t make friends with someone who will literally stalk you on the cruise ship. Also, don’t piss anyone off on the first night(especially not your balcony neighbors, oops!). YOU ARE STUCK ON THE SAME BOAT WITH THEM FOR YOUR ENTIRE CRUISE! Remember that when you meet a really nice person and you give them your room number. Nothing is worse than feeling like you have to entertain someone on your vacation.

7. Download the Carnival Hub App

What’s the point of leaving the country if your cell phone still works?! NO WIFI PEOPLE! I loved the peace and quiet of my cell phone not having service. But it would be nice to be able to check in with my friends who couldn’t make it to the pool because they were recovering from the night before. I would really suggest downloading the Carnival Hub app chat feature! For just a $5 flat fee per device, you chat with cruise friends while on your cruise!

8. Make sure you watch a show while on the boat.

I never would have thought cruises would have great shows… we didn’t watch our first show until the last night of our cruise and I totally regret it! The performers were great and they really interacted with the audience. I wish I would have known they were so good. Make sure you watch at least one while on your cruise!

9. Skip the drink package – seriously.

The drinks are pretty strong and not overpriced… unless everyone in your room plans to get WASTED every night, the passes aren’t really worth it. You need to drink 7 cocktails to pay for the daily drink package. I promise after day 3, you won’t be drinking your daily max amount of 15 cocktails. Trust me, there is no worse hang over than being stuck on a boat that is rocking in the middle of the ocean. I literally didn’t think I would survive. Save your money – skip the drink package.

10. Bring a first aid kit.

You might get a headache – bring Advil. You might cut your foot on the beach – bring band aids. Suffer from motion sickness? They make something for that! Basically, try your best to avoid going to medical for minor things. They have a standard fee they charge and I promise if your incident is minor – you will want to avoid it!

11. Power outlets are limited.        

You’re probably thinking you aren’t even going to have your phone turned on while on your cruise… but you might want to listen to music or even read your e-books! Therefore, you will need to charge it. Power outlets are limited… so remember that!

12.  Bring your own cup.

Did you just laugh? I know it sounds crazy but they only offer these small plastic cups that they wash and reuse… I wish I would have brought a large Yeti cup to use throughout my cruise. It would have been so nice to carry around with me at the pool and back to the room.

13. Luggage Tags are a must.

Luckily, our paper tags lasted throughout our cruise… but you could barely read our sharpie paper tags when we got our luggage back! I will invest in luggage tags next time. I would have hated to lose our luggage. Lesson learned.

14. Dirty laundry bag/suitcase.

Nothing drives me crazier than mixing my clean clothes with my dirty clothes. I should have brought a laundry bag to separate the two and help keep the room organized. Unfortunately, the cruise ship didn’t have hampers but that’s okay! Next time, I will bring a bag.

15.  You can ask guest services for a deck of cards – they are free!

Want to host a poker game back in your room? HA kidding or maybe not… anyways, you can go to guest services and ask for a deck of cards and they will give you one for free! It’s like a hidden cruise ship secret.

16. You might not see your luggage for hours after you board!

Yep, you read it right. HOURS AFTER YOU BOARD! Pack whatever you need for the first 4 hours of your cruise in a tote and keep it with you. You may board at 11:30 am and not see your luggage until 5 pm.

17.  You can order more than one entree at dinner.

You’ve been relaxing in the sun all day and you are HANGRY. We all get it – nobody is judging you on the cruise. Therefore, don’t be shy! You can order as many entrees as you wish a dinner! Want the shrimp cocktail? Order it. Want the steak too? Order it!

18. You can decorate your room door!

I know that’s the last thing you’re thinking about right now… decorating your cruise ship room door – but when you are stumbling back after a fun night at the piano bar or a long day at the pool, you will notice the door covered in flamingos before you find your door that looks like all the others!

Seriously though, so many people were creative in decorating their doors. Birthdays, reunions, family vacations, wedding parties, etc. It was so fun and festive. Get creative!

Lastly, just have fun! Even though I didn’t know or have these items on my first cruise – I still survived! I may have suffered a little… but I still enjoyed my trip. I’m already planning my next cruise experience.

Tell me! Are you going on your first cruise?! If not, what are your cruise secrets?!