By popular demand via Instagram, I’ve chosen to share some tips & tricks when booking & venturing off on a cruise. Let me start off by saying that I just went on my first cruise and I absolutely loved it. I boarded the Enchantment of the Seas by Royal Caribbean Cruises and royalty is exactly what it felt like. The ship boarded and left from Miami and made it’s way through the Bahamas to Nassau, CocoCay Island and Key West. The entire experience was amazing and I highly recommend cruising if you want to see many places at once!
During the planning process, when gathering opinions from friends & co-workers, it was about 50/50. Cruises are not for everyone and all experiences are not like mine. It’s important to do your research and select the trip & cruise that works best for you, as any other trip you would book. Research is key.
Here’s what you need to remember before booking a cruise:
If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation, a cruise will limit that.
Cruises, as ironic as it is that you’re just “cruising,” are not very relaxing because it’s a lot of up and go. Depending on the length of the cruise, mostly all the site-seeing & activities are packed tightly in each day. There’s only certain hours to grab breakfast which means you will probably be waking up between 7:30-8:30am to catch it. Since only about 4-5 hours are designated for the off-shore activities, you pretty much wake up, eat breakfast and are headed off the boat to get as much time as possible on-shore. The destinations are beautiful, full of culture & are very unique, and before you know it, you’re back on the boat and sailing off to the next destination.
This vacation is very fast-paced, so you have to be okay with the constant change of scenery. Jamie & I understood and embraced this, which made our trip fun & energetic.
The Best Deals Will Show Closer to the Cruise Dates.
Booking way in advance is not always best, especially when it comes to cruises. The prices will typically drop $300-$400 when it’s about 3 months away. That’s a huge difference! I believe it’s because they want to get the ship filled as it gets closer, which makes sense. So don’t get too excited and book your cruise a year from now. keep checking and you’ll see the prices will gradually get lower.
Make sure you know what IS included in your cruise package and what is NOT.
Assuming that all cruise packages are all-inclusive is where you’ll find trouble when arriving on the ship. Make sure to throughly read what the package includes on the website and reach out to customer reps to answer any questions you may have, as they’ll be sure to cover anything you aren’t sure of on the website.
For our cruise, the off-shore excursions and the alcohol were NOT included. That’s the two most important aspects of the trip if you ask me. Since we knew this going in, we booked our cruise & then selected and booked our excursions about a month later, along with the unlimited beverage package they offered. We waited, because we were able to split up our expenses while also seeing price differences in all the excursions they offered and what we were most interested in.
Here’s my recommendations for these purchases in short:
- Buy the drink package for each day, it’s 100% worth it. Especially if you love to drink on vacation. Know the price limit, as not all drink price points will be covered.
- Don’t do an excursion everyday. Pick 1-2. Seriously, this trip is so fast-paced that you’ll be thankful doing nothing and just exploring on your own. We had 4 days total on the boat and did 2 excursions. One being an exclusive island called The Blue Lagoon and one being the Key Lime Bike Tour around Key West. It was the perfect dynamic of relaxing and adventure.
- Take advantage of the food on-board since it’s included. It will limit your food spending off the boat. Eat at one of the fancy restaurants on the boat once during your cruise, even though it does cost more. It really is a nice experience and you’ll be happy to decided to go a little fancier one evening.
Just be mindful and decide what you will value on this trip! That’s how you’ll make smart decisions and save money. You don’t need to do everything.
Food is not the focus.
Oftentimes, we go on vacation expecting to drool & rave over the food we eat when we’re there. A cruise just doesn’t provide that for obvious reasons. This trip requires feeding thousands of people, constantly, all day everyday…on a boat. So expect buffet galore. We enjoyed our meals and were satisfied, and is literally the only reason we rated our cruise a 4 instead of a 5. If you’re okay with average food, with hidden gems here and there, then you’ll be all set. The experience itself of traveling and venturing on and off the boat should outweigh that element.
Here’s what you should do when you’re onboard:
Take advantage of the ship.
The great thing about being on a cruise is that there are endless things to do. On the Enchantment of The Seas, they had a digital screen on every deck that was navigated by a touch screen that showed what activities were going on throughout the day and into the night. There were game shows, live bands, DJs, dance parties, a casino, karaoke, theatre shows, games, shopping discounts, pool parties & a lot more. Don’t just stay in the cabin or lay in the same sunny spot out on the exposed deck. Explore the ship, you paid for it.
Go Easy on the Drinking.
So yeah, you may have the unlimited beverage package, but this relates back to how cruises are fast-paced which usually involve lots of sun and of course…the moving part! You will feel the boat move regardless of how big it is. It’s been 2 days and I still have sea legs. The night entertainment promotes heavy drinking but just be smart about how much you do consume, because you really don’t want to ruin your experience and your excursions the next day.
Book your dinner reservations for later.
You might think that 6:00-6:30pm is a good time for dinner but usually you’re just getting back from the off-shore activities around 4:00-5:00pm which means you have limited time to shower, get ready and take a much needed nap after being out all day. I’d suggest a 7:30-8:00pm dinner timeframe as this allows you to sleep multiple hours beforehand and then you’ll be ready to go for the fun entertainment during the night!
Don’t tip the staff too heavily.
This is a price that can really add up by the end. Make sure to find out if gratuity is included in your cruise deal, because even if it is, there are still plenty of opportunities to tip extra. Not that the staff doesn’t deserve extra tips, but tipping every single time is not necessary considering the amount of food and drinks you’re ordering which ARE included. It just makes it harder that you have to sign a receipt every single time.
So tip every so often, especially when the staff has went above and beyond to make your experience better, otherwise you’ll end up with an unexpected huge bill at the end. Thankfully, we kept this in mind while still showing thanks to the wonderful staff that supported us!
That’s all I have for now. Overall, a cruise is an excellent and convenient way to see a lot of places at once. If you like to stay busy, enjoy a lot of entertainment & the flexibility of choosing what excursions you want to do, then this is the vacation for you.
We loved ours so much we’re already planning our 2019 cruise to…Alaska!