Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Cruise/Vacation Tips

Many of these can be found in other posts, here are my favorites in no particular order:

Carnival uses sail & sign card for everything. It's a room key/charge card/disembark/boarding card all in one.  You can use a card holder lanyard either with pocket or they have a hole you can just clip your lanyard to it.  

We also got RFID credit card holders to take our cards/cash off the ship.  They easily fit in your pocket. 

Coffee usually sucks on cruise ships and some hotels.  If you really like good coffee bring your own and get a travel steeper

My room steward commented on how good my coffee smelled.  I left her my leftover coffee and my coffee steeper.
Don’t forget your travel mug.
I also bring mini cups with lids to carry the coffee from my room to the buffet. 

Bring lots of Ziploc bags in different sizes.  Quart, gallon, 2 gallon.  Can be used for ice, wet clothes, carrying your coffee to breakfast and the wet travel steeper back to the room.  Also, grab some fruit/snacks and take it with you.

The ship is metal, the walls and ceilings are metal, bring magnetic hooks.  I got these at Walmart and they were very helpful keeping my oxygen tubing off the floor preventing a tripping hazard.  Can also be used to hang clothes, towels, laundry bag etc.

I I bring extra hangers, the flat lightweight kind, because there aren’t usually enough, though this time there were plenty.  I think someone left them behind. You can get slim hanger clips for pants/skirts for the slim hangers. You can also just use the magnetic hangers that I mentioned above.

Extension cords and power strips are helpful.  You can usually get an extension cord from the ship, just ask your steward.  On some ships staterooms have only 1 plug.

 If you need a handle getting in/out of shower/tub, this is a good travel handle.  Never fell off the whole week on the ship and I even hung my mesh shampoo bag on it.  It’s small and lightweight enough to pack.

If you check your bag don’t forget to bring a carry on bag with your medicines, jewelry, bathing suits, extra clothes etc.  You may not get your checked bags until later.   You can then use this bag for the last night/morning since you have to put your checked bags out the night before.  On most cruise lines your empty suitcases fit under the bed.

When the restaurant boxes up stuff to take back to your room they usually put it on a plate with a cover.  This plate doesn’t fit in the mini fridge.  We used to bring a small collapsible cooler, but that didn’t work either for the plates.  We got this round collapsible cooler.  It collapses but it does take up quite a bit of room in the suitcase.  We were driving so it didn’t matter because we could have taken it out of the suitcase and carried it off if we need the room. One 2 gallon Ziploc filled halfway with ice kept everything cold.  

We got lightweight foldable backpacks.  These worked great.  

 Cruise luggage tags work great and protect the paper from getting wet or pulling off.  There are different ones for the different cruise lines.  We got these for Carnival.  They worked very well. 

Tipping.  Bring cash to tip your dining room server (if you have anytime dining like we did you can tip the individual groups accordingly)  and room stewards.  I don’t know about other cruise lines, but Carnival takes some of the money out of the tips.  Go to guest services and have dining and housekeeping taken off your list and then tip them with cash.  That way they will get the entire tip.  Leave Alternative Services on since this goes to all the people who take care of you on the lido deck.  Bar servers you can tip as you go but watch out as tips are usually included.  I also found out that Carnival has been cutting back on staff for the last year.  Many long time staff have quit. (No this has nothing to do with immigration, they’ve been cutting back well before Trump even started running).  Therefore the room stewards need to cut back on service depending on the steward’s load.  Our steward could clean the room either in morning or evening.  If you choose morning there was no turn down service.  Every time I cruise I notice they’ve cut back more and more.  However,  the staff is great, they bust their butts and they do it with a smile.  Keep an eye out, you’ll see they work very hard.  That’s why you want the entire tip (and maybe then some) to go to them. 

Speaking of dining, Carnival has 3 dining options.  Early dining at 6:00pm (5:30pm for Alaska cruises), Late dining at 8:15pm (7:45pm for Alaska cruises) or 'Your Time' open seating, between 5:45pm and 9:30pm (between 5:15pm and 9:00pm for Alaska cruises). The early and late dining you get the same table/wait staff every night.   We  do the ‘Your Time’ dining.  If you come early you might have to wait.  They use pagers now.  If you come at 8pm or later you don’t have to wait and you can ask to sit with the same wait team (though not necessarily same table) every night.  It’s very flexible and if you don’t like your dining staff you can pick someone else the next night.  Also, if you go later you get more individual attention because the dining room isn’t full.  Don’t forget, unless otherwise stated, you are not limited to only one appetizer, dinner or dessert. You usually can also get the dining room menus in advance if you ask at guest services/purser.  If you are traveling over a holiday, make specialty dinner reservations as soon as you book your cruise.  Even though we did, the steak house was sold out for our anniversary which coincides with Valentine’s day.

If the ship has multiple buffet stations on lido deck, the ones in the back are usually less crowded.

If you like bananas, eat them at the beginning of the cruise, they will be non-existent by the end.  They load them on in the home port so they are no good by the end of the cruise unless you grab a few and keep them in your mini-fridge.  They will turn black on the outside but the inside will still be good 5-7 days once ripe. 

We’ve now had 2 bad experiences with the Carnival Breeze “Cherry on Top” store.  The first cruise they didn’t deliver things as promised and then tried to say they delivered things they didn’t.  It was a hassle and my birthday cake came 2 days late because of all the back and forth trying to get it delivered.  This cruise they had the total for something Jerry picked up in the store and he signed for one amount and they added a tip for delivery (it wasn’t delivered) without telling him.  We had to go to guest services Saturday night and wait in a long line to get it taken care of and it still wasn’t taken care of as we were getting ready to get off the ship.  Once again we waited in a long line to get it take care of.  The guest services person got on the phone and waited until it was credited to our account and then gave us our final bill.  Long story short, watch your charges like a hawk. 

Carnival hub app.  It’s great.  There is room for improvement, but it’s great.  It has the entire schedule, ship map, photos, time schedules open/close.  There’s a chat feature we didn’t use, it costs $5 but we didn’t need it.  The photo feature will get even better as they convert the ships over to totally digital photos.  Right now only the Vista has it and the Breeze is next in April.  Right now the Breeze is only semi-digital.  There is face recognition and when  they take photos on the ship they connect some of the photos automatically by swiping your sign/sail card.  Some of them still have to enter your cabin number manually.

Speaking of photos, they use your passport photo as your id photo now.  I was appalled as my photo is horrendous and every time I went in/off ship or had photos taken there was my awful photo. 

Carnival says don’t bring towels they have for you to use, and yes they do.  However, their towels weigh a ton and 2 tons wet.  I bring lightweight towels I got at Walmart for about $5.  They also come in handy when you need to wrap breakable things up.

You can bring on 2 bottles of wine.  Depending on which port they may ask to see the wine.  I use wine skin bags to protect the wine.  They are disposable but I usually use them several times before I need to throw them away.  You can also use the bags to protect small breakable items on the way home.  Carnival has a $15 corkage fee if you want to drink it in the dining room.  On our last cruise we found a wine we liked.  On the ship it’s $36, at Total wine it’s usually 12.99.  I got it on sale for $10.39.  So even with the corkage fee I saved money. (Yes, they charge almost 3 times what you can get the wine for on land).  Mini fridge is good for wine.  You can only bring on one bottle per person.

Bring filter bottles and fill them on the lido deck.  You can also bring a travel cup or sports bottle and fill with juice/tea.  Carnival has Orange juice and a mixed juice in the morning and lemonade and tea all other times.  You can fill your bottles and they will fit in the mini fridge with your wine.

Depending on the port you may have to have your CPAP/oxygen concentrators check by K9 unit.  They never opened the CPAP machine bag, though I’m sure they are supposed to.  They do sell distilled water on the ship.  Gallon is around $3.49.

  Most ports let you on the ship just by showing your sign/sail card.  Some ports, like Cozumel, make you go through security, X-ray, metal detector etc.

If you are on Carnival and it a standard stateroom, faster to the fun is worth the price, unless you don’t mind waiting…  They sell out fast.

If you are in a cabin or hotel room that you need to put a card in to keep your lights on, you can use any card, it doesn’t have to be your room key card. 

Have fun.  If you have any other great tips, let me know and I’ll add them.