Last week we returned from a 4-day cruise from Galveston to Cozumel, Mexico aboard the Carnival Triumph. It’s so great having the gulf less than an hour away and I’m glad we finally had a chance to try a cruise! We went with a group and this was the first time on a cruise for many of us. I had a lot of fears and worries and wasn’t sure how much I would like it, but in the end I decided I would do it again! We complied a list of tips and advice from our experience.
- Prepay for parking. The day we left it was POURING rain. And flooding. Needless to say we were running a little behind! Luckily our friends had prepaid parking so we were able to save some time and a bit of money.
- Check your bags. We checked our bags in before parking so that they would be taken to our room for us and we didn’t have to fuss with them through the parking lot and through the lines.
- Prepare for lines. Getting on and off the boat were probably the hardest parts of the trip simply because you have to wait in line. The actual process was simple – similar to the airport security. One added step is if you are bringing on water or alcohol (which I recommend you bring both) they check them. You can only bring 1 bottle of champagne or wine per person, and no liquor, so they check water bottles to make sure you aren’t sneaking any on.
- Pick your room wisely. We paid a little more because we chose a room with a window and it made a big difference. Having the window helped me combat motion sickness and having a larger room was helpful for having a meeting place for our group. Our room was in the lower center of the boat. Two of our friends had a room across the back of the boat – we don’t recommend that unless you like your room to vibrate constantly! We were on the Riviera deck and it was the perfect location – we had easy access to the whole boat.
- Pick the late dinner time. We had the 8:15 dinner time and it worked great. There’s food available ALL THE TIME, so we would go down and grab some meats and cheeses and snack on them and have drinks before dinner. After dinner we were able to take our time at the table since we were the last dining time. You have the same wait staff each night (also the steward or stewardess for your room is the same each day) and they learn your name – it’s really nice! Also, the food is actually really good – I’m talking crab cakes and filet mignon every time (as much as you can eat!). The food was seriously why I took the cruise ;-P
- Buy the wine package with dinner. It saves you money!
- Bring a hair dryer. There’s a hair dryer in the room but it’s AWFUL! Bring yours from home.
- Pre-book for the spa. The spa appointments book up FAST. Especially when you are on the shorter cruise.
- Don’t worry about the drink package. Like I mentioned, you can each bring a bottle of wine or champagne. If you want the drink package, EVERY person in your room has to purchase and it’s $50/day per person…. After lots of debate we all decided not to purchase. We also saw someone on the boat who had the package and they were cut off when they purchased 15 drinks – so it’s definitely not an “unlimited” package. They also counted each beer when you ordered a bucket of beer – which in a group we did often. All the drinks are under $10: beer, wine and champs you can get for $5 or $6 a glass, Daiquiris and frozen drinks are all $7.50 but unless the Russian bartender has a crush on you they aren’t going to be very strong. Also, you have to purchase soft drinks but you can bring as many non alcoholic drinks on board with you as you want. (Note: grab some OJ from the dining room and use the champs you brought on board to make your own Mimosas!)
- Look for local excursions. We didn’t book any excursions for our day in Mexico and it worked out well for us. After we made our way through all the shops and got off the pier where the cruise ships dock we were met by a ton of taxi cabs. Our driver took us to a Tequila tasting, Mayan ruins, and to the other side of the island where we had lunch and enjoyed a calmer beach. We each paid $25 bucks and and he drove us all afternoon. Much better deal than the almost identical excursion from Carnival that was $75/person!
I’m looking forward to doing another cruise again soon. I’m not sure if I’d like to do longer than 4 days but for a couple hundred bucks this is a great way to have a special getaway weekend!
Have you ever taken a cruise? If you have any advice or tips please leave a comment!