BEST ways to make YOUR 1st cruise your best Vacation ever!

Mexican Riviera Cruise

My sister and I recently took the 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise from Long Beach to Cabo and Puerta Vallarta. On the Carnival Splendor.

They are changing things up this Fall and the next ship to do this destination will be the Carnival Panarama.

Completely amazing and brand new! I will be doing this cruise next March. Whoo hoo!

It was by far one of the best vacations that I have ever taken.

A cruise is relaxing, rejuvenating, peaceful and exciting with all your food included! Could it get any better……yes it can, I’ve got a list of thinks to do to maximize your cruise experience!

Things to do before booking

  • Pick a Ship, destination, travel dates and room options. I highly recommend a balcony room. The extra space was well worth the price for us. Having breakfast and coffee delivered to your room and enjoying coffee on the balcony in the morning, looking for whales and dolphins was the perfect start to our mornings. I loved the 7 day cruise, I think 3-4 just isn’t long enough. On a 7 day cruise you have embarkment day (the day you get on the ship) 3 fun days at sea, 3 port days, 2 formal nights and disembarkment (getting off the ship) I thought this was a perfect amount.
  • Before deciding on a drink package, consider all your options. Embarkment day is exciting and for us, a drinking day. Then you have a full sea day with Sea brunch available in the dining room. We also drank on this day. Most excursions give you the options for food and alcohol included in the excursion. So that’s 3 port days, we drank @ dinner those nights. Then 2 sea days home. I drank one of those days, but not both. For me, It was worth it, for my sister- not so much. Coffee drinks at the coffee shop are also included in the Cheers alcohol package.
  • Pick and choose your excursions before embarking on the ship. All the featured excursions are customer voted favorites and fill up fast. Although it may be cheaper to book through a location other than with the cruise ship, it doesn’t come with the same guarantees so be careful.
  • Check the cancelation policy for your ship. This is usually 2-3 months before your departure date. The perfect time to call about upgrades or additional sales at this time. We bought our couples Spa package $80 off 3 weeks before departure. Some of the specialty restaurants- like the Steakhouse on Carnival offer a free bottle of wine if you book the Steakhouse on the 1st night. Spa treatments are usually discounted on port days.
  • What to NOT forget to pack. Bring your own cup. Yes there are plenty cups onboard, but they are very small. I brought by Yeti tumbler and a big coffee cup for my room. Just bringing ice back to our room for the night was great.
  • Elegant night outfit x 2 if your on a 6 or 7 night cruise.
  • Power strip cord with USB ports
  • Air freshener
  • Nausea medication
  • Extra hangers
  • Towel clips and magnetic clips
  • Decorations for your door
  • Suitcases that fit inside of each other
  • Beach bag for embarkment day and excursions.
  • Sunscreen
  • Laundry bag
  • $1, $5 Bill’s. These come in handy. There is 100 people helping you and the ones who go above, I like to tip a few dollars and hate to not have anything.
  • Conditioner
  • Flavored coffee creamer
  • Do NOT need to pack
  • Beach towel, bath towels or pillows these were all supplied and very nice.
  • Blow dryer. There is one supplied in every room, wasn’t the best power so this one depends on how long it takes your hair to dry.
  • Shampoo and body wash are supplied and refilled.
  • Prepay all Gratuities I do not like any last minute surprises. They charge the gratuities to your sign and sail card on the last day @ Sea. One of my favorite things about a cruise is the carefree attitude you have once on the ship. I want no surprises. I choose to leave a little extra, throughout my time on the ship but I like to know it’s already been paid.
  • Know exactly what is ‘INCLUDED’ Food –Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner in the main dining rooms and the buffet. Sea brunch on Sea days, early breakfast on port days. 24 hour Pizza, Room service, coffee, free drinks, hot chocolate and ice cream all open 24 hours. (Room service cost for late night) You can order a whole pizza if you want, or 2 burgers, 2 appetizers or 2 desserts at dinner. All of this is included.
  • There is a extra charge in the specialty restaurants also require a reservation. Some of these restaurants offer free sit down lunch.
  • Camp Ocean The activities in Camp ocean are included but your child does need to be registered. You can do this online or on embarkment day. Activities are available from 10pm-1am for a extra fee.
  • Entertainment Is included, comedy clubs, shows, events are all free.
  • Gym The gym is included to everyone and open @6am. They do offer workout classes for a fee, you have to sign up, so do so early if you are interested.
  • Spa The Spa cost extra, you can buy a Spa package for use of the amenities, whirlpool, sauna, aromatherapy rooms, locker rooms, hot stone chairs and more. Access to the Spa is granted with any treatment scheduled, for the day.
  • Pack a beach bag For embarkment day and excursions. Include a bathing suit, a change of clothing, sunscreen, passport, ID boarding pass for ship. This way while your waiting for your luggage to be delivered to your room you can already have a cocktail in the jacuzzi. Vacation has begun.

Embarkment day

  • Do not travel on Embarkment day Even if your ship does not leave port until 4:30pm, boarding is from 10:30-2:30 approximately. You should at least be near the port by 10:30am You can not control everything. A flat tire, plane delayed, bad weather, traffic accident ect. If you plan to be near your port the night before, you can wake up-On Vacation and ready to enjoy your time. Not stressed about getting there on time.
  • Download the ships APP It will show you all sorts of things including what is open to eat now.
  • Go to guest services Get a map of the ship they have a pocket sized one. Buy a lanyard for your ID and sign and sail card. Itenary for the day and upcoming events. Add money to your sign and sail card now. Plan for the specialty restaurants you want to go to, Spa services you have scheduled and money for a picture package or ship souvenirs.

One of my very favorite thing about a cruise is that everything is handled ahead of time, So I like to take care of it all at once.

  • Crew and Staff members All extremely helpful. Introduce yourself to your room stewart. Let them know if you have any special needs now. Special dietary restrictions, Special needs passengers, need a fan? Ask them where the quietest deck is. šŸ˜Š
  • Explore the ship Absolutely the best time to explore the ship, before the sail away party. Most ships have semi private decks at the front of every floor. Nothing fancy, but deck chairs and a beautiful view.
  • Find a great Sail Away spot! Enjoy your Vacation.
  • Your itenary for the next day will be delivered each night to your room.

Fun day at Sea

  • Sea day brunch
  • Drink of the day
  • Casino contests
  • Giveaways
  • Camp Ocean activities
  • Enjoy yourself

Port days

Depending on where you port, the departure process is different.

  • The APP shows ship time. Your itenary will show arrival time and departure time of every port. It also shows Sunrise and Sunset times.
  • Breakfast is served in the dining room until 8:30 on port days. Might as well get a free meal before heading out for a day of adventure.
  • All excursion tickets will be delivered the night before to your room. Instructions of where and when to meet is on your ticket.
  • If you miss your dining time on port days, show up anyway. You might a wait few minutes but they will let you eat dinner anytime.

Fun days at Sea home

  • There are usually 2 fun days at sea home, depending on your itinerary. I simply relax on the 1st one, whatever goes. Its completely up to you. Sleep in, get up early, eat all your meals in the dining room, Watch movies by the pool, go to both comedy shows, anything goes.
  • Wait to shop until the last day at Sea. You will see 25-50% off the ship shops. Jewelry, souvenirs and pictures.
  • Pick up luggage tags the night before disembarkment. The lower the number, the faster off the ship. If your in no rush, take a later numer and stay on Vacation a bit longer.
  • Your bags must be packed and out of your room about 10pm. Pack your beach bag as a overnight bag and day bag for getting off the ship. Toothbrush, car keys, everything you will need for disembarking the ship.

Disembarkment day

  • You have until 8:30am to leave your stateroom.
  • They serve sit down breakfast in the main dining room, but only until 8:30am.
  • Buffet is open till 10am
  • Everyone is in a rush to get off the ship. Take your time, drink coffee, people watch.
  • Wait for your floor to be called.
  • Take a PORTER for your luggage. You go out a different, much smaller line. Definitely worth the $2 a bag tip
  • We paid for parking at the terminal for $20 a day. There are cheaper options, but by the time I got off the ship I am ready to head home. Waiting for an Uber just didn’t seem worth the hassle. But some might feel different about this than I do.

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