Day 10: Best Trip of Your Life

That would be my honeymoon. First cruise and first time outside of the U.S. It was awesome! First- a cruise is like a floating casino, where the scenery changes depending on the hour. If you have not taken a cruise before- I highly recommend it. Carnival and Princess are probably the cheapest in the U.S., if you’re budget-conscious; but neither feel particularly cut rate.

1. Basically- you wake up, roll out of bed, and eat. Food is ALWAYS available, and the room service food menu is probably boring on purpose, just to get you to walk the few steps down to the buffet line. A cruise is NOT the time to be on a diet. TRUST ME. Forgo the diet, until you’re back in your home port. The first night we were there, the dining room served us some sort of chocolate dessert thing. And if you’ve been paying attention- you know that I don’t particularly like chocolate. HOWEVER- that chocolate thing was PURE HEAVEN! Unfortunately- that was the only night they had it, or I would have gorged myself on it at every meal. No lie.

2. Bring Bonine with you. NOT Dramamine. Bonine is like the stronger, protective big brother of Dramamine. You will need something stronger, and you will be happy you have it. Take it at least twice a day, if you’re not used to the movement of boats.

3. Explore your boat. Since we boarded early- we had an hour or two before the required Safety demonstration, to get properly lost and find our way back. I’m glad we did. From day one- I at least knew how to get from my room to the buffet and back. It took another day to find all the other restaurants and the ice cream machine.

4. Usually at the time of booking- you have the option of including gratuity in the price you’re paying, or to pay for it pretty much on the day you come back. It doesn’t matter which you choose- I would also set aside a little extra (outside of the standard gratuity) to give to your steward. He/she does a LOT for you (including hauling your heavy luggage around and cleaning your room), and he/she does it with a smile. Also- he/she gets paid very little, so why not make his/her day? Ours made the point of learning our names and greeted us warmly every time he saw us. Now- that may have been something he was told to do, but it didn’t feel forced.

5. We didn’t do shore excursions, and that was a mistake. Each port will have a list of shore excursions- try to do at least one per cruise. And always book them through the cruise line, NOT through the hawkers on shore. The price with the hawkers might be cheaper, but the difference is this: If your excursion runs over time, but you booked through a hawker- your ship WILL leave without you. And you will have to find your own flight back to your home port, collect your things, and then go home. If you book an excursion through the cruise line- they are obligated to wait for you. We were three hours late from leaving port at one of our stops, because an excursion ran late and the captain was waiting for them to return.

6. The cruise line will try to sell you things. Usually jewelry or alcohol. I can’t compare the prices to the normal stuff that jewelry stores sell, because I don’t wear jewelry. So for me- that whole sales pitch was a waste of time.

7. For the most part- cruise lines don’t care much what you bring on the boat, as long as it’s not alcohol or explosives. So razors, scissors, knitting needles- they don’t bat an eye at. And as far as I know- you don’t have a liquid limit, so you don’t have to spend time squeezing your shampoo and conditioner into those little travel bottles. Bring the normal bottles. If you must bring outside drinks- bring them in a small, personal cooler. It will be counted as one of your carry-ons (you’re allowed two carry-ons), and it will probably be inspected. But it IS allowed. If you need soda or something- most cruises sell a soda pass. But don’t try to sneak on alcohol. That’s the big NO. Any alcohol you purchase (even in the duty-free shop) will be confiscated and held for you till the end of the cruise. It is usually delivered to your cabin on the morning of your last day.

8. You can buy an internet package, but I would advise you to skip that. Just tell your relatives what ship you are on, and if there is an emergency- your cruise line customer service CAN contact the ship and get ahold of you. Outside of that- you really don’t need it. Just relax and enjoy your cruise! Our first stop was still in the U.S., so I kept my cell phone on until we left THAT port. After that- I just kept it in airplane mode until we returned to the home port. That way- I could use my camera, and in moments of downtime, read a book or play an offline game. I didn’t miss the internet AT ALL.

9. Go out at each destination. Even if you don’t have an excursion- just go and experience a little of it. In our case, our last destination was Jamaica. They were a little pushy, so we only spent an hour outside of the ship (plus- it started raining), but we got out and explored the port a little. Then we came back and had second breakfast. 🙂

10. What we did not understand, is when they tell you that there’s an alcohol limit- what they mean is- there’s a limit to how much you can buy TAX FREE. That’s it! You can buy AS MUCH AS YOU WANT- you’re just going to have to pay taxes on anything above the limit. For us- it was a 10% tax on anything above two liters. But we didn’t know that, so we only bought two liters (one in the Cayman Islands and one in Jamaica). If we had known- everyone’s souvenirs would have probably been little bottles of rum… (And if you’re not a drinker- the limit won’t apply to you.)

I would go on another cruise in a heartbeat. And yes, in an enclosed area like that- you always run the risk of catching things like a norovirus. Just wash your hands a lot and use the sanitizer stations. They have them EVERYWHERE. If you’re feeling particularly germaphobic- you can go down to the nurse’s station and get a mask.

As far as which cabins you should choose- my Hubby would like one with a view. However- the cabins with windows and balconies are located on the outer sides of the ship. And the farther you are from the center of the boat- the more it will rock. And that’s not good for my motion sickness. So I require inner cabins. Really- as inner as you can go. It’s just a shame that those can’t be ritzy and spacious as the outer ones are.

Day 11: 10 Favorite Foods

1. Funnel cakes (fair or carnival only. The ones you make at home or find in the grocery store just don’t taste the same.)

2. Ice cream

3. BACON!!!

4. Korean food. Pretty much anything that doesn’t have seafood in it.

5. Puerto Rican Rice and Beans (Yes- I have to specify Puerto Rican. Each Latin American country has their own version of this, just like each have their own version of Arroz con Pollo. I love the Puerto Rican version.)

6. Spaghetti

7. My Hubby’s garlic/caper concoction. I think we named it That Yummy Thing.

8. Pizza

9. Red snapper

10. Catfish