Travel tips

Only go early if you like standing in line

Are you the type or person that likes to get on and off the ship first? Then you better prepare to stand in long lines. With thousands of people trying to do the same thing, there are massive traffic jams for people waiting to either embark or disembark. Instead, take your time and spend a few more minutes (or hours) enjoying a meal or relaxing on board. Once you are done, you can breeze through.

You can get in-room babysitting while you go party late at night

A cruise tip for you parents: You likely know that your cruise will have kid’s areas where you can drop the kids off and head to the pool or dinner. But some cruise lines like Carnival actually offer private in-room babysitting. It’s a great service that costs a little extra, but can keep your mind at ease if you want to go out and enjoy an evening on the ship.

Ports of call aren’t always idyllic

Sure, the photos on the cruise line website show crystal blue water, white sand beaches, and not a cloud in the sky. Truth is, however, that many port cities aren’t that nice — especially outside of the touristy area. The Caribbean has issues with poverty and many of the people depend on the tourism dollars that cruise passengers bring. That means you can expect people hustling to make a dollar. You might find them pushy as they aggressively try to get you into a taxi or to their store, but a polite “no” will send the message.

It’s a floating city… where you only see part of it

You might go back and forth on the cruise ship and think you’ve seen every nook and cranny by the time you leave. There are places, however, where you will never set foot. Hidden away primarily on the lower decks are spots like the engine room, crew quarters, service areas, and more. There are some “backstage” tours that you can take, but they are highly limited in the number of passengers that can go.

Your itinerary isn’t set in stone

Your itinerary can change… right up until you dock in a port. The cruise lines have made adjustments to schedules based on everything from weather to health issues to protests. While it doesn’t happen often, changes are regular enough that you shouldn’t be surprised if one happens to your trip.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to see the stars at sea

Being in the middle of the sea, hundreds of miles away from any city lights would seem to lend itself to seeing the stars like never before. The bad news is that isn’t the case. While ships would be the perfect spot for stargazing, the lights on the deck are bright enough to create light pollution that drowns out many stars. You’ll see brighter ones, but if you were planning to spot the Milky Way out at sea, that probably won’t be the case.

Head to the back of the ship (and lower decks) if you want more privacy

With 4,000 people on a typical cruise ship, you’ll find that there can be crowds everywhere. If you want to find a quiet, out of the way place, head to the back of the ship. For some reason these spots are often forgotten. We’ve gone to the back of the ship after dinner and been literally the only people there. Want even more privacy? Head to the back of the ship on the lower decks. As a general rule of thumb, the lower you go on the deck of a ship, the fewer people are around.

Walkie-talkies can help you keep in touch aboard the ship

It can be tough to keep in touch with the rest of your traveling party. For instance, if you let your teenage kids have the run of the ship for the day, how do you tell them it’s time for dinner? A simple set of walkie-talkies from Amazon can make keeping connected much easier. They aren’t the perfect solution — the signal can have trouble getting through the steel of the ship if you are separated by several decks. That said, it’s a pretty simple solution to communicate both on the ship and on shore.

The room thermostats may not control anything

Every cabin comes with a thermostat. In our experience, they are just there for looks. It would make sense that the thermostats wouldn’t work. Having 2,000 different cabins with different A/C temperatures would be a nightmare. Don’t be surprised if you crank down the air but don’t feel much relief. That’s why we suggest bringing a portable fan.

Don’t be shy about asking for anything to make yourself more comfy

The cruise lines want you to be comfy and enjoy your vacation. If there is anything that would make your trip more pleasant, don’t hesitate to ask. This goes for blankets, pillows, fresh towels, and anything else you can think of. Just like a five-star hotel, the cruise ship has all the amenities that you can think of just a request away.