Let me first write a disclaimer. This was my first cruise and I did not know what to expect. I was traveling in a group and I did not do my usual preparation and research. I wanted to go along with what the group had already decided (with the exception of getting my own cabin and I’m glad I did). Many of these things may be common sense to seasoned cruisers.
I would like to thank a few of the cruise blogs and websites, including Shipmate Mike, Cruise Critic and Cruzely.com. These sites gave helpful information before and after my cruise.
- Not all ships are created equal. I traveled on the Royal Caribbean’s “Enchantment of the Seas”, which I later discovered was an older ship and has been around since at least 1997. I have learned AFTER my cruise that one of the newer ships is “The Harmony of the Seas” (2015) and the “Ovation of the Seas” (2016) are the newer Royal Caribbean ships. My cabin suite felt like a dated Holiday Inn, it was dusty, dated and dorm-like ☹. There were scratches on some of the furniture and my sofa was so faded, I refused to sit on it. My saving grace was the view from my balcony!!
- Items can be confiscated. I had read “must pack lists” prior to traveling that recommended taking things such as night lights, power strips and irons. One of my friends packed an iron in her suitcase and it was confiscated (there was a room with a stack of irons). There were also power strips, mini blenders and a set of knives (odd/scary) the were being held in the ‘confiscation room’ until the end of the trip. All the items, except the knives, were issues due to causing possible electrical surges and/or being a fire hazard.
- Pack wrinkle free clothing! So, I had read of many cruises having ‘ironing rooms’ on certain floors of the ship. I wasn’t crazy about this idea but I was going to utilize it for my evening attire. My Royal Caribbean Cruise ship did not have these rooms. They had a laundry service which you could send off you clothing for an extra fee to have your items ironed. I’m both a control freak and do not like the idea of someone potentially damaging my clothing. I also was not interested in paying an additional fee to have my clothes pressed. Luckily, I did bring some wrinkle release spray (Target sells trial size bottles) which helped me to get by when I needed to wear my nautical pantsuit for the Captain’s dinner.
- Be wary of traveling during the tail end of hurricane season. Duh, I know! In my defense, I was so excited this birthday/girls trip fell at a time when I was dying for a trip and my husband could not travel with me due to work demands. I booked first and worried later (I did purchase the cruise protection in case I needed to cancel. I never purchase travel protection). Our cruise was fine overall. But our first night was pretty rough and five of the seven people in my party felt the effects of the waves. I was fine for the first few hours and then the rocking became pretty serious. I was the highest and most central of my party and my friends came to my room but it still did not save us from the bumpy waters. Luckily, the other days were less choppy and we did not experience the sea sickness as much.
- Dramamine is your friend, get acquainted early! Refer to item number four. I am glad I took this over the counter antihistamine with me on my cruise. I will take it prophylactically next time. Note, I am a person who takes Benadryl regularly and the Dramamine was not sedating for me. Dramamine is much less effective after the onset of your sea sickness.
- Get a lay of the land as soon as possible. I thought I walked around the ship and got a general sense of the location of places on the ship. But there are still things I did not set eyes on, such as the arcade and fitness area. I am not sorry I did not go to the fitness area (I tried to get in steps by taking the stairs a lot). I was on a short cruise (3 days) and therefore it would be impossible to see everything. But I did not realize I had a fridge in my room until the last night!! I was glad I found my hair dryer at the last minute. It came in handy for drying my bathing suit and water shoes.
- I have mixed feelings about the drink package but I think it was worth it for me in the long run. I purchased the deluxe drink and internet package. It came out to be about $52 dollars per day for the drink package. I did an internet search prior to purchasing the package which stated that wine typically costs $10-16 per glass. I am a wino (in case you cannot tell from my IG page). I do not really do mixed drinks. I figured I’d average 4-6 glasses of wine per day (don’t judge me–> two mimosas at breakfast, a glass or two at lunch and then two or three glasses at dinner). This drink package also included soft drinks and bottled water. Ginger ale was a lifesaver our first night on the cruise with our motion sickness issues!! But I discovered three things that were annoying about the drink package. One, you could only get bottled water from the bars or at meals (if you ordered it from room service, you are charged). Two, your limit for your drink is $12 and if your drink is above that price, you have to pay the difference. Three, if you go off the ship while at port then you are not utilizing the drink package maximally. In my case, the waters were too choppy and it was too windy for our ship to stop at Coco Cay Beach and we spent an extra day at sea. This allowed me to get the most out my drink package. Even if we had stopped, I guess the drink package was worth it overall. I participated in a wine tasting event and received a discounted price (compared to non-deluxe package drinkers). My final incidental bill was less than $100. I tipped $1-2 for each drink, paid for a corking fee for a bottle of wine at dinner one night ($15) and paid my daily gratuities ($13.50).
- Get a cabin suite with a balcony!!! As I noted above, my room left a lot to be desired. But my view and my balcony definitely helped to make up for my dorm of a cabin suite. It was very serene and beautiful to watch the waves and listen to the ocean. It was worth the price!! My room was also a lot bigger than my friends who opted to stay in interior rooms.
- I will only purchase a one-way transfer TO the cruise. I will be posting a detailed blog post about my experience with the ground transportation to and from the cruise port. I liked the idea of booking the transfer with the cruise line because they guarantee that you will not get left! The transfer back on the day of departure definitely needs some improvements.
- Take the day off after you get back home from your cruise. I ended up traveling for 12 hours the day we returned from our cruise (due to unnecessary waits with the transfer to the airport and unforeseen delays in my flight). I was so glad I could sleep in and run errands the day after my return. As a rule of thumb, I always try to have a day or two to decompress after a trip. I agree with the saying “a vacation from your vacation”.
- I would greatly appreciate any suggestions for my next cruise. Please share your experience or words of wisdom.