How To Prepare for Your First Carnival Cruise

In November 2018, I boarded the Carnival Magic and visited a few countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. It was a wonderful experience and one best for people who want to disconnect and see a handful of countries in a short period of time. You typically only spend a few hours at a port, but that’s long enough to get a feel for the culture and try the local attractions.

That said, cruises are not for everyone. If you prefer to remain connected and need to work while on the trip, plan another type of vacation. There is no phone signal at sea and I can tell you from firsthand experience that cruise WiFi is ten times worse than dial-up.

I also think I would have enjoyed the cruise a lot better if there were a few things I had planned for in advance. This list of tips includes not just the precautions I did take, but also the ones I wish I had. Enjoy!

1. Stop Your Mail

One of the biggest tell-tale signs that you’re not at home is your mail piling up. One good way to prevent this is to ask your neighbours to pick up your mail for you. However, your neighbour crossing the street or yard to get your mail seems like another dead giveaway to me.

What I did, instead, was to ask USPS to hold our mail. I did have a few things that should have been delivered while I was away. I sent those to friends and asked them to hold on to them for me until I returned.

2. Get Home Security

We got our home security in the spring of 2018 when we all took separate vacations but at the same time. Not a single person was home, except for Shadow. I wanted to keep an eye on him while I was gone, and Mom wanted to keep an eye on her house, so we installed ADT.

Knowing we have home security gives us peace of mind. It was also great to be able to check in on Shadow and make sure he was okay. He, too, was amused by the sound of my voice coming through the cameras, which I set up separate from ADT. I bought two Wyze cams for around $20 each in 2018 and absolutely love them.

3. Hire a Sitter

Because I had a pet still at home, and we would be gone for at least eight days, I asked a friend to check in on Shadow for me. Based on personal experience, if you plan to do this, you’ll need to consider a few caveats:

  • You will need to entrust the person with a key to your home.
  • The person will need to know how to disarm or bypass your home security alarm.
  • You need to make preparations in case your pet gets out and is lost.

I gave a key to my friend and put up a sign on every window and every door to warn him not to open anything while he had the alarm on. He still set the alarm off so often that ADT sent us a rather stern email. As far as tracking Shadow, he always has his collar with a Tile tracker on. I gave the sitter access to that too so he could confirm Shadow was inside before he left.

4. Get a Waterproof Camera

I don’t think I have to tell you this, but a cruise ship vacation is a wet one. If you plan to safely take pictures of your vacation, then I recommend purchasing a waterproof camera. I got a cheap one off Amazon. I won’t recommend it because while it got the job done and took good pictures, I think I may get a better one soon.

Most people try to get GoPros, and after seeing them in action in the Maldives, I do think they make a superior product. However, they are also pricey. Consider cheaper options on Amazonⁱ, Walmart or your other favourite shopping destination. Remember to always check the reviews before buying.

5. Purchase Drinks

While we boarded the ship, I saw a lot of people with cases of soda and wondered why on Earth they were bringing that with them when we had a buffet. I would learn why as soon as we visited that buffet. Let’s just say that the drinks are … an acquired taste. It took me about two or three days to get used to it and I still wasn’t a fan.

As soon as I got to Mexico, I bought bottles of Pepsi. I don’t think Pepsi ever tasted so good in all my life. If you have kids, you’ll all have to learn to ration the juice or soda you bring with you. If there are only adults, and you plan to drink, you are typically allowed one bottle of wine per person.

6. Buy a Few Snacks

The buffets on Carnival Magic are not open 24/7. They open and then close at specific times throughout the day. The menu also changes depending on who is open and when and on what day. If you have a restrictive diet, this can pose problems for you. Even if you don’t, you might find instances where you’re hungry but there’s nothing available.

These were the times when I wished I had brought more snacks. While the hunger was shortlived, who wants to be hungry on vacation? I recommend a few TV dinners if you get a room with a microwave and a large enough fridge. If not, bring some chips, cookies or whatever else you think can hold you over until the next buffet opens.

7. Bring Cash

I have a nasty habit of not bringing a lot of cash with me when I travel overseas. I always swear I’m going to go to the ATM before my flight and then never do. I end up leaving the country with maybe $40 in cash and then swiping my card the rest of the way. Don’t do this on a cruise. In fact, don’t do it at all, but particularly not on a cruise.

The Caribbean and Latin America are predominantly cash economies. We take cards, but not everywhere. Some of the excursions you want to do with the locals may require you to pay cash and in person. For the excursions highlighted by the cruise, you may be able to pay beforehand online. If I were you, I wouldn’t risk it. My parents ended up having to pay for me to see Mayan ruins because of this.

Have you ever been on a cruise before? What are some of the preparations you made or wish you had? If you’ve never been on a cruise and have questions, feel free to add those via comment, below!

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12 thoughts on “How To Prepare for Your First Carnival Cruise

    1. Alaska is definitely one cruise I’d like to take. Did you stop in Sitka? I saw a ship docked there when I visited in 2018.

  1. We did a cruise to Norway from England in a small ship. The seas were rough. We got sick at the beginning. It even threw folks around one night… scary, but it was fun!

    1. I imagine European cruises are way more fun. I would also like to do one of those in Alaska. I saw a big ship up there when I visited.

    1. It actually wasn’t so bad when I went. I didn’t feel cramped or anything. There was almost always a line to get on and off, but that’s about it. Plenty of space to eat and I never heard our neighbors from the room.

      What I hated was losing internet connection. I need the internet for Google even to write, so no net meant I was stuck with the book I was working on. It’s historical fiction so I needed some Google juice!

      1. That’s good. I’ll have to be strategic when planning. Yeah I saw where you said the WiFi was a bit shakey. If I decide to take the chance, I will definately do diligence. But as with any form of travel you prepare as best you can.

      2. Some things will catch you completely by surprise! Too many countries to plan for. For me, it was Belize that caught me off guard.

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