We wanted to do a 2-part Series to share what is and what is not included in the cost of a cruise! Video One is, you guessed it, what IS included. Tomorrow, we will share what is NOT included.
Having been on almost 10 cruises (Freedom of the Seas in August will be the 10th!), we have found a few ways to score some free stuff on the ships.
Hi Paradise Crew!
We noticed as we began talking to our friends about our project, many of them haven't been on a cruise. Which lead us to not only creating this video on tips for first time cruisers, but also to create an entire playlist focused around people ready (or considering) to take their first cruise. We hope you find the tips and videos in the playlist helpful! What other topics do you think we should cover?? Leave us a comment and we may do a video about it!
Tips We Cover-
1. Check Your Necessary Travel Documents
2. Prepare For Embarkation
3. Take Cash- Specifically Smaller Bills for Tipping
4. Check Your Cruise Line's Packing Rules
5. Plan Your Port Days
6. Bring A Watch
7. Check the Dress Codes for the dining rooms
8. Bring a Non-Surge Protected Power Strip- There are typically only 2 outlets in the cabins.
9. You can eat as much as you want, but be sure to exercise, or simple do some extra walking!
10. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
As we are preparing for our cruise on the Freedom of the seas, we thought this would be the perfect time to share what you should do after you book your cruise!
You'll want to research the ports and shore excursions! -I’m sure you did plenty of research of the ports- but Incase you didn’t… do that now! Look for things you may want to do- excursion with the cruise, 3rd party or just exploring on your own!
Create a packing list - based off the itinerary, the excursions you plan to do, cruise line, dinner attire, etc.
Make sure your passports are current & won’t expire for at least 6 months after your cruise. You can cruise with an original birth certificate and your driver's license, but we find it easier to just pack your passports!
Do your online check-in. You have until 3 days prior to sailing to complete this, but I try to do it as soon as they open it up, which is usually 60-90 days out.
Make dinner & show reservations depending on your cruise line. If you are cruising with Norwegian, you will most likely have to reserve everything, regardless if there is a fee or not. So just be aware that you could miss out on some things if you don't reserve them ahead of time.
Download the cruise line & Shipmate app. The cruise line's app (Carnival Hub, Norwegian Concierge, Royal IQ, etc) will be helpful while you are on board. Shipmate should help you before: You can explore the ship and the ports ahead of time and connect with new people that will be on your sailing.
Which brings us to the next tip- Find your Roll call on Cruise critic, Facebook groups or the Shipmate app. Here you can find other people on your sailing, ask questions, plan meet ups, look at photos and videos of the ship/ports.. It's a great way to keep the excitement!
Book extras for the room like decorations, cake, liquor, or treats. If you are celebrating something or just want it to look/be special, this is nice touch!
Do you last minute shopping early! Look at your list of things you will need and start buying things a little at time. This way you don't forget anything and you don't have an overwhelming amount of things to purchase at the end.
Start packing a few weeks out. Gather the clothes, toiletries and other items you know you won’t be wearing before your cruise and start packing. It will make things less stressful later!
Call credit card company/bank to let them know you will be out of the country. Prime example- Griff forgot to do this while we were in Cozumel and they shut down his card! So avoid the hassle and plan ahead.
Book and schedule personal appointments before your cruise, i.e. hair, mani-pedi, facials, etc. You’ll want to get this all done before you leave- but you can also get it done on the ship if you want to treat yo-self… but of course, it'll come at a premium! So go ahead and look fabulous!
Those are only some of the things we do after booking a cruise. What are some things that you like to do before your cruise? Let us know in the comments!
Is It Really Safe To Cruise During Hurricane Season? Absolutely! Do you want to risk your ports being changed or your cruise being cancelled all together? That is the question!
What are some of the advantages of being a risk taker during hurricane season??
1. The rates are a little cheaper at the end of August through October if you are looking to cruise the Caribbean due to higher chance of hurricanes and the kiddos going back to school.
2. The weather can be BEAUTIFUL! We had the BEST cruise of our lives during the middle of September, but the week before us experienced a bunch of storms, so you are really flipping a coin here.
If you decide you want to risk it, just remember to be flexible. There is a higher chance that your cruise may be rerouted or cancelled entirely... In 2017, our Majesty of the Seas cruise to the Bahamas was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. We were really upset, but understood the reasoning. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find another time to rebook in the near future.
If the cruise line cancels the cruise, they will refund you. But if you can't get to port and they sail anyway... they won't. Depending on the cruise line and what the contact states, they may give you an incentive to book again quickly, like on board credit or something similar.
SO! Be sure to buy Insurance whether with the cruise line or another company that will cover the cost of your trip, that way you are covered if for some reason you are unable to make it to the port, or decide the weather is too bad for your liking.
Is Booking Shore Excursions through a 3rd party site really a good idea? We have booked with the cruise line and through a third party site like shoreexcursioneer.com, so we will let you in on our pros & cons.
The pros of booking with a 3rd party (or directly through a tour company):
1. You Save Money! Typically, the prices are anywhere from $10-50/person less than the excursions offered through the cruise line. They may have the same exact tours, if not offer more interesting options. Saving money on these excursions just means you have more money to book more excursions!! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
2. The tours are typically more private. On our excursion in Amber Cove, we had about 20 people total vs the 50-60 people that were on the same trip that carnival sponsored.
3. There is a more local feel. You will be using local transportation instead of coach buses, local tour guides, and you may visit a few more places.
Now let's discuss a few of the important cons:
Your tour guides may be harder to find once you get off the ship. The ship sponsored excursions will meet you inside the cruise port with relatively easy access. If you book with a 3rd party or local tour company, you may have walk farther to find them, like outside of the port gates. We had a difficult time finding where we needed to be in Amber Cove. We weren't familiar with the port and the instructions weren't super clear.. so we got a little lost. There were a few people out that helped us find where we needed to be, but just be aware that if you are in a different country and you don't speak the language, it may be a little challenging. Just a bit inconvenient.
And now the MOST IMPORTANT thing to consider: The ship will leave without you if you are running late! If something goes wrong, or the tour is just taking longer than expected, this can be a major issue. If you book your excursion through the cruise line, you are guaranteed to return to your ship before it sails, even if the tour is late. This is not the case for booking on your own, so just be cautious!
Have you booked an excursion on your own? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!!
So you want to go on a cruise, but you have a tight budget. That is OK!! We want to share with you our secrets to a cheap cruise!
Cruise in Off-Season! Each destination has a peak season and an off season depending on how nice the weather is (or may not be). Watch our video on "When Is The Best Time To Take A Cruise" for more information!
Book far in advance. You'll want to look for these deals for cruises that are over a year out. Or if it's brand new ship, the bookings open up at least 2 years prior to the first sailing. Specifically for Disney, they release new bookings a year- a year and a half out, you will want to book your cruise during that FIRST week of openings. This is a big deal in the DCL world. The cruise prices will never be cheaper than the first week that they announce the new sailings!
Book Last Minute - This is a good option if you can make quick decisions on when to take a vacay, or don't need a long time to plan out activities or finances. Most cruise lines try to sail at full capacity (or close to it) so they will reduce rates near the sailing date to entice potential passengers to book. We booked our next cruise on the Freedom of the Seas 45 days out because we found an INCREDIBLE deal. I've heard of people booking the DAY BEFORE! That is crazy to me!
Book Interior Cabins. You are rarely in room anyway, and you can save some serious cash! Don't get me wrong, the balcony staterooms are wonderful! But if you are looking to save some money, definitely look into interior cabins. You can even book and guaranteed interior cabin (which just means you don't get to choose your cabin location), but you will save even more that way! Trust me, your wallet will thank you!
Book shore excursions through 3rd party like shoreexcursioneer.com! The Shore excursions can be the same as the ones that the cruise line offers, or they could have a few different ones, but the majority of the time, the tours are much cheaper. We booked our Amber Cove Waterfall excursion through shoreexcursioneer and we saved at least $100. Plus- there were less people on our tour and it felt more personalized and local. Another option for on shore activities, is to go at it on your own! Take a taxi to a beach, rent a car and explore the island or walk downtown and find a local restaurant. There are things to explore that doesn't have to cost you a fortune!
Now, let's talk Alcohol for a minute.
You can certainly buy the drink package if you think you will get your money’s worth. It typically costs over $50/day per person, so that may save you money if you think you will be drinking more than 5 drinks every day.
BUT- There are a few options here to save money and still enjoy drinks on board!
1. Bring 2 bottles of wine or champagne on board (per stateroom) - if you are cruising with Disney you are also allowed a 6 pack of beer/person in place of the wine or champagne… and I believe you may bring back some from every port.
2. Free drinks at parties! Occasionally at the captain's reception or a few other ship-hosted parties, they will pass out free drinks!
3. Art Auctions= Free champagne! Yes, the only reason I go to Art Auctions is for the champagne.. mainly because we can't afford those paintings... yet. LOL
4. It pays to be loyal! If you have a status with a cruise line ( like Carnival's VIPF or Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor) you may score a free drink depending on the length of your cruise! We got a coupon in our room for a free drink to use after the 5th day and could use it at any bar.
5. Free liquor tasting! There is almost always a free liquor tasting in the shops (to obviously get you to buy bottles duty free), but its a good opportunity to try things that you may never have had before!
6. Celebrate something! If you are celebrating and let the cruise line or your travel agent know, you may find a surprise bottle of wine or champagne in your room. Often times, travel agents will place bottles in your room simply as a thank you for booking with them! This is a very nice gesture and a great treat for you!
Do you have other ways to cruise on a budget?? Let us know in the comments!
Ok, the secret is out! We are going on a cruise!!
Now, before everyone freaks out (mom), we got an EXCELLENT deal and couldn't pass it up! We will be sailing on the Freedom of the Seas on August 11 for a 7-Night Southern Caribbean cruise out of San Juan! We did sail on the Freedom of the Seas to the Western Caribbean in 2015 and it was our ALL TIME FAVORITE cruise that we have taken. It was actually our first cruise with Royal Caribbean and we have been itching to go back. And what better way to really amp up our cruise vlogging efforts than to go back to the ship where it all started!
Now for itinerary! Besides the Freedom herself, we found the itinerary to be very intriguing. Neither of us have been to the Southern Caribbean and there has always been something exotic and prestigious? about exploring the Southern Islands...
As I mentioned earlier, we will be cruising out of San Juan. Since we live in Florida, we have only cruised out of Tampa, Port Canaveral and Miami since they are all within driving distance. SO this will be the first cruise that we have to fly to. We will be arriving Friday evening and staying at an Airbnb near the cruise port! The ship doesn't leave until 8:30 pm the next day, so we plan to do some exploring that first day!
From San Juan, we will be revisiting St. Thomas for the first time since our wedding! Our Carnival Magic cruise in December was supposed to sail to St. Thomas, but because of the hurricanes, they changed our ports to the Bahamas.... We are very interested to see how the island has recovered and bring back some of those wonderful wedding day memories!
The other ports we will be exploring are Curacao, followed by Aruba and then St. Kitts. We have been doing some research to see what we want to do, but we would love some advice! If you have ever been to any of these ports and did something AWESOME, let us know in the comments!! We were thinking about Swimming in Caves in Curacao, Kite Surfing in Aruba and exploring the rain forest in St. Kitts on ATVs?? We will see!
We will be vlogging the entire trip... these will be different from our previous vlogs, as our equipment has upgraded and our techniques continue to develop!
Also be on the lookout for our packing videos! As part of our 31 Day video challenge, we will be bringing you a week full of packing tips! *We've never booked a cruise so close to the sail date before, so we are extremely excited and frantic all at once! LOL So much to do to prepare, but we cannot wait!
As I'm sure you've figured out by now, there are MANY options for cruise vacations… You may feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which one is best! But we wanted to help ease the process by allowing? you to focus on a few things before you start your planning.
Who is going? You and a spouse? Family? Group of twenty-somethings?
What matters most to YOU-
What is the most important to you when it comes to vacation? Fun Activities, Relaxing Spas, Beautiful Destinations?
Where do you want to go?? Is there a specific destination or region you have in mind? Do you like the tropical weather of the Caribbean or the glaciers in Alaska?
How long do you want to be on vacation for? Or how long are you "allowed" to be on vacation for?
What is your Budget? Do you have a little bit of money to spend, or A LOT a bit of money to spend. *we will cover how to get the best cruise deals in a future video…
Now that you have an idea of the basics, you have a good foundation of where to start when finding the perfect cruise. Now, I know you still may be confused and that is ok. We are here to help! Download this FREE infographic to get an idea of which cruise lines offer all of the things you are looking for! Also, if you have any questions, Join our Facebook Group- Griff & Alyssa's Paradise Crew! We would love to chat with you about specific cruise lines, itineraries and anything else you have questions about!
A lot of people ask, "When is the best time for me to take a cruise?" And the answer, well that really depends on where you want to go and how much you are willing to spend!
There are 2 factors you will want to take into consideration when choosing a cruise: Weather and Price.
If you want to sail the Caribbean, you obviously need to be aware of Hurricane Season which is June - Early November, with the worst of it being late August-October. So taking that into consideration, here is a list of Peak Seasons when you will typically get the most out of your cruise vacation!
Caribbean- late February-April, late June-August
Bermuda- Summer! (May-August)
Mediterranean- Spring-Fall (April-October)
Alaska- Summer! (May-August)
Asia- November-March. It is usually humid and rainy during summer months!
Canada- September-October so you can see the leaves changing!
Hawaii- late December-April or all year with NCL!
If you are trying to save some money, you'll want to look at cruises the first 2 weeks in December, January - early March and End August- October. You can find some of the best deals in the Caribbean due to the chance of not so great weather. But we will cover whether or not booking during hurricane season is a good idea in another video!
We hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions, or are ready to book your cruise vacation, click HERE and we would be happy to help!