Everything you need to know about Carnival Cruising

This is a little long, but I have had a few people ask so here it is!

We cruise a lot so I tried to put as much as I could into one document to help others who might be interested.  I'm sure there are things I forgot but here's what I could think of right off hand.

Before you plan: Do you need a passport?  It makes things easier yes but if your leaving and coming back in the same port, then no it is not required.  Our boys have been several times with only a birth certificate and they did just fine.  If you are older than 16, you will also need a photo id.  Find more on that by clicking here.

The first thing everyone asks is “how much does it cost”?  But that’s not really a simple question.  What I will tell you is we have spent a weekend in St. Louis before and we spent just as much in that weekend as we did in an entire week on a Carnival Cruise.  So the math is really up to you and how much you want to do.  First thing you need to do is go sign up for the VIFP club on Carnival's website.  CLICK HERE   That will give you super awesome discounts and help you stay in the loop when there are amazing sales!

Choosing your room:

There are different levels of rooms.  The lower the room the cheaper the price, unless you get in on one of the specials where it’s “unlimited Free Upgrades (those are awesome!). 

An interior room (one with no windows) is usually the cheapest. And really, your on vacation so what do you need a big room for other than to sleep!  GO enjoy the boat and have some fun!  One tip for an interior room, turn the TV on to one of the outside cameras so you can see outside without paying the extra for that outside view.  This will also help your body know the difference between night and day because I assure you in an interior room you will sleep soooo good! Just be careful not to sleep your cruise away!!!  One thing to keep in mind, if you smoke and you want an interior room; book your room on the same floor as the casino or the pool because those are the only areas where you can smoke on the boat. 

If you like to look around, and your body doesn’t really have a good feel for night and day but you still want to save some money, get an ocean view.  I would recommend an ocean view for anyone on their first cruise.  It will save you some money, and you can still see the outside world.  Plus the scenery is beautiful!

The balconies are so relaxing! At any given time you can step out onto your own private balcony and enjoy the fresh air without the other 3,000 passengers on board.  Just make sure you get your door closed good!  One night, about 2 AM our door came flying open when we hit a wave.  Talk about scaring the crap out of ya!  Again if you smoke, this is another area that you can smoke without having to go to the casino or pool.  The picture below is the view out of our Carnival Magic Corner Balcony.

The suites!  Oh how I love the suites! They are good for families who want a little extra privacy from the kids!  We did an ocean suite on the last cruise and we even had a door between the kid’s room and ours!  It was WONDERFUL!!!! 

Now that you have chosen a room, what’s next?  Well once you get on board, your food, non-alcoholic drinks (excluding soda) and all the shows you could possibly want to go to is all free!!! YAY! Go have fun! The restaurants are all you can eat!  So say you want to be like little Mr. Jeramiah who ordered 3 servings of Escargot in the dinner dining room.  Yup, they will keep bringing it until you are stuffed to the gill!!  I love the lobster, not one but two!   Oh and don't forget about room service!  Mr. Maison was soooo tired and mad that I was taking his picture but he just had to have that toasted peanut butter and jelly before bed.   Check out other dining options here.

The very last financial thing you HAVE to plan for is gratuities.  They will be billed to your room the second day of your cruise.  There are a few events where you can get free drinks, like the Art Auction and the Liquor tasting.  Go do all the free stuff you can!!  Also take advantage of the spa raffle because who knows, you might win a great spa treatment.  At the very least you will get some great discounts if that’s something your interested in.

Want to take your dining to another level?  Some of the boats have a steak house. The food is extraordinary! They go above and beyond.    The steak house, the coffee shop, and shake spot are a few things on the boat that cost a little extra.  They are nothing you have to do.  After all there is unlimited ice cream by the pool, regular and deaf coffee in the lido deck dinning rooms, and food around almost every corner.  They are just a little treat if you want something special.

So we have kind of figured out the cost or at least by this point you should know where to start.  What’s next? 

When you walk on board first thing you need to do is grab a schedule.  They will be handing these out the second you step on the boat or you can find them in the coffee shop on the counter. These are printed daily so you don’t miss any of the awesome fun events! Take advantage of everything FREE in the specialty shops.  There will be a spa raffle, generally about 5 PM the day you walk on the boat.  If you have any interest at all in the spa, GO!  The raffle is free and they hand out incredible prizes! Plus, if you don’t win one of the prizes you will at least get coupons to make your spa experience a little cheaper. 

Taking kids?  Camp Carnival ROCKS!  You can sign up and fill out the forms at home or you can fill them out on the boat.  I have noticed a lot of times the camp carnival sign up on the boat is the same time as the spa raffle, do the spa raffle because you can go back to camp carnival at another time to get the kids signed up. 

There is also a shopping seminar.  If you want to buy anything in port, go check it out!  They hand out coupons to get free gifts in port and just like the spa raffle; they are always giving free stuff away at any of the “info” type shows.

Not a big drinker but want to have a taste here and there?  Check out the Champaign Art Auction and the Liquor tasting. Want to drink on the boat?  On specific boats you can buy a package where you get unlimited alcoholic drinks every day! You can even wait until halfway through the cruise to get it and save a little cash.  If you plan on drinking more than 4 or 5 a day, I recommend it because it will save you money in the long run.  They also have an endless bubbles package where you can do the same thing and get soda.  But heck why not get the alcohol one and have the best of both worlds. 

So we have the boat covered but what about the ports?

Carnival offers so many different ports the opportunities are endless! If your one of my local readers I will tell you that New Orleans and Galveston are about the same drive time and New Orleans boats are a little bit cheaper. 


Jamaica was our biggest disappointment.  It has always been a dream of mine to go there so we were really excited!  Do an excursion, simple as that.  If you go, do something that is well organized.  If the excursions aren't really for you and you would rather shop, carry small amounts of cash.  Without an excursion, Jamaica really isn’t a place I would take my children.  The sidewalks are narrow and the traffic is FAST!  The picture to the left was in Jamaica.  The guy was really nice wanted to take a picture with us and then he wasn't so nice after I told him he could not have my shoes.  My shoes!! REALLY???  Just be careful...

Cozumel is pretty safe and there is a lot to do!  We have been several times and feel like we really know the island.  Pick up a bottle of the vanilla it’s unlike anything you will ever get here in the states.  IF you like fast fun try the twister boats shore excursions that you can book through Carnival. 

Progresso Mexico: you either want to do an excursion, stay on the boat or not venture to far.  If you’re feeling witty go into town on the buss it is an experience to see the low levels of poverty but don’t carry more than $20 and carry those in small bills and in different pockets.  The town is still not really developed but they are getting there.  It will take time I'm sure.  This is another country that there really isn't much to do unless you book an excursion through the boat.

Camen Islands: Are BEAUTIFUL!!!!  They are like shopping in Key West which is another one of my favorite ports!  I really felt safe and peaceful in the Camen islands. 

Nassau Bahamas:  I’ve been to Atlantis; it’s an experience and something everyone needs to do at least once.  But if your saving cash, you can walk about a mile or so to a free beach that absolutely BEAUTIFUL and clean!  But it’s just a little far from the main shopping area. 

 Just got on the boat.  GOODBYE CLOUDY SKYS!

 Yup they were tired of me taking pics.

Honey & Jeramiah

  Dream on little man, dream on!

 Dad, a dancer, and Jeramiah.

  Dad even got on stage and performed!

Cruising is the way to go!  In 2012 we were able to afford to take our entire family including grandchildren and my parents.  We could never have done that to simply go and stay at a hotel for a week.   We all had so much fun I cant wait to do it again!   


  1. Looks like a lot of fun!!

  2. I have never been on a cruise and these are good tips to know as it will help with room booking etc.

  3. Looks like so much fun. I've always wanted to go on a cruise but I just can't afford it. I'm hoping one day my husband and I will be able to take the kids. You've got a lot of great info and photos here!

  4. My husband has wanted to take a cruise since we got married but I was not convinced. Thank you for the great review. I answered a lot of questions!