Five handy tips for your first cruise on Carnival Cruise Line.
Photo: James Morgan

Every cruise line has its unique and positive traits which will appeal to your individual circumstances and interests, while others may not appear quite so interesting. But the good news either way is that you’ve decided on a cruise for your next holiday, so you’re already well on your way to a good thing.

No matter which cruise line you select after all the research, deliberation and consideration, each major line has its own little differences and the more you cruise, the more comfortable you will get as you figure out what it is you like about cruising, what it is you don’t like so much and your own approach to each day at sea or in port. In the early stages though, it is possible to feel a little overwhelmed with just how much information is being thrown at you, especially in the first few hours after you board.

It takes time to digest everything and get into your holiday groove, especially if you’re a first-time cruiser. If you’ve chosen Carnival Cruise Line for your first sea holiday, here are some handy tips to help you settle in a little quicker.

Carry your ‘Fun Times’ guide with you at all times

Carnival produces its own Morning Show each day.
Get some expert tips on the daily ‘Fun Times’ guide on Carnival’s Morning Show.

Most major cruise lines publish a daily guide which will lay out, often in meticulous detail, everything going on around the ship on that particular day – from seminars, demonstrations, activities, shows, shopping promotions and opening hours for pretty much every onboard restaurant, bar, club and lounge. It’s utterly comprehensive and something you will want to carry around with you, referring to it regularly to plan your day, where you want to go, what you want to see and what you want to enjoy.

On Carnival, the line helps guests with the process of planning a sea day by producing its daily ‘Morning Show’ (above), where the Cruise Director and often one of the ship’s officers or entertainment staff will scour the daily guide, identifying their recommendations on what you should see or do. The show will be filmed in one of the ship’s bars and if you can’t get there to see it filmed in person, tune in to watch it on your stateroom television or head to the top deck to watch it broadcast on the big poolside screen.

Book your shore excursions early

Incentives are often run to encourage cruisers to book their shore excursions early.
Be among the first off the ship in some ports by booking your shore excursions early.

Carnival doesn’t currently offer a way for its passengers to book and pay for their shore excursions prior to boarding the ship. You can certainly research what is on offer in each port you’ll be visiting and view prices as early as 75 days prior to departure, but bookings can only be made once you embark.

Of course, the best and most popular shore excursions will book out quickly and not every tour has the ability to run multiple departures to ensure everybody can do it, so therefore, it pays to book early to secure spots in the tours and experiences your whole group wishes. There are two ways to do this:

  • Visit the Shore Excursions desk. On Carnival, this desk will be located near Guest Services in the ship’s Central Atrium. Tickets and confirmations can usually be issued on the spot.
  • Book using your stateroom television. This is a slower way to book your shore tours, you’ll need to book each person in separately and won’t have the expertise of a human being behind the desk, but if this is not a problem, you can book your tours via a reliable system linked to the television in your stateroom. Instructions on how to do so will be near the remote control and tickets will be delivered to your stateroom in the next day or so.

Go to the Fun Ashore seminar

Play some fun games and win prizes at the Fun Ashore seminar.
The Fun Ashore seminar also includes some fun games and prizes.

Often held on the first night of your cruise or the morning of your first full day onboard, Carnival will welcome travellers to the theatre where the Cruise Director will present a short but informative seminar giving you all the information you’ll need both about your voyage and cruising in general. Some of the topics this seminar will cover include:

  • Tricks on how to find your way around the ship (if cabin numbers are getting lower, you’re walking toward the front of the ship).
  • The ports of call being visited and what time the Shore Excursions desk closes for each.
  • Items you can and cannot take off the ship, such as food obtained onboard.
  • What is a tender, how are they used, what time the last one will leave in a port and why you need to be back on the ship on time.
  • Environmental advice on the ports you’re visiting. You’ll be reminded not to leave any rubbish behind as some small islands don’t have a regular process for dealing with trash.
  • On some short cruises, a representative from the place or places you’re visiting will be onboard to provide more detailed information and answer any questions.

Once the informative part of the seminar is over, the Cruise Director might then play a game with the audience & offer chances to win a prize, particularly if you’ve been listening closely.

Walk to a different bank of elevators after a show or event

Avoid packed elevators by heading to the Carnival Spirit atrium.
It’s often much less crowded to use the Atrium elevators after a packed event.

Popular shows and activities throughout the day usually attract quite a crowd and once this is over, these crowds naturally flow out of the theatre or lounge and straight to the nearest bank of elevators. If you’re heading to a different floor or back to your stateroom, this crowd can cause quite a delay as you wait for an elevator, and then once you’re inside one, it can be an all-stops ride until you get to your floor.

A good way to avoid this delay, short of taking the stairs which is not always feasible or inviting for some people, is to walk a little further away to a different bank of elevators which will almost always be more available, much less crowded and a far quicker and more efficient way to reach your floor and get you back to your room or on to your next activity. It might seem like the long way, but there’s a good chance you’ll get where you’re going faster.

Check for any promotions on specialty dining

Promotions are often held on specialty dining outside of the peak times.
Think outside the square for your specialty dining opportunities and you could benefit.

If you’re planning on partaking in one of the specialty restaurants onboard your Carnival ship such as Nouveau (above), it pays to think outside the square in when you book your table.

These restaurants are far more limited in their capacity and tables during the popular times, such as a later dinner on a sea day (8pm or later), will book out very quickly. To avoid this and improve your chances of securing a prime table, consider an earlier seating time such as 6pm or on a port day (even if it means sacrificing a couple of hours in port) or even on the very first night of the cruise – the same day you embark.

By doing so, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to take advantage of some promotions in place to reward guests for dining outside the busiest times. You can be gifted with a free bottle of house red or white wine by dining on the first night of the cruise.

Remember also that it is physically impossible to attend every single activity, so don’t even try. Many will be repeated so it is possible to do pretty much everything at least once.