This was definitely the summer of travel for us. We did Disney World in May, then a cruise for my birthday, a girls trip with my mom in Hilton Head, and an upcoming trip to Jamaica this October!

My husband and I did an anniversary cruise with us the two of us a few years ago, but this was the first time cruising for the girls. We visited Key West, Cozumel, Belize, and Costa Maya. Chakahnab National Park in Cozumel was probably my favorite stop.

8 Things You Must Know Before Cruising

You learn a lot about cruising every time you go. Lots of people have asked me questions about our recent cruise so I wanted to share a few important things to keep in mind while cruising.

Paying extra for a balcony is worth it:

I’ve cruised with and without a balcony, and I will never ever cruise again without having a balcony! The staterooms are already smaller than your average hotel room, so the balcony is a big bonus. We had a room with a balcony and an additional bed that pulls down from the ceiling for the four of us.

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Not all ships are built the same:

The bigger the ship, the more activities there are! Different destinations and different size ships are available at different ports. We left from Port Canaveral on Carnival Magic, which is one of Carnival’s largest ships in their fleet. They have mini-golf, basketball, a jogging track, and a SkyCourse ropes course. Make sure to bring proper clothes for all the activities. The SkyCourse requires you to wear closed-toe shoes.

Schedules can change:

There is currently a hurricane in the caribbean that forced some cruise ships to change their routes. Our cruise ship originally planned to stop at Mahogany Bay, but just a few hours into the trip, a man on our ship had a heart attack and we had to turn back towards Florida. Due to the delay, we visited Key West instead of stopping at Mahogany Bay. That’s something to remember in case you decide to book an excursion on your own.

You can book excursions directly through the cruise line and they will refund you if plans change. However, we found it easier to book an excursion directly and negotiate the price. We could change plans easily if needed, and we got a better deal.


Additional costs:

A full week is a long time to be on a ship! Take full advantage of the Bottomless Bubbles and free kids programs. My husband and I were able to go see the adult comedy shows while the girls did fun activities at Camp Ocean. They actually cried when we went home because they missed the kids and teachers at Camp Ocean. The evening Night Owl kids program does cost extra, but the daytime hours are free.

Also, if you’d like a fancy meal, you can pay extra for dinner at Cucina Del Capitano or the Dr. Suess Breakfast: Green Eggs and Ham Brunch. The wifi doesn’t always work very well. I wouldn’t recommend it. Unplug and enjoy your vacation! Bring walkie-talkies or two-way radios to stay in touch with family members.

You don’t need a passport:

You don’t need a passport to cruise to another country, but it does come in handy. A birth certificate and ID will work.


Kids activities for all ages:

Camp Ocean — free child care during the day; The Youth Programs have been designed so that families are able to enjoy quality family time together, and yet also have the option of being with peers of their own age.

SkyCourse — ropes course featuring two levels of difficulty. You can increase or decrease the toughness as you go. Must be at least 48 inches tall and wear closed toes shoes.

WaterWorks — 312-foot-long Twister slide, one of the longest at sea; a second major water slide called the DrainPipe; small kiddie slides; and a 500 gallon “dump bucket” that splashes water down on passengers in the area once per minute. Must be 42 inches tall and ride solo. Sliding while holding a child is not allowed.

Club 02 for teens — dance parties, scavenger hunts, and video games and fun activities for kids ages 13-15. Bring walkie-talkies so you can stay in touch on the ship.


Restaurant choices and themed breakfast:

You can find food 24/7 on the ship. Ice cream is always available and room service offers a selection of sandwiches any time of the day. I ordered food at 3 AM on our last day.

For an additional cost, you can dine in the Italian dining room, Cucina del Capitano, which is much calmer and quieter than the main dining room. Dinner costs $10 per adult and $5 for children. However, there’s no extra charge to eat in Cucina del Capitano at lunchtime, when it serves made-to-order pastas.

Dr. Suess Breakfast: Green Eggs and Ham Brunch is also available for $5 per person and can be reserved directly form your stateroom. The delicious menu has “Green Eggs and Ham,” brightly colored fruit, gravity-defying pancake stacks, funky french toast, “Moose Juice” ‘n’ ”Goose Juice”… and much more.

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Save money, bring your own drinks:

On the day you arrive, Carnival allows one 750 ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne per (21+) adult passenger in their hand luggage. A small quantity (maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12 ounces each or less) of non-alcoholic beverages (i.e., sparkling water, sodas, juice, milk) packaged in cans or cartons may also be brought on board on embarkation day, only if carried on in guests’ hand luggage (not in checked luggage). Water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages that are packaged in bottles are not allowed.

My husband and I each brought a bottle of wine. You are only allowed to bring it onboard the first day when you board the ship, not at each port.


I am a Carnival Cruise Line Partner, and in exchange for my time and efforts reporting my opinion, my family and I were provided complimentary accommodations, along with activities, entertainment and dining options. All views and opinions are my own.