Cruisin’ the Western Caribbean – A Carnival Cruise

Cruisin’ the Western Caribbean – A Carnival Cruise

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Trip Snapshot

Objective

To see as many new countries as possible.

This was a group trip Alex and I went on with five of our closest friends. Many of us had recently gotten our passports prior to this trip and figured that a cruise would be a good way to ease into traveling abroad.

When We Went

April 2017

Length of time

7 days

Personally, I felt that seven days was a long time to be confined on a boat. While I did enjoy myself, I will also say that if I do another cruise I will opt for a shorter one. Perhaps a long weekend instead.

Budget

The expenses for a cruise add up fast!

Here’s some things to know to help you budget:

Cruise Tickets. Obviously you will need to purchase your cruise ticket, just be aware that it ONLY includes your state room and meals. Everything else costs extra.

Alcoholic Drinks. You can choose to get drinks individually and pay your tab at the end or opt to buy an unlimited drink package.

Excursions. Each port you visit you can choose to either stay on the boat or book an excursion. Excursions and prices are listed on Carnivals website. (Read more in Excursions.)

Plane Tickets/Accommodations At Port. Depending on where your cruise ship leaves from and what time you depart you may need to purchase plane tickets and a place to stay.

In our case, we flew into Miami the day before and booked an Airbnb.

Tipping. At the end of the cruise you will need to tip the staff that waited on you. Don’t be a jerk. Tip.

Free Activities. Don’t worry, there are also lots of free activities available on the boat at all times. (Read more in Cruise Ship.)

What I Liked & Disliked

Pros.

A cruise was a great idea for a group trip.

The planning was super easy and there was truly something for everyone.

Cons.

Everywhere you went it was crowded, you were literally always surrounded by people. It was inescapable.

The large number of people made it so you had to wait in a line for virtually everything. Lines. And lines. And still more lines.

The whole cruise had a somewhat overall cheesy vibe to it.

Your time at each port was limited, I felt like I only got a mere glimpse of each place.

Map

Here’s all of the ports we visited on our cruise:

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Health & Safety

Hygiene

Everything is small and compact on the ship, and the head is no exception. They were kept clean and you get used to them quickly.

Health

I don’t normally have any problem with motion sickness and cruise ships are GIGANTIC so they really don’t rock that much. There was one night in particular I remember when the water was rough and it made me feel slightly nauseous, but I had also had a couple of drinks so it just as easily could have been a combination of these things.

One of our friends had an asthma attack and thus found out that going to the hospital on boat is very expensive. I’d recommend only going if it’s an emergency.

Safety

The very first thing you have to do when you get on the ship is go through an extensive drill where the staff explains how to quickly get to your assigned muster station as well as proper use of the life jackets and life boats in case of an emergency.

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Cruise Ship

Staterooms

Our state room was located on the interior (no windows) and a few floors below the main deck. I had no sense of time at all while in our room.

Everything is very compact in the staterooms and carefully designed so as to keep shifting of items to a minimum as the ship moves.

Activities

FREE

There was an endless supply of free activities on the boat:

  • Game Shows
  • Magic Shows
  • Art Auctions
  • Swimming Pools
  • Hot tubs
  • Mini Golf
  • Ping Pong Tables

NOT free

And, of course there are activities available that you have to pay extra for as well:

  • Bingo
  • Casino
  • Arcade
  • Massage Parlor
  • Spa

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What To Pack

For the Boat

  • The only object you really need to have with you at all times is your key card. They conveniently come with holes punched in them, so ladies bring a lanyard, small over the shoulder pouch, or bracelet so you can easily have it on your person.
  • Keep all of your valuable items in the safe in your stateroom instead of on your person so they don’t get lost.
  • Download the cruise app to easily stay up on the cruise ship activities.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at the water or juice station whenever you want to avoid waiting in lines.  (You’ll need to keep yourself hydrated with something other than alcohol.)

Clothing

  • During the day you’ll probably either be at the pool or on a beach. Think cool clothing, swimsuits, cover ups, casual sandals or flip flops.
  • Night time shifts to dressy on the boat. Think dresses or slacks, and a nice pair of shoes. There will be one or two formal nights throughout the trip when everyone will go all out as well. 
  • It’s hot outside, but the ship is air conditioned and chilly.  If you’re like me and get cold easily bring a couple of extra layers. Be sure to include some dressy enough to go with your formal wear and casual enough to go with your beach attire.

For Excursions

  • Pack a beach bag or backpack for every port you stop at. Stuff it with the essentials; sunscreen, your passport, towels, snorkeling gear, a water bottle, and limited cash for activities and souvenirs. (Keep in mind they might make you dump it out to search it before you get back on board depending on how strict the security is.)
  • If you have your own snorkeling gear, I highly recommend bringing it with you. Throw it in your day bag and you will already have an activity and won’t have to pay extra to rent gear. Your personal set will probably be in better condition then the rentals.
  • Depending on what type of activities or excursions you have planned, a pair of water shoes can be incredibly useful. Some excursions will require you to have a pair or rent one…gross!

Don’t Forget Your Beverages

  • Everyone gets to bring one bottle of champagne or wine for free. Just do it.
  • You are also allowed to bring one 12-pack of soda or juice. Even if you purchase a drink pass, it’s nice to have a few on hand in your state room.

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Food

The nice thing about a cruise is all of your meals are included on the boat.

Buffets

There is no lack of food on a cruise ship. Buffets are open almost all day, and even when they are not you can get pizza or ice cream.

Formal Dinner

A sit down dinner was offered every night. The wait staff were all super friendly and you got to know them pretty well by the end of the trip.

Drinks

Drinks are plentiful as well and alcohol is served all day long. If you plan on indulging you may want to consider a drink pass as drinks are NOT included.

Three of our friends participated in a bar crawl one night where the objective was to get one drink at every bar on the ship. There are a lot of bars on the ship. I don’t think they made it to dinner that night.

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Excursions

Snorkeling On 7 Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Grand Cayman was the first port we docked at. All seven of us decided to make this a beach day at 7 Mile Beach. This was a great decision.

The water on 7 Mile Beach was gorgeous.

The visibility was crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling…

…but little did we know, there was a shark in the water that day…

…and it preyed upon poor, unsuspecting Ally.

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Scuba Diving in Roatán, Honduras

Mahogany Bay in Honduras was port #2 of the cruise. Alex and I opted to go on a dive while the rest of the group went to a resort.

I got my SCUBA certification while I lived in Omaha, Nebraska. Training took place in an Olympic sized pool and certification dives were held in a rock quarry located in Iowa. Needless to say I was beyond ecstatic to go for my first real ocean dive off the Honduran coast.

We swam among coral of all kinds at the reef and even came face to face with an eel.

Apparently, I got so wrapped up swimming among schools of fish and alongside the coral that I broke the #1 diving rule, I swam away from my dive buddy:

I hope he gives me a second chance!

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Cave Tubing in Belize, Belize

Our 3rd port of the cruise was Belize. All seven of us booked a guided tour through a maze of caverns comprised of limestone.

We could hardly Belize our eyes.

It was truly an unbelizable experience.

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Visiting Mayan Ruins in Cozumel, Mexico

We were happy to visit our fourth and final port, Cozumel, just look at those smiles (and the cheesy name tags)!

We visited San Gervasio, a holy site, dedicated to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. It served as a pilgrimage for the Mayan people, and is often compared to that of Jerusalem for Christians.

It was here I purchased this piece of obsidian jewelry:

This piece of volcanic rock is so black and opaque that you can safely view the sun through it. The sun of course played a very important role in Mayan culture.

Cozumel, Mexico was the last port on our cruise. One more day at sea and we’d be back in Miami.

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Land, ho!

I enjoyed my time out at sea, but was also quite happy to put my feet back on dry land. For several days after, any time I sat perfectly still or laid down to go to sleep, my body felt like it was still rocking with the waves.

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