First Time Carnival Cruise Tips Do’s and Don’ts

Going on your first cruise can be a tad overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Our list of do’s and don’ts are sure to set you up perfectly for your first cruise.

Going on on your first cruise can be a little overwhelming with so many things to wonder and think about.

Not to worry, Carnival makes any first-time cruise a blast, but these quick do’s and don’ts cruise tips are guaranteed to have your first time cruise go even better.

Sit back, relax, and watch the video of our first time cruise tips. No need to take notes, we’ve done that for you below.

Must Do’s For Your First Time Carnival Cruise:

1. Do – Fly In A Whole Day Early For Your Cruise- Yes, this is completely the way to go to add a big positive experience to your cruise. We flew in at 12:30am the day of our cruise and that was a little rough. Sure we saved some money on cheaper airline tickets, but you have to ask yourself if the short term pain is worth it given how tired you and your family may be.

2. Do – Get A Balcony Stateroom – The price difference between an oceanview and a balcony stateroom can be negligible. If you can afford it, definitely look at getting a balcony stateroom. It’s worth the money to get the daylight in the morning to start your day, having your own private balcony to watch the ship come into port or depart, and a place to slip away and relax in peace and quiet.

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Carnival Splendor Mexican Riviera Cruise

3. Do – Order Room Service In The Morning – It’s free so why not. Ordering room service on a cruise is the perfect way to start your day as far as we’re concerned. We had a Carnival balcony stateroom so we weren’t in a rush to leave. We just orderedSomething light for the kids to help tie them over until we were ready to head upstairs for actual breakfast .

4. Do – Bring Extra Sea Sickness Remedies Just In Case – Buy extra remedies you want to try out just in case. If you don’t need them, you can always return the unused items back to the store. You don’t want to be stuck on the ship with sea sickness and nothing readily available to help you. A couple of the remedies that worked for us without side effects were sea sickness acupuncture bracelets and ginger pills.

5. Do – Bring A Clothes Line If You Are In A Balcony Stateroom – If you’ve got kids and you’re planning to be in the water a lot, a clothes line is a quick and easy way to dry them all.

6. Do – Bring Some Nice Clothes For The Evening For You And Your Kids – Dressing up truly adds a specialness to the evening when you go out for your dinner reservation and to watch a show.

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Carnival Splendor Black Pearl Restaurant

7. Do – Make Dinner Reservations Online Ahead Of Time – This way you can have the same reserved table, at the same reserved time and more importantly the same serving team each night. This truly adds to the enjoyment of your evening dinner experience. No waiting in line for dinner, and if you get the early dinner time you are freed up to watch an earlier evening show and get you and your family to bed at a reasonable time.

8. Do –  See A Show After Dinner And Get Into An Evening Routine – Cruising with Carnival has lots of built in date nights. There is always something happening in the Spectacular Lounge after dinner on a Carnival Cruise.

9. Do – Have Your Kids Check Out Camp Carnival / Camp Ocean – We love our kids and our kids love us, but sometimes it’s just nice to have some time a part. Summer camp at sea is available all day long with Carnival.

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Carnival Splendor Spectacular Lounge

10. Do – Have A Back-Up Plan On Your First Day On The Ship – Checking your bags, avoiding the buffet and heading to the pool and waterslide on your first afternoon at the sea is the way to go. But what happens if it’s raining? Have a back-up plan!

11. Do – Bring Ear Plugs If You Are A Light Sleeper – Our room was blissfully quiet (Room 6448 Carnival Splendor L-shaped balcony stateroom), however we did see some rooms where I’m sure noise was an issue because they were right off the lobby or above or below the casino and dining room. Pick your room carefully if you are a light sleeper and value your peace and quiet.

12. Do – Have Fun With Miniature Golf And The Waterslide On Nice Days –  Both of these activities will be closed on windy days which happened to us when returning to port on our first cruise.

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13. Do Bring A Lanyard To Keep Your Room Key Card / Sail & Sign Card On –  This was very helpful for our kids in not losing their card. We saw lots of adults with lanyards as well, but be careful as it can make it very easy to spend more money.

14. Do – Bring A Power-Bar To Charge Your Electronics –  There is only one outlet in your room, enough said.

15. Do – Familiarize Yourself To The Ship Ahead Of Time – You can print off a map of the ship ahead of time for your family or get the app on your electronic device. Study the map ahead of time and it will save you from getting turned around. Yes, you will get lost if it’s your first time on a ship.

16. Do – Get Off The Ship On Shore Day –  Book a Carnival shore excursion or create your own and go have some fun on land. There are so many things to see and do when exploring a new port. Plan your shore excursion times ahead of time and be ready to go and make the most of your day.

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Cabo San Lucas – Carnival Splendor Cruise

17. Do – Leave Your Pool Towels Out In Your Room –  This way you don’t have to carry your family’s wet pool/beach towels all the way to the pool towel exchange area. If you leave your pool towels out in your room, the room attendant will exchange them giving you fresh towels every day. This is especially handy if you’ve been at the beach all day.

18. Do – Make An Intentional Decision On How Much Sleep You Want To Get –  I wish there was a way to stay up late and get up early day after day on a Carnival cruise. If you try and do both, you’ll end your cruise completely exhausted. We were traveling with young kids so it just made sense to get a good night’s sleep and make the most of our daylight hours.

19. Do – Say Yes To The Evening Turn-Down Service – Once again, this service is included in your cruise so why not. The room attendant will often replenish your basket of fruit or leave a plate of goodies. Not that you need any more, but chocolate covered strawberries were a nice touch!

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20. Do – Go On A Carnival Cruise – And Read 10 Reasons Why Families Love A Carnival Cruise before You Go.

21. Do – Go to And Choose The Carnival Cruise That Best Suits Your Mood – We went on a Carnival Mexican Riviera Cruise and absolutely loved it. We hope to try a Carnival Carribean Cruise someday!

22. Do – Compare Ships And See What’s New – Yes, there is a big difference between a fully remodelled Carnival Cruise Ship and one that isn’t. It’s worth taking a look and comparing. Get a sneak peak at the newest Carnival Cruise ship. 

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Tips Of What Not To Do On Your First Time Carnival Cruise:

1. Don’t – Believe Everything A Taxi Driver Tells You On Your Day On Land – Taxi drivers are known to want to take you farther away so they can charge you more. If you’re asking about a closer beach they may tell you it’s “no good” because it’s dirty. If you didn’t make plans for your day ashore ahead of time then you can ask the retail vendors by the cruise terminal what beach is nice and they will tell you.

2. Don’t – Stress Out On Your First Day On The Cruise Ship – If it’s a beautiful sunny day, then check your bags and spend the day on the top deck by the pool and waterslide. It makes for a perfect, no stress afternoon with kids. There will be food nearby and you can avoid the over crowded buffet. Have a back up plan for bad weather… we did not and that stressed us out.

3. Don’t – Try And Do Everything On A Carnival Cruise –  Carnival is known for having fun, and it’s true! But if you try and do everything, you’ll experience a bad case of “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out). Get a game plan together and make some choices and stick with it or you’ll find your whole family scatter-brained and exhausted very quickly.

4. Don’t – Eat Everything You See!  You will either explode or you will walk around all day feeling gross and then when you do see something you really want to eat you’ll be full. Look ahead at your day and save room for the delectable food that Carnival offers during the evening dining restaurant time.

5. Don’t – Think You Must Go On An Official Shore Excursion Tour At Every Port – You can save some money like we did, grab a taxi and go to a nearby beach to mix it up.

6. Don’t –  Break The Bank – Plan ahead of time and make a budget and stick to it. Nobody wants vacation remorse when you get back home and look at the credit card statement.

7. Don’t –  Think That A Carnival Cruise Is Just A Party Ship – Yes, Carnival knows how to have a lot of fun, but it is also a family-friendly ship as well. We went on a March Break cruise and were worried that we would be stuck with a bunch of college-aged partiers, but that was not the case at all. Tons of families and grandparents were included.

Happy cruising! Let us know if you have any first-time cruise tips Do’s and Don’ts to add to the list.

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  • Going on my second cruise in a couple of weeks! Hopefully I won't be such a tourist this time... - Reply

  • We did a Carnival cruise a few years ago, with our two kids (ages 4 and 2), as university students on Reading Week. :) We found a last-minute cruise deal and jumped on it, and we had a BLAST! I'd heartily agree with everything you said here. Cruises are an easy way to travel with a family because you get to see different places, but your hotel moves with you! If you compare it to another vacation, it really is reasonable as meals, entertainment, hotel, and even transportation are all included in your cruise price. :) - Reply

    • It definitely can be a fun vacation! If you watch your budget and all the add-ons that can creep up it's definitely an affordable vacation for most. We just wish we lived closer to a cruise terminal. Up on Vancouver Island we can jump on a cruise to Alaska and plan to do that someday! Happy travels! J - Reply