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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Caribbean Ports of Call (Frommer's)

If you're planning to take a Caribbean/Bahamas cruise, take a look at Fromer's Caribbean Ports of Call, it has great information for planning excursions and looking at different ports of call. (I found the book at my local library). The Cruise I went on stopped at Key West, Freeport and Nassau.

I've also put together some cruise tips that might help to make your trip more enjoyable.

Cruise Tips - Carnival Cruises 
  1. Take a copy of your passport (showing number) in case you lose it. Give the copy to someone else in your party, in case you lose it.
  2. Gratuities/Tips: You can usually pre-pay gratuities. The pre-paid gratuities are split between all the staff. 15% is usually added to drinks (alcoholic and soft drinks). Note: I believe the Maitre d' is the only one who isn't included in the pre-paid gratuities. There are envelopes available if you wish to give an additional tip to one of the staff.
  3. Onboard spending – You use your sign and sail card for everything and settle up the bill at the end of the trip. You can keep track of your account on your television in the cabin (enter the folio number from your card) or go to the guest services desk. Food and non-alcoholic drinks are usually free (tea/water/coffee/juice). (You are charged for soda) You use your card for gambling too but make sure you cash it out at the Casino before the end of the cruise.
  4. Meals - Meals are included unless you go to the specialty restaurant. You will have the same table for each meal (choose the seating time when you book the trip). There is a buffet open most of the time if you choose not to go to the sit down dinner and also a hamburger and pizza bar. The buffet is the best place for breakfast too. There are usually two formal dinners on a 7-day cruise. On those evenings there are photographers set up over the ship. You can choose which pictures you want to purchase once they are developed. It’s a good night for a family picture. (Look on the web site for clothing suggestions, but Carnival is more casual than some of the other cruise lines)
  5. On the last night you will leave your luggage outside your door for collection (between 8 and 11:30). Keep a bag for items you will need for the last night and the following morning. If you prefer to carry all your luggage off the ship, you will be able to leave earlier.
  6. Duty free – When you board the ship after visiting a port, they will take your duty free and give it to you when you return to your home port (check on limits for your state - Texas is very limited on duty free alcohol).
  7. Entertainment – They will leave a list of entertainment for the following day in a box outside your cabin door or on your bed.
  8. Spa - On the last few days of the cruise, they have reduced prices.
  9. There aren’t too many coat hangers – I take wire ones (from dry cleaning) and leave them after the trip.
  10. Credit Cards – You can use dollars at many of the ports, but if you want to use credit cards at the international ports (Freeport and Nassau) check with your credit card company to see if they charge overseas transaction fees (some credit card companies charge 3% to convert to dollars)
  11. Excursions - I've read some bad reviews on some of the excursions, especially the beach ones. I suggest that you check the weather at the port before booking a beach day excursion. Most of the time they have spots available once you board the ship. For many of them you can't return to the ship if it's raining and sitting in the rain for 4-5 hours isn't much fun. Carnival will also refund the excursion fee (for onboard spending) if you find that their price isn't the cheapest. It's better to book the excursion through Carnival because if there is a delay and Carnival don't know where you are, they might not help you to get back to the ship before departure if you haven't booked through them.
  12. Child Care - There is a wonderful Camp Ocean on the ships for children of all ages.  They do a great job at keeping the children entertained.

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