If I am to be honest, I am not completely sure where to start this post from. The truth is this exact same feeling of cluelessness on how to start this post was almost the same way I felt when I decided I wanted to go on a cruise.
I had no idea whatsoever on what it entailed to go on a cruise. The only cruise/ferry I had been on were day cruises. I didn’t have any idea on how much they cost, the visa requirements, port locations, what it meant to be on a cruise, or what the cruise price covered. I had so many other questions, but it was an exciting phase nonetheless.
The initial idea was to go to Florida and take a short detour to Jamaica and/or St Maarten. One day, my friend and I were talking when she mentioned a cruise advert she saw and how she won’t mind going on one. Truthfully, after watching Titanic, going on a cruise has never been on my mind. However, my boss once told me about his experience on a cruise five years ago and however since then, he goes on a cruise with his family every year.
So, after thinking about my boss’ experience and now hearing my friend talk about a cruise being a great idea, I decided to check it out. I was ready to begin my cruise adventure.
I am no ‘cruise’ expert yet but I will try to give you some general tips on how to go about it.
A typical cruise adventure varies in price. It depends on the number of days, the cruise line, cruise ship, type of cabin, port of calls, time of the year and so on. However, you can get a 3-5 days cruise for as low as $300 dollars each with at least two in a cabin. The cost for a typical cruise usually includes accommodation (stateroom) , dining (breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner), shows, entertainment, lounges, fitness centre, pools, whirlpools, waterslides and 24 room service. It’s important to note that cost usually excludes shore excursion, Wi-Fi, tips, alcoholic drinks and specialty restaurant(s). There are a few other things that might be included or excluded depending on the cruise.
As I said earlier, I was already considering Jamaica and/or St Maarten as one of the places I would see during my cruise. So i was looking for any route that went through either place. I was torn between the two because they were in two different directions. The choice came down to Jamaica/Western Caribbean or St Maarten/Eastern Caribbean. However, due to the hurricane effect on St Maarten, I decided I would go on the Western Caribbean cruise that included Jamaica. The ports of call that I finally decided on was Ocho Rios (Jamaica), George Town (Grand Cayman) and Cozumel (Mexico).
Trust me, the more places you have on your itinerary to see, the more confused you will be. Even though I had already made up my mind on Jamaica, that didn’t still make it easy not to desire adding more locations to my cruise. I was tempted several times in going off course.
Remember, I had selected Jamaica and it’s important to note that different cruises have different city ports. So part of your decision making process is figuring out which port (city) in your prefered country you would like to visit. So I had to decide which city port in Jamaica to visit.
Having an idea on your port of departure and at least one key port on your itinerary will make your decision easier.
- Cruise Duration:
Based on some of the research I did on first-time cruise experiences, I realized that the longer the cruise, the higher the likelihood one would enjoy the cruise. Most people also advised between 5-7 days for first time cruisers, so I decided on a 6-day cruise. A six day cruise gives you at least two full days at sea.
- The Cruise Line:
This was a difficult one. Different sites had different opinions on the best cruise lines for first-timers, budget travellers, friends and other categories. The suggestions and opinions were endless. I was really confused. Just when I thought I had an idea on the cruise line I wanted to go with, I got lost again..lol! I kept going back and forth. After so much research, I decided that Carnival and Royal Caribbean were the best for first-timers on a Caribbean cruise. They both give a holistic cruise experience and both fit into my ports, cost and so on.
At last, I went for the Carnival Cruise Line because it was more affordable, not too huge, and it fit my Itinerary perfectly. Their ports routes were awesome and I especially loved that the port for Jamaica is Ocho Rios; I only wished the port stays were longer.
- Cruise Ship
The Cruise Ship? You would think that was the same thing as the Cruise Line. Nope…it’s something different and also another important factor when planning to go on a cruise for the first time. I know you thought the decisions were over. I hate to break it to you but it is not even close to being over.
The next phase was the cruise ship. This was not so hard having decided on the cruise line, itinerary and the time of the year I wanted to go. Carnival Vista was my choice; aside it being the best cruise ship, it also fit perfectly into my plans. Carnival Cruise Line has a comparison site that can help you compare two to three ships if you are having a hard time deciding (it came in handy).
- Departing port
As stated earlier, my vacation destination was Florida. There are about five ports in Florida, Fort lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville and Canaveral. I was really hoping not to leave from Orlando because it is about a 4-hour bus ride from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando (This was another reason I choose Carnival not Royal Caribbean).
The thought of applying for visas to all the ports of call was very discouraging. Visa applications are just too much hassle. Luckily, Grand Cayman is visa free for Nigeria (insert your happy dance here) and from my earlier post you should know by now that so also is Jamaica (if you are entering and departing on a cruise on the same day). Mexico is also visa free, if you have a US visa. So with a long sigh of relief, I was covered as far as visas were concerned.
Actually a lot of Caribbean and Central American Island are either visa free or entry free with a USA visa. Awesome right.
- Stateroom (Cabin)
The cabins are basically divided into four main categories (Interior, outside, balcony and suite). Interior basically means you won’t have a seaside view and it will be pitch dark (no window to the outside), Outside means a room with a window or porthole (a round/picture window) with a view to the sea, Balcony means you get a verandah where you can sit or stand to enjoy the sea and lastly the suite which is grand (a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks).
Most people advice that if you can afford it, you should splurge on the balcony. Apparently, it is worth the extra cost. However, if you are a first-timer on a cruise, which probably means you might not be in your cabin so often, I don’t think there is a need to get the balcony. At the end of the day, the type of cabin you decide on boils down to your personal preference and budget. I will rather save on the cabin and spend on the shore.
A lower and more centrally located stateroom/cabin is usually the best location.
All cabins have basic essential such as beds, TV, room service, bath (with shower and sink), telephone, desk, closet, coffee table and a safe.
If you are wondering which cabin I will be in, you guessed right!! That will be the interior guarantee cabin (guarantee cabins basically means you don’t get to select the type of cabin in that category. You could end up in the worst side of the ship). Biko, I am on a budget!!!
So join me on instagram from the 26 November to 2nd December on my amazing first time cruise. I will be updating you on the costs, fun things to do, cabin size, entertainment and so much more.
If you are not on instagram, don’t worry I will post my cruise experience on the blog as soon as possible.
I am super excited! I can’t believe how I became a person who never considered going on a cruise to actually becoming the person that can’t wait to go on one. shhhhhhhhh!!! My mum must not know. I am not even allowed to swim! (Mothers and their protective side)
If you have any extra tips or questions, kindly write them down in the comment section.
I hope you enjoyed the read and tips
Thanks to the site below and many others for helping me out on my first time cruise journey;