For those that know me, they know I am intensely passionate about cruising. I went on my first cruise two years ago and I’m now planning my fourth (leaving at the end of April!). I think everyone needs to find the way they love to travel best – for some, it’s road-tripping around the country; for others, it’s planning exotic getaways. For me, it is cruising. Traveling had never been a huge passion of mine until I started cruising and now I want to cruise all around the world. An Alaskan and European cruise are on my travel bucket list, for sure.
Today, I wanted to take some time to talk about the experience of being on a cruise. What are the days like? What do you do on a day at sea? Maybe I’ll be able to help people better understand what a cruise is like and why I think everyone should take one once in their life.
The Day You Embark
Oh, my favorite day! Ships generally don’t leave port until late afternoon and check-ins start in the late morning hours. Thankfully, I live within driving distance of four major ports so I’ve never had to fly into the city I was sailing out of. Generally, I think it’s good procedure to fly a day ahead of time and spend the night in a hotel in the city. (Most hotels near ports also offer shuttle service to the port.) Embarkation day can be a bit crazy, but there is so much excitement and thrill in the air!
You can carry on luggage or leave it with the luggage handlers who will deliver it to your door a few hours after sailing. I am an anxious, worst-case-scenario person by nature so I opt to carry on so I don’t have to deal with wondering if my luggage got lost. (Not common, but there are always exceptions.)
Then you’re off to check in, receive your room key (which also ends up being your “credit card” for any ship expenses. On Carnival, it’s called a “Sail and Sign Card” so you use that if you buy anything from the gift shop, buy a drink, and when you leave and come back to the ship.), and board the ship!
The rest of the day can be hectic with checking out your room and unpacking everything, exploring the ship, attending a safety demonstration, and then watching the ship sail out of port. It’s all very exciting! You’re on your cruise! Yay!
Days at Sea
I really, really love days at sea. Of course, I don’t have any little kids to keep entertained all day, so it’s a very relaxing time for me but I imagine it can get a bit hairy for those with little ones! For me, it’s all about waking up when I want to, eating leisurely meals, napping, and reading. And sneaking lots of mini ice cream cones. The best.
But there is always, always, something to do on the ship! You can get in a work out (how about a run on the top deck of a ship, with the vast ocean as your scenery?), play in the casino, hang out by the pool, or check out the slew of shows and events going on throughout the day. There is always something happening and it feels like one big party. Some of my favorite shows include the talent competition, murder mystery theater, and game shows where cruise passengers volunteer to play (think ridiculous stunts they have to perform, a la “Minute to Win It.”).
Days at Port
The fun really begins when you finally land at a port of call. So far, I’ve been able to explore Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Key West with my cruises and each one has offered different, unique experiences. I highly, highly recommend leaving the ship to explore the place you’re visiting. (I had someone mention, as advice, to stay on the ship when you land at a port of call because it’s deserted so very calm and relaxing. I don’t agree with this – take advantage of being somewhere new and different and do something fun!)
You can choose an excursion through the ship (more expensive and very touristy – but I’m still a fan because they take the guesswork out of everything), choose to do something on your own, or just spend the day walking around and seeing what adventures come to you. Each port of call has a different length of time they stay there but it’s usually between 6-9 hours – plenty of time for you to see the sights and do some souvenir shopping.
It does bear mentioning to make sure you know what time the ship is leaving and that your watch is displaying the correct time. You want to be sure you know what the ship’s time is to get an accurate time. (Usually, I just ask one of the crew members as I’m heading off the ship and then check my phone to see if it’s displaying the correct time, or if I need to adjust it an hour ahead or behind.)
The Day You Debark
Oh, the saddest day of them all! The day the cruise is over and you have to leave. I will be honest: I have been on 4-, 5-, and 6-day cruises and I am never ready to leave when it’s over. I want to sail forever! (Or at least for a few more days!)
Debarkation day is fairly easy. The night before you leave the ship, you can set your luggage outside and crew members will pick it up and take it to another location. Or you can carry it out yourself. On our first cruise, my mom and I opted to let the crew members take care of it but in subsequent cruises, we do it ourselves since it’s less hassle.
Debarkation can start as early as 6:30am or as late as 11:00am – it all depends on what deck you’re on and/or if you have an early flight (before noon) to make. Debarkation day involves a lot of waiting around and there’s usually time for one last breakfast before heading off the ship.
All of my cruises have been amazing experiences. I’ve always had a fantastic time and come home brimming with stories to tell and pictures to reminisce with. It’s not for everyone, though, and I totally get that. For me, it’s a fun way to explore new islands and countries and something I thoroughly enjoy.
Thank you, Stephany! I have never wanted to go on a cruise so badly. I hope you head over to Stephany's blog and add her to your feed. As you can see, she's a great writer and a super fun blogger.