Learn from Our Mistakes, Here’s What NOT To Do on Your Next Cruise

One of our favorite family vacation memories was our seven-day Western Caribbean trip onboard the Carnival Cruise Glory. At first, we only told A.J. we were flying to Miami when we woke him extra early for our morning flight. Once we landed in Florida and boarded the bus at the airport to take us to the port, we broke the news that our next top was a cruise ship. For the next week, we had fun onboard the ship and the excursions in Grand Cayman, Belize and Cozumel. You’ll find helpful insight below on planning your next cruise.


A.J. had so much fun on Carnival Glory that he asks at least once a month when we are taking another cruise OR if it’s possible to live all year on a cruise ship.

For our next go-round, there are several things I plan to do differently. I hope you find the lessons below helpful whether you’re booking a family cruise on your own or working with a travel agent.

Here's What NOT to do on your next cruise

Our 2015 cruise was a partnership with Carnival Cruise. My referral links are below.

Our Cruise Regrets

Arrive in port city a day or two early

On our first day of the cruise, I struck up a conversation with a woman in the elevator. She looked relaxed and comfortable.  I’ll call her “Lori.”

Lori and I chatted about what we looked forward to over the next seven days on the ship.

Maybe I looked a little frazzled after flying in from Atlanta, getting our family to, as well as finding our cabin and luggage. Lori was the exact opposite.

She told me she’d arrived in Miami a day early, checked into a hotel and relaxed by the pool.

Say what?? Why didn’t I think of that?

Cruise ships usually depart in the afternoon around 4 p.m. Thanks to an early direct flight from Atlanta, we made it on board with no problems, but a part of me was jealous of Lori who planned a relaxing day in Miami before our ship left.

Lesson: If your schedule and budget allows, arrive in your cruise port city a day or two early to relax and alleviate the rush of landing and transporting to the ship in a day.


Order Room Service

A few days into our cruise our family of three hit a brick wall of exhaustion. We knew we needed breakfast, but no one had the energy to make it to the dining hall.

Our breakfast room service menu (not gratuity) was included on the Carnival Cruise. Check with your cruise booking agent to be sure it’s included.

Thanks to room service we slept a little later, relaxed in the room and I drank my morning coffee.

Lesson: If your family can’t make it to the dining area, place your order from your room and wait. Be aware of extra fees.

Don’t miss out on the experience of full-service dinner each night with the amazing staff, though.

Family Cruise Photo

Bring a 2-way radio or walkie-talkie

When your family is separated on board the cruise ship, one of the best ways to stay in touch is with a 2-way radio or walkie-talkie.

Lesson: You’ll save on data fees for texting etc., but you may experience some interference with the 2-way channels.

Take adventurous excursions

Although I’d cruised a few times before, our Carnival Glory trip was A.J. & Antoine’s first experience on a ship. Since A.J. was still getting used to swimming and didn’t meet many of the age or weight requirements for some of the more adventurous off ship excursions. So there was no ziplining or tubing for us. We had to play it safe.

Every excursion we chose didn’t involve a lot of walking so that he wouldn’t get tired and always included lunch.

Our visit to the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm and the beach excursion in Belize were the perfect speed.

Lesson: If I had to do it all over again, I would have encouraged us to split up so that each adult had an active day of excursions. I would have loved to explore some ancient ruins.  My husband probably would have chosen cave tubing and ziplining. *Read the descriptions of each excursion to see recommended ages.

Stay in Port City Late

Disembarking from a cruise ship and racing to catch a flight home can be a hassle logistically. To minimize the rush and frenzy, consider booking a hotel for a day or two in the port city – then flying home.

For our next cruise: Swimming and fun in the water are what’s most important to A.J.  I have my on the Carnival Horizon’s expected preparedness in March 2018.

I’d also book a five-day cruise vs. a seven-day cruise with a day or two of relaxing.

Picky Eaters Get Just What They Want on the Carnival Cruise


VIDEO: A.J’s Carnival Cruise Memories

My blogging buddy Herchel Scruggs from Gym Craft Laundry has an in-depth look at her EPIC Disney Cruise Fails.

About Joyce Brewer

Creator & Host of Mommy Talk Show. Emmy award-winning TV journalist.Wife & Mommy; Mom Blogger; Social Media Coach; Long Island, New York transplant living in Atlanta, GA. Follow Joyce on Twitter @MommyTalkShow Author of Use What You Know: A Business Idea Guide for Moms featuring interviews with mompreneurs who created businesses using their skills & backgrounds.

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  1. These are excellent tips. I can say from experience that getting at port a day or two before the cruise and staying a day after is a great way to make the entire experience easier and more enjoyable.

  2. These are some great tips. We hope to go cruising in the next few years. I will definitely keep these in mind.

  3. Great tips! We always take full advantage of our cruise vacation from start to finish. We get to port early, stay a day or two after the cruise is over, and in between, we make sure to go on as many excursions as we can.

  4. I like the idea of having a day or two extra before and after the cruise before heading home. That definitely sounds better than rushing to a flight!

  5. These are great tips! I love the idea of using walkie talkies. That’s really smart.

  6. These are great tips! I can’t believe I didn’t think about arriving a day early, that definitely saves you from unwanted stress!

  7. It’s been some time since we last went on a cruise but I’m definitely taking note of these! It’s really a good idea to arrive in the port of call a day ahead, that lessens the stress so much and you don’t have to rush as well.

  8. Great tips! I always find it stressful to fly in and out of port the same day we get on the ship and fly home. I need to remember to take a day to relax and enjoy the port city. Walkie Talkies are always such a great idea. It can be so hard to get around when there is no cell service. That is a genius idea.

  9. What an awesome surprise! My little boy is trying to convince me to take a cruise (I’m terrified of deep water) so I will definitely keep these tips in mind if we ever go 🙂

  10. We love going on Carnival Cruises and have been on a lot of them! These are definitely some great tips!

  11. Thanks for the tips! When my family and I take a cruise, we stay at a hotel 2 more days after disembarking. We get to wind down from the excitement, probably get a spa massage or something at the hotel before heading home. I think will do the same BEFORE getting on the next cruise liner.

  12. These are really awesome tips! I love the walkie talkie idea! It will also be a great way to minimize your time using your phone. 😀