Tips for First Time Cruisers

Engagement season is about to hit us full force. And, what is one of the first things you do when you get engaged? Decide where you want to go on your honeymoon!! A really great option year round is to go on a cruise! 

This summer, I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with my husband. We sailed on the Oasis of the Seas, and had an amazing time! I want to give you some tips on how to go about planning your trip, packing your bags, and what to do once you are on board. 

1. Research the ports ahead of time. Our ship stopped in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Check out what the attractions are at each stop. This way you can decide if you will splurge on an excursion or if you will set off and explore on your own. Both are great options! 

2. If at all possible, book a room with a balcony. It gives you  a little bit of extra space, as well as lots of natural light. We spent quite a bit of time out on our balcony and I cannot imagine having to do without it. 

Perfect view of the beautiful Caribbean!

Perfect view of the beautiful Caribbean!

3. When you book your trip, check to see if they have any special deals for honeymoons. Royal Caribbean is extremely accommodating and want to make your trip as special as possible.  

4. Make sure to book excursions, shows, and dinner times in advance. Royal Caribbean has a really great, inclusive website that makes this super easy. Trust me, the more you do before you board, the more relaxing your trip will be. Also check to see if there are any fun events on-board the ship that you need to sign up for in advance. We went to a fun 20's themed party one night that was only available if you booked it in advance. It ended up being one of our favorite nights on the ship. 

On the beach in the Bahamas! We decided to walk there on our own and make a day of it! 

On the beach in the Bahamas! We decided to walk there on our own and make a day of it! 

My husband, Nathan, and I at the Prohibition Event. We got decked out in 20's garb and had a blast! 

My husband, Nathan, and I at the Prohibition Event. We got decked out in 20's garb and had a blast! 

5. Assure that your passport is updated at least 2 months ahead of time. An expired or damaged passport might prevent you from boarding the ship, or even from reentering the country upon your return.

6. Make a packing list! This will help you to ensure that you don't forget anything, but also will help you to not pack unnecessary things too. 

The FlowRider is a way to go surfing on board the ship! I wasn't brave enough to try it, but it looked like fun!

The FlowRider is a way to go surfing on board the ship! I wasn't brave enough to try it, but it looked like fun!

There is also a mini-golf course on board! 

There is also a mini-golf course on board! 

7. Don't overpack! To keep from overpacking, use a color scheme so that your clothes can do double duty. Make sure you bring a formal or semi-formal dress for the formal nights in the main dining room. For men, they must have a suit jacket and dress slacks for the formal nights. Also keep in mind that flip-flops, swimsuits and shorts are never allowed in the main dining room. 

8. Don't underpack! In my attempt to not overpack, I didn't bring enough nice dresses for dinners or casual tops. I ended up having to re-wear a lot of things...things that really should not have been worn again! 

The lovely Central Park. Those are real plants growing on the ship! This is a great place for a stroll, and is also where most of the fancy restaurants are located. 

The lovely Central Park. Those are real plants growing on the ship! This is a great place for a stroll, and is also where most of the fancy restaurants are located. 

9. Pack extra plastic bags and a duffle bag for dirty clothes and wet swimsuits. This will help keep your clean clothes clean. 

10. Make sure to pack these essential extras: a power strip (as your cabin will likely have only one or two plugs), an alarm clock, a hi-lighter or pen to mark the activities you want to participate in on the daily itinerary delivered to your cabin. Also, if you are prone to motion sickness (guilty!), make sure to pack medicine for it! I used the chewable pill Bonine, and I only felt sick once the whole trip! 

11. Check your suitcases when you arrive at the port. Only bring a small duffle bag and your purse that can easily be carried on your shoulder onto the ship. You might have to wait around for a long while before you have access to your room after you board the ship, and you do not want to be lugging around your big roller suitcase when you could be exploring. 

This is the Solarium, an adults-only area that we spent a ton of our time in. 

This is the Solarium, an adults-only area that we spent a ton of our time in. 

12. In said duffle bag, you should pack these essentials in case you can't go to your cabin right away: a change of clothes, a swimsuit, sunscreen, camera, your passport and important meds and toiletries.   

13. Make sure to set up an automatic email reply, as well as change your cell phone's voicemail message, to inform people that you will not be available until you dock. 

After a day in St. Thomas, we headed back to the ship early to take advantage of it's emptiness! 

After a day in St. Thomas, we headed back to the ship early to take advantage of it's emptiness! 

14. Travel to your departure city at least a day ahead of time so you won't risk missing the boat. The boat will not wait for you!

15. Use the on-board interactive menu to plan activities and meals for the week. You can access this from your cabin as well as from screens on each deck near the elevators. 

We also utilized every square inch of counter space and drawer space!  

We also utilized every square inch of counter space and drawer space!  

16. Do not use your cell phone on board unless you turn it to airplane mode. You will rack up a ton of roaming fees. If you want, you can pay for on board wi-fi. We decided to unplug for the week and were very happy with our decision. 

17. Take the earliest opportunity to explore the ship upon arrival. This will help you to know where you are going (especially on the really big ships), and to discover fun areas you might not have known about otherwise. My husband and I found the ship's library just by walking around on decks we didn't normally frequent. 

The library on board the Oasis of the Seas

The library on board the Oasis of the Seas

There is also a rather impressive casino on board if you are interested in hitting the slots

There is also a rather impressive casino on board if you are interested in hitting the slots

18. The food on board is always fantastic! Eat in the dining room to get a great multi-course meal each night. Also, room service is included! One morning, my husband and I ordered room service for breakfast and got to watch the sunrise over the ocean. It was magical. 

Room service was delicious, and included in the price of your ticket! 

Room service was delicious, and included in the price of your ticket! 

The food in the dining room was amazing every. single. night. 

The food in the dining room was amazing every. single. night. 

19. On shore excursion days, it can be really worth while to come back on board the ship early. This way you can have the ship to yourself and go to that big pool on the top deck without competing for chairs or a prime spot in the pool. 

20. I highly recommend getting a drink package. Even if you don't drink a lot of alcohol, a drink package gives you access to fancy coffee, soft drinks and fun, fruity cocktails that, honestly, don't have that much alcohol in them. 

There are multiple pools on board...go exploring and find the one you like best! 

There are multiple pools on board...go exploring and find the one you like best! 

There are so many great areas to just get away, read a book, take a nap in the sea breeze...

There are so many great areas to just get away, read a book, take a nap in the sea breeze...

21. Bring extra cash with you for tips. A tip will be included for your room staff at the end of your trip and added to the bill. However, it is customary to give a little something extra to the people who make a big impression on you, such as the person who cleans your cabin and makes all of those cute towel animals. Or the waiter at your table in the dining room each night. 

22. Also, bring cash with you for shore days. You will definitely want to buy at least one souvenir to remember your trip by! My husband and I collect magnets from each place we travel. 

Straw Markets are in each port and are a great place to get souvenirs. 

Straw Markets are in each port and are a great place to get souvenirs. 

The Boardwalk is a great area that boasts a carousel, rock-climbing wall, ice cream shop and aqua-theater. 

The Boardwalk is a great area that boasts a carousel, rock-climbing wall, ice cream shop and aqua-theater. 

Make sure you take the time to see the incredible entertainment on board - amazing shows that are all included in the price of your ticket! 

Make sure you take the time to see the incredible entertainment on board - amazing shows that are all included in the price of your ticket! 

Be sure to check the cruise compass each day for ship activities! It will also tell you if it is a casual or formal dinner evening. 

Be sure to check the cruise compass each day for ship activities! It will also tell you if it is a casual or formal dinner evening. 

There are so many other tips and tricks, but these were the ones that helped me out the most. I hope that you have as much fun on your cruise vacation as I had! If you have any other great tips, please leave them in the comments! 

With love,

Whitney 

 

How to Plan a Stress-Free Honeymoon

After all of that planning for the wedding ceremony and reception, who wants to plan for their honeymoon?! I have some tips for you to plan a stress-free honeymoon and have some fun doing it! Whether you are honeymooning in a sunny, beachy paradise or an old, European city, you should be able to have the stress-free time of your life! 

1. Choose your destination. 

This could either be the most difficult or the absolute easiest step! I know that going to the beach is the most popular honeymoon destination, but do not discount the romance of a non-beach destination. As for myself, I have wanted to go to Venice, Italy for my honeymoon since I was in high school, and my wonderful husband was gracious enough to comply with my wishes. :) 

So, ask yourself this question: would you rather spend your honeymoon laying out on white, sandy beaches getting a killer tan, or would you rather spend your honeymoon exploring a romantic old city rife with history and beauty? Neither answer is wrong, but both can be amazingly romantic and a wonderful adventure for you and your new spouse! 

2. Look up travel deals on travel websites. 

There are many great travel deal websites out there. The ones that we used are TripAdvisor and Hipmunk, but there are so many others that offer great deals all the time. Look up travel deals early, as it is sometimes cheaper to book airfare, hotels and more months in advance. 

3. Get your flight booked way in advance.

As I stated above, getting your flight booked in advance is a huge load off of your back, and you can usually get a better deal than if you wait until the last minute. Also, I recommend waiting to leave for the honeymoon until the day after, or a few days after, the wedding itself. Believe me, you will thank me later when you get a good night's sleep before hopping on a plane! 

4. Book a hotel that has really good reviews.

Here is where planning in advance really pays off. Look at the ratings a hotel gets, but more importantly, read the reviews from past customers. Often the reviews will reveal great amenities, customer service and more; or, they will reveal that you should definitely not stay there! You want to have a good hotel, as you will be sleeping there each night, as well as eating there and possibly utilizing the amenities as well. 

5. Research the area and make a list of what activities you want to make sure you do. 

Planning this in advance will take any stressful moments of not knowing what to do, and probably arguing about it, away. You want to be able to thoroughly enjoy every moment with your new hubby, not spend the time fighting about what activities you do or do not want to participate in. Agreeing in advance on what attractions and excursions you want to take part in will help to keep everything light and fun. 

6. Go shopping! 

Even if you have lots of clothes that will work for your honeymoon, go buy at least one new item! It will make your trip all the more exciting if you have a brand new outfit to show off for your husband! Plus, you get to go shopping! :)

7. Pack with convenience in mind. 

It is tempting to pack a separate outfit for each day you are away, believe me, I get it. However, if you are going to be gone for more than 5 days or so, you really should mix and match. That way, you will not have a ridiculously heavy suitcase to lug around, and you will have more room in your luggage for souvenirs! 

8. Make sure your passports are up to date and keep all travel documents in a safe place. 

Nothing is worse than thinking you have an up to date passport and discovering that it is about to expire only days before your trip. Avoid this catastrophe by assuring that your passport, and any other travel documents, are taken care of at least two months before your trip. Then, make sure you store them somewhere that you will not lose them, and also will not forget to bring them with you!  

9. Figure out your transportation situation before your plane lands.

Check out what the transportation is like at your destination. If you are staying in an all-inclusive resort, often they will have a shuttle provided to pick you up from the airport. If you are staying in a little European hotel, check to see if taxis, buses, or trains are the most efficient and cost-effective form of transportation. Looking this up in advance will help to avoid any confusion when you land, especially if your destination does not have any native English speakers. 

10. Plan relaxation time!

Do not bog yourself down with so many activities that you are exhausted the entire time you are gone! I was guilty of this - my husband was so tired the entire time that he did not have as much fun as he would have if I had planned some downtime into our schedule. Take some time to just be. You just got married! Enjoy yourself! 

 

These are just a few tips from my own honeymoon planning experience. What travel planning tips do you have? Leave them in the comments below!! 

Now go have a great honeymoon you newly-wed you! :)

With love,

Whitney