10 Hacks for getting more out of your family cruise
KidTripster Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah interviewed Anne Chastain, mother of four and veteran cruiser. She and her family have been on 12 cruises together. She prefers Carnival Cruise Line because of its superior kid programs, especially for teens. Here are Anne's 10 top hacks for saving money and getting more out of your family cruise.
1/Befriend a travel agent
While it certainly is possible to book your own cruise online, travel agents often are privy to special deals. If you establish a relationship with a cruise representative, he/she will often alert you to killer deals. In addition, they sometimes offer on-board credit as extra incentive to book.
If you plan to make cruising a family tradition, consider sticking with one cruise line. Most have frequent cruiser reward programs, where you can earn perks.
3/Sail on longer voyages
Anne prefers 7-day cruises for her family. She’s found that the shorter 2- to 4-day itineraries often attract a crowd of partying, 20-somethings, creating an environment less conducive to families.
4/Arrange shore excursion on your own
Don’t book shore excursion through the cruise line. You can find the same activities on your own for a fraction of the cost. For example, passengers on Anne’s last cruise paid $80/person to spend the day at a beach resort. Instead she and the family hopped in a cab to the resort and had lunch and drinks poolside for about $30 total.
KidTripster Tip: Warning! If you’re arranging your own excursions, make sure they’re not too far from port. Allow plenty of time to return to your ship. The ship will leave without you, if you're late.
5/BYOB… or at least wine
On Carnival, you are allowed to bring one wine bottle in your carry-on bag. (Note: you’ll need to purchase the wine after going through airport security, preferably in port before you board.) Make sure to bring a corkscrew to open the bottle yourself before bringing it into a ship restaurant. Otherwise the wait staff will charge you a $12 corking fee.
6/Plan for extra storage needs
Anne always brings a plastic door hook (purchased at a dollar-type store) for extra hanging space. She also brings a few wire hangers, because she says that there’s never enough provided.
7/Prevent keycard loss
Bring your own lanyard for your keycard and lanyards for other family members. It’s easier than keeping the key in your pocket. The ship does sell lanyards but at a premium.
8/Bring plastic bags
Pack large plastic bags for bringing still-wet swimsuits home. And on the night before you disembark, order a couple of sandwiches, bag them, and put the bags in your cabin’s small refrigerator. That way, the kids will have something to eat while rushing to catch your plane the next day.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah offers her own bit advice: don’t cruise with a baby who doesn’t reliably sleep through the night. Trust her, it will be your worst vacation ever!