Go To Guest Services Late At Night Or Early In The Morning To Avoid Lines
Whats that huge line you see in the middle of the ship at the beginning and end of the cruise? Its the line to talk to Guest Services. Its always a hassle to have to deal with getting things straightened out with your onboard account, but its something you occasionally have to do.
Heres a big timesaver. If you do have to talk to Guest Services, plan your visit either later in the evening or early in the morning. At these times the line is almost non-existent so you can talk to a rep immediately.
You can also purchase perks like Carnivals Faster to the Fun to save time if you dont want to be bothered to go at off hours.
Costco Travel Bonus: Kirkland Signature
The Kirkland Signature promotions are also unique to Costco Travel, and offer exceptional amenities like extra onboard credit, private meals, cooking classes, tours and excursions.
Heres an example of a Kirkland Signature promotion:
This deal on Celebrity Edge includes a $330 Costco Cash card, beverage package for two, $300 shipboard credit, private hosted welcome reception, private 4-course luncheon, private culinary demo and private behind-the-scenes tours. This is well over $1,200 in value.
In this case, the Kirkland Signature promotion only applies to balcony room categories E4, E3, E2, E1 and C3 .
Before you check out, make sure that the room you selected shows the promotion. When I selected an E4 room, it did not show the promotion, but an E3 room did.
Worth noting, we also checked Expedia, AAA and VacationsToGo for the same cruise and cabin and the price came about $800 less, but they didnt offer anything extra except $75-$125 onboard credit. While the price might be lower, the value doesnt even come close to what Costco Travel provides.
You Can Debark When You Want
Shhh dont tell anyone, but you can actually debark the cruise ship when you want when your trip ends.
The cruise lines will call passengers deck by deck, but the process can take hours. If you already have all your bags and want to leave, you can just head down whenever you like. The staff doesnt check what deck your cabin is on, and they simply want passengers off the ship so that they can get ready for the next group.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that lines can be extremely long right at the beginning of debarkation. Sometimes its worth it just to relax for an hour and let the rush die down.
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Bring Your Own Power Adapter To Give You More Outlets
Phones, iPads, laptops, curling irons the list of things youll bring that need plugging in seems to grow by the year. However, many cruise ship cabins have limited outlets. The good news is that newer ships are being built with more power outlets. Still, we suggest bringing an adapter or two to increase the number of plugs available.
We really like , which offers three plugs and doesnt take up much room. Also, make sure your plug doesnt have a surge protector. They are not allowed onboard.
Authorities Check The Passenger List For Warrants And Arrest Them On The Way Back
If you have an arrest warrant, think twice before getting on a cruise. Once you board, local authorities will often run the names of the passengers through a database to check for any outstanding warrants. The result? Assuming the warrants are for minor items, they will then let the passengers enjoy the cruise before escorting them off the ship once it arrives back at port.
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Book The Cruise Early
Booking a cruise early will sometimes result in an upgrade. Cruise ships usually sell out the most expensive cabins and suites first, but the cheapest cabins come next. If you are one of the first to book a cheap cabin, you might get upgraded as the cruise date gets closer if demand is high for your cabin category.
Costco Travel Bonus: Costco Added Values
Some cruises offers dining credit, spa credit, drink packages or additional on board credit. Youre more likely to find these promotions off peak season itineraries, when they have more inventory to sell.
Take a look at a spa credit promotion for a Royal Caribbean cruise.
First, notice the price of a balcony room is less than the cost of an Interior or Oceanview room. Nice!
Second, this particular offer for Symphony of the Seas has 4 different types of Balcony rooms: Boardwalk, Central Park, Oceanview and Spacious Oceanview. This offer does not specify the category of room, only that its a balcony, so its safe to assume the offer stands for any balcony room. Of course, its best to double check with Costco before booking.
Third, I checked Royal Caribbeans website for the spa promotion and it does not exist. So, we know this is a Costco-exclusive bonus.
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Booking The Free Cruise
Unlike a normal cruise reservation, when you pay for your free cruise, you don’t walk away with a cruise booking number. You get a Royal Seas booking number that you use when you’re ready to confirm a sailing date. It’s not as easy as it looks.
I called at the end of August to book an early November weekend cruise. The rep told me that my preferred sail date was only available if I upgraded to a package with a two-night pre-cruise stay at their hotel in Florida. There was no availability for my booking until December when I was not free.
I tried again a few weeks later, and was able to book myself and a friend on the January 20, 2018, Saturday-to-Monday cruise. Once again, they tried to upsell me to a pre-cruise package for $69 that included two nights’ hotel stay at the Ramada Plaza in Fort Lauderdale with meals, and maybe with transportation to the cruise port or maybe they’d arrange it for $60 per person. They reminded me about additional fees, such as gratuities, fuel surcharge and port parking . I wouldn’t receive an exact cabin number until three weeks before the cruise.
Book A Guarantee Cabin
A “guarantee” means you’re assured a cabin in the category you requested, but are not assigned a specific cabin until a short time before departure — usually a week, give or take. If you book a guarantee in a certain category and it’s full, you might get upgraded for free. On the other hand, someone else might nab the upgrade, and you’d get their cabin in your category. There’s no way to know. Bottom line: Don’t book a guarantee in any given category unless you would be satisfied with any cabin in that category.
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Sound Can Travel Between The Cabins When You Make Whoopie
No, the walls of your cabin arent paper thin, but sounds can travel between room. Keep this in mind if you decide to engage in activities in your cabin. You have to remember that you are in a small, confined space with lots of people around. Not everyone wants to hear what you do in the privacy of your cabin .
Keeping things a little quiet can make sure that your fun doesnt mess with anyone elses vacation.
Take A Photo Each Morning Of The Ships Daily Planner
Like Las Vegas, youll find you that you actually spend less time in the room than you anticipated. If youre out and about and wondering what activities are coming up next, you dont want to have to carry around the full daily newsletter that contains that days schedule.
Instead, an easy thing to do is take a picture of the daily planner on your phone or camera. This way you have a copy of the schedule with you without having to carry the newsletter or go back to the cabin to see whats going on.
You can also download the cruise lines app, such as the Carnival Hub app, which lists everything going on that day and much more.
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No Marijuana Isnt Legal Even On An Alaskan Cruise
If youre cruising to Alaska from Seattle, Washington , then of course you can bring your pot on board with you, right?
To be on the safe side, the cruise lines follow federal law which means that . If you really need some of the green to let loose on your cruise, youll have to wait until you arrive in port.
Is Anyone Excluded From Receiving Free Onboard Credit For Being A Carnival Shareholder
Carnival Corporation employees likely already know that theyre not eligible for onboard credit for owning Carnival stock. But some non-employees also arent able to take advantage of this program.
If any of these situations apply to you, you also wont be able to get free OBC as a Carnival shareholder:
- A travel agent cruising at travel agent rates
- Tour conductors or group leaders cruising at a reduced rate
- Anyone sailing on a complimentary basis
Carnival has very recently begun denying shareholder OBC to guests cruising at discounted rates. According to many longtime Carnival cruisers who have applied for the free onboard credit, the company has been denying the benefit for reasons including:
- VIFP offers
- Resident discount rates
- Senior citizen discount rates
Its unclear whether this is a permanent policy change by Carnival Corporation, or just a temporary hold while ships are sailing at reduced capacity. Ill continue to update the post as more information emerges on this new development.
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Costco Travel Bonus: Buyers Choice
Costco Travel Buyers Choice typically provides additional value beyond the Costco Cash Card. However, these promotions are typically for new bookings only. Transferred bookings are not eligible for Buyers Choice promos, even though most other promotions are eligible.
Heres an example of a Buyers Choice promotion:
This promotion offers a Costco Cash card, specialty dining for four guests at Giovannis or Chops Grille, soda package for two, and lunch for four guests at Johnny Rockets.
Since this promotion is limited to certain room categories, and the fact it includes the soda package and Johnny Rockets dining, its obvious this promotion is for a Boardwalk balcony promotion . However, it adds on a very nice specialty dining bonus, worth about $30-40 per person.
While the suite class offers a spa treatment bonus, that particular offer is not part of the Buyers Choice promotion.
American Dollars Are Widely Accepted In Cruise Ports
Dont worry if you dont have pesos, or any other local currency. In cruise ports American dollars are widely accepted . Thats a huge help for cruise passengers who dont have to worry about having different currencies. Credit cards are also accepted in many places, but you definitely want to use cash for most transactions.
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Its Unlikely These Test Cruises Will Feel Like A Standard Cruise Vacation Warns Industry Expert
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Passengers can bag a free cruise if they volunteer for new trial sailings.
Its part of a new set of rules introduced by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , which stipulates that cruise lines must demonstrate their Covid protocols are up to scratch by operating trial sailings.
The CDC, which previously banned all cruises in response to the pandemic, advised companies to have volunteers play the role of passengers to test cruise ship operators ability to mitigate Covid-19 risk.
The idea is part of the CDCs framework of actionable items for the cruise line industry to follow to enable cruising to restart safely.
If Traveling Fewer Than Three Floors Take The Stairs Its Much Faster
Who wants to take the stairs on vacation? That sounds like work! Well, the stairs can often be much faster. Realize that with thousands of people on a cruise ship, the elevators can get overwhelmed, making stops on every deck going both up and down. That means it can take a while for the elevator to reach your floor.
Instead, if you are only going up or down a few decks its definitely easier and faster to just hoof it with the stairs. Plus you get to work off a few of those extra cruise calories from eating so much.
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What Is And Isnt Covered
One thing to keep in mind is while the core fare is covered on those free cruises, certain aspects are not. First, whats included:
- Your core fare for two people
- All food in the standard dining areas
- Certain basic drinks: Tap water, milk, juices for breakfast, basic coffee and iced tea (nothing alcoholic for sure.
Theres plenty thats not included, that no matter whether youre paying for your cruise or not still factor in to your trip planning:
- Port taxes and fees, which vary by itinerary the original cruise I took was less than $100 per person, and the second cruise I will be taking will be $135 theres an extra stop so that helps explain the increase, so expect that longer cruises with more stops will have a higher cost there.
- Gratuities, which on Royal Caribbean for the standard rooms is $14.50 a day, per person . So the longer the cruise, the higher the gratuities as well.
- Specialty dining experiences, which are outside the included meal packages and can include steakhouses, sushi/seafood restaurants and many more.
- Alcoholic beverages and premium drinks, such as mocktails, bottled water, and even soda. You can buy a drink package that gets you unlimited of what you want, but you do pay extra.
- Any excursions or experiences you wish to take in at various ports.
- Travel costs to get to where the cruise is departing.
- Internet packages are sold separately as well. Reaching PRIME level gets you a discount, and if you tier up further internet can be complimentary.
Costco Travel Bonus: Costco Cash Cards
Most cruises at Costco Travel offer Cash cards.
In lieu of onboard or shipboard credits, Costco refunds a portion of their commission back to you in the form of a Cash card, usually around 5-8% of your total cruise fare.
They are mailed 2-3 weeks after the completion of the cruise, and range from $10 to hundreds of dollars, depending on the cost of the cruise fare.
You can spend Cash Cards in the warehouse or gas station. Unfortunately, Costco does not accept redemption through their website, mail order pharmacy or towards a future trip booked through Costco. So, dont save up your cards hoping to make a free cruiseits not permitted.
Fortunately, the Costco Cash cards are transferable, so you can give it as a gift or sell it. The recipient does not need a Costco membership to use a Costco Cash card. However, if you dont live near the warehouse and would rather have cash money, you can sell them on eBay, often for more than face value.
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Booking Directly Through The Line
Cruise newbies are rightfully confused about companies like Royal Seas Cruises. While the line implies it’s the cruise line for the Grand Celebration ship, it’s not its name often makes people think it’s Royal Caribbean, and many of the positive BBB reviews are from folks posting in the wrong place.
Grand Celebration is, in fact, an old Carnival ship that was purchased by Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. After its fall 2017 FEMA charter, the ship got a refresh in dry dock, including a new adults-only area, a larger casino and a coffee and juice bar. The cruises are popular enough that the line has purchased a second ship from Costa Cruises, to be named Grand Classica, scheduled to debut in April 2018. Cruise Critic readers rate Grand Celebration 3 out of 5 stars — remember, it is a smaller, older ship — and have reviewed it 299 times.
Bahamas Paradise turned down our request for an interview, but a spokeswoman for the line said, “I can tell you that Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and Royal Seas Cruises are two totally separate, unrelated and independent companies. Royal Seas Cruises is a wholesaler and sells Bahamas Paradise Cruises, as they also sell other cruise lines.”
Booking through Bahamas Paradise is the legit way to go, but as you can see, you’ll be paying a lot more. My weekend cruise in January cost nearly $250 less through Royal Seas Cruises than this weekday offer. Then again, I never got to cruise.
Its A Floating City Where You Only See Part Of It
You might go back and forth on the cruise ship and think youve seen every nook and cranny by the time you leave. There are places, however, where you will never set foot.
Hidden away primarily on the lower decks are spots like the engine room, crew quarters, service areas, and more. There are some backstage tours that you can take, but they are highly limited in the number of passengers that can go.
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Make Any Reservations Early For The Best Times
Dont wait until you are on the ship to make reservations at restaurants or the spa. The best times will fill up quickly, leaving you with fewer options. Every cruise line will allow you to make reservations online weeks or months in advance of your cruise.
As soon as you know that you will want to dine at a restaurant or get a spa treatment, make your reservations!