I just returned from my first cruise ever and I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised! We sailed out from the port of Galveston, TX on a 5-day Carnival Valor cruise ship. First of all, I’d never looked into cruises before because my idea of traveling is to explore as many places as I can while I’m there and the idea of a cruise seemed caged to me. I was soooo wrong, although my favorite part was exploring Cozumel, I was so glad I took the time to explore the ship as well! Between the twelve decks on the ship there’s always something for everyone to do, but if your a first timer you can easily miss some of the great amenities on the ship so I’ve put together a few tips that I hope will help you make the best out of your next cruise :).
What to pack?
Initially I was going to pack light because I couldn’t imagine needing more than some bathing suits and shorts on a cruise ship. Thankfully my boyfriend, who is an islander and has been on many cruises before, advised me to pack a few dresses for dinners and one nice outfit for “elegant” night. I heard the word elegant and immediately reassessed my wardrobe plans.
- 4 bathing suits
- 3 pairs of shorts with corresponding tops
- 2 cover ups
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of dressy shorts with 2 blouse options (because decisions)
- 2 dresses
- 1 off the shoulder pant jumpsuit
- 3 workout outfits
- 2 hats (lost one to the wind and the sea)
- running shoes
- wedge heels
I am so glad I did because you just never know what you’re going to end up doing with so many options on board! Above are some of my #OOTD.
Pro Tip: Pack one of your bathing suits in your carry on. Checking in your luggage is so convenient but often it can take some time to arrive to your room so avoid wasting time and enjoy one of the many pools or hot tubs on arrival!
What to Do on Board?
My primary focus was to locate the gym and the bar ( I know, kind of paradoxical ). By arriving early we were able to explore the ship before the multitude arrived which gave us quite an advantage. The fitness center was right behind the spa and beauty salon and next to the sauna and steam room, yeah I know, that was enough for me already! The bars were also easy to locate because there’s one on all the floors with activities, including one in the Adult only “Serenity’ area, Casino floor, Main Lobby and Buffet floor.
On deck nine there was food options two pools, hot tubs, and daily activities hosted by Carnival’s ‘Fun Squad’ including the “Hairy Chest Contest” lol! I’m going to elaborate a little on food options… there was so much food! You can choose from a Hamburger restaurant, a Mexican burrito bar, a Pizza restaurant, Sushi bar, and a buffet room with everything from salads and entrees to an array of desserts and self serve ice-cream and frozen yogurt all day!
Aside from eating we spent quite some time on deck five also which hosted the large casino, a dance club, a Karaoke bar, a Live music bar, a coffee bar (I told you there were plenty of bars) a comedy room, a theater and more! We didn’t spend much time on the main lobby (deck three) but we did stop by one night and had so much fun dancing salsa and bachata to one of the alternating nightly music groups that played around the ship.
Pro Tip: Upon arrival they issue you a personalized Carnival cruise card that is linked to your credit card to use around the ship for anything you want to purchase! Although this is convenient, it’s easy to loose track of how much money you’re spending so head on to the main lobby on your last sea day to ask for a statement. This will allow you to make sure there aren’t any erroneous charges on there.
Carnival offers excursions you can purchase for your day on land but we opted for an on our own excursion. We rented a Jeep at the port and drove over to Buccanos Beach Club located on the northern shore of Cozumel. Rated one of the top snorkeling sites and with an on-site tequila tour, we knew this was the right place! The food was amazing and the snorkeling did not disappoint, we really enjoyed our day drinking Mojitos and laying on the sandy beach finishing up with a delicious tequila tasting before heading back to port.
Pro Tip: Plan ahead! Do not waste your time on land, instead get right to exploring.
I don’t know when I’ll go on another cruise but now I’ll know how fun they can be and how to take advantage of all the work on board fun! Till next adventure:).