Every year, my friends and I select a destination and spend several days together on our annual girls trip. Usually these take place in September, but this year we altered our plans a bit and decided to take a cruise in October. Planning began in February for this one, mostly to make sure everyone was able to give everyone time to take off of work or have babies. Some girls in the group were experienced cruisers and others, like myself, were first timers.
We chose a five night cruise out of Mobile, Alabama with stops in Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico that occurred towards the end of hurricane season, onboard the Carnival Fantasy. It’s one of the smaller, older ships in their fleet, but I still thought it was pretty nice.
After setting foot back on land and having a few days to reflect on the experience, I wanted to share some of my most useful observations and tips for other first time cruisers.
- Pack long sleeves. The ship’s interior, especially the dining room, gets cold. Upper decks can get chilly from the wind too, so save yourself from having to buy a $60 sweatshirt and assume you’ll be cold at least once, even if it’s August.
- Take motion sickness remedies. They are expensive onboard, and they are returnable if you have good sea legs. I took both Dramamine and Sea Bands and ended up not using either.
- Be realistic about your activity level on excursions. A common complaint I heard among excursion-goers was that people who shouldn’t be going on them were. Think about if you want to take your baby and bad knees out to Mayan ruins that consist of a bunch of stairs in the jungle, or if you’ll slow the group down when paddleboarding because your muscles barely exist.
- Leave the port tourist trap if it’s safe. In Cozumel we took our rusty Spanish and American dollars out to San Miguel by way of a taxi to enjoy the area. It was still a little touristy, but we wound our way back into a residential neighborhood and enjoyed a lovely meal and Mexican Coca-Cola at La Choza.
- Ship programming = sales. Outside of the purely entertainment shows, everything else is a sales pitch for spa services, personal training, boat shopping, and the weird on-ship art gallery.
- Be prepared to be landsick when you step off the ship. I was a little landsick on our port days, but much more so when we got off the boat for good. Some people can shake it overnight, some take longer. It took a week for mine to mostly go away. Driving back from Alabama was not fun in that regard but I stayed in the lines.