Initially, Mr. Ladyfingers and I weren’t sure we could do a honeymoon at all, much less one outside the state. We tossed around the idea of St. Augustine — the oldest city in America and local, in Florida — but finally settled on a Caribbean cruise after running the numbers and discovering we could do it, after all. Yay!
Man, oh man, are we glad things turned out that way. We seriously had the best time ever, have been doing nothing but raving and reminiscing about our honeymoon cruise, and are already planning our next cruise for early 2013. Southern (or Western) Caribbean, here we come?
We researched (OK, I researched) the different lines to exhaustion, and finally settled on Carnival as the most cost effective option with the best itinerary at that time. We sailed out of Miami on the Carnival Liberty, on the way to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Old San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Grand Turk.
Miami, one of my all-time favorite skylines, pre-sail-away
Throughout the honeycaps, I’m going to attempt to provide you with some cruising advice, but be forewarned: this is pretty much only advice for those sailing on Carnival. Other cruise lines and experiences might have different outcomes. There is a really good site, though, called Cruise Critic, where we trolled the message boards. Each cruise line should have its own forum on its site, as well. Some of this advice may be commonsense, but it’s stuff I didn’t know pre-cruise, so perhaps it will help a few others.
My first bit of cruise-vice:
- Plan to “check” most of your luggage, especially for cruises of 7 nights or more. Though we packed far more than we wore or used, I believe most people will overpack, and there’s a limit to what the cruise line will allow you to carry on board with you. Besides that, Carnival generally has embarkation for a 2-hour period, and you’ll need to be on the boat 90 minutes before sail away. For our 4 p.m. sail away, that meant we could start boarding the boat at 11:30. Our cabins weren’t ready until 1:30. That was a roughly 2-hour period during which we had to wheel around a little piece of luggage, which was annoying enough without being weighed down with everything else. On other cruise lines, like Princess, I’ve heard your cabins are ready right away. But for ease of travel, plan to check your bags at the port’s porter if you can.
- Along those lines, bring along a few basic necessities in 1 or 2 carryons. Obviously you’ll want to pack important documents and medications justincase, but you’ll also want a book and maybe a swimsuit and some sunscreen so you can take advantage of the pool while waiting for your room. Also, your bags could take until 7 or 8 that night to get delivered to your cabin. Carnival delivers by piece, not deck, so where you are isn’t necessarily a determinant of when you’ll get your luggage. You’ll probably want a change of clothes for dinner, some toothpaste, etc.
Waiting for our cabins to be ready, hanging out by the pool. My hair was pretty much a disaster all week long.
We were really excited about the layout of the ship, which put the loud and rowdy party pool near the front of the Lido Deck, and the quiet no-kids-allowed pool at the back of the deck. And we were pleasantly surprised by the size of our cabin. We booked a balcony, which isn’t necessarily essential, but we really enjoyed going out there and watching as we approached or left islands, or just marveling over how cool it was that we were shuttling through the Atlantic Ocean with nothing in sight.
Our approach to St. Thomas. So nice to see these sights without having to crowd up on the deck with everybody else.
I’ve heard mixed reviews about Carnival food, but there wasn’t one thing we didn’t love. OK, that’s sort of a lie: I hated the coffee. HATED it. And the cheesecake was weird. But everything else was awesome. Some dining tips:
- Carnival has three dining classes: Early dining at 5:30, late dining at 8:30, and anytime dining from 5:45 to 9:15. My advice would be to choose anytime dining. While we typically got there right when the dining hall opened, you never know when you might need a nap, or be hungry later rather than earlier (or vice versa). These options are first come, first served when you book your cruise, so book early if this matters to you.
- You can order as much as you want. Really. Since the main dining room is included in the price of the cruise, you can get 2 of everything on the menu. The only rule is no doggy-bagging. However, it took me a full week to realize if I only got ONE appetizer, or ONE bowl of soup, I had a much better chance of finishing my entire yummy entree and having comfortable room for dessert. I ate like a pig for the first 4-5 days.
- On at-sea days, the main dining hall is also open for breakfast and lunch. On port days, only the buffet is open for these meals. I would strongly recommend taking advantage of the at-sea main dining hall availability. While your dining hours are somewhat limited, everything is so delicious, and it beats standing in line.
Each day, Carnival also delivers a newsletter with everything pertinent to the following day. This includes a schedule of on-board activities and information on tendering to shore (like we had to in Half Moon Cay), disembarking, and tipping. We really liked the range of activities available – they had nightly production shows, stand-up comedians, several lounges, live music, a Seaside Theater at night with a big screen by the pool, trivia contests, Bingo, and more. Or, you could just do nothing if you wanted to. We left with no regrets about what we had or hadn’t done on the vacation.
He woke up at 9 a.m. just to play movie trivia — and won! You don’t know him like I do, but trust me when I say that’s dedication.
Next up: I wish I could stay here forever, St. Thomas from 3,000 feet up, we meet Lady Gaga.
All photos personal