Thanksgiving looked a little different for my family and I last year! We went on a four-day cruise through the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Conquest cruise ship. Although my parents are “professional” cruisers, this was my very first cruise!
I’m not going to lie, I was a little hesitant at first because I prefer to vacation on LAND. Plus, you can’t plan a trip on a big ship without thinking about the Titanic at least once…no matter how far we’ve come with technology and what not.
We sailed out of Miami, Florida and made stops in Key West, Florida and Cozumel, Mexico. The first day on the ship was probably the busiest with checking in, getting to our rooms and familiarizing ourselves with the ship. It. WAS. HUGE. It still blows my mind how something so big with so many rooms and floors can stay afloat. There was a casino, comedy club, spa, gym, game room, adult club and teen club, many bars including a sports bar, a main dining area and multiple restaurants. There was also the main deck with a pool, jacuzzi water slide and big movie screen along with the upper deck which had a basketball court, games like corn hole and ping pong.
I was very impressed with our room. It looked even better in person and was quite spacious for a cruise. That is…except for the bathroom. It was very small, however, the water temperature and pressure were both PERFECT, and there was enough counter space to knock out my morning and night skincare routine. Our room was ALWAYS clean, because they literally cleaned it multiple times a day, with fresh towels each time. Plus, they’d always leave the cutest towel shaped animals.
Our first day on the cruise was all about getting settled in. We checked in around 1pm and left Miami around 3:30pm. There was a fun welcome party on the main deck where they played the typical hustles; Cupid Shuffle, Cha Cha Slide, The Wobble, etc. We immediately grabbed food after settling into our rooms. Guy Fierri’s burger joint on the ship was one of our faves! But there was also a main buffet, BBQ restaurant, sushi spot, deli and Mexican food. We also checked out some of the bars, watched Thor on the deck, went to the comedy club and then the club club later that night. I didn’t know how I would feel on the ship, so I brought motion sickness pills just in case…but thankfully, didn’t need them!
On Day two, we arrived to the island of Key West around 7am. Admittedly, we didn’t do much here because we got off of the boat a bit late and didn’t plan any excursions (there also weren’t a ton of exciting excursions to do here anyway). But the island was beautiful and the weather was great. It was nice just walking around and shopping. We left around 1pm. Once we got back on the boat there were so many things to do. I went to an amazing tea time that featured so many different teas and snacks like cucumber sandwiches and lots of deserts. This was my entire vibe! I also went to a self-care session hosted by the spa that offered a full facial experience while also teaching us about skincare. Afterwards, we pretty much relaxed until it was time for the Captain’s Dinner. It’s a full course meal that requires you to dress at least semi formal. The food wasn’t bad and drinks were great. Afterwards, we enjoyed a Rock and Roll show, which was actually pretty impressive! The entire performance was well thought out with great talent. I was surprised at how entertaining it was. We ended the night checking out some karaoke, then stopping by the casino and club.
This was honestly my favorite part of the trip! On day three, we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico around 11am. We made sure to get off the boat early this time around and find some excursions. We decided on ATV riding through the Mexican jungle (definitely didn’t know it’d be through the jungle when I agreed to this lol). This was such a fun excursion though! We spent hours on the ATV’s, learned some Mexican history on hot spots throughout the jungle and also stopped by this really nice beach location. It had everything from a restaurant, pool, massages, tequila tasting and more! They also provided transportation for all of this and we got back to the boat around 6:30pm before taking off at 7:00pm. We spent the rest of the night doing the usual: Jacuzzi, drinks, karaoke, club, etc.
This was our last full day on the boat, and it was spent sailing back to Miami, Florida. We honestly just chilled this day and soaked up the rest of the fun before it was over the next morning. This cruise did a great job of keeping everyone entertained while on the boat. There was always some type of dance party on the main deck during the day and movies to watch later in the evening. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner was this day as well. It wasn’t terrible, but definitely nothing like having Thanksgiving at home. They had different dishes on the menu including greens, turkey, dressing and something I think was supposed to be yams but didn’t taste like the yams I’m used to. Neither did the greens lol. So there’s that. Later that night we made our karaoke debut and it was so much fun! We tried not to stay out too late since we had to be off the boat by 9am the next day. Plus, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to grab a chai tea latte from the cafe then sit down and eat breakfast at one of the restaurants before finally leaving all of the fun from our cruise behind.
- Fly down at least one day before your cruise, not the day of
This is a very smart move. Unfortunately our flight arrived late the night before, so we weren’t able to hang out in Miami like we wanted to because we were pretty tired. But it’s always a good idea to fly down at least a day before to make sure you don’t miss your cruise and have plenty of time to make it to the boat without feeling super rushed.
2. Check in ahead of time
There’s an option to pick what time you’ll check in to get onto the boat. Make sure you do this sooner rather than later so that the time slot you want isn’t full. This helps everything go smoother since the cruise port is super busy with literally thousands of people waiting to get on their cruise.
3. Bring cash for tips
Bartenders favor and prioritize those who tip! Your drinks and service will be A1! Plus, all of the crew members on the boat are super nice, efficient and work very hard. It doesn’t hurt to show them appreciation for a job that may get difficult at times.
4. Bring your own steamer
Good news — there is an area for your to iron and wash your clothes if necessary. Bad news — you have to share it with a bunch of other people. So, to make things easier, just bring your own steamer….unless you don’t mind waiting to use the one on the boat!
5. Take advantage of excursions, they really make the trip!
My favorite thing about cruising is that you get to vacation in multiple places with one trip. So take advantage and experience those areas! Excursions make the cruise 10x better and are so worth the money. You can check out what excursions are offered in each destination ahead of time on the cruise app or website. You can also book ahead of time too (which is the smartest option because you don’t want to miss out on an excursion you really want to do because you tried to book the day of).
6. BUY PICTURES BEFORE DEPARTING THE BOAT
I put this one in all caps for a reason. There are some amazing photographers all over the boat who will try to capture moments of you and your family. You can immediately view these pictures on the app, but don’t wait to buy them! Once you get off the boat on the final day, you will no longer have access to them and will be unable to purchase. Unfortunately, we took some beautiful pictures that we will miss out on because we didn’t purchase them before leaving. A big mistake that we will never make again!
Overall, I really enjoyed my first cruise and it definitely won’t be the last! If you’re new to cruising I highly recommend doing a 3-4 day cruise first to see if it’s something you enjoy before committing to a longer one.