My husband and I received a lot of tips going into this cruise and we realized none of those tips applied. So read this with a grain of salt if you have a different ship than Carnival Freedom.
This was our first cruise and we were very confused about what happens when you board. To start, complete your online check in beforehand, it’s faster. We got to the terminal at 2:30 pm with the ship leaving at 4 pm. We waited for an hour to have our passport and bags scanned in one line and then were given our Sail and Sign card (S&S card) in another line. What we didn’t know is that everything closes 30 mins before embarking so if you want to grab food or drinks before the ship leaves board earlier. The embarking time is actually the muster station drill time, they’ll scan your S&S card here. You’ll need to keep your S&S card on you the whole time!
Once You’re on the Ship:
Malcolm is the cruise director, and he is super awesome and funny. If anyone is saying ‘whoo hoo’ while you are waiting in line to board the ship, that’s because it’s Malcolm’s tagline and he says it a lot. We decided to splurge for our honeymoon and get a room with a balcony which we enjoyed having on our first cruise. We were on the 8th floor which was good but the 9th floor is a party floor so I’d try for the 7th floor next time. On the 9th floor/Lido Deck, the front of the ship is the party area, there is an adult serenity area but we found that the back of the ship is the true chill spot. We had 2 formal nights while we were there, we only participated one night.
They give bath towels and beach towels. We were confused on how the beach towels worked and left ours on the 9th deck which would’ve caused us not to get more but we asked for more at guest services. There are places to replace your wet towels for dry ones, especially when you’re coming back on board from a destination, but otherwise leave them on the floor of your bathroom and they’ll get replaced.
In your room, there will be a fridge and a safety deposit box. There is also plenty of storage, or at least there was in our room. When you board you can bring one wine/champagne bottle per person and a 12 pack of soda cans, snacks, etc. The fridge is great for what you bring on board and also to put food in that you get at the buffet or room service or wherever to save for later.
Speaking of food– there are tons of options. The only place you pay for food is the Steakhouse and some room service options. Pizza and room service are available 24 hours. Some places are only available until 2:30 pm. Cody is a picky eater and he always found something he liked.
You have to pay for wi-fi if you want it. Cody ended up winning free wi-fi at one of the talks. Go to those talks that tell you about the cruise, there are lots of giveaways. I tried to go to all the talks that Malcolm was the host of because he was just that funny. I also enjoyed the singing and dancing events, piano bar, bingo, and trivia. Cody enjoyed those too but really enjoyed the casino. The holdem table is only against the dealer, not the other players, so it was fun for us to play together.
You get 1 carry on bag and 1 checked bag. I packed 2 jeans, 1 capris, 3 shorts, 4 tanks with 4 other tanks for layering, 2 swim suits, 1 cover up, 2 shirts, 3 dresses, some socks, pjs, and various shoes. I also packed double as many underwear as there were days. A lot of the time I was in my swimsuit. I didn’t end up wearing all those clothes, and I bought shirts at ports that added to my clothing count. I also brought a cardigan since it was the beginning of November but it was still warm, some days were too windy to go outside so I didn’t use it then either. Sidenote- We received our bags within an hour of boarding. We heard it takes longer and were worried, but it was quick for us.
I’m not sure if Dramamine works on me and those sea bands hurt my wrists and give me a rash so I tried the patches and had back up nausea medicine, both via a doctors prescription. The day we left port (Saturday) was okay but I was miserable Sunday morning so I put a patch on. I reapplied my patch on the 4th day and it ended up washing off during an excursion. I decided to try without it again but by the evening I was feeling awful and stuck another patch on and took a nausea pill. People say you ‘don’t feel the ship moving’ and that’s a lie. Maybe it’s because I don’t have sea legs but you sway the whole time. Maybe it was due to windy weather but besides the rocking, on certain levels you can feel vibrations of the ship/engine and that didn’t help my motion sickness either (unless I had a patch on).
- US Dollar is accepted everywhere we went, as is a credit card except for certain vendors. We used cash where we could to stay a little safer, and low bills are good to have for tipping your excursion guides and staff on the ship. Also, on the ship, cash can only be used in the casino, otherwise it’s just your S&S card.
- Bring 1 wine/champagne and 1 case of 12 soda cans per person if you’d like.
- Bring snacks! There were times I wished we had munchies like popcorn, chips, or candy. You can buy some of these on the ship but they’re pricey.
- Bring a refillable water bottle (you can refill at the buffet areas).
- If you’re a soda person or plan to drink a lot, save some money and buy the Bubbles and/or Cheers package.
- Take Walkie Talkies!!! Cody and I stuck together so we wouldn’t get lost but there were times we wanted to do 2 different things. Walkie Talkies would’ve helped us a lot.
- ‘Your Time Dining’ is the best eating time if you can get it. But beware, the earlier you get to the Chic or Posh dining area the less of a line there’ll be. This dining option gives a 3 course meal and you can order multiple things, but it does take awhile so don’t go eat if there’s something you want to see in an hour. The Melting Chocolate Cake is SO YUMMY!!
- Buy the waterproof cases with touch screen and a lanyard (we used these). We put our phones in there and used them as a GoPro during our water excursions. (This post contains affiliate links. Click here for the full disclosure statement.)
- When you debark you’re given the option to put your suitcases out the night before or not. The people who kept their luggage get to leave the ship first. We didn’t know what to do and handed our luggage over the night before, which kind of limits what you have the next morning. We were told to be out of our rooms by 8:30 am and we made it through customs by 10 am. We heard leaving and going through customs was an hour long nightmare but we walked right out. I’m not sure if it was like that for the people who took their own luggage as well.
- Pick the earliest excursions so you’re not rushing afterwards. Save shopping for after so you don’t have to carry so many things around.
- Something to consider when picking a cruise- check the port stop and see if it’s close to the excursions you want to see. Different trips have different cruise port stops.
On to the Excursions!
We didn’t have an excursion for here but the excursion desk told us it wouldn’t be safe for 2 white people to try exploring on their own; they said if we had a group it’d be safer. If you do explore on your own, only the red license plates are the legitimate taxis. We ended up picking the Top 10 Spots excursion to tour most of Jamaica. For our tour, the best picture spots occurred on the left side of the van. Our tour guides Irma & Ken were funny and great, they gave us facts and history about Jamaica, the uses for plants that grow there, and answer any questions you have. You are provided water and the van has a/c. They took us to a place to eat jerk chicken and pork ($5/person) and there are shops there that you can try haggling at. You later go to the Rosehill shops which have more selection and some cheaper things than that earlier shop stop. You’ll learn about the Rosehill mansion that’s haunted and be able to take pictures from afar. The last site is Margaritaville so wear your swimsuit if you want to go down a water slide or hang out on the floating docks or trampoline in the water. Cody and I got a margarita here and sort of got taken advantage of. There’s an option of small or large, the small is $10, we asked for the large and our bill total was over $40. We were like ‘what?’ and the bartender said we get to keep the glasses which have Margaritaville Jamaica on them and are pretty cool but still, shady shady. You will get offered weed and brownies a lot. And there are tons of people at Margaritaville trying to give you a ride back to the cruise.
There is an option to take the hop on/hop off bus which has a 45 min route at hot spots in Jamaica including the beach but we saw very long lines of people waiting at those stops for a bus. It’s only $20/person and might be worth it to you.
Someone we talked to said the reefs in Jamaica were prettier than the ones in Grand Cayman.
This is the only stop you can’t just walk off the ship, you’re put on a water tender (taxi) to get ashore. At the port there are many island based tour offers that claim they’re cheaper. Carnival claims they’re the lowest and if you do find a cheaper excursion they’ll refund you, so do research ahead of time. We bought with Carnival for the convenience of it. We did the stingray and reef snorkel excursion with Emerald Eyes, they provide water and you can buy snacks, you’re given 40 mins at each stop. We were sad we wouldn’t actually be feeding the stingrays but they were still really awesome to touch and take pictures with, Cody almost held one. The waves were rough that day for my short height and I ended up just floating on my belly watching and touching them. The reef was not what I was expecting, it was drab, not too colorful and not that many creatures. We took an underwater camera with us as well as taking video and pics with our phone in those waterproof cases. The water is GORGEOUS!
At the port you can just walk around, visit shops, and do your own thing, the taxis here are trustworthy. You can take a taxi to the beach for $4. Our excursion was midday and when we got back we didn’t have much time to eat or drink at the port or to shop for very long. There is a Margaritaville near port too if you missed the Jamaica one. There are also Harley Davidson and Hard Rock Cafes close to these 3 ports if you’re collecting t-shirts or anything.
We’ve been saying it wrong our whole life apparently, because it’s pronounced ‘Cauzumel’. That took some getting used to. We did the dolphin excursion which includes a lunch buffet and access to the whole park. You get to be with dolphins and manatees, see a sealion show if you want, chill on the beach, and visit a tequila area where you get a free tasting (we tasted 7 tequilas). There’s also free lockers. The one downside is they don’t let you take cameras into the dolphin/manatee areas and then they charge outrageously for the professional photos, which if you really want them, haggle them down. We kept saying we didn’t want to pay that much and they gave a final cost of $80 for all the pics for both of us on a CD. There are parrots to take pictures with and great scenery shots. There’s a jungle laser tag in the park that starts with a fake ruins area which we took pictures at to pretend we visited the real ruins haha. There are souvenirs in this park but there are tons at the port. TONS. There are food and drink at the port too. Oh, and Margaritaville is close by if you’ve missed the other 2. On your way back to the ship is a great time to have pictures taken of you on the pier with the ship in the background. Free pics are the best pics, am I right?
Is there anything I left out or something that’s not clear?
What has been your favorite cruise and/or port? Favorite excursion?