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24 Do's and Don'ts for your Carnival cruise in 2024


Though we're about halfway through the year, it's not too late to plan your 2024 Carnival cruise! Whether you're seeking a short Bahamian getaway or a sailing cruise to The Last Frontier, there are plenty of opportunities to experience unforgettable moments at sea on one of Carnival's "Fun Ships." 

Even if you're a devout Carnival cruiser, there are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind when planning your 2024 cruise to help you make the most of your time onboard and minimize pre-cruise stress. 

Of course, some tipless tips apply to all sailings, such as purchasing travel insurance, scheduling flights for the day before your ship's departure, and completing check-in as soon as possible. 

Here are 24 do's and don'ts for your Carnival cruise in 2024. 

DO book your Carnival cruise through a travel agent

Person working

Travel agents are valuable resources. Whether you're stuck between an itinerary, have questions about what's included in your fare, or want advice on a cabin's location, they're your go-to expert on all things Carnival. 

They have access to exclusive rates, too. So, in addition to their expertise, they may save you money on your upcoming cruise! Plus, rather than spend time pricing out options, you can ask for quotes for different sailings and stateroom categories. 

Typically, I'll ask my travel agent if she can price out interior, ocean view, and balcony cabins. Though interiors are the most affordable, I don't mind splurging on a balcony if it's a good deal! 

DON'T skimp on accommodations

celebration interior room

Speaking of accommodations, just because inside cabins are the cheapest doesn't mean they'll meet your needs. 

While they come with the same standard amenities as ocean view and balcony staterooms, they lack natural light and tend to be the smallest cabins onboard. If you've been dreaming about sipping coffee on your private verandah while pulling into port, an inside stateroom may disappoint you. Moreover, if you are celebrating a special occasion, perhaps you should consider splurging on a spacious cabin and the exclusive perks that accompany booking one of Carnival's suites

Depending on your priorities, booking the cheapest stateroom isn't always the solution. Sometimes, it's best to save up for your dream trip, rather than settle for a less satisfying experience. For example, I knew I didn't want to cruise in an interior room on my first Greek Isles trip, so my finacée and I made some budget cuts in our daily lives to comfortably afford the cabin we wanted! 

Read more: I stayed in the cheapest cabin on Carnival Elation

DO understand what is and isn't included


Carnival cruises are not all-inclusive. There are plenty of opportunities to rack up a high onboard bill, from specialty restaurants to drink packages, Wi-Fi, shore excursions, spa treatments, and more. Of course, add-ons aren't a requirement. It's possible to have a great vacation and skip certain extra expenses

For instance, rather than splurge on a drink package, many cruisers find that they're content with paying for their drinks as they go. Additionally, vacation is a time to disconnect from reality, so rather than purchase Wi-Fi for everyone in your travel party, you can buy a single package and rotate devices, allowing everyone to check in on friends and family back home for a fraction of the cost. 

When it comes to shore excursions, consider exploring ports of call on your own or opting for more budget-friendly tours. In The Bahamas and Caribbean, it's easy to arrange for your own beach day instead of purchasing transportation through Carnival. Moreover, third-party operators tend to offer fun excursions for less. By being mindful of your budget and knowing what add-ons you're interested in, you can enjoy your cruise without breaking the bank! 

Read more: 16 hidden cruise ship extra charges you should know about

DON'T assume you have to sail on the newest ships in the fleet


Carnival operates a fleet of 27 ships, ranging from the 71,909 gross registered ton (GRT) Carnival Elation to the massive Carnival Jubilee sailing out of Galveston, Texas. 

Whether you're looking for a getaway on some of the newest ships at sea or a no-frills experience on one of their older vessels, there's the perfect Carnival ship for everyone. Before making any decisions, research each class of ship, as they offer a different experience. 

Though some cruisers prefer to sail on ships with state-of-the-art amenities, others seek vacations that visit unique ports of call. Carnival's Excel Class, for example, is limited to sailing to The Caribbean. Those wanting to visit Alaska or Europe must consider voyages on a Spirit Class ship. 

Read more: I have been on Carnival Cruise Line’s oldest and newest ships

DO complete the online check-in


14 days before your cruise, you can complete the first step of Carnival's check-in process. This is where you'll input your documentation and credit card information for your onboard expense account, as well as select an arrival time. 

You should write the date check-in opens on your calendar or create a notification on your phone to ensure you can complete it as soon as possible, snagging your ideal arrival time. The earliest times are the most desirable, so if you want to be one of the first guests on your ship, do not wait too long! Otherwise, you may have to kill time sitting in your hotel's lobby. 

Speaking of check-in, once the online portion is finished, you can download your boarding pass. Though a bit archaic, Carnival requires all passengers to have a physical copy of their pass on embarkation day, rather than save a mobile version to their phone. Forgetting this crucial step will delay your boarding process. 

Read more: 12 reasons to get as early a check-in time as possible for your cruise

DON'T fly into your embarkation city the day your cruise begins

Delta Airlines

If you're like me, you don't live within driving distance of South Florida's cruise ports. If I drove to Miami, I'd spend over ten hours in the car, not accounting for traffic delays and pit stops! Once I have a cruise booked, I browse flights for the day before my cruise. The last thing I want to happen is to miss my ship's departure because of a delay or cancellation. 

Even if you think your same-day flight is scheduled to land with enough time to get to the terminal, keep in mind that you have to deplane and collect your luggage before you can hop in a taxi or rideshare. Plus, traffic is just as unpredictable as air travel. 

Regardless of whether you're departing from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Southampton, Seattle, or Piraeus, arriving the day prior helps ensure a stress-free embarkation process. Moreover, you can take advantage of everything your pre-cruise city offers, from culturally rich museums to local cuisine and white sand beaches. 

Read more: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

DO complete the muster drill 


Gone are the days when Carnival passengers had to meet at their assigned assembly station at the same time. Instead, guests can now visit their station on embarkation day at their leisure. 

While I recommend completing it as soon as possible, some passengers prefer to grab a bite to eat at the buffet or explore the ship first. It must be done before you can sail away, though. Guests who fail to complete it will be hunted down by crew members. 

There will be plenty of announcements reminding everyone to visit their assembly station, so you cannot claim that you forgot! 

Read more: What is a cruise ship muster drill?

DON'T forget to check your travel documentation in advance


While not every itinerary requires guests to have a valid passport, cruise lines recommend passengers have one when traveling. However, those traveling on a roundtrip sailing from a U.S. port can board with a passport or a government-issued photo I.D. and proof of citizenship, such as a driver's license and birth certificate or certificate of naturalization.

Passengers on one-way Alaska or Caribbean voyages will need a valid passport, as well as those embarking in an international port of call. Rather than assume your passport isn't set to expire for years, it is best to check the date to ensure it's valid at least six months after the end date of your cruise.

If you book a cruise for December 2024, your passport's expiration date shouldn't be before June 2025. If it is, you'll have to give yourself enough time to get it renewed, which may not be possible at the last minute. 

Read more: Where can you cruise without a passport?

DO understand how Carnival's gratuities work


In addition to the base cruise fare, you must pay port fees and gratuities, which are tips for the crew members. 

As of June 2024, the gratuity rate for Carnival cruises is $16.00 per person, per day for standard cabins and $18.00 per person, per day for suites. A family of four staying in a balcony stateroom can expect to pay $448 in tips for a 7-night cruise, while the same family in a suite will pay $504. If you do not prepay them, they will be automatically added to your Sail & Sign account on the cruise. 

Gratuities are divided amongst the hardworking crew members onboard, including cabin stewards, the dining and culinary staff, and others. While you can technically have the daily rate adjusted at Guest Services, it's not recommended. If you wish to have them removed, it's advised you tip crew members in cash. 

Read more: Worth it or not: Carnival prepaid gratuities

DON'T smuggle prohibited items onboard


Packing for a cruise differs from packing for a land-based vacation. Since you won't be minutes from the nearest convenience store, you must pack everything you'll need, from over-the-counter medications to shampoo and conditioner. There are, however, some everyday items you cannot bring onboard, including streamers and irons. 

If you try to bring a prohibited item onboard, it will be confiscated. Moreover, attempting to smuggle an illegal substance on your cruise could result in being denied boarding or kicked off during the sailing. TikTok user @infamousxdrew, for example, was kicked off his cruise after the crew discovered medical marijuana in his possession. 

Additionally, two passengers were banned from sailing on another Carnival cruise after they posted a video to social media showing them fishing off their cabin's balcony, as Orlando's WDBO reported. While Carnival doesn't have an explicit rule prohibiting fishing, their contract does say guests aren't permitted to bring live animals onboard, other than qualified service dogs. 

Read more: What not to bring on a Carnival cruise

DO purchase travel insurance

Travel Insurance

Though nobody wants to think about their long-awaited vacation being interrupted, life does, unfortunately, happen. Unexpected events, such as the sudden onset of an illness or flight delay, can impact your sailing, making travel insurance necessary regardless of whether you're going on a 3-night cruise to The Bahamas or a 14-night European getaway. 

A good policy will cover travel and baggage delays, emergency medical coverage, onboard medical expenses, trip interruption, and more. Moreover, if you're a frequent traveler, an annual policy may be more beneficial instead of purchasing a policy through Carnival for each individual sailing. 

DON'T forget to purchase add-ons in advance

Carnival Cocktail

Planning a cruise can be just as exciting as setting sail. Not only do you get to decide on your shore excursions, but you can also book add-ons like drink packages, spa treatments, Wi-Fi, specialty dining, and more through Carnival's online planning portal. 

Booking add-ons in advance is the best way to save money and ensure plenty of availability. If you wait until onboard to reserve excursions, you may find that the most appealing tours are sold out. Similarly, you'll pay more for Carnival's CHEERS! drink package, as passengers who take advantage of their pre-cruise discount will save 10%. 

The onboard price for Carnival's alcoholic drink package is $74.95 on sailings that are five nights or less, while the price for a package on sailings that are 6+ nights is $64.95. If you get the package before your sailing, the daily cost decreases to $59.95 for cruises 6+ nights and $69.95 for those 5 nights or less. 

Read more: What's the cost of a drink package on Carnival? (2024)

DO expect busier ports


Nassau reported that the Bahamian island welcomed over four million cruise passengers in 2023. In late December, there were 29,316 guests in port from six vessels, breaking the previous record set in February 2023. 

Nassau isn't the only cruise port seeing record-breaking numbers. Also in December, the Dominican Republic set a new single-day record, with 27,313 passengers arriving at the Amber Cove and Taino Bay ports on December 19. 

These milestones highlight the growing popularity of cruises, with Carnival gearing up for the debut of their newest private destination in The Bahamas. Though it won't open to guests until mid-2025, they have already announced the addition of a second pier, allowing up to four Excel Class ships to simultaneously dock at Celebration Key

Read more: Carnival is building a $600 million private destination to compete with Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay

DON'T expect your ship to be empty 


The demand for cruising is hot, so much so that cruise lines are running out of inventory further in advance than in the past. 

During the first quarter of 2024, Carnival reported record-breaking revenues of $5.4 billion with record net yields, as well as booking volumes that hit an all-time high. Carnival Corporation & plc's upscale brand Holland America Line, for example, reached its highest booking day in history

Moreover, occupancy during the first quarter was 102%, up from 91% in 2023. Though crowds are inevitable on a cruise ship, venues and strategically planned activities help keep passengers spread throughout the vessel. 

Read more: How to beat the crowds on your cruise ship

DO remain flexible 

Rough seas

We're currently in the midst of the Atlantic hurricane season, and while there haven't been any major hurricanes yet, most activity occurs between mid-August and mid-October. 

From canceled shows to missed ports and fully booked specialty restaurants, remaining flexible is key on a cruise. Sulking because of circumstances outside your control will cause you to have sour feelings about your hard-earned vacation. Instead, make the most out of your time onboard. 

If, for example, you're missing a certain port of call due to inclement weather, use the money from the refunded shore excursion to book a spa treatment or specialty dining experience. 

Read more: How cruise lines are preparing for an active hurricane season this year

DON'T forget to pack over-the-counter medications


All cruise ships are equipped with an onboard medical center; however, it's not a full-scale emergency room or urgent care; they have limited capabilities and don't feature a true pharmacy. And while the ship's store does have medication available for purchase, the options are far less than what you'd find at your local drugstore. 

Whenever packing for a Carnival cruise, I include my "mini pharmacy." It's filled with everything from over-the-counter pain relievers to cold + flu medication, eye drops, Band-aids, cough drops, antacids, seasickness medication, and more. 

I never want to rely on the ship's inventory, especially knowing that they likely won't have my preferred brands onboard and that what they do have is overpriced. 

Read more: How to make your own DIY cruise first aid kit

DO step out of your comfort zone


Carnival's "Fun Ships" operates globally, from the Caribbean to Alaska, Europe, South Pacific, Mexican Riveria, and more. 

If you've sailed to The Bahamas more times than you can count, consider expanding your horizons and cruising somewhere new. The lively deck parties, Playlist Live production shows, and dining experience will be familiar; however, you can make memories exploring new-to-you ports of call. 

Those cruising to repeat ports should opt for a new excursion. Though I've been to St. Maarten countless times, it wasn't until one of my recent sailings that I ventured to Maho Beach. Moreover, while I typically stay onboard in Nassau, my fiancée and I decided to grab lunch at Señor Frogs during our Carnival Elation cruise

You can also try new experiences onboard, from cooking classes to dance lessons, unique cocktails, all-access tours, and more. In short, do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone on your next Carnival cruise; you never know what you'll end up loving! 

Read more: 7 big changes coming to Carnival in 2024

DON'T wait until the last minute to book your airfare

American Airlines

Those who don't live within driving distance of their cruise port will want to purchase airfare as soon as possible, as flight prices increase as the departure date inches closer. 

I've paid over $800 for last-minute flights from Charlotte to Florida before, and while it was unavoidable since I booked the cruise a few weeks before departure, I know the same flight would have been substantially less a few months earlier. 

Even if your cruise isn't until mid-2025, it's never too early to start thinking about airfare, as most airlines release new schedules about one year in advance. It's a smart practice, especially if you want to use airline miles to reduce your overall cost. 

DO select your ideal dining preference 


When booking your cruise, all guests must choose between traditional or Anytime Dining. If you select the latter, you will check in via the HUB app when you're ready to dine, and they will let you know when you've been assigned to a table. This option is ideal for those who want a bit of flexibility with their dinner plans, as with traditional dining, you will go to your assigned dining room at the same time each night. 

Choosing the wrong dining time or preference can impact your onboard experience. Even if you know you want the convenience of having an assigned table, you'll have to choose between an early and late option; you cannot swap between the two in the middle of the sailing. If you make a selection that you are not happy with, you must contact your travel agent or Carnival as soon as possible.

DON'T assume the ship will wait for you in port 


While you can save money on excursions by booking through independent parties, those worried about being left behind are better off reserving tours through their cruise line. Ships operate on a tight schedule, so if your all-aboard time is 5:00pm, you'll want to ensure you're onboard a few minutes before 5 to be safe. If you arrive after, you may not be permitted to board, even if the ship is still docked. 

Guests who book excursions through Carnival are guaranteed to make it back before the ship's departure. If your tour group's arrival is delayed, the ship will wait for you, and Carnival will cover all associated costs if the ship has to leave, so you can meet the vessel at the next port. 

In March, a couple traveling on an African cruise were enjoying an excursion in São Tomé and Principe, a tiny island off the coast of Western Africa, when they realized it was running longer than expected. While they voiced concerns to their third-party operator, they were reassured that the ship would be contacted. Though they arrived to see their vessel anchored off the coast, the Captain refused to let them onboard since the all-aboard time had passed. 


Similarly, a teen abandoned their parents on a Caribbean cruise when they realized the all-aboard time was creeping near. "Well it was a week-long cruise and they would not head back to the ship when I said it was time to go," ProfessionalTax7753 shared on Reddit, "They were busy shopping and bargaining with the locals. I finally said that I was heading back to the ship. My mom waved me off. [They] missed the departure. By a lot. Like 45 minutes." 

Read more: What happens if you miss your cruise ship

DO look forward to Family Feud Live


Carnival Cruise Line became the first cruise line to debut Family Feud Live at sea when Mardi Gras entered service in 2021, and now, the company is rolling out the experience on other ships in the fleet. 

As of June 25, 2024, Family Feud Live can be found on Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, Carnival Vista, Carnival Legend, Carnival Pride, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Jubilee, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Liberty, and Carnival Luminosa. Carnival Spirit will receive the game show on July 23, followed by Carnival Magic on August 18 and Carnival Dream on October 5. 

“Family Feud Live is such a fun and unique entertainment option because guests get into the action and participate in the same way they’ve watched the game played on TV,” said Chris Nelson, Vice President of Entertainment for Carnival Cruise Line. “Building on its popularity by bringing it to more ships will ensure that more of our guests get to experience the fun and friendly competition of Family Feud Live.”

DON'T wait until you're home to resolve issues you had onboard

Guest services stock image

If you notice a discrepancy on your onboard account, don't wait until you are home to contact Carnival. Instead, visit Guest Services as soon as possible. They'll ensure that your concern is promptly addressed. 

If the issue arises in the middle of your sailing, it's best to carve out some time to visit Guest Services the same day, rather than waiting for the last night or embarkation morning, when the line will be significantly longer. 

DO expect higher fares


With the demand for cruising at an all-time high, you should expect the overall cost of a Carnival cruise to be more than what you've paid in the past. 

According to the company's first-quarter revenue report, continued strength in demand drove ticket prices higher. Plus, they achieved considerably higher prices (in constant currency) than last year on first-quarter booking volumes, having entered 2024 with less inventory remaining for sale. 

Moreover, effective July 1, 2024, the advertised price of a Carnival cruise must include the current taxes, fees, and port expenses. Though it will make the cost of the sailing seem higher, it's meant to provide passengers with a clear price upfront, rather than leave them surprised by additional fees during later stages of the booking process. In short, this change will mean you won't see a cheap cruise advertised for $200 anymore. 

DON'T be a chair hog


Chair hogs are far too common on warm-weather sailings. 

These passengers will leave their belongings on one or more chairs on the lido deck to reserve them for later use, rather than lounging on them at that moment. Perhaps they'll wander to the Lido Marketplace for breakfast or return to their cabin for an extra hour of sleep! 

Don't contribute to the issue. You don't like it when guests hog chairs, so be courteous and mindful of others by reserving chairs only when you're actively using them! 

Read more: How to beat the chair hogs on your cruise ship

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