20 Carnival Cruise Line Tips & Money Saving Tricks
We’ve just returned from a Carnival Cruise, and I must say, things have changed over the past few years.
We’ll bring you up to speed with 20 of our latest tips and tricks to make the most of your next Carnival cruise, and to help you save some money, so you can cruise more often!
1 – Print off all your boarding docs for embarkation day
Now, more than ever, cruise lines are focusing on contactless boarding and new technology, so this next tip might seem counterintuitive. But, there’s ONE major point in the cruise process where going paperless may actually slow you down. After three travel experiences in the last 4 months, we strongly recommend that you PRINT off all of your boarding docs and paperwork for embarkation day. From pre-cruise covid tests, to boarding passes, it’s just easier to hand it over to the check in agent instead of fumbling around on your smartphone, and in many cases, the cruise lines recommend printed copies. Also, make sure you have your original vaccine record on hand, as most cruise lines require the paper copy.
2 – Download the Hub app before you cruise
I know, I know…we go on vacation to unwind, unplug and separate (at least a little) from our screens. But, these days, you’re gonna want to download Carnival’s hub app before your cruise, which you can access using the ship’s WiFi at no extra charge.
Not everyone in your cruise party needs it, and you don’t have to buy the upcharge add-ons like the chat feature, but we suggest having at least one person download the app. You’ll need it to check in at restaurants (yep, that’s new), make restaurant reservations, start the muster drill process, access your stateroom account, check out activities onboard and MUCH more. Don’t shoot the messenger.
3 – Hit all the deck parties
Nobody does deck parties quite like Carnival Cruise Line. From their high energy sailaway parties, to after-dark soirees, Carnival BRINGS the fun with their cruise director staff led events. They’ll get you in the line-dancing, 80’s anthem-signing mood like NO other cruise line can and you’ll have the embarrassing photos to prove it! Check your fun times for schedule info, and don’t miss these. On our sailing, the sailaway party was at 4:30pm, and the deck parties were on the pool deck at 10:30pm.
Carnival cruisers in-the-know plan ahead and pack accessories for these deck parties. The 80’s Rock & Glow Party (just like it sounds) & Mega Deck Party (aka “white night”) are a great place to channel your inner Madonna, or sport those white “walk on the beach” linens you bought and never wore. Seriously, the louder the better with the attire for these deck parties friends. I mean, just LOOK at these leg warmers that Lee Mason, Carnival Panorama’s cruise director rocked.
Don’t feel like dressing up? No problem. Come as you are and enjoy the show! Neon & parachute pants are optional. Just don’t miss the deck parties.
4 – Keep powered up!
Pack a USB hub or non surge power strip in case charging & power options are limited in your stateroom. You can check out our Cabin Tips & Hacks video for more tips like, but packing a charging supplement is a good place to start. For more packing tips, check out our Pack With Me video, or our Easy Carnival Cruise Packing List.
Check out this charging hub on Amazon. This is an affiliate link which means we receive a small percentage when you purchase through this link. This doesn’t affect the price you pay. See our disclaimer for more information.
We like to use a USB charging hub that is 60 watts with multiple ports like the one featured above in the Amazon affiliate link. That way we know we’ll have enough power to charge our phones and tablets which sometimes need more power.
5 – Plan your Carnival cruise carefully
Shorter Carnival cruises tend to bring the party crowd, while 7 night & longer itineraries can be more mellow. Keep school holidays & Spring Break in mind when planning, too.
6 – Bring allowable beverages onboard to save money
Carnival Cruise Line still allows cruise travelers to bring certain beverages onboard. We suggest you check Carnival’s current policy, but at the time of recording (fall 2021), guests are still permitted to bring soda (in cans, not bottles), and one bottle of wine or sparkling wine per person.
Carnival does NOT allow plastic bottles of any type to be brought onboard, but we do have a good tip for you to save some money on bottled water.
7- Pre order water for your stateroom
Pop into your cruise planner on Carnival’s website and arrange to have some bottled water sent to your room on the first day of the cruise. It’s cheaper than buying it onboard, and it’s nice to have on hand for shore excursions & midnight water breaks.
8- If you’re going to buy the drink package, buy it before your cruise
You’ll save money, and avoid that annoying, and well, depressing bill at the end of your voyage. Quick tip – be aware that Carnival automatically adds gratuities to drink purchases, whether it be the drink package or individual drinks. You can tip extra if you’d like but be aware that 18% has already been added to your bill.
9 – Try the specialty dining
Whether it’s free indulgences like Guys Burgers or lunch time eats at Guy’s Pig & Anchor or an upcharge like the steakhouse, dining is a great value on Carnival. We think it’s a mistake not to take advantage of the specialty spots. Every ship is different, but the key point we want to make is that you have options beyond the buffet and main dining room.
10 – Enjoy the Serenity Adults only area for some peace & quiet
Carnival Cruise Line has a complimentary tranquil, no kids allowed spot on their ships called Serenity, and it’s not to be missed. The venues vary from ship to ship, but usually you’ll find a bar, hot tubs, cozy loungers & lots of places to chill. Other quiet spots on Carnival ships include the Library or Cloud 9 spa area.
11- Watch for deals at the spa
Speaking of spa time, the best deals on massages, facials and other spa treatments can be found on embarkation day & port days – while sea days will be the most expensive. Head to the spa for a tour on embarkation day and ask about their special offers.
Usually, the deepest discounts come later in the cruise, on port days when everyone is busy ashore, but embarkation day deals can be good too. Don’t want to be “sold” on product after your treatment? Just let them know before-hand that you don’t want to purchase anything, and they’ll respect your wishes.
12 – Have fun in the main dining room
No other cruise line I know makes the main dining room experience quite as fun as Carnival. If you enjoy a lively, music & dance filled meal, your waitstaff is sure to entertain you with pop up performances throughout your cruise.
13- Try Carnival’s signature “seaday brunch”
With dining times spanning the morning and early afternoon window, you can choose from a brunch style menu of specialty items like 12 hour french toast and brunch spaghetti, or standby’s like Huevos rancheros, filet mignon and eggs, or eggs benedict. The best part? It’s included in your cruise fare!
14 – Visit the Alchemy Bar
Carnival Cruise Line’s apothecary inspired cocktail hot spot never gets old. You can order from the menu, or ask the mixologist to craft something special for you. The Alchemy Bar is a whole vibe, and we haven’t found anything quite like it on other cruise lines.
15- Buy stock & get onboard credit
Yep, you heard that right. If you own 100 or more shares in CCL stock, you’re entitled to onboard credit when you cruise with Carnival Cruise LIne and their brands. Onboard credit varies by sailing length and country, but on Carnival in the U.S., you’ll get $100 onboard credit on a 7 night cruises. Hey, it adds up!
16 – Get breakfast at blue iguana cantina
I can’t tell you how many times I cruised with Carnival before I learned this little secret. Breakfast burritos & huevos rancheros at NO extra charge. Need I say more? Just try it!
17 – Scope out the free lunch options
If you’re on a ship with spots like Jiji Asian Kitchen or Cucina del Capitano, two of Carnival’s upcharge restaurants, you may be surprised to learn you can dine there for FREE at lunch. The menus are a little different, but it’s a great way to venture out from your typical buffet food and try something different while enjoying the ambiance at these hot dining spots. Guy’s Pig & Anchor offers free lunch too, on certain days of the cruise.
18 – Take Advantage of the Nightlife
Besides the onboard casinos, Carnival offers a nice variety of nightlife. You’ll find the Punchliner Comedy Club, Dive in Movies, Stage Shows & Playlist productions, live music, the piano bar, and a nightclub. Live it uuuuup, you’re on a cruise!
19 – Don’t count on the ship’s WiFi
While we can and do recommend buying the ship’s WiFi package if you need to stay in touch at home, work or on social media while on a cruise, the connection can be spotty, especially when you’re out at sea. We suggested talking with your cell phone provider to see if they offer another option, particularly for sea days. For example, AT&T offers International Day Pass, a program that allows you to opt in to international data for a really low rate. We use this on port days to supplement the ship’s wifi, and find it’s worth the $10 per day or so that our cell phone provider charges.
20 – Ask for the Fun Times
Lastly, if you’re old school like me & miss the paper edition of the FunTimes, Carnival’s daily newsletter, head to customer service and ask for a copy. You’ll likely see some printed copies on hand and already printed. Of course, you can go totally paperless if you’d like and find the activities in the Hub app.
We hope these Carnival Cruise Line tips save you time and money, and bring a little more fun to your cruise. Check out our cabin hacks video & Carnival cruise vlogs & trip diaries in the description of this video and If you’ve cruised with Carnival recently, we’d love for you to share your tips in the comments.
Until next time, we’ll see you on the high seas!
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