To the first time cruiser: what to do leading up to your cruise.

If you're reading this then chances are you've never taken a cruise before, or if you have you may just be refreshing your memory on what you need to do before sail away day comes along. Cruising, as amazing as it is and very relaxing, can also be very overwhelming when trying to figure out what needs to be taken care of, paid for, or packed before you can kick back, relax and let your worries wash away in the endless ocean views. I'm here to give you a quick recap of all things you should do before you cruise.

One of the first things to do after booking your cruise, whether a year ahead or a week ahead: create a countdown. Not only will a countdown keep you excited about your upcoming vacation, but it will also serve as a reminder of how much time you have left for saving money, gathering supplies, and waiting. There are many different apps that you can use for a countdown for your cruise, my favorites are 1) the Carnival Hub app, which becomes very helpful once on board the ship as well, and 2) Shipmate, which allows you to keep a countdown, keep track of previous cruises, and connect with other cruisers.

Once you've booked your cruise and you've created a countdown to keep you on track the next thing you should do is complete your online check-in. For Carnival cruises three months before your sailing you will need to "check-in" online on Carnival's website, this step is important to your cruise vacation because your online check-in is ultimately what determines what time you will be assigned to board the ship on embarkation day. The embarkation times are a first come first serve (with the exception of faster to the fun, platinum, and diamond cruisers) meaning that the earlier you are to check-in the earlier you are likely to get for boarding. Personally I set an alarm/reminder on my phone for the day that online check-in becomes available so that I can secure the earliest boarding time possible. However, if you don't want to board the ship at 11am and you would rather have a later boarding time, you may choose a later time during your check-in so worry not, there is a way about doing things for everyone.

Now you've booked the cruise and you've checked in online and gotten your boarding time, what else do you need to do? Now you need to make sure you have all documents necessary for your travels. While it's not always required when cruising, a passport comes in handy if you are cruising, if you get stranded in a port providing a passport will help you in getting where you need to be quickly, and overall passports are easier to travel with than a birth certificate, so while you can take either a birth certificate or a passport my personal recommendation is a passport. So with that being said if you don't have a passport or a copy of your birth certificate then you will definitely need to obtain one of those before your cruise date. In addition to an identification document you will also need to print out your cruise documents prior to your cruise. Your cruise documents include your cruise confirmation, boarding passes, as well as your luggage tags (pro tip: amazon sells clear luggage tag holders to ensure that your tags don't get ripped and lost and your luggage makes it to your cabin, listed as "Highwind Cruise Tags Luggage Etag Holders Zip Seal & Steel Loops Thick PVC" sold by North America Traders, a four pack is listed at $7.75 ). Remember that without all proper cruise documents you will either face a lot of frustration and issues or you will not be able to cruise altogether so make sure that you have all documents ready before you leave for your cruise. To make things easier try packing your documents in a folder with pockets and pack in it a carry-on bag that you will have with you the day of the cruise so that documents are easily within your reach and you don't have any additional stress.

Once you've booked the cruise, checked in online, printed all your documents the next thing to do is to start packing. What you pack is all up to what you need personally, but for a little more guidance I will be posting a "What to pack" blog very shortly if you would like to check that out. But leading up to your cruise just slowly start grabbing small items that you know you will be packing, such as travel sized toiletries, swim suits, flip flops, hats, luggage, portable chargers, and more, if you see it and think "I need one of those for my trip" go ahead and grab it so when you're ready to pack you have it.

Remember, a cruise is a vacation and its not meant to be stressful so don't wait until last minute to do all of these things, plan ahead and get excited for an amazing vacation! Thanks for reading and happy sailing! Remember to look out for the "What should I pack" blog coming next!

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