6 Helpful Things to Do Before Your Next Carnival Cruise

My family and I are headed out on the Carnival Magic later this week for seven days of fun exploring the Western Caribbean – along with some leisurely sea days too. We’ll be sailing to Grand Cayman, Belize, Mahogany Bay and Cozumel on this trip – I’m excited to make new memories with my kiddos!

With that said, you know my pre-cruise checklist is pretty large – and growing by the day! I thought it might be helpful to share some of my most important items on my to-do list, in case you’ve got your own sailing coming up. The more you cross off your list before cruising means the more fun (and less worry!) you can have during your trip!

6 Helpful Things To Do Before Your Carnival Cruise

So, let’s take a look at some helpful things to do before your Carnival Cruise –

Complete Your Online Check-In

The most important item to take care of before your cruise is to complete your online check-in. That’s going to really streamline everything you need to do when you reach the terminal on embarkation day.

From setting up a credit card on file to choosing what time you’d like to have dinner in the dining room (Early, late or anytime dining), choosing what time you plan to arrive at the terminal on the day of your sailing — there are plenty of options and the more you complete in advanced – the faster you’ll be on your way to fruity, umbrella drinks and dancing on the Lido deck. (Yes, really!)

Here, you’ll also be able to print out those important luggage tags too! Don’t forget this step or you’ll have a tough time getting your bags delivered to the right place!

6 Helpful Things To Do Before Your Carnival Cruise

Pay Gratuities in Advanced

I’m a strong believer in making sure to take care of the incredible Carnival crew on each sailing. I also like pre-paying my gratuities before each sailing so that the money is already taken care of as part of my personal budget.

Of course, you’re more than welcome to keep the gratuities as part of your ending bill that can be taken care of on the last day — but budgeting that money ahead of time works best for me. Also, you still have the option to provide additional gratuities to those crew members that go above and beyond. (And so many of them do!)

Carnival Cruise - Towel Animals in Stateroom

Book Your Shore Excursions 

My family and I always have a tough time deciding on shore excursions – there are so many fun options that we usually spend a few days narrowing down our wish lists for each port and choosing what works best for all of us. We like that our excursion tickets and information arrive in our stateroom during the cruise — one less thing we have to worry about during our trip!

Waiting until you are onboard to book means you take a risk of missing out on some of the more exclusive opportunities – like personal cabanas, scuba classes, private tours and more.

If you still haven’t booked once you are onboard, don’t worry – there are still plenty of opportunities to do so. The helpful folks at the Shore Excursions desk can help you decide and get you all set up for fun! Also, you can now take advantage of booking shore excursions via the Carnival HUB app too.

Sign Your Kids Up for Camp Ocean

My girls will be the first to tell you that signing up for Camp Ocean should be among your top priorities. They absolutely love spending time in Camp Ocean, so I always take the time to fill out the necessary items during Online Check-In. You’ll answer the basic questions and your kids will be excited to find their Camp Ocean nametag all ready to go once they are on the ship!

If you miss signing up online, just stop by Camp Ocean on embarkation day or on the first full day and the team there will be happy to get you all set up. Just be flexible as that it may take a little bit of time — just think, you could be enjoying a fruity, umbrella drink if you’d have signed up from your computer! (Check out my Camp Ocean 101 story for more great tips!)

Camp Ocean 101 FAQs - Entrance

Book Your Signature Dining Times

If you’re into dining at any of Carnival’s signature dining restaurants — you can also request dining dates and times in advanced. From Carnival’s outstanding steakhouse to Cucina del Capitano to JiJi’s and the impressive Chef’s Table experience – secure the times you’d like to dine before you board the ship.

If not, you’ll need to be flexible in snagging a reservation. Once onboard the ship, you can call the restaurants to make reservations. On embarkation day, also be on the lookout for Crew members ready to help with booking signature dining too.

Carnival Cruise Line Steakhouse - Surf and Turf

Add Some Extra Fun to Your Cruise

Interested in having flowers delivered to your stateroom? Or maybe celebrating a special anniversary or birthday? You can easily take care of everything before you even leave home. The online FUN Shops have tons of great options to make your sailing special. Choose from fruit baskets, gifts, drinks – including champagne – and even fun decorations for your stateroom. You’ll have the option to choose what day it is delivered during your trip too!

I always pre-order a case of bottled water to be delivered to our room on embarkation day. So much easier than carrying my own case onboard and preordering makes it a bit cheaper than buying once I’m onboard the ship.

Carnival Ships in Grand Turk

You Are Ready For Your Carnival Cruise

So, there’s a big chunk of items you can mark off your to-do list before your next cruise. Like I mentioned earlier – the more you take care of in advance, the more time you’ve got available for fun during your vacation. And I’m all about taking care of as much ‘business’ so I can relax!

Did I leave anything off my list? Or is there something special that you like to take care of before sailing? Leave me a note in the comments below!

Follow Along On Our Adventure

I will have limited internet during the trip, but I’ll be sharing stories and pictures every chance I can. Follow along on Twitter at @CarrieMcLaren – the dedicated hashtag for the trip is #CruisingCarnival – I also use my own personal hashtag of #CarrieAtSea. And if you are on Instagram, check out my feed at @CarrieOnTravel where I share pictures of the fun (including towel animals!)

It’s going to be a fantastic trip — and I can’t wait to share it with you!

What’s On Your Pre-Cruise To-Do List? 



** My family and I are sailing as invited guests on the Carnival Magic as guests of Carnival Cruise Line. Thoughts and opinions here are my own. **

Hi there!

I'm Carrie McLaren,

based in Jacksonville, Fla. Family travel is my passion and I want to help you succeed in making fantastic memories with your family.




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