Sometimes, when you paint a picture in your head of an upcoming experience, you are wayyyyy off base. And other times, you are exactly right – like my first cruise. I could sum it up in one description…..it met my expectation. Nothing wow factor…..just there. A crowded boat, average food, and less than stellar rooms. However, I see the boat as the way to your destination, and the real experience is being able to go to 3-5 different islands or countries in just one trip. It was amazing to wake up and look out the balcony
So hop on board, this is a long post diving into all the deets. Let’s start with a quick overview, then venture into costs, rookie mistakes to avoid, FAQs, and my overall conclusion about cruise vacations.
- Line: Royal of Caribbean
- Ship: Adventure of the Seas
- Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
- Islands: Labadee Haiti, Old San Juan Puerto Rico, St Maarteen, St Kitts & Nevis
- Route: 2 days sailing, 4 days in a row of islands, 2 days sailing back to the U.S.
Cost of a Cruise
Being transparent in cost, even though I know it fluctuates based on dates. We were going during an extremely busy time, spring break. It was a big family vacation coordinated around SB, otherwise I would have gone during off season for a better deal. Even the flights were more than the typical price.
For cruise vacations, note that most of it is booked as a “cabin”, so you divide by the number of people in your cabin to get the individual price after (on another note HIGHLY advise NEVER exceeding 2 people in a cabin…details later on).
|Item||Cost||Per Person||Daily Cost|
|Ocean View Balcony Room||$2,336.98||$1,168.49||$146.06|
|Cruise Drink + Internet Package||$910.00||$455.00||$56.88|
|Ft Lauderdale Hotel + Food||$202.00||$101.00||N/A|
|Cash for Islands||$300.00||$150.00||N/A|
|On Board Gratuities (auto)||$232.00||$116.00||$14.50|
|On Board Extras||$422.49||$211.25||N/A|
Now that you have the cost as a reference point, you can see where I made my rookie mistakes and how you can be better prepared with expectations.
Rookie Mistake #1: You will spend WAY more than expected. Unless you know what expect.
Additional Cruise Costs to Expect:
First, you throw down over $2k and you have your cruise reserved. AMAZING, YAY, VACAY. Then the date of the cruise starts looming…..and you finally start looking at excursions and other trip extras. You then realize the drink package is $46 a day, per person, and if one person in your cabin gets the drink package, the other person has to. Then internet is $20 a day per device! Dont worry guys, I got a “deal” of $56 a day per person for drinks + internet. Then there’s an additional $14.50 charged per day per person for gratuities at the end of your trip (this includes them cleaning your room 3x day and bartender tips, so there’s no additional tipping you need to do on the boat).
Additional Logistics / Transportation Costs to Expect:
Cruises normally depart later in the day (ours was 5 pm), so we originally booked a flight for that morning, arriving at 11 am. After reading so many cruise tips, the number one mistake is booking a same day flight and dealing with the possibility of getting delayed, bags lost, etc. After one horror story too many, I changed our flights to the day before arrival (thank you Southwest for no change fees) and booked a hotel in Ft Lauderdale for $160. Just add it to the bill at this point, haha.
Additional Excursion Costs to Expect:
Do you want to do something fun while you are on the islands? Probably. Most activities are $60 – $150 per person through the cruise line. They offer everything from snorkeling, zip lining, walking city tours, swimming with dolphins and more. The most ridiculous one I thought was $30 for a chair on the beach. However, when you get off the island, there will be tons of locals offering the same services but for less. We ended up completely WINGING IT on excursions because I am the most indecisive person in the world and was offered too many choices when looking at our options. Some people may not like the “no plan” kind of plan, but it was an adventure hoping off the island, knowing the general idea of what we wanted to do (beach day, walk around, go snorkeling) and it’s funny how it all worked out. To see all the exclusions we did, details are below in the FAQs.
Rookie Mistake #2: Do not book more than 3 people in a cabin….unless…..
LOLOLOL THIS IS A GOOD ONE! Laughing out loud every time I think of it. My brother was SO FIRED UP I couldn’t even post the situation on social media because he was swearing every other word out of his mouth and I was in hysterics on the floor laughing.
So Ross and I had a cabin, my parents had a cabin, and that left my brother Connor the odd man out. There was so much debate if we should get Connor his own, or if my parents would suck it up and put him in their room. Well, they decided not to spend an additional $2k on a room for Connor ( I wouldn’t want to either). The ROOM LAYOUTS ON THE CRUISE LINE WEBSITE ARE DECEIVING AND DO NOT SHOW WHAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY GET. The 3 of them roll up to their cabin room, open the door, to find 1 queen bed and a couch. Confused they had the wrong room, they discover a “pull down twin Murphy bed” that floats above my parents queen bed.
Let’s take a minute to envision an 180 pound, 6 foot, 23 year old male, SLEEPING ON A MINI TWIN SIZE COT FLOATING ABOVE MY PARENTS BED. I’m laughing again even as I type this.
My brother is all “F**** NO AM I SLEEPING HERE I WILL SLEEP ON THE POOL DECK but H*** NO AM I CLIMBING UP ABOVE MY PARENTS TO SLEEP WITH THEM.” Totally relatable. I wouldn’t either.
After multiple trips to the concierge and guest services, and the cruise line claiming there was nothing they could do because the ship was full, and claiming no fault because we booked it, (ummmmm you never described the room as that or showed pictures sooooo) we didn’t have much hope for a solution. My mom was willing to pay for additional room at this point but they claimed to have none available. At dinner that night, we get a magical call that THEY FOUND AN AVAILABLE ROOM. Connor was able to get his own room, FREE OF CHARGE. I can’t even tell you how much of a blessing that was, but fair warning to you, do not book the cabin with more than 2 people unless someone in your party volunteers as tribute to float able you in the twin size cot that only looks feasible for a child 10 or younger.
Picture below is my dad in the bed….LOL
Was the drink package worth it?
- You will have to think of answering this question as a partnership with the person in your room, because if one person does it, the other person is required to get it. Individually it was $368 for drinks (no internet), and on average drinks cost $12. In 8 days, I would need to drink $368/$12 = 30 drinks over the course of 8 days. That’s approx 3.8 drinks a day, so YES, this was the most cost effective way for us. Even on days we were off the boat, we were normally back on the boat by 4 pm, and would drink then and have wine at dinner. Yes, I recommend the drink package.
Did you get motion sickness from the boat?
- No, but I only because I wore prescription nausea patches. Before we even left the dock, I felt nauseas and put on the patch. I could 100% feel the boat move, and I did NOT like it. Note though, I’ve always been susceptible to nasuea, meaning the type of person who can’t go 5 minutes in the car without feeling nauseas (only if I am reading or looking at my phone). Hence, I was extremely nervous to get on a cruise.
How do you get prescription nausea patches?
- My mom got the prescription patches and brought me extra so I didn’t have to go to the doctor. I always have a to do list 900 miles long, so thank you mom! But it’s relatively easy to get your own, you can go to urgent care to get them you’re going on a cruise and ask them to write you a script. If you’re like me and lazy or don’t have time, Dramamine and Bonnie also work. I heard Bonine is less drowsy than dramamine but can’t confirm myself.
Did you have any side effects from the nausea patch?
- Honestly, no. It was advised not to drink on them, but you know that wasn’t going to happen. I was perfectly fine, I did watch my drink count on the first day I had it on just to make sure. You changed the patch every 3 days, and the first day of a fresh one I was little more tired and fell asleep early. I slept allllll night every night like baby with these patches.
Where in the boat is the best place to sleep for motion sickness?
- You get to pick your cabin, so choose one in the middle and a middle floor! We had Floor 8, and the cabin rooms were available Floor 6 – 12. I was perfectly happy in ours, but maybe it was the nausea patch, haha. Floor 3 – 5 were common areas, and the casino was on Floor 3. I couldn’t stay in the casino for longer than an hour without getting nauseas, it was pretty rocky down there.
What should I pack?
- Depends on your destinations! In addition to appropriate clothing for the weather and swimsuits, I recommend a small backpack or belt purse to take into town. Tons of people recommended a lanyard for convenience for your ship card but we didn’t really use ours. Also lanyards just scream I’m a freshman in college. I always had my purse or Ross’s swim shorts pocket handy. Remember to bring enough sunscreen, small bottles of shampoo and body wash because the generic kind isn’t anything great. You don’t need to bring a towel because they provided them everywhere!
- Tip: pack a backpack to carry directly onto the cruise ship that has a swimsuit, sunscreen, and flip flops! That way you don’t have to wait for the luggage to be delivered to your room and can go straight to the pool.
What am I not allowed to pack?
- Travel steamers!! I was shocked by this one, but I didn’t want it confiscated so I played it safe and didn’t bring it.
How to coordinate arrival?
- See rookie mistake #1 in coordinating logistics. Plan to arrive the day before your ship arrives, and stay at a hotel. We ubered twice, once from the airport to the hotel, then the hotel to the cruise dock. When you get to the cruise dock, you drop off your luggage, and bring a few dollars for the porter. I wasn’t prepared for this, was haggled, and didn’t have cash (and was by myself…..see for story below).
What’s considered a “carry on” for cruise ships?
- A personal item. I prepared and packed an additional carry on suitcase, per recommendations, which included my swimsuit, sunscreen, makeup bag, flip flops etc so I didn’t have to wait for luggage delivery to my room. Well, apparently a “carry on” isn’t a carry on suitcase in cruise ship world. It’s a personal item, AKA a backpack, and I ended up having to check it with the porters. S
Did you do excursions through the cruise line or locals?
- After much debate on this one, we didn’t book any excursions through the cruise. Booking through the cruise line is the “safer” route – with transportation included and guarantees the boat to wait for you, but it’s pricier. Here’s what we did at each island:
This island was owned by Royal Carribean, so the activities were snorkeling, zip lining or beach it. We just lounged on the gorgeous beach and it was extremely relaxing, as it was a remote island and the only people on it were from the cruise boat.
Old San Juan Puerto Rico
My family paid $15 for a local tour around Old San Juan, while Ross and I ventured off on our own. We stumbled into La Casita de Rones, a gorgeous pink house on the water with excellent cocktails and delicious chicken wings. We chilled on their patio overlooking the ocean for an hour, before walking around. Instead of trying to figure out transportation, we walked to the closet Fort, Castillo de San Cristobal, and took pictures for the blog. We met up my family for dinner at a random restaurant we walked by, then heading back to the ship after. Instead of spending money on excursions, we spent it tasting the culture.
Our port was on the Dutch side, and we didn’t venture farther than the beach. We hopped off, and a really friendly local sold us on 2 beach chairs and an umbrella, with a bucket of beer and rum punches, for only $20. Way better than cruise prices, and supporting a local! Overall, the feeling on this island felt the most authentic! I loved how the beach was along a sandy sandy boardwalk with restaurants and shops. I was perfectly happy staying put and not exploring more of the island this day. Ross and both agreed we would come back to St. Maarteen and actually stay and explore the island for a week.
St Kitts & Nevis
We wanted to scuba here, but by the time we decided the cruise line’s snorkel excursion was full. We hopped off the boat, and the tourist center is right there. We found a booth and local guide selling a private boat and snorkel tour for $650. This day there were 10 of us, and this was actually cheaper than the $120 per person excursion offered through Royal Caribbean. This local experience was a hidden gem. Our tour guide was a rescue diver, snorkeled WITH us, pointed out all the fish and had stories. He Brough us rum punch on the boat, drove us to a private island where we got to hang out for awhile. Overall, this was the best experience of the trip and only could be found if you risked searching for a “local” experience!
What was your biggest pet peeve on the cruise ship?
- The DINING HOURS and “fancy” dinner dress code.
- Dining Hours: I don’t like being restricted in my food times, and I was somehow always hungry in the transition periods. Lunch closed at 3:30, and you didn’t have access to food again until 6:30. I swear, I was ALWAYS HUNGRY AT 3:30. I would eat a late breakfast, then need a snack to hold me over until dinner. NOPE. Could never get a snack!!! It was always closed when I thought of it. By the last day I finally remembered. Oh, they claim they have an always open “marketplace” but it was pizza. PIZZA….not a snack. Or cookies and cake….but no food that I actually wanted. Sorry for being picky, but no. I am on a boat where I am in a bikini 24/7.
- Dress Code: The formal dining room, not the buffet, had a dress code. 2 nights they even had a major formal event. I’m talking prom dresses, long gowns, and tuxedos. I’m sorry, but I’m on vacation, on a boat, there is no where I’m going that would require dressing extremely fancy. I just want to relax and wear whatever I feel like, usually a sundress. Apparently, in cruise world, this is not formal. I dress up for events all the time, and love it, but I didn’t feel like this was any event to dress up for. I’m anti-rules, so maybe it was because they made it a rule, I wanted to rebel.
How was the food?
- I liked it, and it didn’t bother me ( I looove mashed potatoes and mac and cheese and got those everyday haha). However, nothing to remember or anything special. The buffet would have a different “theme” every night, but always had staples like burgers, pasta, chicken, tacos, and more. It was huge. Then there was “fancy” service dinner, which had a small menu and the food was better than the buffet, but nothing to rave about.
What was there to do at night on the cruise ship?
- The cruise ship technically offers activities to do, with different shows (ice rink shows, comedy shows, concerts) but that never peaked our interest. We went to the pool bars, watched Michigan State play basketball twice, and went to the casino for our activities of choice. Luckily, we had a big group of family so it was nice to just all hang out. I was honestly sleepy most of the time at night, and we had early morning port stops, so I wasn’t trying to party all night long. They did have clubs for late night but I never went (only the silent disco intrigued me but it was the first night and I fell asleep so early with the nausea patch).
Did you always feel safe on the ship?
- Yes, but I was always with someone! There were 11 of us total, so I always had at least 1 person with me. Wait, scratch that. Sometimes I would go eat lunch alone because somehow nobody else was hungry or already ate, and I felt very safe wandering alone. Most of the people on the boat were families and tons of younger kids that I never felt uncomfortable.
Would you go again?
- I’d do it as a family vacation, where I’m the mom, and my kids can be entertained on the boat all day with the water slides, putt putt golf, and other kids related activities. There is SO MUCH to do for younger kids ON the boat, that it would be a good experience for them and I could get my beach fix in on the islands. I wouldn’t go as a couple trip, just Ross and I, again. I’d rather choose a more romantic, relaxing vacation that felt more private than being on a boat with tons of others. I’d also go if it was another big group activity.
Overall, I did have a good time and glad I experienced a cruise at least once. It worked perfectly as a big group family vacation, to see everyone, but everyone having the freedom to do as they pleased. Just don’t set your expectations too high if its your first time, and be prepared for the extra costs! It was definitely overwhelming the few weeks leading up to the cruise feeling the pressure of having to book excursions. If you’re good with no plan, that’s actually what I recommend and figure it out when you get to the island. It worked for us!
Did I miss anything? Do you have any follow up questions? Comment below and I’m happy to answer!
I’ll be coming out with a cruise outfit recap soon!