Sail Away to the Caribbean on a Cruise!
Every year our family goes on a Caribbean cruise out of Tampa with Royal Caribbean. It is a great way to relax and have fun in the warm tropical weather. This year’s cruise was 5 nights and stopped in Cozumel and Grand Cayman. It was especially nice because we left while Florida was having a bit of a cold spell, but the weather in the Caribbean was great.
We have been fortunate enough to go on a lot of cruises over the years and have become very loyal to Royal Caribbean due to their fantastic loyalty program, Crown & Anchor Society. You can read all about this program here.
The ship we were on this year was the Brilliance of the Seas. She is a medium sized ship that has great amenities and a fantastic crew. This is our favorite size ship to sail on. Here is an overview of our 5 day cruise with our tips. We will also have a list of our best tips at the end!
Day 1: Tampa, FL
We suggest that you head to the cruise terminal around 11am. If you go to early, the ship’s not ready and you have to wait. If you go later in the afternoon, that’s when most other people arrive so you also have to wait. Unfortunately boarding the ship usually requires waiting in a few lines, so be patient and prepared by eating a snack beforehand. Luckily we did not have to wait too long and headed straight to the buffet for lunch.
We always like to take a tour of the ship to see where everything is and what’s going on. It’s good to know where the Guest Services is located, the dining room, and your room. Typically the rooms are not ready until around 1 or 2pm and your luggage should be in front of your door. If it’s not, don’t panic yet! It’s probably on it’s way. When the room is ready we like to unpack and freshen up a little before heading to the Sail Away Party on the Lido Deck!
Day 2: At Sea
It’s great when your first full day is at sea! This is a great time to relax, maybe sleep in, eat a nice breakfast, and head to the pool. One of the complaints of cruisers is the lack of pool chairs. It can sometimes be a battle to find good seats by the pool (or on a really spectacular day, ANY seat).The ship we were on, Brilliance, has a Solarium which is a great place to sit because it is a bit more relaxed and quiet than the main pool. Every morning we go through our Cruise Compass to see what’s going on and if there is anything we want to join that day. The Cruise Compass has all of the information you will need to plan your day. Today was the Belly Flop Competition (must-see) and our first night at sea there was a 70’s Disco Party in the Centrum. We definitely could not miss that!
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
If you have booked a tour through the ship, make sure you are on time at the meeting place! Eat before you get off the ship and bring a snack. If you aren’t on a tour, check where the ship will be docking beforehand and plan out where you should walk to. When we are in Cozumel, we like walking down to see all the shops. There are two docks in Cozumel, one is right next to all the action and the other is about a mile walk. Our ship was docked farther away, so we took the opportunity to walk off some of the food we’ve eaten. Ashley of course had to stop at Starbucks when we got there! Because we have been to Cozumel before, we’ve done a lot of touring in the past so now we just enjoy leisurely walking around, doing a little shopping, and maybe enjoying a drink (or two!).
Day 4: Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Ships have to tender into Georgetown, there are no docks. If you are taking a tour, know when and where you are meeting so you don’t miss the tender. If you are not taking a tour, wait a little bit before you go ashore. The tender line is usually longest when they first start taking people ashore. Pay attention to where you are let off so that you can get back on the ship! We always glance at what the name of the pier is in case we ever have to ask for directions. Have a general idea of where you want to walk, but otherwise have fun exploring! There are so many great shops and things to see.
Day 5: At Sea
The last full day on board is bittersweet. Don’t think about having to leave and just enjoy it. We spent this day at the pool where they had a few events going on like an Officers vs. Guests volleyball tournament and the World’s Sexiest Man competition. Take this time to go to an area of the ship you maybe haven’t seen yet, like the mini-golf course or rock-climbing wall. The weather was not that great on our last day, so we alternated between the pool and the Solarium.
Day 6: Tampa, FL
Today is the sad day when you have to disembark. This day can sometimes be a little chaotic, so if you are not in a hurry (don’t have an early flight to catch) consider taking your time getting off so that you do not have to wait in the long lines. We disembarked around 10:30AM and did not have to wait too long. Remember the names of crew members who delivered exceptional service so you can recognize them in the survey. They really appreciate that.
*Always check your Cruise Compass every day. This is the ultimate planner for your day.
*Try to refrain from spending money on food while in port. Your food on the ship is already paid for, so this is an easy way to save money. (Or to justify buying a yard long Mai Tai from Senor Frog’s).
*Be sure to know exactly what time you have to be back on board. This is very important. The ship will not wait for you.
*If you are going to a port you’ve never been to before, consider taking a tour through the ship.
*Take the stairs as much as you can! You will be eating a lot.
*Treat the crew members with respect. They work really hard to make sure we have an enjoyable cruise.
*Carry your Sea Pass card with you everywhere. It is your ID, room key, credit card, and more.
*When in port, carry cash. Both Cozumel and Grand Cayman accept US Dollars. If you are going to use a credit/debit card make sure there are no foreign transaction fees.
*If you think you might want to go on a cruise again, visit the Next Cruise desk to see what deals they have going on. We put a deposit own for our cruise next year and got shipboard credit for the cruise we were currently on. So worth it!
*Look to see if you have any Crown & Anchor benefits if you are a repeat cruiser.
*If you are planning on doing a lot of drinking, look into the drink packages. Make sure you really do the math though to see if it will be worth it.
Have you been on a cruise before? What did you enjoy most/least? What tips would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments!