Now Ride Your Wave To Awesome Savings On 2019 Family Cruise Deals

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Wave season has arrived!  Now that the holidays are firmly behind us, it is a great time to start planning your next family cruise.

“Wave Season” typically runs from January through March. During this period, cruise lines present some of their most aggressive offers for the upcoming year. These are promotions that are available for sailings throughout the year, but the special discounts and perks accrue for booking during the wave season offer period. While the actual discounted cruise fares may not be the absolute least expensive for the entire year, the discounted fares plus a variety of valuable perks can make for some excellent family cruise deals.  Read on to find what 2019 has to offer.

For tips on saving money on cruises year round, visit Try These Top Ways To Stretch Your Family Cruise Dollars.

Current Family Cruise Deals for Wave Season 2019

We have rounded up the current wave season promotions being offered by the major cruise lines.  So, start looking for your family cruise deals here.  Although numerous luxury cruise lines and river cruise lines are also offering wave season promotions, this round-up focuses on the larger cruise lines that are typically the most family friendly.


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Carnival

Carnival has three basic promotions: Early Saver Sale, Pack & Go Sale, and the Onboard Credit Sale. The Early Saver Sale offers $50 deposits for bookings through April 2021. The Pack & Go Sale offers discounts up to 25% off on select sailings between now and May, 2019. And, the Onboard Credit Sale offers $50 onboard credit on sailings through spring 2019.

Also, Carnival is offering a More=Merrier deal that ends January 11, 2018.  You can save additional money on rooms with 3 or more guests on select sailings through spring 2018.

You can find Carnival promotions here.

Celebrity  

Celebrity offers the Sale Beyond Event 

This promotion offers discounts on all staterooms plus additional free perks for families booking oceanview cabins and above. Savings start at $100 per cabin for inside staterooms and go up to $400 per cabin for suites. Also, additional passengers in a cabin receive 50% discounted fares.

Families booking oceanview or verandah staterooms can make two selections from the perk menu. Suite bookings earn four selections.

The perk menu includes choices of a drinks package, wifi package, prepaid gratuities, and $150 per person of on board credit. If you opt for a nonrefundable deposit, you’ll receive an extra perk selection. savings of up to $150 per person for the first two passengers in a cabin. The amount varies based on cabin category. 

Offer is available through January 31.  And, offer valid on travel from Feb. 1, 2019 to May 11, 2020.

Disney

For its Wave Season promotion, Disney offers a 50% discount on deposits on select cruises 4 nights or longer.  This offer is valid through February 15, 2019 for cruises departing between June 22, 2019 and May 30, 2020.  Find more information on this Disney promotions here.  (So, this particular promotion won’t actually save money ultimately, but it reduces your immediate out-of-pocket costs.)

While not necessarily Wave Season promotions, families can also currently find discounted family cruise deals on specific sailings of select itineraries:

  • Up to 25% off designated Caribbean sailings between now and April. More information here.
  • The website mousesavers.com reports additional special deals for specific sailings & specific stateroom categories.  More information available here.
Holland America

For Wave Season, Holland America offers its Why Not Now? promotion.

This offer applies to more than 500 sailings of select 2019 and 2020 departures. It includes stateroom upgrades, discounts on shore excursions, up to $1000 in air credit, and reduced deposits of $99 (restrictions apply). 

This promotion ends February 28, 2019.  

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises currently offers its All-In promotion. Guests booking this promotion receive unlimited drinks and free wifi on Caribbean itineraries. The cruise line also offers reduced deposits of $99 per person. 

This offer expires March 31, 2019.

Be sure to check out our review of MSC Seaside!

Norwegian Cruises

Throughout the year Norwegian offers variations on its Free at Sea promotion.  It is currently promoting “New Year. Big Savings” and offering a selection of 6 different perk offers including free airfare or air credits for select cruises.

On designated sailings, guests may choose from a list of 6 perk offers. The number of your selections varies based on stateroom category. Available perks include: Unlimited Open Bar; Specialty Dining Package; 250-Minute Internet Package; $50 USD Per Port Shore Excursion Credits; 3rd & 4th Guest Sail Free (select sailings); and Roundtrip Air (opportunity for free or reduced flights).  Promotion valid through January 27, 2019.  (The deadline for this offer has been extended a couple of times.)

Find out more about Norwegian’s promotions here.

Princess

Princess has two different promotions running: the Exclusively Caribbean Sale (for Spring 2019 through Fall 2019 sailings) and the All Aboard! Sale (for Summer 2019 through Spring 2020 sailings).

In the Exclusively Caribbean Sale, guests can save up to 40% off of select sailings, stateroom location upgrades, and reduced rates of $99 for the third and fourth passengers in a cabin. This promotion ends January 31, 2019.

In the All Aboard! Sale promotion, guests receive up to $900 in onboard credit per stateroom (amount varies based on length of itinerary and stateroom category).  And, everyone in the cabin (up to 4) receives one night free specialty dining.   Offer ends February 28, 2019. 

Royal Caribbean

This Wave Season Royal Caribbean offers its Explore More Sale.

Cruises booked in January receive 60% off cruise fare of second guest and up to $300 in instant savings.  This offer ends January 27.

Find out more information on Royal Caribbean promotions.

More Tips on Finding the Best Family Cruise Deals

As you start checking out different websites for promotions, you may wonder how you should figure out what’s a good deal or not.  For insights on evaluating different deals, check out this article on cruisecritic.com:

3 Ways to Make the Most of Wave Season Cruise Deals

This article provides great tips on how to objectively evaluate specific wave season promotions, and determine what may be right for your family.  In addition, it provides tips on comparing apples to apples when looking at specific fares and itineraries.  And, it also flags special issues to look for in the fine print of individual offers.

For more reading on getting the best family cruise deals check out:

9 Tips for Getting the Best ‘Wave Season’ Cruise Deals  

And, for more tips on saving money on family cruises more generally, check out Try These Top Ways To Stretch Your Family Cruise Dollars.


 Download our one-page 2018/2019 Family Cruise Packing Checklist!


Want more detailed guidance on planning an awesome family cruise?  Check out Elaine’s book, The Family Cruise Companion’s Guide to Cruising With Kids (available in print and digital at Amazon).


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What To Pack For A Cruise: The Helpful List You Need

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesCRUISE TIPS, Packing

Cast your cruise packing worries aside! This list for families has what to pack for a cruise with kids without missing essentials or overpacking.

What to pack for a cruise | photo of family luggage waiting in foyer


If you’re new to the wonderful world of family cruising, questions about what to pack for a cruise are likely lurking somewhere in the back (or front) of your mind. Whether it’s making sure that you don’t forget anything, or wanting to make the most efficient use of space in your luggage and stateroom. Even if you’ve done it a few times, you may be curious in comparing notes for ideas on what could be done differently.

Over the past 10+ years, we’ve been on dozens of cruises with kids and most of them have been to warm weather destinations. And, at this point, our basic packing list is fairly settled. With maybe the occasional tweak depending on what activities we plan to do.  So, whether you’re planning a 7 day Caribbean cruise or a 14+ day cruise of the South Pacific, the following tips and checklist will have you ready to go in no time. Read on to find out exactly what you should consider packing for your next family cruise. (We’ve also compiled this information into a handy family checklist. See below.) 

What To Pack For A Cruise: Basic Clothing

Something that you should keep in mind if you are new to cruising is that you will probably use more clothes than usual because you will likely be changing more than once a day (for at least some if not all of your cruise days). You will have a wide range of fun activities to choose from, many of which have different clothing and/or footwear requirements. Even if you plan on spending most of your time on the beach or at the pool, you will probably change clothes for dinner after washing off that chlorine or saltwater.

Depending on the size of your travel party, packing for multiple wardrobe changes can quickly expand your suitcase count. You can streamline this by making a plan for doing laundry. Check out our post on doing laundry on a cruise ship for more information.

Everyone has their own style of dress and preferences for dressing their children. So it’s not that helpful to try and set out a detailed itemized list. In this instance, one size does not fit all.  Instead, here are some general rules of thumb to use for planning purposes and selecting which wardrobe items you want to pack.

* Casual day outfits

Plan to pack one outfit for each day of your cruise for each person in your family. These would be your everyday items such as shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, sundresses, etc.

If you are planning to work out, include exercise clothes as well. Depending on the size of your ship, you will have access to some kind of track for walking or jogging. And, you will also likely find a complete on-board fitness gym with modern equipment. The ship may also offer fitness classes as part of the amenities. Potentially for an additional fee.

* Evening outfits

Plan to pack an evening outfit for each night of cruise of your cruise as well. Although many cruise lines have flexible dress codes these days, generally there will still be some basic rules about clothing in the main dining room – particularly for adults. How strictly these are enforced varies widely. But generally, the younger the child the lesser the expectations. And the expectations change depending on the venue and time of day. For the buffet, you can pretty much wear what you want. For speciality dining, people tend to dress much more nicely. And, for all venues, if you dine on the earlier side, things are much lower key.

Appropriate evening attire for non-formal nights would include items such as collared shirt and long pants, skirts, dresses, blouses, dressy tank tops. For kids, you can easily plan on respectable shorts or jeans. Some of the items that you pack for your casual days can serve double duty in the evening.

Scroll down for more information on what to pack specifically for formal nights.

* Pajamas

However many pajamas that you usually go through in a week at home should be fine on the ship. But bring extra pajamas if you have kids in diapers or who are still accident prone.

* Underwear

Include appropriate regular underwear for each family member. And throw in a few extra to account for wardrobe changes.

* Accessories

Include whatever accessories are consistent with your personal style. Items such as scarfs, handbag, casual jewelry, etc. And, you should include for each person, a lightweight jacket/poncho that can be tucked away for rainy days or cooler nights.


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Cruise Packing For Formal Nights

You can check in advance as to how many formal nights your cruise will have, but assume 2 for a 7 night cruise. Your participation is optional. But if you plan to opt out, then you should plan to dine in a venue where it’s not being observed – like the buffet, pool area, or room service. That said, you should really consider doing at least one. It can be more fun than you think, and it’s a great way to get some nice family photos. (There will be photographers set up throughout the ship and walking through the dining room. No obligation to actually purchase.)

If you plan to dress-up for formal night, include the following for each person:

  • Suit or better for men/boys – don’t forget the dress shirts.
  • Cocktail-style dress or better for women/girls
  • Ties (men/boys)
  • Appropriate evening accessories – jewelry, purse, etc.
  • Specialty underwear (if necessary)
  • Trouser socks/hosiery (as necessary)

You should also note that some cruise lines have the option for renting formal as well. But this should be arranged in advance.

Cruise Packing: Shoes 

If your schedule of activities will include any variety, you’re going to need to pack more than one pair of shoes. So your itemized list of what to pack for a cruise should factor that in. Consider packing the following sets of shoes for each person:

  • comfortable walking around shoes
  • closed toe shoes (some activities may require)
  • shoes for beach/pool (flip flops, water sandals, etc.)
  • formal night shoes
  • dressy/casual shoes (for non-formal nights)
  • shoes for gym/track (if applicable)

So, as an example, for each child, I usually end up packing a pair of all purpose “active” sandals that can be worn all day, including evenings; a pair of water sandals/shoes; and a pair of dress shoes.

Cruise Packing | photo of mom and daughter packing for vacation

Cruise Packing: Beach/Pool

If you’re sailing on a warm weather cruise, then you will likely be spending some quality time at the beach and/or pool. So when deciding what to pack for a cruise, don’t forget these key items for water fun.

  • Swimsuits (recommend 3 – 1 wet, 1 drying, 1 extra in case you end up doing the beach and the pool int same day, and don’t want to crawl back into a wet suit.
  • Swimsuit cover-up
  • Floaties/swim vest (for kids) 
  • Sand toys (for beach )
  • Goggles
  • Hat

Related Content:  6 Items To Absolutely Include On Your Family’s Caribbean Cruise 

Cruise Packing: Sundries/Toiletries

You will likely have some very basic toiletries in your cabin. This will include hand soap and some version of something called shampoo. And, possibly something that can be used for body wash. It is unlikely that these items will be of the quality that you usually use and like. (If you are in a suite or a concierge level cabin, you will have more items and nicer quality.) Your list of what to pack for a cruise should include your own favorite toiletries.

Although you will also have the option to purchase items through the on-board shops, these will likely be very expensive and can often run out. So pack the following items that can be shared among family members:

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Travel-size lotion
  • Sanitary products
  • Favorite medications
  • Travel-size hand sanitizer
  • Small laundry soap (if don’t want to use onboard laundry service) 
  • Wrinkle away spray
  • Preferred shower gel
  • Shower cap
  • Shaving items
  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Preferred shampoo/conditioner
  • Non-perishable snacks (for travel days and/or shore excursions)

Cruise Packing: Electronics/Gear

In deciding what to pack for a cruise, these items are all optional. But, they’re highly recommended useful items for your cruise packing.

  • Day pack/beach bag (something to use during port calls)
  • Outlet expander (read more about this must have cruise accessory
  • Tablets (fully loaded)
  • Extra batteries for anything important
  • Extra headphones
  • Camera (if not using smart phone)
  • A watch/timepiece that won’t auto set (so can remain on “ship time”)
  • A watch/timepiece for kids that are self-signers, or who are allowed to navigate ship independently (so they know when to meet you)

What To Pack For A Cruise: Organization

There are several items that you can pack to help make your cruise ship room more comfortable and make the most of the space available to you. So consider including these items when deciding what to pack for your cruise.

  • Magnets – clip/clamp style
  • Back of the door shoe organizer – for the bathroom to store toiletries and other small items
  • Hanging closet organizer
  • Lanyards with ID card holders (available on-board, but not cheap)
  • Laundry bags

What to pack for a cruise| photo of mom and baby packing

What To Pack For A Cruise With Babies/Toddlers 

Depending on which cruise line you are sailing, you may be able to get some of  your basic baby gear on board and cut down on your cruise packing. You should also check out our post on essential items to pack when cruising with a baby and our Resource Page for going on a cruise with a baby.

  • Foldable compact umbrella stroller
  • Bottle brush
  • Small bottle of dish soap
  • Portable bottle sanitizer (not required; water in bathroom should get hot enough)
  • Extra baby food or formula 
  • An abundance of diapers (add a few more than you think you’ll need)
  • Extra wipes
  • Favorite OTC medications
  • Favorite non-perishable snacks

 


Would you like this information about what to pack for your cruise in a handy checklist? Download our one-page 2018/2019 Family Cruise Packing Checklist!


Want more detailed guidance on planning an awesome family cruise?  Check out Elaine’s book, The Family Cruise Companion’s Guide to Cruising With Kids (available in print and digital at Amazon).


6 Useful Tips You Need To Know On Florida Cruise Ports

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesCRUISE PLANNING, CRUISE TIPS, Disembarkation, Embarkation, PORTS & EXCURSIONS

Florida cruise ports are the busiest cruise ports in the world. Find out what you need to know to save time, money and aggravation.


Florida Cruise Ports | photo of cruise ships in Miami port


Florida has some of the busiest cruise ports in the world. More passengers sail out of Florida cruise ports than anywhere else in the world. Florida has six different cruise ports. If you are going on a Caribbean cruise, odds are real high your sailing will depart from Florida. (But, Florida cruise ports also host ships sailing to other parts of the world.)  Here are some key tips that you should know to help you save money, time and aggravation.

1. Check Flights To Cities Other Than Your Actual Port City For Better Value. 

Of Florida’s six separate cruise ports, three receive the lion’s share of traffic. The Florida cruise ports that handle the most cruise passengers each year are Miami, Port Canaveral (Orlando) and Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale). Collectively, these three ports see more than 12.5 million cruise passengers each year.

Each of these Florida cruise ports has at least one major airport within an hour’s drive. But sometimes the most obvious airport may not actually be your best option for kicking off your cruise. Depending on where you live, the price for air tickets may be cheaper if you fly to a nearby city and drive the remaining distance. You can often find affordable shuttle services to cover that distance. Or, you may find that taking a car service or renting a car still yields overall cheaper travel costs. Also, if you investigate options at other Florida airports, you may find more convenient travel times to fit your schedule.

If you do exercise your option to fly to an alternative airport for your cruise, make sure that you make prior arrangements for a ride to take you from the airport to the other city.

Reaching The Florida Cruise Port in Miami

More than five million passengers each year start their cruises from the Miami cruise port, making it the busiest cruise port in the world. Indeed, it has been dubbed the “Cruise Capital of the World.” In addition to very popular Caribbean itineraries, you can also sail on cruises stopping throughout Latin America, and you’ll also find cruises departing for Europe.

If you fly into the Miami International Airport, the distance to the Miami cruise port is 10 Miles (about 18 minutes).  The distance to the Miami port from the Orlando airport is 230 miles (or approximately 3 1/2 hours). And, the distance to the Miami cruise port from the Fort Lauderdale airport is 30 miles (about 45 minutes). 

Reaching The Florida Cruise Port in Fort Lauderdale

If you fly into Fort Lauderdale, the distance to Port Everglades is 6 miles (about 15-20 minutes). and the distance from Miami Airport to Port Everglades is 31 miles (about 40-45 minutes).  The distance from Orlando to Port Everglades is 215 miles (or approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes).

Reaching The Florida Cruise Port Near Orlando

If you fly into Orlando, the distance to Port Canaveral is 46 miles (or approximately 42 minutes). Three other commercial airports service the area near Port Canaveral. Melbourne International Airport (about 26 miles), Orlando Sanford International Airport (about 64 miles), and Daytona Beach International Airport (about 74 miles).  

Miami Airport to Port Canaveral is 220 miles (about 3 hours and 15 minutes). And, the distance to Port Canaveral from Fort Lauderdale is 196 miles (just under 3 hours). The Tampa airport also provides another viable option. The distance from the Tampa International Airport to Port Canaveral is 136 miles (about 2 hours 15 minutes).



Reaching The Florida Cruise Port in Tampa

What about Tampa? The Tampa cruise terminal is less busier than its sister cruise ports. For one thing, because of logistics, the largest cruise ships can’t sail from that port. But nevertheless, in 2018, traffic for the Tampa cruise port hit over 1 million passengers for the first time.

The distance from the Tampa airport to the Tampa cruise port is 10 miles (about 20 minutes). The distance from the Orlando International Airport to the Tampa cruise terminal is 86 miles (about 1 hour and 30 minutes).

As for the other two major Florida cruise ports, flying into Tampa does not provide much of a viable option, unless you really have as one of your goals exploring more of the state of Florida. The distance from Tampa International Airport to Port Everglades is just under 4 hours and the distance to Miami is about 4 hours and 15 minutes.


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Smaller Florida Cruise Ports

And, to complete the list, we should also mention that Florida hosts two smaller cruise ports with much more limited service. Carnival Cruise lines currently has one ship that sails from the Jacksonville cruise port. And, the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line sails short two night cruises from the Palm Beach cruise port to the Bahamas.

The Jacksonville Airport is about 12 miles (20 minutes) from the Jacksonville cruise port. The closest alternative city would be Orlando, where the airport is about 2 1/2 hours away from the Jacksonville port. Likewise, the Palm Beach International Airport is about 12 miles (20 minutes) to the Palm Beach cruise port. But, since it is much farther south than Jacksonville, it is also readily accessible from Miami, which is about an 1 1/2 hour drive, and Fort Lauderdale, which is about an hour and 10 minutes.

2. You Can Save Money By Skipping The Hotel.

Conventional wisdom says that you should arrive at least a day before your cruise departure date, if you will be flying into your embarkation city. And this is clearly sound advice. However, in many circumstances, it can also be reasonable to make a different choice.

Depending on where you live, it is entirely possible to fly into and out of Florida on the same day as your embarkation and disembarkation dates with ample time to spare. One big advantage of doing so is saving money on hotel. We have done this many times.  However, this is not for the faint of heart.

You can minimize potential problems if you can book nonstop flights. Trying to switch plans en route adds more opportunities for things to go wrong. And, you should try to take the earliest flight that’s practical. If your flight is scheduled to land at least 4 hours before boarding for the ship closes, that provides a nice buffer.

Although we have done this many times without incident, we have some travel companions on a recent cruise out of Tampa who weren’t quite so lucky. This family flew from their home state in the middle of the country on a flight itinerary that required one change of planes. If everything had gone according to plan, they would have arrived in Tampa several hours before the ship was scheduled to depart. But, several things went awry including weather delays, mechanical problems, and a plane rerouting. They ended up taking 3 different planes that day and stopping in two cities along the way. While they ultimately made it the ship before sail away, they did so without any luggage. They did persevere and have a wonderful time, but this does provide a cautionary tale.


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3. When Booking A Hotel, Stick Close To The Port.

If booking a hotel, choose one close to the port (rather than the airport or mid-city).

In the ideal world, you will have plenty of time to get from any hotel in town to the port. But, in reality, lots of unexpected and uncontrollable things happen. Like construction, traffic delays, and road hazards. Or a pre-embarkation shopping trip that goes awry. It is much better to have a shorter distance to cover on embarkation day.

Each of the major Florida cruise port cities have excellent hotel options:

4. Pre-Arrange Rides To Avoid Taxi Lines And Excessive Waiting.

You can save a lot of frustration and aggravation if you pre-arrange rides to the cruise port, particularly if you are arriving from the airport. This is actually a great embarkation tip for almost any embarkation city, not just the cruise ports in Florida.  This allows you to start off with a more relaxing vacation. Rather than standing in a line, in the heat, with cranky kids, waiting for a taxi that’s the right size for your party.

5. Don’t Assume That Guys Offering “Taxi” Service Mean Private Rides.

Here’s a disembarkation tip that is particularly relevant for Florida cruise ports. If you have not pre-arranged a ride to the airport, either through the cruise line or a third party service, you will step outside looking for a taxi. Now in many large cities, you will often find legitimate car service guys hanging around asking people if they want rides because something happened to their original fare. If you step outside and get approached by someone who otherwise looks legitimate, be sure to ask if it is a private ride or a group taxi. Often times, the term “taxi” may be used loosely, and it’s actually a shuttle van.

We missed a plane with this mistake. We had done the early morning walk off the ship so that we could catch an early flight in Miami. They loaded all of our luggage into the cargo trailer. We stepped into a van and there was already one guy in it. That was fine since we were all going to the airport. But what we did not realize was that the driver would proceed to drive by several other terminals looking for additional fares. And, since we weren’t full, the driver made a whole other loop around the port for a second try.

Turns out that the guy who first approached us worked for a shuttle company. And the shuttle company had someone stationed at each terminal to solicit folks and hustle them into the van. Although this team of folks was moving rather efficiently, it still added an extra 20-30 minutes that we hadn’t expected.

6. Porters At Disembarkation Ports Won’t Wait With You Once You Exit The Terminal.

This is something that may not be obvious to everyone. It certainly wasn’t obvious to me at first. When you are leaving your cruise ship, there will usually be porters with luggage carts running around to help you collect your luggage from the discharge area.  (They work for tips.) They will wait with you in line and walk with you through customs. The porters will walk you all the way to curbside pick up or the taxi line. But they will not continue to wait with you once you have stepped foot outside the terminal. They will deposit your luggage at the curb and return inside.

So why is this worth mentioning? If you have a significant amount of luggage, it is yet another reason to arrange for a ride ahead of time. You don’t want to have to struggle with your luggage through a long taxi line (without the benefit of a cart); nor is it ideal to have your luggage deposited near the front of the line to wait for you – when you are dozens of people deep in the line. The terminal areas in the major Florida cruise ports are very busy, and it is not a comfortable feeling to have all of your luggage beyond arm’s reach.

***

Florida provides great opportunities for kicking off your fun-filled family vacation. And, incorporating these simple steps in your advanced planning will help you sail off and return smoothly.