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First Time Cruiser! Suggestions? Advice? I'm All Ears...

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Some family members and I are going on a cruise in January. (Yay!) None of us have cruised before so any input is appreciated! I've read some books and articles with tips and such but I still like to hear people's experiences. (I'm a tad OCD and I like to delude myself that I'm as prepared as possible, haha.) We have two ports of call, one at a private island in Haiti and the other in Falmouth Jamaica. Recommendations for activities in Falmouth would be awesome. :) Thanks in advance!

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    Congrats on your first cruise. Going to the Caribbean in January is wonderful.
    What ship are you going on? How many days? How old are your family members?

    Your cruise and cabin is already booked so no tips needed on that, and I don't know what you already know, so on the off chance you can use them. . .

    First, You have posted on the Caribbean forum. Repost on the cruise forum. There are several very experienced cruisers who read and post there frequently. There are lots of cruise reports posted and threads about cruising. Ask any questions and you will get an answer.

    My absolute best advice.
    Where are you departing from? If you have to fly to the departure port, go the day before, especially since it is in January and bad weather can cause delays. Only once have we flown in the day of the cruise. It was torture to be worried about delayed flights, so never again. Also, getting to the airport, catching a flight, getting to the ship, etc. is tiring and stressful. Bite the bullet, go the day before, stay in a hotel near the port (if possible, or a place with good transport to the port) and start your cruise rested so you can enjoy it from the moment you step onto the ship.

    If you have not done so already, join cruisecritic.com and sign up for the roll call on your cruise. You can meet other people going on the cruise, perhaps even join others in an excursion. You can also read reviews and suggestions for your ports of call.

    As soon as you are on the ship, read the activities program so you don't miss things you want to do.

    Sanitize your hands - all the time. You want to stay well.

    I wasn't prepared at all for our first cruise. On a whim, I just picked one that went to places I thought would be interesting and a ship that we could afford that didn't seem too much of a party ship and signed up less than three weeks before the cruise. Someone on the cruise forum directed me to cruisecritic. I signed up for the roll call. That was it. I didn't even know that activities were published or menus posted. I didn't have a clue about excursions. Well, the whole thing was such a fabulous experience, we did two more that year, and have done several since then - two this year.

    Go with an open mind and to have fun! Everything may not be perfect. Expecting perfection can set you up for disappointment, but there will be something good about everything. Swim, play, eat, listen to music, take in a show, talk. Enjoy time with family in a situation where no one has to make a bed or lift a finger to clean up or make food, yet food is available most of the time and the beds get made.

    The only real negative for me is every single cruise is always one day too short. The night before disembarking, I always wish for just one more day. Don't care if it is a day at sea or a day in port.

    Have you booked transportation to the ship?

    Be sure to go ahead and post on the cruise forum. Some great, helpful people there.

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    Thanks for the suggestions! :) It's a 5 day cruise on RC's Independence of the Seas. It's actually a Zumba cruise (I'm an instructor) and I'm ridiculously excited! My mom, aunt, and brother are going with me; brother is 32, mom & auntie are late 50s early 60s. We've already taken care of hotels and transportation and such - we depart from Ft Lauderdale and we live in Or so we'll go a couple days early and see the sights. The cruise critic site sounds perfect - I'll definitely check that out. Thanks again!

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    OMG, you are starting with one of the really big ones. Prepare to be absolutely wowed.

    We have been only on one RC ship, a short get-way last winter on their much smaller, much older Majesty of the seas, so no personal experience with RC Independence, but it looks amazing and we have been on several other large ships and enjoyed them a lot.

    Depending on where your cabin is located, you will be doing a lot of walking because it is such a big ship. Some places, at times, will be crowded.
    The big ships have more cabins and more passengers, but the swimming pools may not be proportionately bigger because they have filled a lot of the public spaces with more sports stuff like rock climbing walls and water slides.

    The pool areas will also be noisy at times. If it gets too noisy or crowded for you, in addition to the adult only place you pay to use, there is usually (not always) at least one adult only pool and one free quiet area with cabanas, etc. Since it is away from the other public areas, check the ship's map.

    The buffets may be crowded at times. Unless you have already reserved one, don't bother paying for any of the specialty restaurants. IME, the food is not appreciatively better and there will be plenty of variety in the regular dining rooms.

    I hope every single person in your party has a wonderful time!

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