A cruise industry insider’s tips to get the most out of a cruise

Jan 20, 2021

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One of the most popular cruise directors of the past decade, Matt Mitcham, is offering his insights to cruise fans in a series of pieces for The Points Guy. Presented in a question-and-answer-type format, the pieces originally appeared in The Points Guy’s cruise newsletter (sign up here). Mitcham retired from Carnival Cruise Line in August.

Today’s question for Matt: Give us a few more top tips for cruisers.

In addition to the two tips that I discussed in my last column, I have three more:

Get your kids into the kids club

Cruising is such a brilliant way to explore the world as a family. You’re transported from destination to destination, and the best part is, you only have to unpack once. There are endless options to keep your children entertained, with complimentary kids clubs that are organized by age group. I highly recommend that you get them involved in the kids club from day one.

Your kids will enjoy everything from scavenger hunts to themed dance parties, and let’s face it, the more fun your kids have, the more fun you can have. Trust me when I say I’ve seen two types of parents onboard ships: parents who successfully persuaded their child to go to kids club, and parents that did not. Guess which one looked like they were having more fun?

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

(Photo courtesy of Matt Mitcham)

Knowing that your child is being entertained and kept safe allows you to kick back and sip on a martini or three. Most cruise lines also offer a babysitting service till the early hours of the morning. Just don’t forget to collect your child at the end of the night! That’s how I ended up working onboard ships — my mother left me there when I was five.

Download the cruise line app

Downloading your cruise line’s app prior to your cruise certainly makes your cruising experience a little easier. The app will help you with everything from booking your shore excursions to scheduling your daily activities. And if you’re brave enough, you can even view your onboard spending.*

*This feature may cause headaches and nausea.

The days of walking around the ship trying to speak to your wife via walkie talkie, only to realize you’ve jumped onto someone else’s radio channel, and it’s not your wife you’re meeting in the hot tub, are long gone … unfortunately. Most of the apps have a chat feature, which means you can stay connected to your loved ones throughout the cruise. This also means you don’t have to see your children until debarkation morning. I’m playing — you should check in with your kids at least twice a cruise.

The Carnival Cruise Line app lets passengers order pizza and a beer to wherever they are located on board a ship. (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

Some of the more modern apps even deliver food to your GPS location on the ship. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your chair to eat. What will they think of next?

Don’t rush the embarkation and debarkation

If you’re driving to your home port, then great, you’re all set. But if you’re flying to port, I’d recommend flying in the day before. This way, you don’t need to worry about flight delays or missing luggage etc. Plus, this also means you get an extra day of vacation.

Embarkation is normally very straightforward. Everyone is happy, as their vacation is about to begin. Debarkation, however, can be a little more stressful for some. I’ve seen all sorts of issues on debark morning, from children being dragged off by their parents with one flip-flop on, to men in their wife’s nightgown. Rule #1: Leave something out to wear that morning. (On cruise ships, passengers leave their luggage outside their door the evening before disembarkation and the crew delivers it to shore upon arrival.)

Related: The counterpoint — How to disembark from your cruise ship before everyone else

If you’re not in a rush, my best advice is to take your time. The later you leave the ship, the easier it will be. So go and have some breakfast and enjoy your last morning onboard. Plus, this is a great opportunity to fill your Tupperware with next week’s lunches. Seriously, it always amazes me that on Day 1 of the cruise, there are 75,000 boxes of cereal on board, and at the end of the cruise, there isn’t a box of cereal to be found, yet you haven’t seen a single person eating a bowl of cereal the entire cruise. I’ve always wondered how that happens.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Mitcham has served as cruise director on several Carnival ships including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze. Known for his six-pack abs, shirtless selfies and effervescent personality, he was recently profiled in People magazine as the “hunky cruise director.” He was named the cruise world’s best cruise director in 2019 by the cruise industry’s leading magazine, Porthole. You can find him on Instagram at @mattcruisedirector. 

Featured image by James McEntee/MSC Cruises via AP Images

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