Frugal Family Friday | Carnival’s Early Saver Rates

MS Carnival Triumph
photo credit: Aah-Yeah

Carnival Cruise Line offers some great rates if you book in advance with their Early Saver Rates.  Carnival states that you can save up to 20%.  To qualify for the special rates you must pay a non-transferable and non-refundable deposit. Bookings must be made 3 months in advance for 5 day or shorter cruises, and 5 months in advance for 6 day or longer cruises to get the special rates.

One bonus I have seen is that you get to pick your cabin instead of booking a guaranteed cabin, and the price is usually the lowest available. Price protection is also a feature of the Early Saver Rate.

Please visit their webpage for full details on the Early Saver Rate terms and conditions.

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Check Food Availability Hours

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Crown Princess Buffet
photo credit: tsuacctnt

Cruise ships have a variety of restaurant choices. The daily program guide that arrives in your room each evening at turn-down will list the hours and restaurant options for the next day. Hours can change based on what time the ship is in port.

There will always be a buffet option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For breakfast and lunch, usually only one of the typical two main dining rooms will be open as most passengers will eat at the buffet for those meals.  There might be additional meal options such as a barbeque on the pool deck that might not be offered each day or a hamburger grill spot.  The buffet is typically crowded at peak lunch times, and alternate dining choices might be a better option.

Many ships have an afternoon tea time with snacks, cookies, and other desserts.  Ice cream might be available from a soft serve machine or an ice cream counter at certain hours in the afternoon as well.  Most cruises will have at least one late night dessert buffet or snacks in the casino once the main buffet is closed.  Some ships will even have food available almost 24 hours a day at one location.

Children can be hungry at odd times especially if they are used to having snacks available anytime at home.  Knowing what is available is key to keeping your children happy with plenty of energy to play.  We usually eat breakfast at the buffet, one or two lunches in the dining room with the rest at the buffet, and most if not all dinners in the dining room. We will sometimes feed the children at the buffet before our dining room meal time and then drop them off at the children’s play room so that we can have a more peaceful dinner and they get more time to play.  My kids will usually get ice cream in the afternoon, cookies at tea time, and something before bed after their evening play time.

Frugal Family Friday | Charleston Cruise Deals

cruise ship

Carnival Fantasy in port in Charleston, SC
photo credit: Muffet

Even though I have featured Charleston, South Carolina cruise deals before, it has been a while and there are some great deals if you are willing to book well in advance.  The only ship out of Charleston is the Carnival Fantasy.  It does have cabins that hold up to 5 passengers so it is a great option for families with 1- 3 children especially if you live near the east coast and can drive to the port.

All prices are per person without taxes/fees and are the lowest priced cabin available in each category.

January 9, 2013 – Carnival Fantasy – 5 Day from Charleston to Nassau and Freeport

Inside:
Family of 3 or 4:  $269 1st/2nd passengers, $129 3rd/4th
Family of 5: $289 1st/2nd passengers, $129 3rd-5th

Oceanview:
Family of 3 or 4:  $299 1st/2nd passengers, $149 3rd/4th
Family of 5:  $299 1st/2nd passengers, $149 3rd-5th

January 4, 2013 OR January 14, 2013 – Carnival Fantasy – 5 Day from Charleston to Nassau and Freeport

Inside:
Family of 3 or 4:  $269 1st/2nd passengers, $129 3rd/4th
Family of 5: $289 1st/2nd passengers, $129 3rd-5th

Oceanview:
Family of 3 or 4:  $324 1st/2nd passengers, $149 3rd/4th
Family of 5:  $299 1st/2nd passengers, $149 3rd-5th

January 19, 2013  - Carnival Fantasy – 7 Day Eastern Caribbean from Charleston to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau

Inside:
Family of 3 or 4: $419 1st/2nd passengers, $199 3rd/4th
Family of 5: $444 1st/2nd passengers, $199 3rd-5th

Oceanview:
Family of 3 or 4: $469 1st/2nd passengers, $219 3rd/4th
Family of 5:  $469 1st/2nd passengers, $219 3rd-5th

There are many other cruise dates available with slightly higher pricing if these dates do not work for you.  Simply search Carnival’s website or any of our affiliates to the right.

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Boarding Procedures

Seguridad

photo credit: Daquella manera

At the home port, you will go through several security steps before you can board the ship.  You and your carry-on luggage will first go through security screening.  You usually need to have your boarding documents and passports ready in order to enter the security lines.  The security screening is typically like that of airport screening (without the body scanners!), where you will put your coats and carry-on luggage onto a belt and it will be x-rayed.  You will also have to walk through a metal detector.

Knowing this, it is good to be prepared so as to not hold up the line or get embarrassed by “beeping”.  Avoid metal belt buckles and hair clips.  Remove all change from your pockets and any jewelry that could set off the machines.

If you bring a stroller it will need to be folded and x-rayed. Consider bringing something smaller than a typical double stroller.  It will probably not even fit through the x-ray machines nor will it fit well in the narrow hallways of the ship.

Liquids such as water bottles or cups for kids are not really an issue, but alcohol will be. Each cruise line has a policy on how they handle alcohol being brought onto the ship. Many will simply hold it until the end of the cruise and never let you have it while on the ship.  Others will charge a corking fee.  If you want to try to carry on alcohol or even put it in your “checked” luggage, make sure you know the cruise line’s policy before doing so.

After security you will usually get in another line to check-in and get your room keys which also act as your ID.  Your picture will be taken and linked to your room key for security purposes when leaving and re-boarding the ship in port.  Your passports will also be scanned, and you will need to set up your account to pay for tips, excursions, alcoholic beverages and other purchases made while on board.

Once you have all of your room cards and are cleared to board, you will then get your family picture taken for the first time of many by the ship’s photographers.  There is no obligation to get your picture taken, but it might be hard to avoid.  The photo will be put up in the photo gallery on board, where you can decide if you would like to purchase it or not.

After the photos you will be ready to board the ship.  Depending on the cruise line there might be crew members ready to take you to your room or you might be on your own to find it yourself.  If you arrive before the rooms are ready, you will be asked to go to a public area.  Head to the buffet for lunch or to the open dining room.  Explore the main public areas of the ship and learn your way around.  If you do arrive fairly early, try to bring as little carry-on luggage as possible or it will be a hassle lugging it around the ship.

Frugal Family Friday | Holiday 2012 Cruises

Queen Victoria shops
photo credit: slideshow bob

Merry Christmas to my readers!  Obviously it is too late to book a holiday cruise for this year, but do consider booking one for next Christmas or New Years.  Booking early is usually better for the holidays if that is the only time you can go on a cruise, but it would be best to wait for some sort of cruise line sale such as reduced deposits or onboard credits.

Christmas is going to be a Tuesday in 2012 due to it being a Leap Year.  The weeks of Christmas and New Years are probably the most expensive of the year.  Third  and 4th passengers will typically cost close to full fare as well. If you can get away the week before Christmas or the week after New Years, you will pay significantly less.

I will not be posting any specific pricing this week.  One cruise line to consider for a holiday cruise is MSC Cruises.  They have offered some decent holiday pricing in the last few years, so do consider them especially if you only have 1 or 2 children as their cabins only hold up to 4 passengers and Kids under 12 Sail Free.  If you have 3 or 4 children, you might be able to travel with the grandparents like we did for Thanksgiving 2009 and have all of your children sail for free!

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