If it seems like we are cruise crazy lately, that is probably a little bit true. I am just so excited about this group cruise on Carnival Freedom!
When I first became a travel agent, I knew I would eventually dedicate part of my business to group travel. While I love solo trips and family vacations, I cannot help but educate people about how group trips really rake in the benefits! When you book into a group trip, you save cash and gain perks that "regular" vacations just can't access. In this case, there is truly strength in numbers!
In honor of this awesome deal, I dub the month of June Alpaca Your Bags Travel "Cruise Month!" While I will eventually get back to discussing other types of travel, I do want to give cruising its due.
For anyone who is CRUISE CURIOUS, it's important that you know the ins and outs of this type of vacation.
If this post leaves you pining for more, join our FREE webinar on Sunday. In that live session, I'll review these top 10 tips, as well as answer your questions about cruises and our group event. Go sign up! I'll wait.
Without further ado, here are the 10 most frequently asked questions about cruises!
1. Do I need to have a passport? This one is tricky to answer. For a closed loop cruise (one that begins and ends in a United States port), you technically are not legally required to have a passport. In that case, a photo ID and a birth certificate will suffice. HOWEVER, most travel professionals (including this one!) highly recommend that you use a passport anyway.
Here's why: When you travel out of the country, it is critical to have valid, foolproof evidence that you are a United States citizen. A passport is the most surefire way to check this box. If you leave the ship for an excursion and accidentally miss the ship, being stranded without a passport is not a good situation to be in. A valid passport is also useful for medical evacuations and other unknown emergencies that can pop up. It's always better to be safe than sorry. At Alpaca Your Bags Travel, we strongly encourage our clients to have a passport for cruises, even if its a closed loop cruise.
2. Do I need vaccinations? It depends on the cruise itinerary and your destinations, but usually the answer to this is no. While I am not a doctor, I do keep up with the CDC's recommendations on travel health. If you are ever curious about the health requirements and vaccination policy for a country on your itinerary, you can always check the CDC website for their latest information.
3. Which cruise line is right for me or my family? What about this ship vs. that ship? A travel agent with cruise experience has received hundreds of training hours to help answer this question. Family friendly or luxury? Quiet and relaxing or loud and lively? Formal or casual? Scheduled gourmet meals or "freestyle" any time dining?
Within each cruise line, there are also differences in the actual ships! For example, we chose our first group cruise onboard the Carnival Freedom because it is very family friendly, yet offers a lot of adult entertainment as well.
4. What type of stateroom is best for me? As with so many questions, the answer is "it depends!" A good travel agent can ask questions that can help guide you towards the right choice:
5. Will I get seasick? Today's cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers that minimize movement onboard. I personally get extremely carsick, yet cruises do not bother me. While every individual is unique, there are some precautions you can take: Traveling with motion sickness medication or wristbands, choosing a midship cabin close to the waterline and eating green apples frequently are all said to help with potential illness from motion. However, most people have no problems at all!
6. Will I need cash onboard? Do I need a credit card? Cruising is one of the most budget-friendly methods of travel because SO much is included! While it varies by cruise line, most cruise fares include your accommodations, your meals (except for speciality or upgraded dining options), basic non-alcoholic beverages like water, iced tea, coffee and lemonade and finally, your onboard entertainment.
When you board the cruise, you'll get a plastic card, like a hotel key card on steroids. This card is linked to your onboard account and is how you do almost everything on board. You'll use it to unlock your room, order drinks, check in for your dining reservations, program your safe (on some ships) and use it for any shopping you do while onboard. The card is connected to your credit card so that charges are paid quickly and seamlessly. Prefer to use cash? Most cruise lines allow guests to deposit cash into the onboard credit account at the beginning of each cruise.
If you're planning to take shore excursions or shop while in port, it's best to bring a combination of cash and credit cards. I also highly recommend bringing a stash of $1 bills for tips. Even if gratuities are included, I find that tipping at the bar leads to better service.
7. What do we pack? I'll cover this in a separate post, but packing lighter is generally easier! While cabin size varies by cruise line and by ship, you can guarantee that you'll have less space than at home. Typically, a hair dryer and basic toiletries (shampoo, body wash, etc) are provided in each cabin. Stay tuned for a future post about the top items Matt and I pack for a cruise!
8. Are cruises safe? What if I'm pregnant? This is a question that requires a common sense answer: Use your head and do what is comfortable for you. NO travel is without some risk, and that includes traveling across down to Walmart. While traveling anywhere, be self aware, don't engage in risky behavior and use the buddy system. I recommend traveling with a small first aid kit (not just because it's smart, but because drugs onboard are pricey!) I also recommend packing copies of your passport and important paperwork and adding them to each suitcase and carry on.
If you are pregnant or planning to be pregnant soon, this is a question for your doctor. While cruise lines are vary, most cruises allow women to travel until the beginning of their third trimester. For example, Carnival accepts passengers until they enter their 24th week of pregnancy.
9. Can we go on a cruise if we are under 21? Again, it depends. Most cruise lines require the primary passenger to be 25 years of age or older. Anyone under 25 needs to travel with their parent or with their spouse, if married. Married passengers under 25 may required to show a marriage certificate. And sorry to burst any bubbles, but the drinking age onboard is generally 21 years old. While some countries outside of the US allow drinking at 18, major cruise lines enforce an Age 21+ policy for alcohol.
10. Will we have an amazing time? YES! Unless you are just a total stick in the mud, I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a cruise. The trick is to find the cruise that is right for YOU. As mentioned above, a good travel agent will ask questions about your likes and dislikes to make sure that they find the perfect fit.
What can you find on our upcoming Carnival Freedom cruise? Sunny shore excursions, multiple pools, hot tubs, 3 kids areas, Broadway-quality shows and entertainment, a piano bar, a sports bar, trivia, a casino, dozens of restaurant and bar options and MORE. There is even a library! The challenge will not be "how do I have fun?" The challenge will be "How can I fit everything in!"
Feeling excited? Then let's get started! Contact us to start the booking process today!
Still have questions about Carnival Freedom? Don't forget to sign up for our LIVE Q&A session. You can join from your very own home! Wear your PJS... we won't tell anyone!
Have you seen our ads about the GROUP CRUISE on Carnival Freedom?
If you have, you already know it's an amazing deal. You might even be ready to book!
With reduced deposits, reduced rates and $75 FREE ONBOARD SPENDING CASH, this deal isn't going to last long.
Some travel agents will hold group cruise events at a restaurant at a bar. Like our name, we like to be a little different. in this crazy busy life, we know everyone is busy! Instead of asking you to come to us, we are going to come to you in the comfort of your very own laptop :)
For anyone who is cruise curious, we're offering a live Q&A Webinar on Sunday, June 5!
Whether you're a cruise veteran or a brand newbie, you'll definitely want to join.
From the comfort of your home, you can watch our LIVE presentation about this can't-miss trip.
In 30 minutes, we will cover:
When is the fun? Next Sunday, June 5 at 2PM!
Wear your pajamas, we won't judge!
CLICK HERE to sign up!
Last December, I wrote a post called “Three Big Signs a Destination Wedding is Right For You.”
Now that I’ve had my own destination wedding, I think it’s only fair that I update you on my experiences.
In April, Matt and I dragged 50 of our closest friends and family to Now Larimar, a beautiful property on Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Did we have an amazing time YES! Did we learn a lot? DOUBLE YES!
As we discussed in this post, a Destination Wedding isn’t right for everyone! It is a huge undertaking, one that I honestly underestimated. In the end, it was worth every bit of time, energy and dollar spent.
Now that I’m an experienced travel agent AND an experienced Destination Bride, here’s my list of insider tips!
1. Consider Your Guests Comfort when choosing a location. This is a controversial statement, but this part of the process is not about you. If you are asking your friends and family to spend thousands of dollars and travel for hours for your wedding, shouldn’t their comfort be considered?
I am not suggesting that you abandon your dreams to please the masses, but think about this: If your goal is to be accommodating for as many guests as possible, thinking about this now can save tons of stress and anxiety in the long run.
What’s the saying, don’t force a square peg in a round hole? That applies here.
When choosing a location, think about your guest list and ask yourself these questions:
One last question I will add: Does any of this matter to you? If you’re looking for a small, exclusive event, abandon all of this and do what you want! These tips can also be used as a barrier, if necessary (wink, wink)
2. Consider How Far Your Guests Will Travel. For our wedding, we had guests flying in from eight different cities across the US. Eight!
We chose Punta Cana because it was a direct flight for many of our east coast guests and a short layover away from our Kansas City guests.
3. Don’t Forget the Drive Time. This is one that most people forget, even when planning a “regular” vacation. When you arrive at your destination airport, how fast do you want to get to the fun? Do you want to be near the airport, or is a more remote location preferred?
For example, we only considered resorts that were under 30 minutes from the Punta Cana airport. This helped ease the travel burden on our guests and helped everyone start their vacation as quickly as possible.
Some couples may want a more remote location! Tulum is a popular spot for those looking at a quiet, off the beaten path area. However, Tulum is nearly an hour away from the Cancun airport. Discuss with your partner and decide what is right for you.
4. Plan a Group Excursion to Break the Ice. I cannot recommend this one enough. Weddings are wonderful because they bring lots of different people and personalities together. Sometimes those personalities mix well, sometimes they don’t!
For our destination wedding, we planned a group snorkeling trip on the Sanael, a catamaran in Punta Cana. This was our gift to our guests for traveling so far to celebrate our marriage. For three hours, our guests drank, snorkeled and got to know each other on an entirely different level. After all, it’s hard to be shy when you’re all wearing flippers and masks!
The excursion was the highlight of our trip (after the actual wedding of course!) It was so good, we received thank you notes from our guests! Imagine that! By the time our wedding reception rolled around, everyone was great friends and had a fantastic time.
5. Stay Longer Than Your Tribe. This is the single best advice I can give you. When your guests are with you, you will be running around, attending to their needs, answering questions and enjoying their company. You’ll also be meeting with the wedding coordinator, the photographer, the hair and makeup person, etc. It’s busy and you may not have a lot of time to relax.
Near the end, you’ll start to crave some downtime.
I recommend that you and your partner stay for a few extra days after your friends and family depart. Better yet, move to a new resort and see a new place! This will give you some separation between “wedding” and “honeymoon,” which offers a chance to relax.
This word is over used, but our wedding was AMAZING. At many points during the week, I teared up thinking about how much effort everyone made to be there for us. I also have some hilarious memories, such as my dad zooming down an inflatable water slide with my best friends!
Are you considering a destination wedding? Are you overwhelmed by the details? Did this post make you break out in a sweat? Relax, I am here to help! Working with an experienced travel agent will pay back tenfold in saving you time, money and stress. This is the most important day of your lives, not something you want to DIY.
HELLO Whiteman Air Force Base, Friends of Whiteman and anyone else interested in a GROUP CRUISE!
I'm THRILLED to announce that Alpaca Your Bags Travel is hosting a GROUP CRUISE To the Western Caribbean next March!
We will be setting sail on the Carnival FREEDOM on March 18, 2017! Isn't the name fitting?!
If you are new to cruising or an experienced sailor, there is no better time to join the fun. Group cruises mean great group benefits... everyone wins!
While we are hosting this cruise in honor of my husband's Whiteman Air Force Base family, these group rates are open to those at Whiteman, friends of Whiteman, friends of the military or just anyone looking for a great deal. Please join us!
Here are the details:
Departs Galveston, TX on Saturday, March 18, 2017
Returns Galveston, TX on Saturday, March 22, 2017
Itinerary: 7 Day Western Caribbean
Ports of Call Include: Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan and three Fun Days at Sea!
RIght now, you're probably asking "Why should I book with this group?" so I'm going to tell you why: Great rates and FREE MONEY! That's right, FREE MONEY.
Alpaca Your Bags Travel is partnering with Carnival to offer:
It's only $100 per person to hold your spot! But don't delay -- this is a limited time offer that ends July 4.
For more info, click here!
And we're back! This week's fantastic vacation drink is the Bushwacker
This is an all time favorite for both Matt and me. It's a great drink to kick off your trip and think "yesssss... I am on vacation!"
Recipe courtesy of Liquor.com:
4 oz Cream of coconut
2 oz Coffee liqueur
1 oz Black rum
1 oz Crème de cacao
4 oz half and half
Bonus: Add some vanilla ice cream
Pour all ingredients into blender with ice. If you're feeling crazy, add ice cream to the blend mix.
Blend and pour into glass.
Insert very inappropriate joke about the name of this drink. Use your imagination.
YES - you read that correctly! One of my favorite 90's bands, the Cranberries, are playing LIVE at the MoonPalace Cancun! After a six-year hiatus, the “Zombie” and “Linger” band reunited and toured in North America, South America and Europe. Now they are coming to Moon Palace Golf & Spa to share their talents with you!
We have partnered with Exclusive Group Travel to bring you an exclusive vacation package. Go big or go home, right?
Here are the details:
Minimum 3 night stay required. Tickets range from $129-$249 from the Gold to the VIP section. Guests can use their resort credit to purchase tickets. Guests staying 5-8 nights will receive a $1500 Resort Credit. Note, there is a limit to the amount of resort credit that can be used towards spa ($300 for up to 8 nights, $150 for 4 nights, $100 for 3 nights). Reservations for services and amenities must be requested at the resort upon arrival and are subject to availability. Unused credits can be valid for up to 1 year from the checkout date and is transferable once to one guest. This does not apply towards Spa services when using the remaining of the Resort Credit. Resort Credit Shop and other products and services of this promotion taxes and fees will apply. These taxes and fees can be paid with cash, credit card or other authorized means. Percentages are subject to change based on local VAT. Material is accurate at date of publication. Exclusive Group Travel does not assume responsibility for errors or omissions in the publication of this material.
How many times have you been on vacation, stood at the bar and thought "I have no idea what to drink?"
This is an affliction that affects many, but FEAR NO MORE!
Each Thursday, we will post a NEW tropical drink for your perusal. Try them at home and see what you like
This week's drink is my personal favorite: THE MIAMI VICE.
(Yes, it is Cinco de Mayo and we could have gone with a boring ol' margarita. But travel is about getting out of your comfort zone. Am I right?)
A Miami Vice looks complicated but it is super simple: It's just half strawberry daiquiri, half pina colada. The best of both worlds!
Here is the recipe, courtesy of our friends at Liquor.com:
2 oz Daiquiri concentrate (frozen)
2 oz Pina Colada mix (frozen)
White Rum per frozen mix directions.
Blend daiquiri with rum. Blend Pina Colada with rum. Layer the blends one on top of each other until you a stripey Cat in the Hat looking concoction. Drink until you think you are the Cat in the Hat. Enjoy!
MAY is Military Appreciation Month at Carnival!
If we haven't met yet, HI!
And if we haven't met yet, you probably don't know that my husband Matt serves in the USAF at Whiteman Air Force Base. That is why I love to see these military appreciation offers and RUSH to post them for all of you.
If you are currently serving in the military, THANK YOU for your service!
If you are a family member of the military, THANK YOU for YOUR service... I don't feel that part gets said enough.
And THANK YOU to companies like Carnival that recognize this service. Now, on to the offer!
Eligible Military guests receive special rates, $50 per room to spend on board, plus can share this deal with up to two additional cabins on the sailing. Cabins must be booked before May 28 to qualify!
As a special bonus, Alpaca Your Bags Travel planning fees are waived for this offer. BONUS!
Ready to book? Click here to get started!
The month of May is all about MAJESTIC RESORTS!
Save up to 32% off Majestic Resorts in Punta Cana during the month of May!
Majestic Colonial and Majestic Elegance are two beautiful All Inclusive properties in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. In the month of May, I have TWO EXCLUSIVE OFFERS --- you won't find these on those other travel sites.
Yes, yes... its another Punta Cana offer. We just visited the Dominican Republic for our wedding, so I'm a little bit enamored right now. What's not to like? Punta Cana boasts the most beautiful white sand beaches and gorgeous crystal clear blue water... it's also a quick and easy trip for the Midwest and East Coast!
Must book by 5/29/16 to qualify. Travel must be between 8/17/16-12/23/15. Click here to get started!
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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