I've always been big on birthdays, but mine haven't been at all exciting for the past few years. I haven't had a truly memorable birthday since I was like 5. I mean, only I would forget my ID on my 21st birthday. For my 23rd birthday or my "Jordan Year", I decided I was going to go all out (on a budget), because I deserved it.
My birthday is on May 27, so it typically falls on Memorial Day weekend. I originally planned on going to Vegas, but I ended up waiting too late to book all of the arrangements. After doing some extensive research, I decided to book a cruise to the Bahamas. It was cheaper and we were able to leave the country for a few days.
I had a great time in the Bahamas. The locals were really friendly, the food was good, and the vendors in the markets had any souvenir you could ever want to buy on hand. It was hot as hell, especially considering we went during what is considered a "cooler" month. But my favorite part of the trip was seeing how beautiful the island was. The scenery was amazing; the beach had the whitest sand and the clearest blue water I'd ever seen.
It was my first cruise so I had no idea what to expect, but if you're interested in going on one, here are some cruise ship tips and hacks:
1. You don't need a passport.
Don't let not having a passport deter you from planning a cruise. Your birth certificate (in addition to your state ID) can serve as your identification. They do strongly urge you to get a passport just in case something happens while you're in your port and you need to get on a plane.
2. If you can, go on a cruise that's Adult-Only
I love kids, but I really don't want to spend my vacation listening to them scream and getting splashed by them in the pool. They cost a little bit more, but I think it's worth it.
3. Book a cruise with all-inclusive food.
There's usually a lot of food options, and you can typically get more than one serving if you'd like.
4. Don't buy the drink packages.
They're a waste of money. We opted not to get the drink package because it was $50 per person, per day. You would have had to drink anywhere from six to ten drinks before you can save money, and they also put a cap on how many you can get. It also doesn't make sense to get the drink package if you're going to be leaving the ship on port days. It's more cost efficient to just order them as you want them.
5. Don't buy souvenirs in the cruise gift shop.
Wait until you get to your port to buy them. They're significantly cheaper, they're authentic, you're supporting local businesses, and most times you can negotiate prices or barter.
6. Bring a power strip
Most cabins only have one outlet which makes it difficult to plug in your flat iron, charge your camera battery, and charge everyone's phone. Bringing a power strip will eliminate those problems.
7. The sun is way more powerful and harmful in the tropics
We as Black people like to think that we can't get sunburned. Well, that's actually not true at all. Both my boyfriend and I got sunburned on our cruise. While darker skin has a natural SPF of 13, you still want to use sunscreen or tanning lotion with some SPF in it. Be sure to reapply throughout the day as you sweat and swim.
8. Bring remedies for motion sickness.
Since this was my first cruise, I didn't know if I'd be sea-sick or not. After some research, I found these Sea-Band Adult Wristbands for $12.95 on Amazon, and they came with two pair. I found that I only got sea-sick when I looked at the water very closely or when we were in the cabin and we couldn't see the water, but our bodies could feel and hear the motion. The bands helped a lot when I did feel sick, which was rare.
9. Mention a special occasion to get freebies.
If it's your birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, bridal party trip, etc., be sure to include that when you're booking your cruise. I got a $50 Spa gift card.
10. If you're driving, don't park at the port
Google parking around the port and you can find significantly cheaper parking. We paid a flat rate of $25 for our entire trip and they gave us a free shuttle ride to and from the port.
Ever taken a cruise? Any tips I left out? Let me know in the comments!