The anticipation is killing me! As of this writing, I am 22 days away from next trip and I’m completely invested in the vacation mindset. Not only am I excited about getting away and enjoying the Caribbean sunshine, but I’m also excited about the preparation itself. I’m a “list” person so I love thinking about all the things that need to go on a prep list and then getting to cross things off as they get done. It’s like a game. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even told you about my upcoming trip…

At the end of April I will join 3,000 of my closest friends on the Carnival Glory for a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise out of Miami with stops at Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk. I’ve booked a balcony stateroom and will be traveling on my own (aside from the other 3,000 people onboard). This will be my third cruise, all of them with Carnival.

Why did I choose this particular sailing? The past two cruises I went on (in 2013 and 2015), I don’t think I was a deliberate about the choice as I was this time. Probably because I didn’t know enough about cruising to know what to look for. And yes, I know I have a LOT more to learn still, but I feel like I’m a bit more prepared this time around. Here are some of the thing that were important factors in my choice of this particular trip:

LENGTH – I wanted a 7-day cruise. When you figure that the first day onboard is really only a half day by the time you embark, go through the muster drill and get settled into your stateroom, you’re already losing a day. Then the last day isn’t really even a day since you’re disembarking early in the morning and kicked off the ship before you even finish eating your last breakfast burrito from the Blue Iguana. So a 7-day cruise is really more like 5.5 days of true vacation.

TIMING – Based on obligations at my day job, I needed to travel after a bunch of deadlines in April. With an April 29th sailing I’m actually cutting things a bit close to those deadlines and I’m going to have to scramble in the coming weeks. But waiting much longer factors into the next point…

PRICE – Price was definitely an issue for me. Traveling alone comes at a premium since cruising is based on the dreaded “double occupancy” — my fare wasn’t exactly double what a single person pays, but it was pretty darned close. (Yes, I’ll be talking about exact prices in another blog articles if you’re interested.)

AMENITIES – The ship was important to me this time. My first cruise was on the Carnival Legend and I discovered the adults-only Serenity Deck was my favorite spot on the ship. My second cruise was on the Carnival Conquest and to my dismay, I discovered there wasn’t a Serenity Deck on this ship (I naively assumed it was a fleet-wide amenity, I guess). So finding a ship with this feature was essential to me this time around. Carnival Glory fit the bill.

PORTS – I wanted to visit San Juan so finding an itinerary with a stop in Puerto Rico was factored into the decision. This was a “nice to have” not a “deal breaker” option, so I’m happy that I found a trip that worked for this wish. The rest of the ports on the list didn’t really matter to me. I haven’t been to many places in the Caribbean so my main goal was to visit new places rather than repeat an itinerary that I’d already been on.

This trip is the first time I used the services of a travel agent – specifically a Personal Vacation Planner from Carnival. Once I had settled on the exact trip I wanted to book, I left the trip in my shopping cart on the Carnival website and called David Chirinos and asked him to look over my reservation and get me booked. I have heard from multiple sources online that having a PVP with Carnival has been super helpful, so I thought I’d give it a try. David saw the cabin I’d chosen on my own and pointed out a couple flaws with my choice (I would have been right above the theater and the crew often have full-blown, loud rehearsals after the shows are over and it can get noisy). So he helped me move my cabin choice to a quieter area of the ship but still convenient to the amenities that were most important to me.

Once the cruise is booked then there are all the “other” things to tackle. Like airfare, hotel, transportation, excursions and port activities. I’m a researcher, so this part is just as fun as figuring out which cruise itinerary to book. The hotel and transportation are figured out, but activities in each port are still up in the air. But thanks to Amazon I’m now armed with a couple new travel guides about the ports of call in the Caribbean and I’m still doing my research on what to do in each port. No, I haven’t yet booked any excursions so I’ll save that discussion for another blog article about the plans.

Once I have a trip booked I find myself highly distracted in almost every other area of my life. It’s hard to focus on the mundane tasks of the day job or my business and I have to force myself to pull back from thoughts of lounging in the sun if I expect to get any real work done. But anticipation is half the fun, right? Surfing Pinterest and Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic and Facebook for fun things to do while you’re traveling and meeting new people before you even arrive. Right now I already know 145 other people who will be on the same cruise as I’ll be on because I’ve connected with them online already. And they’re just as excited about the trip as I am.