On almost all of my Carnival Cruises the ships pools and waterslides opened on the first afternoon for guests to enjoy. Pack your bathing suit in your carry-on luggage and if you see the pools, waterslides, or hottubs are open on the first afternoon you can change in order to be able to enjoy the amenities. If you put your bathing suit in your checked luggage it may not arrive until later in the afternoon or early into the first evening which means you will have missed out on using the pools the first afternoon. Restrooms are typically located close to the pools and are a place you can use to change clothes. Don't forget to pack sunscreen in your carry-on too if you plan to use the pools or be outside on the first day!
Staterooms are typically not open when you get on your Carnival Cruise and most of the time will not open until at least 1:30pm. Anything you take onboard with you that is carry-on (bags, backpacks, purses, camera cases, etc.) will have to be lugged around until you can drop it off at your room. To allow for your first day to be fun and not bogged down sitting around with stuff, I recommend packing your carry-on bag light enough to where you will not have to sit & babysit your bag until your stateroom opens.
The Carnival Hub App is free to download and allows guests to view activities & events happening during the cruise. The app is also able to be used to check-in for dining, make speciality dining reservations, book shore excursions, view your Sail & Sign onboard spending account balance, and more. Dining room menus can also be viewed through the app. After you have your Sail & Sign Card you will need to enter the folio number into the app along with having your phone on airplane mode & connected to Carnival's Wi-Fi. I highly recommend setting the app up on the first day because it can make your cruise experience on Carnival much easier!
The line at guest services will be long on the first day as people are asking questions, discussing problems, and trying to get setup for the cruise. Some people will wait in the long line to ask for an upgrade in staterooms only to be told that there are no staterooms available. Instead I recommend waiting until the second day of the cruise and early in the morning asking guest services if any rooms are available that you can pay to be upgraded to. Waiting until the second day will minimize the time you spend in line and further if get told "no" at least you didn't waste a bunch of your cruise time waiting in line. By the second day, the ship will know of any guests that were no-shows and how many empty rooms (if any) there are onboard. It is unlikely you will be able to get a complimentary upgrade or even a cheap upgrade, but if you want to try maybe you will be lucky!
Carnival's dinner dining assignments are grouped into early seating, late seating, and Your-Time Dining. Sometimes guests are not able to get the dining assignment desired due to there being a waitlist from the options being full. If you have a concern or want to try to change your dining assignment, the Maitre'D & their staff will have a hour on the first day where you can come by to discuss dining assignments or dietary concerns. The time this will be held should be published on the Carnival Hub App.
Your stateroom attendant should come by at some point on the first day to introduce themselves to you and ask what time of day you would like the room cleaned (you can choose either morning or evening service). This will give you a chance to let your stateroom attendant know of any requests you may have for the cruise which could include asking for extra towels, bathrobes, or an ice bucket.
The Behind the Fun Tour has been on hold since the re-start of cruises after the pandemic, but is expected to come back in early 2023. This tour is usually offered once per cruise and is where guests can pay to see some of the behind the scenes areas of the ship including the bridge, engine control room, galley, and more. Since this tour is very limited in size and cannot be booked pre-cruise, you will want to ask the Carnival Adventures Shore Excursions desk if any tickets are available for sale on the first day of your cruise. If the tour is like the pre-Covid days, it will fill up fast!
The SPA on Carnival's ships will offer tours at any time, but crew members are typically standing around asking guests to take tours on the first afternoon of the cruise. If you want to see what all is offered as part of your ship's SPA this tour is a great opportunity for you to see the space. The exact amenities and services offered will vary by ship. Also, if there is a treatment or procedure you are wanting done you should ask if it is covered under any first day specials. The SPA is generally less booked on the first day compared to sea days so you may be able to get a discount for a first day appointment. It never hurts to ask!
The youth programs on Carnival are Camp Ocean (2-11 years old), Circle C (12-14 years old), and Club 02 (15-17 years old). Each of the different programs will hold registration on the first day and typically have an open-house or welcome party. Make sure to register your kids for the youth programs if you will want them to be able to participate in the activities held onboard. For Camp Ocean, you can specify if you want your kids to be able to check themselves in or out if they fall into the 9-11 year old age group. Registration for the youth programs can be completed pre-cruise which will allow for an even easier first day if you have done it in advance.
One of the most important things for you to do on your first day is to complete your self-muster drill. This is required by Carnival as it is mandatory under the law for guests to go to their muster station. The self-muster drill can be done any-time after boarding and must be done prior to sail-a-way. You will hear announcements reminding guests to complete this drill so make sure you do it shortly after boarding. Failure to attend could result in getting kicked off the ship.
Click Here For My Tips & Information On The Self-Muster Station Drill
11. Play Mini Golf Before The Ship Starts Moving
Almost all Carnival ships have a mini golf course (Carnival Luminosa does not). Playing mini golf while your ship is docked can be a fun way to pass the afternoon and further since the ship is not yet moving the wind will not interfere with your game.