As a back-to-back cruiser on the Carnival Pride this month, I wanted to share the process, what it felt like, and tips related to the back-to-back cruising experience. It was tremendous fun, and definitely something I would highly recommend!
We booked two seven-day cruises back to back on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore, Maryland on April 8. The first week, the ship was sailing to Bermuda for a three-night overnight stay. The second week the itinerary included day stops in Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos and Princess Cays and Freeport in the Bahamas.
Nothing differed from the single cruise experience until four days into the first cruise, when a letter was delivered to the cabin inviting us to proceed to the Atrium on disembarkation day to join other back-to-back cruisers in being personally escorted off the ship, through immigration, and back on the ship again. The letter informed us that if we had the same cabin reserved (we did) that packing was not necessary. (If you were assigned a different cabin, the letter advised that the steward would be happy to help relocate your belongings.) On the last night, we did not pack, and simply relaxed and slept in followed by a leisurely breakfast. We proceeded to the Atrium at the appointed time (after the other cruisers had left the ship) where an employee took all five of us to an immigration officer who checked our passports and released us back to the ship. It took all of ten minutes. (I have to admit, it was a guilty pleasure watching other guests exit the ship and navigate long lines while we relaxed looking forward to the upcoming week!) Once back on the ship, a special “back-to-back” photo was taken of the group and we were treated to free mimosas at the bar. Perhaps the best part of the day, however, was the ability to have the ship to ourselves for about 45 minutes. It was quite a while before large groups started boarding, since VIPs were allowed aboard first in small groups. Rather than waiting until 2:00pm to visit our stateroom, we were of course free to return to our stateroom at any time. We later found out that the back-to-back photo was to be provided to us free of charge.
The second week proceeded as usual. We were very pleased that many of the staff members we had encountered the first week remembered us and acknowledged us as back-to-back guests. We received our luggage tags and packed with everyone else on the last night, and disembarked as usual. But we were thrilled to have had a full extra week! We had a lot of time to really get to know the ship as well as to explore several different ports. The staff really made us feel special, like pampered, VIP guests!
Of course, we could have simply taken a fourteen day cruise, but it would have been a different experience. That spoiled feeling from getting special treatment, unique from other guests, would have been absent. On the other hand, instead of returning to the home port halfway through we could have traveled further. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. But I recommend the back-to-back experience at least once.
If you decide to book a back-to-back, I recommend these tips:
- Try to arrange for a back-to-back with two different itineraries, so you are not visiting the same ports twice.
- Request the same cabin for both cruises so that you don’t need to pack up and have your belongings moved to a new cabin mid-trip.
- Fully unpack on the first day! I often don’t fully unpack on shorter cruises because I’m not sure if I’m going to need everything and re-packing is such a hassle. But I was glad I fully unpacked this time – I had easy access to everything without worrying about packing again within a week.
- Enjoy greater flexibility in your activity schedule, but don’t assume the exact same shipboard activities will be available the following week. On our trip, two different comedians boarded the ship for the second week. Some shows were repeated and others were not. The evening movies were the same. If there’s something you really want to do, don’t assume it will be repeated on the second cruise – but if you do miss it the first time around watch for it again because there is a good chance it will be.
I hope you will have the opportunity to experience a back-to-back cruise (or that you already have!) Blog posts related to these cruises will be available in the upcoming weeks.