Thursday, December 15, 2022

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

Royal Caribbean (Rhapsody of the Seas): 7 Nights Southern Caribbean Cruise
November 26 to December 06, 2022

Highlight: Coming from Philippine Airport (MNL) as Budgetarian Filipino Solo Backpacker with Philippine passport only. I confirm and fully paid both flights and cruise around 24 days before the first flight but save around 40% of the flight fares and 50% on the entire cruise fare (mandatory gratuities included). Minor expenses only per island visit day. Also, NO VISA APPLIED in all 6 Island nations and 2 transit airports visited. I just booked the flights and cruise, bring my backpack and passport, then go.

Origin Airport: NAIA T3 (MNL) UTC +0800H
Transit Airport: Dubai (DXB) UTC +0400H and Amsterdam (AMS) UTC +0100H
Arrival Airport: Bridgetown (BGI) UTC -0400H
Time Difference between Origin and Arrival: 12 hours 
Flight Time: Approximately 42 hours (transits included), 3 sets of flights with 9 hours average per flight 
Airlines booked: Emirates and KLM
Visa Applied: NONE, Transit without visa and visit without visa if the transit/visit is less than 24 hours

Cruise Date: Nov 27 to Dec. 04, 2022 (UTC -0400H) 
Cruise line / Itinerary: Royal Caribbean (US website) / 7 Nights Southern Carribean 

Major Expenses (booked / paid on 02-Nov-2022, just 24 days before first flight departure)
- standard cruise booking was around $1,100, I save around 50%
* Return Flight MNL-AMS-MNL (Emirates) and AMS-BGI-AMS (KLM) via Sky Scanner ( P118,648
- airline website was around P200,000, I save around 40%
Total: PHP 151,789 (USD 2,643)

Caribbean Cruise Requirements (print-out expedites the process):
1. Original Passport and photocopies (minimum 6 months validity)
2. Barbados online arrival form (Bridgetown is the airport and seaport of entry / exit of the cruise)
3. Print-out Full Covid19 Vaccine Certificate 
4. Print-out Return Flight tickets
5. Print-out Cruise Receipt / Itinerary
5. Print-out of some financial documentation as a source of income / to pay for expenses

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

01. It is VERY PRACTICAL to visit the Caribbean Island Nation by cruise rather than by flights due to; (1) Flights are not regular and very expensive, (2) Hotel and cost of tourist living is very of expensive for every island nation, (3) In my honest opinion, there's not much extraordinary to see (based on my research). Philippines' beach, waterfalls and nature landscape is the same (or better than) with Caribbean Island Nations (not all). 

02. I booked first my Caribbean cruise via Royal Caribbean "7 Nights Southern Carribean Itinerary". I chose this program because (1) the itinerary voyage consist of ALL the 6 Caribbean island countries that I did not visited yet, (2) Rhapsody of the Seas is the only ship that offers the item (1) in a compressed itinerary and (3) luckily I got the cheapest package by keep checking the website on regular basis (more than 3x daily) if the price is lowered. Surprisingly, the US website of Royal Caribbean cruises changed the discount offers from time to time (there's a Philippine website of Royal Caribbean). I observed these because I missed out the first 50% discount sale, then it came back. To give you the budget details, I spent around 63 USD per day on 7 days with wooooow inclusions in item 8 below. 

03. Around 75% of my total expenses was for the flight tickets, thus, ensure to take the cheapest flights as possible. I booked only my return flight tickets the moment I have the confirm cruise booking (around 50% cheaper than the regular price).

04. Since November to December is incoming holidays, the flight tickets booked directly on airline websites are very expensive. Thus, my only option is to gamble and trust the budget 3rd party flight booking websites. I compare the Sky Scanner (, Momondo and Kayak. Same with cruise booking, the offered prices changed daily as I observed. Luckily, after I fully paid booked my Caribbean Cruise, I got a good deal return flight tickets which was around 40% less than the direct airline price.

05. Very Important Note: the catch / disclaimer of flight booking in 3rd party sites are (1) transit connection is not sure especially for Philippine passport holders (2) flight insurance was removed for delayed / cancelled flights, (3) non-refundable, (4) some have no check-in luggage and (5) they bear no responsibility if passengers are unable to board the plane due to not complying with 
airline and airport policies and regulations. It is very important also to study the flight itinerary for all visa and transit connections required before purchasing it, have at least 4 hours in transit especially for transit without visa (TWOV) cases.

06. Good thing the airlines involved on my return flights (6 sets of flights, around 42 hours travel from MNL to Caribbean starting port) has an excellent reputation (Emirates and KLM) and awesome transit airport (DXB and AMS) that offers TWOV (Transit without Visa, Passengers with confirmed onward ticket for a flight to a third country within 24 hours).  

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

07. Ensure to arrive latest 2 hours before departure of Cruise Ship. As what happened to me, my KLM flight from Amsterdam (AMS) arrived in Bridgetown (BGI) around 1850H. Caribbean cruise ship departure is 2200H with standard boarding closed on 1.5 hour before the departure. Good thing the Bridgetown airport Arrival Immigration process was very fast, and the taxi travel time (18km distance for 24 USD / 48 BBD) was around 30 minutes. I was among the last 8 cruise ship passengers who arrived before boarding closed. 

08. The cruise ship booking package I had INCLUDES (1) buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner meals in ship’s main dining room and Windjammer Restaurant, as well as snacks and meals at Park Cafe, (2) daily entertainment and all main theater shows (unless otherwise noted) (3) use of the fitness center (excluding classes), (4) use of the rock climbing wall, (5) state room with double size bed and (6) total cruise mandatory gratuity of 112 USD ($16 per day).

09. For cruise visa ashore, Caribbean Cruise ship passengers staying for less than 24 hours do not require visa. Just bring the Cruise Pass ID and any valid ID with picture when going outside the ship (ID in mobile phone is enough). No immigration and no visa stamp provided in cruise port, officers only check the Cruise Pass ID. Sea port entry / exit process is just like a walk in the park; easy and convenient (show the cruise pass then go). I always left the ship early / immediately the moment they allow us to go out and come back before 3pm local time for FIFA World Cup fever while having unlimited ice cream. Ensure to come back in ship at most 30 minutes before the boarding closed. 

10. I did NOT apply for any visa for all the 6 Caribbean Island nations and 2 transit airports I've visited AS FILIPINO SOLO BACKPACKER WITH PHILIPPINE PASSPORT ONLY. The only passport stamps produced on this trip was from Philippine Airport (NAIA) departure / arrival only (no passport stamp throughout the cruise and airport transit).

11. My itinerary per day ashore was to stroll only the nearby tourist landmarks, laziness struck and budget conscious. Daily expense was for the collection I have which are fridge magnets and local currencies only. Average price of souvenir magnet was 5 USD for all the islands we visited. Obviously, I looked for lowest price (3 USD average) by negotiating. I don't spend money for food/drinks outside, I always go back to ship when I feel thirsty and hungry. If you really want to do excursion day trip, either grab the expensive cruise ship offer or negotiate with the locals together with other fellow budget ship passengers. Don't worry, there are lots of DIYers / budget conscious on board like me also.

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

Budget Travel Tips on Caribbean Cruise as Filipino Solo Backpacker

12. I did not avail wifi package onboard. I only become online when ashore, sometimes there's free Wi-Fi in the cruise port. KFC and McDonald's provides free Wi-Fi, even some of the banks also.

13. My daily itinerary routine is wake up early for work out and jogging, breakfast, going ashore stroll around by foot the nearby places only, back to ship for lunch, back ashore to buy fridge magnet and local currency souvenir (the only expenses I've made), back to ship, watch FIFA World Cup then ship departs. My night life on board includes watching movies at the pool, jacuzzi and eating snacks. 

14. As a Filipino with Philippine passport only, I have been profiled / tagged a lot in airport because Filipinos are known to be part of Ship Crew. Even fellow Filipino in Philippine Airport immigration (MNL) were surprised I went to Caribbean Cruise as a tourist (I was questioned a lot) and airport staff in Dubai (DXB) checked-in me later to confirm (I was questioned a lot also) if I really don't need a visa in Barbados despite, of course, I presented all print-out documents. But surprisingly in Barbados airport (BGI), I entered the country in less than 3 minutes by just immediately presenting the required documents (print-out).

15. Filipino profiling still continued in ship during the entire cruise itinerary. For every return to ship entry security, Indian/Westerner staff always initially treated me like one of them. Even on some request on board, the staff ignored me because I look like one of them. On the contrary, I used this profiling as an advantage on souvenir shops ashore. If I confirm I'm a ship crew, they will accept whatever the amount I negotiated. By the way, around 25% of the Ship Crew (top nationality, 188 of entire less than 800 total staff) are Filipinos.

16. This Caribbean cruise trip was my second ship adventure experience, first one was going to Antarctica Expedition 2019 (World Explorer). I've experienced the friendly Filipino staff hospitality on the first one, I even have a group picture with them. On the other hand, no comment on Filipino Staff of Rhapsody of the Seas. Indonesians, Africans, Colombians and some Indian staff are very hospitable, I salute them.

11 days... 6 Island Nations... Zero Visa Applied.
Philippine passport lang po. Mang Andoy of the Caribbean successful! 
"One day I'm going to wake up and have no more time and strength to do the things I wanted to do." 


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