One of the best things that come from taking multiple cruises, is that you learn little tricks by experience, and from others, which makes your next sailing, even better. Even if you are New to Cruising, you can sail like a seasoned veteran, just by having using a few tips when you do choose to Cruise.
Do NOT over pack
The MOST important fact about packing when travelling as a couple or in a family group is to NEVER pack 1 persons bag, with 1 persons clothes. Divide your clothing between BOTH people’s bags and then if one happens to go missing, you ensure that you still have SOME clothes to wear while your bag is being located.
In your carry-on, you should always keep your documents, your medicine, your valuables, your electronics and 2 changes of clothes, a bathing suit and a pair of flip flops. This is your emergency back up, if your bag goes missing from the airlines or is delayed in being brought to your Stateroom on the ship.
It is VERY easy to bring more than you need, when you don’t know what you may need, while on a cruise. Each cruise line will give you an example of what to pack on their web site, so I recommend you always check out the “what to wear link” for the line you are sailing on.
Another option that most people are not aware of, is that if you have a smart phone, you can actually download a Free APP which will assist you with what to pack, depending on the type of trip you are taking. If you have Apple, the APP name is “Packing Pro” while Android Users would download “Pack Point”.
With the excessive cost of overweight baggage when you are flying into a Cruise Port, making sure that you ‘underpack’ is important, especially if you intend on bringing home any souvenirs from your vacation. Preparing for your Cruise will vary dependent on the Line and does take a little bit of research, but it is worth it, to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Once you are actually on-board the ship, you will get a nightly delivery to your room of a Cruise Newsletter, which will give you suggestions for the NEXT evening’s style of dress to wear. This letter also details the events taking place throughout the day. It is a wonderful resource to review every night, before bed; but this should give you an idea of what to bring, in the first place.
CLOTHES SUGGESTIONS FOR A CRUISE
- 1 or 2 Formal Nights: Bring clothes you would wear to a Beach type or summer wedding. If you have a traditional or ethnic costume you would wear for a formal event, this is a perfect time to wear it. It is not unusual to see kilts, Military Uniforms, African wear, Kimonos and various Indian or EurAsian garments.
- 5 or 6 Semi Formal nights: clothes suitable for a business meeting or things that could be worn at a Country Club function. Collared golf shirts are welcome.
- 1 ALL White outfit, dress or top – there is often a white party one night
- 1 Pashmina scarf or light sweater for cool nights or air conditioned rooms
- 1 70’s or 80’s style top or dress – for a theme night party
- 7 Daytime outfits: combination of sundresses, 2-4 shorts and shirts
- 1 or 2 sets of work out clothes
- 2 or 3 bathing suits
- 1 or 2 beach cover ups
- 2 hats and 2 pairs of sunglasses – wind, water and misadventure always seems to claim at least one
- 2 – 3 pairs of flip flops or sandals
- 2 pairs of shoes or dressy evening sandals
- 1 pair of closed toe men’s shoes for formal night or specialty Restaurants
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 1 pair of water shoes
- 1 or 2 lounging garments for bedtime and after showers
- Undergarments and socks for the voyage length
CONVENIENT THINGS TO PACK FOR A CRUISE
- 2 Clips per person, from the dollar store, to pin your towel to the lounge chairs. It can be breezy at sea!
- A small beach tote bag with a zipper closure for security
- A small and lightweight backpack for shore excursions
- Sunscreen spf65
- After sun lotion, because most people will get too much sun at least once
- CAMERAS with chargers and an extra storage card. A small disposable waterproof camera is also a great thing to take to the Caribbean as well.
- Small travel Binoculars, as you can see amazing things from the deck or balcony
- Snorkel and Mask set as the Caribbean has amazing tropical fish
- 5 or 6 Milk bone Dog treats. Believe it or not, these make the PERFECT fish food as they hold their shape when wet and crumble apart beautifully as you need it. Nothing will bring tropical fish to you faster and other swimmers will be jealous!
- A small container of personal hand sanitizer – On the ship, Hand sanitizer will be located all over. Please USE it whenever you see it and wash your hands as if you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for the week. You are in a confined space with thousands of people, do your part to not spread bacteria and germs.
- 1 or 2 BATTERY operated candles for ambiance and to double as a bathroom nightlight
- An old hotel room key or used gift card – your Stateroom light is turned on by inserting your room key card, into the light switch slot. When you pull it out to leave, your lights automatically shut off and your air conditioner reverts back to its basic setting. If you want to keep your room cooler, then use an old hotel key card in the slot instead, so you can leave it in, when you go out, which keeps your AC, on.
- A lanyard – to help you not lose your room key card. Then you can attach it around your neck or wrist or even tie it to your beach bag or belt loop. If you do misplace the key card, immediately go to guest services and have a new one made up. Your Stateroom number is NOT written on the card, so even if found, no one could use it to enter your room, for this exact reason. However, it could still be used for onboard purchases. So always check the account IF you do lose the card. If you end up finding the lost card (normally in a pocket), just throw it in with your souvenirs and use it as your “old room key light switch holder” on your next cruise!
- Favorite sports team logo t-shirts or hats are a great way to find others from the same area and are always a conversation starter.
- A book or Magazines – you can actually visit the ships Library and borrow a book for the voyage so you don’t have to be concerned about losing one from home. It also cuts down on the weight of what you are bringing. Books are a good thing to keep on your lounge chair with your towel, when you run to the washroom or buffet to grab a snack on busy sea days. You do not want to leave behind personal belongings of value on your lounge chairs unless at least 1 person you are travelling with, stays behind to ensure your things are not removed. Remember, there is a 30 minute limit on holding a chair and on a sea day, you risk your items being moved if you don’t have someone watching your things.
- A larger water carafe – this way you can fill it up and bring it with you when going ashore or laying up on deck. It is EASY to get dehydrated in the sun, so ensure you are drinking enough during the day.
- Some large magnets or magnetic hooks from Home Depot – your stateroom door will be metal and you can post signs or country flags to decorate it, to help you find your cabin and to share info with other cruisers about where you are from. You can also hang hats, shirts, bathing suits from them, inside of your cabin.
- A re-sealable plastic baggie with 6-12 cotton balls and enough nail polish remover to soak them but not leave liquid inside of bag. Double bag it in a 2nd re-sealable baggie and you are ready for nail touch ups and repairs while away. Nail polish should also be double bagged separately.
- Duct Tape – this is the perfect fix to any broken zippers on suitcases. It’s lightweight and takes no space.
- Business Cards – if you have them, it’s a quick way to give your information to new friends you make when travelling.
- A Medicine Bag – This is a very important staple that ALL travelers must bring with them and have it in their carry on bag. On the ship, there will be a small commissary store selling everything you need and you will even find drug stores in every port. The issue is the pricing for these items will be exorbitant at 4-10 times what you would expect to pay for the same item at home. Time changes, Flights, new foods and motion of the ship at sea, can impact people very differently, so it is best to just be prepared and hope that you don’t have to use any of it. Here are some basics to include:
- All prescribed medications
- Motion sickness: Dramamine or Gravol
- Antacids: Tums or Pepto Bismal
- Constipation and gas relief products: Ducolax or Senokot
- Anti-diarrheal product: Loperamide or Imodium
- Anti-Inflammatory, Pain relief: Ibuprofen, Tylenol
- Anti itch, allergy reaction: Benadryl
- Scrapes, minor burns, skin irritations, insect bites: Bactroban or Ozonol
- Waterproof Bandaids
- Insect repellent
- Tea Tree Oil or Apple Cider Vinegar: as it helps prevent Athletes foot
- 5 or 6 small vinegar packets in case of contact with a fire coral when snorkeling
You will have completed your pre-boarding information on your cruise line web site. This makes your check in much faster when at the pier. Boarding begins after the last passenger disembarks from the last cruise, roughly 4 to 6 hours before your cruises scheduled departure time.
You arrive at the port by a Bus Transfer, a shuttle service or a taxi and after giving the name of the ship you are sailing on to the driver, you and your bags are deposited out in front of the pier and terminal where your cruise ship is departing from. Each bag you have will have the ships luggage tag attached, that you printed off from your e-documents that the cruise line gave you. If you forgot to bring them or print them off, don’t worry, as you can get extra tags from the Porters who are collecting your bags to bring them from the pier to your ship.
With your carry on bag, make your way inside the terminal with your documents and passport in hand. Security will check your ships paperwork and you will quickly pass through a metal detector as your belongings are scanned. Then you will line up for your check in. You will fill out a brief medical questionnaire to ensure you aren’t boarding with a gastro intestinal issue and hand it to the attendant who is checking you in, along with your e-documents, passport and the credit card you want attached to your ships key for the voyage.
Once you are given your Key Card, they will take your photo, so every time it is swiped, the ships personnel will match your photo to the card; you can then put away your passport, your documents and your credit card, as this Key card is the only thing you need over the next week while onboard. As you go up the gangway and onto the ship, you will be asked for the key card by a ships crew member and the card will be swiped for the first time. This now registers you as being on the ship. It will be done every time you are on or off and it keeps track of who is onboard at all times.
MAXIMIZE YOUR STATEROOM SPACE
- Under the bed you can store your luggage. Just keep it open. One side is for larger items or extra clothes; even your winter jacket and boots you may have worn if you departed in the winter from colder climates. The other side of an open suitcase, you can throw your laundry into nightly. Remember, Caribbean cruises are in hot climates and chances are you will not get to wear tops multiple times.
- Space is tight in a Stateroom but very well designed for 2 or 3 people. In the bathroom, you can keep your toiletries, plus pajamas and bathing suits and cover-ups. There will be a laundry rope in the shower to hang wet suits up to dry. Most ships provide shampoo and body wash for the shower.
- Most ships have a blow dryer at the mirrored desk, so any hair products can also be kept in that drawer for use as well.
- Life jackets, which are stored in the closet, can be pushed to the back of it or placed on the closet floor or even under the bed, to give you more room if needed.
- The first day, you can ask your room attendant to remove the items inside the mini fridge, so you can use it for the duration of the cruise. Milk in cartons is only available in the buffets first thing in the morning. You can bring a few back to the room for convenience, if you need milk during the rest of the day. Free juices are available in the buffets and you can easily refill your own container to place in the fridge as well.
- If you want your ice bucket filled, just advise your attendant the first time you see them, you want it filled daily. Then every morning you have ice water.
- There are times a bed may seem a bit too firm for your liking. You can always ask the attendant if it’s possible to place a mattress topper on it for you. Some lines have them available, so it does not hurt to ask.
- A Plug extender. You will not find many electrical outlets in your stateroom. Most times, a single outlet with 2 plugs, will be at the desk. If you bring a plug extender, you can increase 2 plugs to 4, so you have the ability to charge multiple electronics and camera batteries.
Keep photocopies of passport in each carry on bag
Rather than take your original ashore, bring a photo copy. Also, when going ashore, you MUST take your ships card and I recommend taking a credit card. This way you will have everything you need in the unlikely event you have mis-calculated the All Aboard time and get left behind in the Port. If that were to happen, you are responsible for getting yourself to the next port of call to rejoin your ship. ALWAYS double check the ships time BEFORE you get off.
Keep your original passport in your Stateroom safe, along with your wallets, phones, tablets, cash and jewelry.
Keep ALL your documents in an easily accessible compartment
You will be taking out e-documents at the airport, at the hotel and at the Pier. Rather than digging through your pouches to locate everything, keep it all together, keep it in order of how you will use it and in very easy reach. At some point you will need a pen to fill out paperwork, so bring one to save time.
Bring plenty of USD $1’s and $5’s for tipping or shore shopping
Tipping goes a long way to ensure service levels. Giving $1 to the porter who takes your bag for the check in of luggage at the pier, ensures he pays attention to it. Remember that once onboard, you will have gratuities added, per person, to your ship board account, every day. This amount is divided between your attendants, the dining room staff and anyone who services you in the run of a day. You DO have the option of going to Guest Services and asking them to remove all of it or a portion of it and then tipping individually. You can also leave it and tip extra by giving cash to those who have impacted your experience positively.