Packing for a cruise – whew! Where do I begin? Some people love packing for a cruise while others stress over it. I actually enjoy packing for a cruise because it’s part of the overall excitement of the trip for me. I’m getting ready to leave for my next cruise, so I thought it would be helpful for myself, and anyone else who lives and dies by lists to remember some useful reminders as I begin to plan my pack.
1. Pack appropriately for the specific cruise you’re taking.
Doing some research about your upcoming cruise can help determine what you should pack. It’s not only about considering what to pack based on the cruise line’s dress code, but many cruise lines have theme nights such as White Party, 70’s Disco Party, 80’s Party, etc. If you like to get really involved and dress up for theme night you’ll want to know if you should make room for your platforms and bell bottoms.
Most cruise lines have some type of dress code that can vary from one end of the closet to the other. This can be stressful since dress codes are different from line to line. You can find the dress code policy for your cruise line/ship by visiting the cruise line’s website.
Based on the climate you’ll be cruising to you’ll need to pack the appropriate clothing. I’ve taken an Alaskan cruise in the past, and while the majority of my clothing consisted of long pants and long sleeves for the cooler Alaskan weather I did pack a pair of shorts and bathing suit since many of the Alaskan-bound cruise ships have a covered pool allowing you to swim comfortably while cruising through Glacier Bay.
2. Roll your clothes.
One of my all-time favorite packing tips that I learned about years ago was to roll my clothes. Rolling not only provides more room in your suitcase, but it also helps minimize wrinkles.
3. Leave room in your suitcase for the trip home.
Some of us, myself included, tend to over pack for a cruise and then we shop till we drop to buy clothes, souvenirs, etc. for family and friends. When it’s time to pack for home, that’s when the panic sets in that you didn’t leave any room for items that you purchased during your trip. So remember to leave room in your suitcase for potential items you may purchase and will need space to pack in your suitcase.
4. Bring your own hot and cold travel mug.
There’s a couple of benefits to this tip. The obvious is that you can use it for both hot and cold drinks, allowing you to keep the temperature of your drink controlled.
The other benefit is for those who may want to save money by avoiding having to purchase a bottled water package (some ships, like Norwegian, do not include bottled water in their beverage packages and you have to purchase that separately). You can fill your travel mug with water from the buffet using the pitchers of water.
5. Bring a multi-outlet/USB strip for your technology.
Cruise lines have added more electric outlets and some even have extra USB ports, but not all of them do and even those that do may not have enough for your technology (tablets, phones, cameras, etc.). There’s a huge variety of travel outlet/USB options out there that should suit your needs. My go to is Amazon as they have a ton of options, and if you’re a Prime member you get two-day shipping for free.
6. Cruise magnet hooks.
Some may not be aware that cruise stateroom walls are made of metal, and you can use magnet hooks on the walls to provide more places to hang your towels, wet bathing suits, etc.
I’ve even heard of people using magnets to post their daily activity sheets, reservation reminders, any loose papers, etc. to free up and de-clutter desk space.
7. Cruise luggage tags.
I was never a believer in purchasing luggage tags for my cruises until I heard a horror story from a cruiser whose stapled, paper luggage tag was ripped off after dropping it off to the porter at the dock. Their luggage ended up on another ship and they didn’t see their suitcase until several days into their cruise. This is an inexpensive way to better ensure that your luggage gets delivered to you on time.
If you purchase cruise luggage tags, be sure you are buying tags that will fit your cruise line’s luggage tag. The tag size does vary from line to line.
8. Beach towel clips.
These are great for pinning down your beach towel to your lounger, especially on a windy day.
While you’re not supposed to hang wet clothes on your balcony on a cruise ship, these clips do give you piece of mind that your clothes are much less likely to fly off the balcony if you are a bit naughty and break that rule.
9. Over-the-door organizer for extra storage.
Cruisers know that staterooms are not the biggest and most storage-friendly accommodations. Packing an over-the-door organizer to place over your bathroom door in your stateroom can give you some additional storage options. You can use them for anything you want – hair products, toiletries, makeup, shoes, small articles of clothing, etc.
10. Zip lock bags/phone-passport dry pouch.
I always pack extra zip lock bags when I travel. They’re great for packing wet clothes, liquids, shoes, fragile items and protect delicate items such as nylons from snagging. The dry pouch is perfect for keeping your phone and passport dry when leaving the ship.
These are some of my favorite tips when I’m packing for my cruise, but I always love to listen and learn from others what they find useful when packing for their cruise. Please feel free to leave your comments and share your best packing tips.
With all of the options in the cruise industry today, it can be overwhelming when it comes time to plan for your cruise. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when I took my first cruise I did very little research and booked it on my own. I knew I loved The Love Boat, and the TV show featured the Princess Cruise Line, so that’s what I booked. Don’t get me wrong, my first cruise was magical, and Princess is a fine cruise line, but it wasn’t necessarily the right fit for what I was looking for. Here are some important factors to consider when researching your cruise: What Cruise Line and Ship? You may think that a cruise is a cruise is a cruise, right? Wrong! Each cruise line targets different demographics with offerings that cater to that group of cruisers. Here are the questions you should ask yourself when considering which cruise line and which ship is right for you:
- Are you a family looking for a family-friendly ship?
- Are you a retired couple looking for a relaxed vibe?
- Are you a foodie looking for diverse culinary experiences?
- Are you an adrenaline junky looking for onboard thrills?
- Are you a solo traveler looking for a solo-friendly ship?
- Are you traveling with a group of friends looking for a party atmosphere?
- Do you want an over-the-top luxury experience?
- Do you want to be on a huge, medium or more intimate sized ship?
- Do you want a newly built ship or an older, more classic ship?
- Do you want a more formal experience, where dress codes at dinner are required, or do you want a more relaxed vibe and don’t want to worry about packing dressy clothes?
- Are you interested in trying multiple dining venues that specialize in offering different cuisines?
- Do you want to experience enrichment activities such as culinary classes, wine tastings, learning about the history/wildlife/local people of the destinations you will be visiting during your cruise?
- Do you want onboard adventure activities such as waterparks, surf simulators, zip lining, go carts at sea, rock climbing, etc.?
- Is theater and music important for your cruise experience?
- Are you looking for a great kid’s program to enroll your children in onboard?
- Are you a wine and/or beer connoisseur looking for wine and beer specialty lounges offering tastings?
- Are there activities that allow for meeting other passengers such as lounges for solo travelers, passenger games and trivia?
- Are you looking for a themed cruise (music, food and wine, Christian, Star Trek, etc.)?
What type of stateroom is best for you?
Each cruise ship offers several different types of staterooms, and you’ll need to think about what type of accommodation is right for you when planning your cruise. There are four main types of staterooms with various configurations and categories within each of these four types.
- Interior Staterooms. These are the smallest and most economical cabins that are good for those mindful of cost, and/or those who don’t plan to spend too much time in their stateroom other than sleeping.
- Ocean View Staterooms. These rooms are similar in size to interior staterooms, although some may be slightly larger, but as the name suggests, they feature a large window. This is a good option for those who do not want to shell out the extra cash for a balcony stateroom, but prefer to have some natural sunlight in their room
- Balcony/Verandah Staterooms. This is the most popular and available room type on most cruise ships. Prices are higher than interior staterooms. Having a private balcony (also called a verandah on some cruise lines) offers guests a place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the views and sounds of the ocean right from your own stateroom.
- Suite Staterooms. The most expensive cabin type on any ship, but for the additional cost you will get a larger stateroom with more square footage, and suites often come with additional perks that may include priority boarding, priority seating in dining and entertainment venues, and even free alcoholic beverages and WiFi, depending on the type of suite and/or individual cruise line offerings.
Ports of Call
One of the best parts of cruising is the opportunity to visit multiple destinations during your cruise. Are you a beach lover or do you enjoy visiting historical destinations with ancient architecture? When deciding where you want to go ask yourself what kind of vacation experience you’re looking for in terms of activities, as that can help you narrow down where you want to visit. You may already have an idea what part of the world you want to see during your cruise vacation (Alaska, Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, The Panama Canal, etc.). Let’s say you’re interested in cruising the Mediterranean…Did you know that there are several different itineraries to choose from in this region? It may be worth your time to invest in doing some research as to what itineraries are available that interest you the most. I know, there are a lot of considerations when choosing a cruise, but that’s half of the fun. It’s almost like putting together a puzzle, but the puzzle is your cruise, and you are piecing together all of the components to make it the most amazing cruise vacation of a lifetime. To make your first cruise, or any cruise for that matter, the very best experience it can be, do some research and find a good Travel Agent. The third and final blog in this series will focus on why Travel Agents should absolutely be a resource that you use to help plan, book and manage your cruise vacation.
Let me begin by telling you that I may be a bit biased writing this since I’ve been on several cruises on several different cruise lines. I’ll admit that ever since I was a wee young girl watching the 1970’s TV show “The Love Boat”, I’ve always wanted to take a cruise. At age 33 I finally took my first cruise and wow, was I hooked from then on. With that said, even if you didn’t grow up knowing that someday you would take a cruise, a cruise is a vacation that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Why you ask? Where do I begin…
Let’s face it, we all want to get the best value out of any purchase that we make, and that most certainly includes our vacation. Cruising offers great value to travelers because of its all-inclusive cost. What does that all-inclusive cost provide? A lot! Let’s start with the obvious – your stateroom is included in the cost. Most meals are also included. Some basic non-alcoholic drinks are included, such as tap water, milk, tea, coffee, lemonade and iced tea (this may vary by cruise line, and there are several types of beverage packages you can purchase). A variety of entertainment is also included. I think one of the biggest values of a cruise is that for one price you get to see multiple destinations that if priced out separately, would cost a lot more to visit.
One of the things I love most about a cruise is that you can do as little or as much on a cruise as you desire. There are endless activities to keep anyone on the go on a cruise ship. You can enjoy nightly entertainment that may include Broadway-style shows, musical acts, comedians, magicians, and you can even get involved as a participant or just be a spectator in one of the game shows that several cruises feature (always a favorite of mine). When not in port, you can try your luck at the casino since most ships have full casinos with slot machines and table games. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge of random facts or music intel, you can participate in many different trivia games around the ship (also a great way to meet and mingle with other passengers). For those who like to stay in shape, you can visit the gym, take a run or a walk with a fantastic view on the upper deck, and on some cruise ships you may even be able to play some basketball or do some rock climbing. Want to just relax while you’re onboard? No problem. Spend a day getting pampered at the spa or just finding a lounge chair or hammock for the afternoon to read a good book, sunbathe, swim and enjoy a soak in one of the many hot tubs.
And parents, don’t worry, there’s a ton of stuff to do for kids of all ages as well. Some of the bigger cruise ships nowadays are like floating waterparks and amusement parks offering up activities such as swishing down waterslides, surfing, kiddy pools, zip lining, bumper cars and mini golf, just to name a few. There’s a new ship debuting in 2020 that will even have the world’s first rollercoaster at sea. Most cruise lines have a kid’s club onboard broken out by age group. This is a great way for kids to stay active and have fun while getting the chance to hang out with other kids their own age, giving mom and dad some alone time to enjoy.
This may arguably be one of the most popular parts of any cruise. Today’s cruise ships offer several tempting dining choices all across the ship. I promise that you will never go hungry during your cruise. Most ships have a main dining room with multiple dinner courses offering up a variety of delicious cuisines to choose from. There are also more casual dining options like the buffet serving up breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the day. The main dining room and buffet are all included in the cost of your cruise, but if you want to try something different and pay a small upcharge, there are usually a handful of specialty dining restaurants where the menu and offerings are a bit higher quality with a theme such as a steak house, a French restaurant, an Italian Bistro or an Asian culinary experience.
Visit Different Ports of Call Stress Free
Traveling to multiple destinations during your vacation can be stressful, but another huge benefit to cruising is that you can visit several different countries while only having to unpack once and letting someone else do the “driving”. Imagine going to bed each night and waking up the next morning as your ship is quietly pulling into a new and beautiful port that is just waiting to be discovered. Each cruise line offers several different excursions in each port of call that you visit during your journey. How would you like to swim with dolphins in the Caribbean or take a cooking lesson in Sicily or learn and watch how crab fisherman catch crab on a real crab-fishing boat in Alaska? There is an excursion for virtually every level of interest ranging from relaxed, to educational, to high adventure.
Make New Friends & Lasting Memories
I don’t know what it is about a cruise, but without fail you always seem to meet interesting people that become friends well beyond your cruise vacation. On any given cruise you will meet interesting people from all parts of the globe. I love chatting with new people and learning about where they come from, what their cruise experience has been like and sharing laughs while making new memories together. There are people whom I’ve met on various cruises that I still connect with on Facebook and email.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture that cruising really does offer something for everyone. Cruising is all about options, so stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll dive into how to choose the right cruise for your vacation.