(Or, what I wish I’d known before I went on the cruise)
- I felt like the new kid at camp … whose mom hadn’t packed the “right” underpants! It was certainly a learning experience, and we’d feel more comfortable about what to bring now that we’ve been once if we ever chose to go again (unlikely at this point). So, to help myself and possibly others who stumble along this post, here are my tips for cruising – what to pack for a cruise and what you can leave behind. Add your suggestions and additions in the comments. And as always I’m sure things vary by cruise line and trip length.
- You don’t need to bring a lot of water – even if you don’t get the unlimited soda option (which you shouldn’t, for health reasons alone). Bring a reusable bottle, like a Nalgene, and refill it on the ship. There are plenty of water stations. If you prefer bottled you can bring up to 12 per person. We brought the max and didn’t drink it all – plus it was heavy and limited what we could pack in our large suitcase on the plane (it necessitated a swap of clothes for water between the big and small suitcases because you had to hand carry the water on the ship, but had to check the water on the plane). They also give you ice in the room every night, which melted to make drinkable water quickly. If we’d brought non-water drinks (also allowed, up to a 12 per person limit), the ice would have been a great way to drink those.
- Bring a reusable coffee mug – likewise you can keep refilling it at the coffee stations and have hot coffee with you in your room and/or poolside without worrying about breaking a ceramic mug. Maybe bring a baggie of dishwashing soap to clean it in the bathroom sink.
- If you hate washing your hands with a bar of soap like I do, bring a small bottle of liquid soap. Even a 99 cent drug store version would have been better than the psychological ick factor of lathering up with a wet slimy slab of soap, no matter how fancy it might have been. I persevered though. This might be especially important if you have kids – anything to encourage them to wash their hands, especially on the ship, would be a good investment.
- DO bring some nicer clothes – one or two outfits. We didn’t, so we didn’t have the option of getting dressed up to go to the special dinners, including lobster night. I’m sure they would have let us dine in our shorts, but they were so adamant about the evening’s ELEGANT dress code … and so many people were in ball gowns … that we just ate at the buffet on most nights. Bring several shoe options. A lot of people wore heels, although I’m not sure I’d feel safe walking in heels, especially on the decks.
- Bring at least one warm outfit – like a sweatshirt and jeans. The theater and dining rooms are kept very cold. Some people were wrapping up in the beach towels, but I just made do (due?) with my pashmina wrap.
- Bring more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. I’m glad I did, even though we didn’t even break into the second bottle. We were able to stave off any sunburn. We slathered it on before we got dressed on the ship/in our cabin and then reapplied frequently throughout the day.
- Bring a travel alarm clock. The room does not include any type of clock. Your cell phones won’t work because they’ll automatically update to local time (in our case all central time ports), and you want to stay on ship time at all costs. Avoid confusion and having to set up a wakeup call and leap out of bed when the phone rings.
- You don’t need to bring beach towels. They will be provided for you – and every time you leave a wet/dirty towel, there will be a fresh one in its place when you return. Not exactly worth $10/day, but getting there.
- Bring a small umbrella. Maybe that will ensure that it won’t rain. We got caught in a rain storm in Cozumel. Wasn’t a big deal because we were in our suits and planned to get wet that day anyway, but still not pleasant to not have an umbrella – and I was surprised they weren’t selling them!
- The shopping seminars are just advertisements for stores that have paid Carnival boatloads of money to bring boatloads of people in the door. Don’t waste your time.
- Similarly, the “limited” watch sale on the last full day is baloney. There were not limited quantities, and I ended up buying three watch sets because I was in the crush and figured since I had to elbow and fight to get three I liked I was surely going to buy them. Of course when we walked by 3 hours later, there was no crowd and plenty of choices, including the three I selected. Really not the way to build trust with repeat customers, in my humble opinion.
- Bring ear plugs, in case you’re in a noisy room or are a light sleeper. Sometimes at the pool they can be useful too – hello, boozing 20-somethings in the hot tub!
- Also be sure to bring empty plastic bags. They’re good for any wet stuff you have to pack on the way home. This is a kind of no brainer, always pack kind of thing. But worth mentioning, I think!
Things that could be better (or ideas for Carnival)
- Communication – in advance, including packing, and on the ship
- Weather reports overlayed with our position map
- Put clocks in the room, or at the VERY least, be clear up front that clocks are not provided
- Provide clarity on the length of time in the ports
- Better organization in terms of excursions (although know lots of moving parts)
- SPELL CHECK the “Daily Fun Times” and other signage. One day’s itinerary had the restaurant Emile’s spelled as Emilie’s.
- Digital photography should be all digital – let people review their images on screens. The initial investment might be more than printing them, but environmentally it would be better AND you could probably sell more pictures – I don’t want a print photo of Shawn and me in front of a random scenic background, but I might be inclined to pay a few bucks to get it for my Facebook page/blog. Could sell branded Carnival Also on some of the photos I’d like to do a little Photoshop work – hello hairy gorilla man in the background!
- Encourage social media … internet use was so expensive, so I guess that’s part of it, but they didn’t even ask people to post photos of the cruise/stay in touch via a social network – be it a Facebook fan page or their own network. I think that’s a real missed opportunity, especially among the teenagers on board.
- Better service – I could be at the pool for hours and not be offered a drink. The wait staffers were slow and ineffectual, probably mostly because their huge gratuities are guaranteed.
(recites, as if to memorize: )
"Don't need to bring a lot of water" (on ocean cruise)
(masters the phrase)
... FOR the LOVE!
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