Now That the Clothes are Packed…What Else?
Before our first cruise, I spent HOURS reading lists online of what to pack. We bought, packed and took many of those suggested items….and came home having used about HALF of them. This list is my opinions of the “Must Takes”, the “Might Need Depending on Personal Needs/Ports of Call” and the “It’s Absolutely Ridiculous to Take” I hope it helps others to NOT travel as we did on our first cruise…with WAY TOO MUCH stuff!!! But before I get to that….
- Cell phone: It’s important to know that your cell phone will constantly ‘ping’ for a connection if it is turned on – and that could surprise you with some rather hefty charges on your next bill. Unless you have an international plan (some carriers allow you to add this for just 1 month) data needs to be turned off (or turn on airplane mode) while on the ship OR in most ports. Note: Incoming texts will incur charges too.
- Computers: Ships offer internet minutes packages, however, the connections are extremely slow and unreliable…and quite expensive (charged by the minute). Remember, you’re in the middle of the ocean…internet connection at all is an incredible thing. To expect it to be fast and consistent is expecting a mite too much. If you MUST connect, find a place in port with free Wi-Fi…or “wi-fi with food purchase”. 🙂 Crew members will be your best source of information for finding free or cheap internet in port.
- Carnival has recently begun offering a “Social” package for $5/day. We didn’t purchase it. but I believe it provides Facebook, Twitter, etc…. through apps.
- Princess now offers Princess@Sea that allows access to ship-related info (schedules, menus, etc…) AND texting among other passengers on board – ALL WHILE IN AIRPLANE MODE. I would expect other cruise lines to follow suit with something similar very soon.
- Some take their laptops/tablets JUST to download photos and clear memory cards. I opt to just purchase another memory card. Added Bonus: That memory card will go on many vacations…and I don’t have to deal with a computer through airport security. 🙂
- For the ‘quickest’ email (since time is money) write and save emails in your word processing program then copy/paste when you get the online connection. Expect connections to be VERY slow….and for it to take 5-10 min. to send an email.
Must Take List
- photo ID (drivers lic)
- cruise documents
- Tickets/confirmation for pre-purchased excursions or items purchased from the cruise line ahead of time.
- Possibly a Vaccination certificate or VISA (Depends on cruise itinerary.) Your cruise line will let you know if your itinerary requires these.
JUST NOTE: If you forget your passport/ID, (or other required documents) you’re NOT going on that cruise!!!! MAKE CERTAIN (double check, triple check…then check again) THAT THEY ARE IN YOUR CARRY ON. Do NOT pack them in your checked luggage then give that luggage to the porter…. If you do, instead of waving ‘bye’ ON the ship, you’ll be waving ‘bye’ TO the ship. 😦
I have a small coupon organizer I use for all vacations. (Purchased at Dollar Tree for $1) I label the compartments as needed for that trip and it keeps everything compact, organized and easy to locate.
→ A Word about Passports. Some cruise line websites say that passports are optional….that your birth certificate will work just fine. That’s true AS LONG AS you don’t run into any problems. However, if you have to travel on your own (miss the ship in a port, are transported for medical reasons, etc..) you will NOT be able to board an aircraft in a foreign country without the passport. I highly recommend getting one.
One Exception: Military personnel can travel with their Military ID card and a birth certificate, however, their family members/traveling companions can not.
As a security safeguard, scan the information page of your passport and email it to yourself (to a web based email) This makes it available to you from any computer if the hard copy is lost or inaccessible. Some suggest taking a picture on your phone for the same purpose… This is NOT a good idea as a lost or stolen phone could create some SERIOUS issues.
Lastly, carry your passport close to your body…in an RFID blocking sleeve or purse/backpack/wallet. Passports are now a ‘hot’ item on the black market.
- COPIES: Make a copy of all important documents -ID, front/back of credit cards with the 1-800 number, and your passport (if not emailing it to yourself). Keep these in a secure place and separate from the originals.
- ….and speaking of credit cards….Limit the number of card(s) you take- one or two…perhaps 3 at most. Leave the rest of your cards at home. If you are a victim of a pickpocket or other crime, you don’t want to have to cancel 10 cards! My husband and I each carry 1 credit card – from different accounts. If one wallet is lost or stolen and we have to cancel that card, we still have one we can use. If we are both carrying the same card account/number, cancelling would leave us with nothing to use.
- Duct Tape Why? If you’ve read my blog, you know that I take duct tape on every trip, and it’s gotten us out of more than one bind. It has multiple ‘rescue’ uses and we rarely come home from a trip without using it for something. 🙂 Don’t take the whole roll. Roll a few feet around a pencil stub, hairspray bottle, or anything else that works. 🙂
- Medications/First Aid – Take anything you think you might need….in small travel size bottles. I suggest: pain relievers (Tylenol, Advil etc…), antihistamine, antacid, stool softener (eating habits change on cruises), Pepto Bismol, antibiotic ointment and band aids, possibly cortisone creme. These items are very expensive on the ship, and supplies may be limited… Don’t forget your prescription meds in the ORIGINAL bottles.
- Sea-sickness medication. Take 2-3 options, especially if supplying a family. Different remedies work for different people. Even if you don’t think you’ll need this, bring it anyway. This is one of those ‘just in case’ items that I DO recommend. 🙂 Most cruise lines will distribute these pills free, however, it requires a trip down to the medical facility….when you’re not feeling well….and it just might bring you in contact with germs you’d rather avoid. The generic forms are very inexpensive at Walmart and having them with you is MUCH more convenient. 🙂
- $1 bills – for tipping. Tips are customary for porters, drivers/luggage handlers at the terminal, excursion tour guides, room service waitstaff. You are in control of how many of these services you use…Bring the amount of ‘tip money’ you need for the services you plan to utilize. We usually take $15-$20 because we are willing to take care of ourselves most of the time and rarely order room service….we use it for tour guides mostly.
- Air Freshener – In addition to the obvious reasons, 🙂 ships sometimes have issues with plumbing/toilets that causes unpleasant odors. A little scent can go a long way to making everyone more comfortable. You may not need it…but if you do, you’ll THANK ME for telling you to bring it. Get a travel size at the Dollar Store…for $1.
- Brita water bottle (the one with the filter in the lid) I’m an avid water drinker and honestly, there is NO time when it’s MORE necessary than when you’re eating the ‘extra’ food on a cruise. However, the tap water on the ship tastes just like you would expect water that’s stored in a tank to taste. (Just fyi, it’s filtered/treated water and perfectly safe.) The Brita bottles work VERY well.
Ear plugs: If you’ve chosen your cabin carefully, you may not need these. However, sometimes, you may not know you have a bad location until you’re on board and it’s too late…. For those situations, a pair of ear plugs really comes in handy. These from the Dollar Tree come with a storage container….for $1!
- Medical information/List of prescription medications: This is important for anyone with medical issues, but ESPECIALLY for those traveling alone. A basic medical history and list of medications may be useful to medical personnel on board should you have a medical emergency. A Word About Insurance: Chances are, your medical insurance won’t cover you while out of the country, (That’s another ‘plug’ for travel insurance) but it doesn’t hurt to bring your card in case you are transported home for medical care. Also be aware that Medicare does NOT work outside the country.
- Emergency numbers at home. Even if you have these numbers memorized, it’s a good idea to list them and put them with your passport/important documents in case someone ELSE needs to access them. (if you are incapacitated) Make sure you have ICE #(s) in your phone. (In Case of Emergency)
- Journal/notebook & pen/pencil – I bring a small spiral notebook (3×5) for notes, etc…and for the contact info of the cruise line liason in each port. (This name will be listed in the cruise line newsletter each day) and is the person to contact if you have any problems in port. Take this contact info into port each day.
- Binoculars: I can’t imagine very many cruise destinations where I wouldn’t want these….
Might Need…..YOU Decide
- Power strip or one of those plugs that turns one outlet into 3 – Outlets are VERY limited in cruise ship cabins. (1-2) If you have multiple items requiring electricity, this will come in handy. 🙂 NOTE: Celebrity and Princess prohibit surge protectors and will confiscate them at check in. As far as I know, cruise lines still allow the multi-plug ‘thing’.
Night light – Interior cabins, especially, are completely dark when the lights are out. Outside cabins may have a little light filtering in from the ship exterior lights…and possibly the moon… but it’s not much. 🙂 Note: There are no street lights on the ocean. 🙂 🙂
- Alarm clock (Battery operated – one that doesn’t require an outlet) Cruise ship cabins do not have clocks. While cell phones may work as an alarm, they don’t make very good room clocks. Passengers in interior cabins especially may need an alarm on port days with no ‘morning light’
to wake up with. Personal preference is the reason this is on the “might need’ list.
- Highlighter: I use these to highlight activities in the newsletter that interest us. This is particularly helpful when cruising with multiple family members who want to do different things. Each night, we sit down and highlight everyone’s choices with different colors. That makes it easier to locate each other during the day – or plan our ‘together’ times.
- A few Post-It Notes: (Remember when we used to communicate with one another with pen and paper???) 🙂 Post It notes are useful for leaving notes for your cabin steward or for others in your party (such as teens). Awww… Life without the cell phone…. 🙂 🙂
- Reading material
- Items Needed in Ports of Call – Consider Guidebooks? Maps? Foreign Language Dictionary? Snorkel gear? (equipment can be rented, BUT I bring my own mouth piece) Underwater camera(s)? Children’s water floaties or sand toys (Purchase these at the Dollar Store, then leave them with local children in port rather than toting them back home) Coats/jackets/gloves/scarves for “northern” destinations?
- Lanyard for the ship ‘ID card’. This may kind of SCREAM “Tourist” but for those who like the idea…. It could be a good idea for children during debarkation…so they keep track of their card.
- Insect repellant (with DEET): depending on your ports. (Definitely Alaska)
- Over the Door Shoe Holder: Cruise lines are starting to prohibit these…(Disney will actually confiscate them and charge you for damages…) but if your cruiseline allows it, it’s VERY helpful in cabins with 3 – 4 people. It’s probably not necessary in cabins of only 2
- Insulated travel mug with lid. I like hot tea…but don’t like the geno-estrogens in the Styrofoam cups. The insulated mug is my solution – In fact, I’m taking a Yeti knock-off on our Alaskan cruise. (My husband doesn’t think taking our real Yeti’s is wise….so we’re buying cheaper look-alikes) On warmer itineraries, however, these are almost more trouble than they’re worth as I have to carry it around when empty…or make a return stop at the stateroom. That’s the reason it’s on the ‘Might” list. 🙂
- Toilet seat covers – This really depends on your itinerary/ports.
- Wristwatch Cell phones will sync with local time – which may or may not be the same as ‘ship time’. Ships leave port on SHIP TIME. Bring and set your wristwatch to ‘ship time’ so you don’t miss the ship on port days. 🙂
- Swimmer’s Ear product – (if traveling with children who are prone to this) All meds are expensive on the ship.
- Laundry pods – if you plan to do laundry. These are very expensive on board. Note: Not all cruise lines or ships have self serve laundry. (Royal Caribbean does not) Call your cruise line to find out about your ship.
- Clothespins or Clips of some kind (I usually bring 4-6) Clothespins, binder clips, etc…. These have multiple uses. I’ve used them to clip swimsuits to the clothesline in the bathtub or to the chairs on the balcony –or to hold curtains closed if the window opens to the deck or if cruising to Alaska in June when there is 18-20 hrs of daylight….or to keep the shower curtain closed…or hanging properly. There’s just so many uses. 🙂
- Extra bag folded up in your suitcase – a small lightweight bag is nice to take into port for all those things you need or buy OR to carry towel, sunglasses, book, etc… around the ship. It can also help you to get off the ship at the end of your cruise if you ‘over-buy’. 🙂 These are cheap bags I found at Dollar Tree….for $1. I don’t worry if they get dirty or covered in sand…and I like the idea of getting a new one for each cruise…. I don’t feel guilty if I’ve paid $1 for it. 🙂
- Pre-packaged foods for the ports: (peanut butter-n-crackers, fruit rollups, etc…) It may seem strange to bring food when embarking onto a FOOD BARGE, but pre-packaged items are the ONLY food that can be taken off the ship into port. If you have a medical issue that requires food at regular intervals or with medications, bring a few pre-packaged items. NOTE: Many countries have VERY strict laws about bringing ‘open’ food or produce into their country. (and the cruise lines take this extremely seriously.) The person defying this law may find themselves in a LOT of trouble.
- Extra zip ties: I use these on our suitcase when we disembark. At disembarkation, you have a choice of either carrying your own bags off the ship (Rather cumbersome, crowded and difficult) or putting your luggage outside your cabin the night before to be stored then unloaded at the port. Zip ties offer security if you don’t have luggage locks. You can use these at embarkation too, but realize you will need a way to cut them to unpack. A cabin steward may be able to do that, but you may have to wait until he/she is able to.
(I include this for laughs more than anything.) There are online lists who suggest these things….REALLY. Read and Laugh, but don’t think I’m suggesting anything here…. 🙂
- Blender (yes, someone suggested this…. )
- Bubble wrap for souvenirs! This is just NOT necessary, Your suitcase is full of clothes…Wrap any breakable souvenirs in them…or inside shoes if the item needs more protection. You can also carry items off the ship in your carry on. 🙂 🙂
- Walkie talkies; It sounds like a good idea for communicating with members of your party on the ship, right? However, the reality is that these typically have a very short range…500 feet…4-5 decks maximum… so they aren’t very reliable with today’s HUGE ships. If you have the really expensive ones, they don’t have that static noise…but the cheaper brands can be really irritating to other passengers.
- Windsock for your balcony. Honestly, there is no need to bring ‘decorations’. You’re there to sail, swim, explore, sight see, shop, tour, sleep 🙂 enjoy, relax, meet new friends….not decorate!
- Matches or a lighter to eliminate odors in the bathroom. OK, Think About This….open flame….on a ship….middle of the ocean. Folks DON’T DO THIS!!!! If odors are a concern, bring a small air freshener.
- Part 1: Finding Bargains/ Booking Your Cruise
- Part 2: Your Cruise is Booked, Now What?
- Part 3: Embarkation and ‘First’ Tips
- Part 4: Saving Money Once Onboard
- Part 5: Clothes and Personal Items to Pack
- Dollar Store ‘Finds’ Specifically For Cruises