The boys and I took our first cruise. Although I was skeptical (stuck on a ship for a week, really???) I actually enjoyed it. A LOT!!! It’s a great vacay to enjoy with the family. Yes, that’s possible.
Lucky for us we live near a port so it was super easy getting there. I had no idea what to expect or pack in preparation for embarkment. Here’s some cruise tips for 1st timers and things I’d definitely do again:
1. Splurge on a window cabin: Cabin rooms are already tiny. Think college dorm room. The window makes it feel less claustrophobic. The kids enjoyed looking out the window and it also gives you a sense of morning, day & night.
2. Take a watch: In the world of mobile devices we’ve grown dependent on smart phones to also function as a time piece. When you’re traveling the seas and coasting through various times zones you can’t depend on your mobile clock. The ship operates on “ship time” which will most likely differ from the time on your phone to the corresponding GPS location. Break out the ole Timex and if you need an alarm clock for the AM, bring a small one as well.
3. Power strip: Our cabin had only ONE outlet (1st world problems). Although it was actually kinda nice to not have a signal on my phone and be able to ditch it for a few days I like keeping everything charged. If you’re a family who needs to re-carge a lot of devices a power strip will help.
4. Buy the fast pass: We cruised with Carnival and they offer something called “Faster To The Fun“. When traveling with kids, it’s 50 bucks WELL SPENT!!! It gave us priority dinner reservations, VIP line for Guest Services, but most importantly a fast pass to boarding the ship early and priority debarkation. On big ships the lines can be no joke and I hate waiting especially with my kids. We zipped through customs and were the first ones on/off the ship every time. Also, our bags were delivered immediately when we got on/off the ship.
5. Pack your carryon wisely: For cruises that don’t offer priority baggage delivery it can take hours after you board for your luggage to arrive. Make sure you have essentials with you in a carry on especially in the event of lost luggage. Our ship allowed us to bring bottled water so we had 1 bag filled with snacks, water, and juice boxes. Having an empty suitcase going home worked great for all the souvenirs we purchased on the cruise.
6. It gets cold!!!!: Sure we were traveling to Mexico, but being on the water can get chilly. Unless you want to fork over big bucks for a “What Happens On A Cruise, Stays On A Cruise” sweatshirt that you’ll never wear again, make sure to bring a jacket and some sweats. If you’re dressing up, throw in a shawl/pashmina for the cool nights.
7. Take a nice outfit: All cruise line dress codes vary but everyone does a formal night for dinner. Some people go all out with prom attire (suits/tux/gowns). Ours was a little more relaxed with Carnival but it’s kind of fun to get fancy for 1 night. Suit and ties worked nicely for men, nice dress for women, slacks and collared shirt w/jacket for the kids.
8. Buy a photo: Throughout the cruise photographers will photograph you doing goofy things. They go gaga on formal night with various backdrops and poses. It’s like Olan Mills on steroids. Yes, the photo backgrounds are cheesy but it’s just part of doing on a cruise. Buying a cruise photo is as traditional as eating peanuts at a ball game, Mickey ears at Disneyland. Plus it’s a great keepsake.
9. Bring an organizer: Cabins are small and space is limited. The over the door shoe organizers work great for all your knick knacks, especially on a long cruise. Use the cabin safe for valuables and the organizer comes in handy for your everyday necessities.
10. Bathroom items: Don’t forget your personal toiletries. The bathroom is reminiscent of a porta potty shower. We had newly renovated facilities but it still felt icky. Don’t forget a good air freshener/deodorizer. It smells like an old shower curtain in the louve.
11. Invest in nausea stuff: One of my biggest cruise fears was being sick. I made sure we had Dramamine, anti-nausea meds, and the Sea Band. None of us experienced any nausea so I’d highly recommend being prepared. Nothing like getting sea sick on a ship.
12. Try something new: The great part about a cruise is pretty much everything on the ship is included when it comes to food & entertainment. Step outside of your box…. Why not? You paid for it!!! We watched Broadway style shows, comedy club, played BINGO, learned to Salsa, ate all kinds of foods we’ve never had, etc…exploring new activities really enhanced our experience.