Whether you are embarking on your first cruise or have cruised multiple times…you can always learn new tips and tricks from other cruisers. Here are some of my tips!
Packing Beyond Clothes and Toiletries
While you don’t want to over pack, being on a cruise ship is similar to being in a resort. You are a captive audience so little items like Qtips, Socks, or Advil will be very pricey. I always pack a “just in case” medicine kit with Advil, Cold/Allergy meds, Antacids, band aids, alcohol wipes, ect. This takes up a small amount of space, but if you need any of these items you will be so glad you have them.
Bring a Power Strip, most cabins have only 1 or 2 outlets in a room, newer ships are adding USB ports but we find a combo Power Strip/USB is lifesaver for charging phones, laptops, cameras, flat irons, fitbit charging…you get the idea!!
Bring a Pop Up Hamper, these take very little room in your luggage and our a nice place to gather dirty laundry especially on longer cruises 7 days or more.
If you are travelling with children or don’t plan to carry a purse (I never do) I also suggest bringing a lanyard. You can buy these on the ships but typically costlier option and you can get a 4 pack of lanyards with cruise luggage tags for less than $15 on Amazon.
Magnetic hooks or Command hooks for your cabin walls are nice to have as well for hanging up hats, swimsuit cover ups, sunglasses, and key cards on lanyards.
What to Expect
You can expect boarding (embarkation day) to be a bit hectic and even exhausting. When you arrive at your cruise terminal you typically start by unloading your luggage off to a porter who will make sure it’s tagged and loaded onto the ship. Depending on how much luggage you have, I recommend tipping $10-$20. I highly recommend having at least one carry on bag (similar in size to what you would put in the overhead bin on an airplane and ideally with wheels for easy maneuvering). You may not get your luggage to your stateroom until later in the evening the first day, so in this carry on I typically pack:
Bathing Suits, Medicines, Makeup, Power Strip, Flip Flops, Shorts/T-Shirt, and anything else I might want to change into or need before that evening. Most cruise lines will provide basic soap and shampoo (similar to hotel rooms). **Do not pack your passports or cruise documents – you will need these at check in to board the ship**
During check in you will be issued a key card, keep this in your hand since you will need it as you board the actual ship (security will scan you in) this card is also what you will use to charge any on board expenses and to access your room. Also, be ready to smile as security will take a your picture as you board. Some cruise lines will give you a boarding pass and your room keys are outside your cabin, but typically you will get your key card when you check in.
With carry on in hand you then proceed into the terminal to check in, this is where you will likely wait in very long lines, but they do typically move quickly. Once you are through the check in process you will typically follow another line of passengers up an escalator or two to the gangway and then onto the ship.
Once on the ship proceed to your cabin and drop your things, you usually won’t have a lot of time to do much before the mandatory lifeboat drill. This is the worst part of the cruise experience for me, but it’s a must and once it’s done I feel like vacation actually gets started! The lifeboat drill varies by cruise line and ship, but typically you will report to your muster station in a lounge or on the deck, wait for everyone to show up, listen through the rather boring safety briefing, and lastly head back out with 3000-4000 of your new friends all heading in the same direction to watch the ship sail away.
The buffet is almost always located on the Lido deck on most ships, and it’s usually open until 3pm to 3:30pm on embarkation day. IT IS BUSY! This is the most crowded this area will be since the majority of guests will be hungry and ready to eat once on board.
My best advice, just be patient on embarkation day. The rest of the cruise typically goes very smoothly from here and even on a completely booked ship they don’t “feel” crowded once you set sail and everyone isn’t in the same area at the same time.