Welcome back blog readers,
Here is a recap from yesterday’s post, Cruising 101, Part 2.
- You’ve booked your flight, hotel stay the day BEFORE to cruise leaves the port.
- You’ve made your way on the ship and explore what it has to offer and where the buffet is located.
- You know about Drink Packages, Specialty Dining Packages, Excursions and Gratuities.
- You know to get cash from the slot machines to avoid more petty fees/service charges.
- You know to be aware of the time, any time changes due to time zones, and getting back to the ship on time to avoid being left behind.
- You know which aspects are “Inclusive” and where you can expect additional charges onboard.
First time cruisers may be unsure as to what to pack as we see many passengers that over pack and bring way too much stuff. Here are my tips and suggestions for packing a cruise to a warmer climate like the Caribbean (even in December) and to Alaska.
First the Caribbean:
- Clothes: Shorts, T-shirts, sun dresses, sleep wear, undergarments, socks, sandals/water shoes, dress shoes and comfortable walking shoes/sneakers, bathing suits/swim trunks, a fancy outfit/suit if you want to dress up for the Gala night, a light sweater as the theaters, dining areas tend to be cooler. Oh, and sunglasses. I tend to forget as I wear glasses with transitional lenses. If you are traveling from a much colder climate like Canada in December, then you will want a jacket to leave in and return in. Don’t worry about the scarf, gloves, clunky winter boots as they will take up too much space.
- Travel sized toiletries: toothbrush/tooth paste, floss, shampoo, conditioner, body wash is recommended (while most cruise lines do offer them in the bathroom, Royal Caribbean did not, that was a lesson learned). Any medications for you and your family; make sure the prescription label shows your name and bring enough to cover you for the length of the cruise. Hairbrush/comb, razors, sunscreen, deodorant, feminine products should you be expecting a visit from “Aunt Flo” on your vacation. If you want to bring makeup or jewelry, keep it to a minimum. Remember that you are on a cruise, you are a tourist that doesn’t want to attract attention from thieves/con artists/pick pockets at the ports with wearing flashy jewelry. All liquids should be placed in a ziplock bag. Hair dryers are available in your stateroom.
- Cameras, Binoculars, iPads, Tablets, Kindle readers or other e-book readers are nice to have, but completely optional. If you do bring them, make sure you bring the charger/power cord. As for your smartphone, keep them set to AIRPLANE mode to avoid ridiculous roaming charges (unless you have an international plan).
- Power strip, not to be confused with an extension cord. A power strip is a MUST HAVE as most staterooms lack enough outlets, especially if you are not traveling alone. There is typically one standard (120V) outlet and one European outlet in each stateroom.
- Walkie Talkies, if you are traveling as a group of with kids that can use them. Yes there is a phone in the staterooms to get in touch or leave a message to meet up. Kids are often having fun at the kids only area, they may lose track of time or find it easy to get lost on the huge ship. It’s possible that parents may lose track of time as they lay out on the sundeck having a few drinks. Totally optional, but worth considering if you’re not using an app or other means to stay in touch while onboard. Norwegian does have an app *$10 per user that acts as a messenger for you and your party as long as you have a smartphone or device that can use it.
- If you are travelling with small kids that still wear diapers/pull-ups you should look into the “Packages” that are offered, not only can you order strawberries and champagne to your room, but I’ve seen where you can have diapers sent to your room. Just one less thing to pack, considering how many you’d have to bring for the duration of the cruise, or incase you start running low.
Packing for Alaska: Pretty much the same except you’ll want warmer clothes and a windbreaker. We took our cruise at the end of April/early May, while the temperatures were averaging 50F-60F/10C-15C the Arctic air made it feel colder. The pools onboard were rarely used, the sundeck had plenty of seating as it was too cold to sit out for very long. What Alaska lacks in warmer temperature it makes up for in beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife.
On our first cruise, we over packed like many first time cruisers do. My husband and I each packed a full sized suitcase with our clothes, toiletries and to ensure we had extra space to bring home any souvenirs. In reality, we didn’t wear half of what we packed. There is laundry service onboard *for a fee, which is great to take advantage of by day 4 especially if you are traveling with kids. Honestly, we tend to wear the same 2 or 3 pairs of shorts mixed with the same 3 or 4 T-shirts throughout the cruise. Keep in mind that you will probably buy a few T-shirts or articles of clothing while you stop at the ports or browse the gift shop onboard.
The more luggage you bring means the more likely you are to be charged for your “Checked” bags (for larger suitcases) especially if they weigh more than 50 pounds. My only experience is with Air Canada, so please look into the airline that you are using to find out their fine print and what they will allow per passenger before charging extra.
My husband and I now travel with one full sized suitcase that we divide half for his stuff, half for mine. We each have one carry on, he brings his laptop and I pack an oversized “purse” that carries our passports, confirmations receipts for hotels, flights, cruise embarking details, cruise baggage tags and anything we might need like over the counter pain reliever, Pepto Bismol, hand sanitizer, tissue, earbuds for the flight. We never use the overhead bins to store our carry on, we stow them under the seat in front of us.
Here’s a tip for your carry on luggage: I know some of you don’t want to part with your carry on luggage and want to keep it with you. Carry on only what you absolutely need while you are in flight. Once you check your big luggage, you’ve cleared security and customs and you arrive at your gate chances are you will hear an announcement for passengers to voluntarily check their carry on bags. This doesn’t mean your laptops, your purses, your backpack. This means your carry-on travel suitcase with wheels, oversized duffle bags, or your luggage that is carrying your snorkel gear which will go directly on the plane for no extra charge.
Please for the love of god, take advantage of this if it applies to you. Your lap must be free/clear before take off and landing. This suggestion is made assuming that your flight is a DIRECT flight and you are not dealing with a connecting flight that departs in less than 90 minutes. If you have an immediate connecting flight, then I completely understand your situation.
While we are talking about airports, this scenario is something that happens when common sense is lacking. For first time fliers, please allow yourself to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. Why? Because every passenger has to clear Security and most have to also clear Customs after they’ve checked in, receive their boarding pass and checked their large suitcase. What if I have an early morning flight? Arrive at least 2 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. What if I have a red-eye flight? Arrive at least 2 hours before your flight is schedule to leave.
If you have never had to clear security at an airport, here’s what you need to know.
- Your shoes have to come off (in most cases). So wear something that can easily be slipped on/off.
- Your belt has to be removed. Better to not wear one or suspenders either for that matter.
- You will go through a metal detector, so don’t arrive with your entire jewelry collection on, as everything will have to be removed, scanned through the x-ray and you’re just holding up the line as you put it all back on. Wedding rings are fine, simple stud earrings are fine. Don’t forget about toe rings, belly button rings, tongue rings, wear plastic ones until you arrive at your destination to avoid an uncomfortable pat down.
- Cell phones, keys, wallets, loose change, watches, everything in your pockets has to come out, put in a bin to be scanned through the x-ray. Prepare for this while you are waiting in line, or better yet, wear pants without pockets.
- Your jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts and hats need to be taken off and put in a bin to be scanned. While you’re in line place all of the above items in the pockets of your jacket and send it through together.
- Laptops and C-Pap machines go through the scanner separately and out of the bag/packaging.
- Everyone has to be processed, including infants, toddlers in strollers, people in wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
- Food and Drinks are not permitted through security, including baby food, snacks, open packages. Chances are you will be asked to consume it before going through; otherwise the food/drink will be thrown out. Not to worry, once you clear security there are many food options available as you walk to your gate.
- Keep your boarding pass and passport accessible as you will need both at this time. Have your passport ready to open on your picture page.
- Be patient when you are coming up to the bins/emptying your pockets. Wait for the person in front of you to finish taking their things off and loading the bins. If you are traveling together, that is fine, you can share a bin for your shoes, jackets, hats. What I mean is, don’t jump in front of a stranger and push a bin of your things through before the person ahead of you is finished pushing their stuff through. Let them finish before snatching bins for your stuff. For one thing, it’s RUDE and two, it may look suspicious to the security crew as you jump ahead while the person in front of you has yet to be fully processed and cleared. We all want to get through as quickly as possible, these tips will assist in getting you processed efficiently.
- While this tip has nothing to do with airport security, it’s about consideration. Please refrain from bathing in perfume/cologne or wearing heavy scented lotions before arriving to the airport. Yes, I know you want to smell great, but the truth is, nobody wants to smell you. You don’t know who you’re sitting in front of, behind of or may share a row with. Heavy scents can trigger a migraine which I can’t imagine is fun to deal with on a flight when you can’t escape the smell. Just be considerate, wear your perfume/cologne once you get to your destination.
As far as packing goes, try packing as light as you can if at all possible. If you and your spouse can share one full-sized suitcase and have minimal carry-on, great! If you require more than that, that’s okay too. You should be able to store a full sized suitcase under the bed in your stateroom and maybe another full-sized in the armoire/closet. Just keep in mind that the size of the average stateroom is equivalent to a 9′ x 9′ bedroom furnished like a studio apartment with an ensuite bathroom, so space really is limited when it comes to larger/bulky items.
There are baggage carts available at the airports and cruise ports to help carry your multiple bags. Don’t forget to tip the baggage porters, shuttle drivers, taxi drivers, uber drivers and your room attendant on the last day of the cruise.
This is all that I have time for today. I feel that is more to share about cruising to help you with deciding whether or not a cruise is the best way to spend your vacation.
If you’ve found my tips to be helpful in making your decision, please leave a comment and let me know. If I’ve mentioned something that doesn’t make sense or you have any questions, please inquire by leaving a comment and I’ll do my best to clarify or answer your concern. 🙂