So as you may have already read in an old blog post, my husband, the boys, my mom and I went on a 7 day cruise to the Bahamas May 2014 and we are going on another one this year already. Although I have a few posts that show what to pack I did not have a detailed list and I received many emails of readers requesting an actual list of things we took. This is based on my personal experience, I hope it helps you if you ever are interested to go on a cruise.
Reasons why 75% of first time cruisers go back.
At first hand the total amount of a 7 plus day cruise may seem expensive, but trust me, is not. Once you take that number and divide it by the amount of people that will go and then divide that total by the amount of days you and your family will stay, you will be surprised to find out that that amount is usually less than $170 per person, per night and this is a is great deal. Look at it this way, a cruise offers you 5 star lodging, all the meals & snacks, 24 hours room service, pools, jacuzzis, BBQs, spas, the opportunity to visit different countries, “Broadway” shows every single night, mini-golf course, basketball court, bowling, karaoke, game nights, bingo nights, kids & teenager activities, comedy clubs, nightclubs, bars, cafes and fine dining, etc., in one place..trust when I tell you it’s worth every cent!.
What to take on a cruise
–Gum or mints: you will not find gum on a cruise
–Snacks: purchasing snacks can be pricey onboard, bring yours and your kid’s favorites. I brought Ritz, Cheezet crackers, cookies, cashews and peanuts. I also brought lemons and honey in case my boys caught a cold; this is because I don’t give them anything else when they have a cold.
– Zipper plastic bags: they are great to store snacks on the go and much more.
– Clothes pins & extra hangers: we had a balcony stateroom and the clothes pins helped tremendously because at the end of each day I would hang our bathing suits and by morning time, they were super dry. Of course the bathrooms have a pull out clothes string but the clothes take too long to dry because it’s indoor.
– Power strip: usually stateroom have only one or two electric outlets.
– Flashlight: of course you can use a flashlight app on your phone, but you never know.
– Bug repellent: At night when you go out on the deck and/or to the islands, there are bugs and dangerous mosquitoes as well, so don’t forget this.
– Shower cap & Sponge: I use a sponge in the shower because it comes in very handy to have one instead of just using my hands to bathe. My stateroom did not offer shower caps, so I brought one. I also brought a suction hook to hold the sponges.
– Air fresheners sprays: let’s face it, more than one person per stateroom and not having a spray is not cool!. I brought one and my handy-handy matches. Matches are the best odor killer ever!
– Highlighter: yes, that’s what I said. Every evening, the cruise’s next day activities itinerary will be left in our stateroom. My husband and I would go over it and highlight the activities we wanted to do the next day.
– Binoculars: this is a must!, before sundown you may be surprise of how many dolphins and fish jump in the ocean and binoculars helps a lot to enjoy this up close!
– Fanny pack or lanyard: I love my handy-dandy fanny pack and it was a true life saver. I did not want to use the stateroom’s safe for our passports, money, ID’s and other small items of importance, so all these were with us at all times in the fanny pack and your hands are free of carrying a purse. The fanny pack was very spacious.
– Walkie talkies: if your group is big and the rooms are next to each other, walkie talkies are a great and fun way to reach each other. Also, to know where you teenagers are!.
– Hand sanitizers: they are not cheap on board, so just take one to have while you are off the ship.
– Corkscrew: some ships charge you to open wine bottles so open them yourself!
– Sewing kit: you never know when you may need it
– Dollar bills: for tips on board.
– Disinfecting Wipes: Yes the rooms are clean but you need to take precautions by wiping door knobs and all surfaces before you start touching them. Do this once you enter your room the first day of the trip.
– Baby wipes: for your personal use in the bathrooms and of course, your kids.
– Medicine: These were all we took. To this add any medication or vitamins you may need. The sea bands and the dramamine really worked for the motions sickness and nausea.
Tips (not in any specific order)
– Make sure you go online or request with the cruise, a deck plan, it helps tremendously to know where everything is before getting on the ship.
– Make copies of your passports and ID’s to take with you in case you lose yours, the cruise can help you but they will need these numbers.
– Be aware of the toilets!, when flushed they have a very loud noise, so dont get scared!
– Make an interactive list of everything you will need to take and stick to it!
– Check the weather of your destination and and pack accordingly.
– Do not get a room below the pool, nightclubs or the casino, your nights will be full of the non-stop noise. Also, the lower the level of your room, the more you will feel the motion of the cruise, so bring ear plugs. Also, remember before booking that the aft is the back of the ship and in the aft is where the engines of the ship are so expect vibrating if your room in this part of the ship.
– If you are a first time cruiser, be sure to bring something you can stick on your door, something that can distinguish your door from the sooo many doors on your floor.
– Do not use the ship’s internet, is soooo slow and is not free! and remember this is a great way to disconnect yourself from the phone-table maddness. Connect with your loved ones!
– Do not attempt to sneak alcohol on board, it’s not worth it to get in trouble for. Cruises allow you to bring 1 wine bottle, 1 pack of soda or water per person. Now, if you really want to drink, then take advantage of the cruises drink all you want card; costs per person vary per cruise but you can drink all you want for the entire cruise or the soda card as well that allows you to drink as much soda as you want.
– While you are on board you will not use your debit/credit cards, your method of payment is your room card so keep all receipts, this way you can keep track of how much you have spent daily.
– Plan your time well. Usually ships leave at 4:00 pm (at least in NY & NJ) but do not get caught up on getting there late. We were on the pier at 7:30 am!, we were the second family to arrive and it made a huge difference!!. We were the second ones to go through security and to board. The advantages of boarding early are plenty; you can take pictures, videos and explore the ship without having people around. Cruises always have a buffet for the cruisers ready, so if you are late you will miss it.
– Mandatory Boat Drill: do not miss this, I saw many people not caring for this and this is wrong!, you have to know this information to know what to do and where to go onboard in case of an emergency.
– Make sure you take advantage of the room service, it’s included on your trip price anyways!
– If you want to get spa treatments, make sure you do it on port days; it’s cheaper since everyone is off the ship.
– If you want to experience specialty restaurants besides the buffets, do so, it’s worth it. We made reservations ahead of time (online in the cruise’s website 3 weeks before boarding).
– Take sunblock, sunglasses, a cap, a hat, a scarf & a cardigan (both for chilly nights).
– Wear your heaviest clothes the day of the trip, like sneakers. I also had a backpack with 1 change of clothing for each of my boys as well as other goodies.
– Make sure you put one change of clothing plus your bathing suits inside the carry on because the checked bags don’t get to the rooms as fast as one would want. Ours arrived after 7:00 pm.
– Do not over pack please!!, see my suitcase post here
– Mix and match pieces of clothing. Choose pieces that can turn from day to night and of course, accessories to help with the look. See what I took here. We were in a freestyle cruise that allowed us to dress casual at all times. Make sure you read the cruise’s wardrobe requirements before you start packing. Plan your wardrobe per day as well, this way you don’t have to go crazy on what to wear.
– We also took these soap sheets. These tubes are my favorite ones, they have a wide mouth for easy access and the stackable packs are great for face creams.
– I use packing cubes to help me with our suitcases organization, see them here
– Buy 32gb memory card for your phone, you will be surprise how soon your phone will run out of memory if you don’t have extra. They run from $24 to $30 each.
– You don’t have to bring a wrinkle spray because your room’s hair blow dryer does a phenomenal job to iron your clothes.
– Do not use the laundry services on board, they are expensive and if you stay in a balcony room, just wash the pieces and let them air dry. I heard from many cruisers on board that their clothes actually did not smell like fresh laundry.
– Bring dryer sheets (such as Bounce). Put them inside your drawers and on dirty clothes.
– If you booked an underwater excursion, do not rent the cruise’s snorkel gear, bring your own. Find out on Tripadvisor external excursion prices. In our case, a Bahamian excursion through the cruise cost $89.00 per adult and we booked an external one for $30 per adult on a van that hold 9 passengers and did the exact same tour the expensive ones did .
– Be sure to take advantage of all the activities the ship has, I know is good to sleep until reallyyyy late, but the later you wake up, the less activities you will enjoy. One thing we will try is taking a nap every day, this will help to enjoy the night activities. If you want a romantic night, make sure you drop your kids off at the child care facility the cruise have, don’t feel bad for leaving the kids!!, they will love it!.
I know this was a long post but I wanted to be specific so I hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to have fun with your family and friends on the trip.