PACKING FOR A CRUISE
Packing for a cruise can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming.
If you're not an experienced cruiser you may not know what to bring and what you won't need. Check out my list and tips for new cruisers!
Tips and packing for a cruise!
Let me start off by saying this list can be a little overwhelming. Keep in mind on a cruise they'll have a gift shop with essentials, you'll most likely be traveling to several islands that will have pharmacies, grocery, clothing, electronic stores and gift shops.
Also, there are laundry services on the ships and sometimes laundry rooms. Just be prepared, they can be pricey.
This article is a little lengthy. I've broken it down into sections so you can skip ahead. Pay attention to everything highlighted in RED!
What You WILL Need!
What You MIGHT Need!
What You CANNOT bring!
First Time Cruisers Tips, Important Info and What To Know!
GILLIE’S GETAWAYS CHECK LIST AND TIPS FOR A CAREFREE CRUISE!
Let’s start with WHAT YOU DON’T NEED (The Cruise Line Provides You With…)
Shampoo, Body Wash, Soap, Towels (both bath and beach towels. You can take them off of the ship). Unless you need a special shampoo they have dispensers in the shower with good quality products.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED…
Some of these may seem obvious but you wouldn’t believe the things I have forgotten in the past!
Let's start off with the most important!
___ Passport or a Birth Certificate (with a raised seal) and a valid NON-EXPIRED Government Issued ID. If you have a valid passport you are all set. If not you'll need an acceptable ID and a birth certificate. This includes a license, non-drivers license, enhanced license, a military ID, passport card… They will not accept School ID’s, Government Benefit Cards, Work IDs… They will not accept a photo copy of your birth certificate. If you don't have an original you can get one from city hall. They're usually $10-$15. Also, make Sure your ID isn’t going to expire while you’re on the cruise! You are being checked in by homeland security. They will not budge!
___ Sun Screen, Aloe and any other product to help if you burn easy!
___ Sun Glasses
___ Bathing Suit
___ Flip Flops / Sandals
___ Shoes / ___ Sneakers (some excursions or activities and restaurants onboard don’t allow sandals)
___ Tooth brush / Tooth Paste
___ Medications /___ Vitamins
___ Phone / ___ Phone Charger Portable Battery Charger for a long day of taking photos and possibly being on someone's wifi on the island.
___ If you're still using a Camera - SD Card / Batteries / Charger
___ A COPY OF YOUR ID, BIRTH CERTIFICATE, PASSPORT, CREDIT CARD INFO along with the number you can call collect to report it lost or stolen. Most times you can do this online now… (better safe than sorry). There’s a safe in the room you can leave it in.
___ A Beach Bag or backpack to carry your towels, change of clothes, sprays, beach gear….
___ CASH! Bring cash to the island. Some of the smaller shops, bars, food stands, cab companies… may not take credit cards. Plus you’ll want to tip! Most of the businesses do take American Cash. Our (American) money goes a long way especially in the Caribbean! Most tourist places accept cards.
CHECK OUT SOME GREAT AND FUN PRODUCTS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!
WHAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO BRING BUT DON’T NECESSARILY NEED…
___ Jeans (1 or 2 pairs should be fine for a 7 day Caribbean Cruise. You’ll probably only wear them a couple of hours at night if at all. Laundry services are available on the ship!
___ Dress Clothes for specialty dining. Jeans and Sneakers are fine but many will be dressed so you might feel a little out of place. Don't worry there will be others in jeans. THEY DO NOT ALLOW Gym Shorts, Flip Flops or Sleeveless shirts for men. Shorts are not allowed in the Specialty Restaurants unless you sit outside. The main dining rooms have a NO sleeveless shirts / Tank Tops (for men), gym shorts, flip flops, cut off shorts rule. This rule does not apply at the buffets. The first night you can wear anything to any restaurant because you never know when your luggage will arrive.
___ THEME NIGHTS - NCL has a White / Glow Party (wear white and bring glow and light up stuff). 80s Party, 70s Disco and a 90's Party. Bring Costumes! These can get cancelled but most of the time they do them. They also do a Latin Party. Some wear red and black and a country night. If you don't want to dress up, wear even a fun T-Shirt to go along with the theme!
___ Ear Buds, headphones for the flight
___ Snorkel Gear? Many locations have rentals on the beach but this can add up! Here's a great snorkel set I got! It gives you a great view and it's easy to breathe.
___ Book / reading material if you want to escape the party scene and relax.
___Power Strip - There aren’t many outlets on the cruise. If you have “a lot” to plug in you may want to bring one to share with your cruise mate.
___ Wrinkle Release
___ Zip Lock Bags! On a budget? Grab a sandwich from the buffet or some fruit, throw it in your fridge and bring it with you to the beach. You can also store your phone and money in these just in case you’ll be in the water or on the sand.
___ Motion Sickness Patch and / or Dramamine / Motion Sickness Bracelets. Although they do sell them in the gift shop it will be cheaper if you get it before. Your doctor can get you a patch if you’re really nervous! Most don’t have an issue with motion sickness. I’ve done 20 cruises and only felt sick one time!
___ Corkscrew – If you’re bringing wine on board some cruise lines provide a fee to open the bottle. You’re allowed to bring a bottle on board! There is a limit to how much you can bring.
___ Lanyard FOR YOUR ROOM KEY! You can purchase these on the ship but if you have one bring it. This will hold your card so you don’t have to worry about losing it or leaving it. It’s not just your room key you use your key at the bar, to get on and off of the ship and to purchase anything!
I ALSO HIGHLY RECOMMEND buying Luggage tag protectors! You dont have to use the link below but check it out. Put at least 2 on each bag. If your tags rip off it will take a lot longer and possibly even days for them to locate your luggage. Its happened on several cruises I've been on. Not to me but to others. When you do your final check in online there will be a little link that says print luggage tags. If you don't have tag protectors then staple or tape them on the morning of. If you're at a hotel just ask the front desk for their stapler or tape. If you have the protectors then attach them any time and you're good to go! ALSO, one last thing, if you bid on a room upgrade and you get one last minute don't forget to print the new tags! You don't want your luggage going to the wrong room!
"FORGOT SOMETHING?" DON'T PANIC!
There are gift shops onboard that have; toiletries, deodorant, colognes, nail clippers, chapstick, over the counter meds, cigarettes, select clothing… too many things to mention. Remember the shops and Casino don’t open until you’re so many miles out to sea! However, if you have to go to the doctor onboard, be prepared! They do not take insurance. You have to pay out of pocket and then submit it to your insurance company after. The medical office is a very expensive excursion!
WHAT YOU CANNOT BRING!
The cruise line no longer allows you to bring in your own non-alcoholic beverages and you cannot bring your own liquor. You can bring a bottle of wine. They charge a corkage fee.
Again, some of these are obvious but....Liquor, Illegal Drugs, Clothing Iron, Door Decorations (depending on the cruise line), Weapons, Any animal that is not a service animal. This only includes service animals and guide dogs. So your emotional support emu will have to stay at home. NCL needs to be notified ahead of time.
FIRST TIME CRUISER TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW…
This is for NCL since we have a group going in January but many cruise lines have the same rules.
1. CHECK IN - Check in for the cruise begins 21 days before you set sail! Do this online and save yourself time at the port! You'll have to watch a quick video since they did away with the traditional muster drill and here is where you can setup your account!
2. YOUR ACCOUNT – Set up your account through NCL.com. If you are using cash I'll address that next. Your account is setup like a bank account. You'll never use cash or a credit card on the ship for any purchases. You can obviously tip in cash. You'll use your room card for any purchases and even if you have the drink package they will swipe your card. You can have multiple people on your account. Again, it's better to setup your credit card now online. It's one less thing you'll have to do at the port!
3, THE TV IN YOUR ROOM - Curious to see how much you may have spent? Go to your TV in your stateroom and pull up your account! You can also check the ncl app. It’ll show you a list of what you spent, credits, your casino account…. You can also check the menu for dinner! You get a few tv stations for entertainment / news… and a live view from the front of the ship as well as the lido deck.
4. USING CASH? - If you don't have the option of using a credit card and you are using cash you will set up an account with guest services when you arrive. The line can be extremely long especially on the first day but you'll need to do that before making any purchase. You can keep track of how much you have left by using the tv or the ncl app. You'll have to go to Guest Services to add more cash every time you run out. If for any reason you owe money you cannot get off of the ship without taking care of that first.
5. TIPS - If you have the drink package and have already paid your prepaid gratuities then your bar, wait and room attendant staff are all taken care of. However, if you are receiving exceptional service it is highly recommended to tip them even more! I always take care of the bar staff since we drink a lot on cruises. When there's a packed party and they see you you'll be taken care of, believe me!
6. Maps of the layout of the ship are near the elevator if you need to know where to go.
7. Look at the fish on the carpet in the hallway. THEY SWIM TOWARD THE FRONT OF THE SHIP!
8. ROOM CARD - Your room card is also the card you'll use when you get a drink at the bar, purchase something from the gift shop, go to the casino, the spa.... if you lose it you can get a replacement at guest services. Your room card will never have your room number on it so remember where your room is!
9. Sail away party! As soon as the ship is ready to sail. Get up to the lido deck for the sail away party. It's a fun kick off party to your cruise!
10. Sailing from Miami? Pull up a map of the stars homes that live on or around Star island so you know whose home(s) you're looking at. See the homes and former homes of Gloria Estefan, Madonna, Julio Iglesias, Oprah, Rosie O'Donnell as well as many other actors and athletes. If you're staying a day or two before your cruise you can do a small boat tour around the islands and get up close!
11. YOUR ROOM - Sometimes it’s ready as soon as you board. Sometimes it can take a couple of hours. You never know when your room will be ready. You can go and check at any point. If you can get into your room then it’s ready! If not you can go to any of the public areas and hang out.
12. FOOD AND DRINKS – as soon as you step foot on the ship you can eat and drink. If the buffet isn’t your thing you can go to the dining room and be served breakfast, lunch or dinner. You don’t pay anything extra for this! It’s all included. Order as many appetizers, meals and desserts as you want. The only time it’s restricted is specialty dining restaurants. There are many restaurants and food stations on board. Remember, “specialty restaurants” are not free. You have 1 to 2 free meals depending on which room you chose. Inside Cabins will get 1 per person. Balcony Cabins and above get 2 nights per person. There is also room service. Your food will be included in your rate. They do charge a service fee so if you’re going to order order a lot so its worth the $7.95 fee! You’ll have a 24 hour restaurant on board as well that is included.
13. INTERACTIVE MAPS - Close to the elevators there are maps that show dining availability, activities and so on. They are touch screen.
14. THE APP – NCL has an app that you can text each other on. Its $10 for week. Service is hit or miss. You can add each other by entering the number shown. This will also show you the schedule and where things are happening.
I15. f you see FWD that is forward - the front of the ship. AFT is the back of the ship.
16. SHIP TIME VS WHAT YOUR PHONE OR WATCH SAYS! It is required that you arrive back on the ship a half hour before it leaves the port. Sometimes it's an hour on other cruise lines. So if you’re on an island till 6 you actually need to be back NO LATER THAN 5:30. Sometimes your phone doesn’t sync or isn’t the ship time. The ship time and the island time / what your phone says may be different so just double check what time it actually is with a member of the staff BEFORE you leave! If you have a watch make sure it is set to the right time. If you’re doing an excursion they will usually have you back in plenty of time!
17. NCL APP - NCL has an app that you can pay $10 for on the ship. It allows you to communicate with other guests without using your internet minutes. I will say the app can be great and also completely suck. You might get delayed messages . However, it's great for saying, "meet me at the buffet" or "I'm heading to the pool" and especially "where are you" so you don't have to walk around the entire ship. It will only work while you're on the ship . You can also exchange your info with other fun guests if you want to meet up with them again.
18. SHOWS / ENTERTAINMENT – Broadway shows are free but require tickets. There are only a couple of specialty ones that you have to pay for. If the free one is sold out they will have a stand by line and you will most likely still get in. I was about 80 people back the last time and got in. COMEDY SHOWS fill up quick so if you’re going arrive early. THE BEATLES show if its on your ship gets packed and fills up the fastest out of all of them. So arrive early and grab a table! Be prepared it's loud in there but Beatles fans love it!
19. WHAT TO DO – Every night in your room you will receive an itinerary with a schedule of events, entertainment, dining, what island you’ll be stopping at (with the times) and so on! There will also be a list of specials and sales for the shops and spa. If you think you might want a massage wait till later in the week. They’ll have a sale!
20. THE SAFE – Just pick a 4 digit code to open it and close it. You can change it any time.
21. FUTURE CRUISE VOUCHER – if you loved your cruise and plan on cruising with NCL again buy a future cruise voucher. Why? Depending on the promotion, you’ll most likely pay say $100 and receive an extra hundred to use on your next cruise! You can use this for your deposit or toward the balance of your current cruise. Or they may do the double up sale and you’ll pay $250 and get $250 for free. You don’t have to choose a cruise when you purchase this so don’t let them try and talk you into that! Wait until there’s a good deal on a cruise to book it. Also, reach out to me so I never have to get a real job! You can still use my services. They vouchers will just sit in your account and I can apply them. You can also transfer or even sell them to friends and family. They’re good for up to 4 years. If you don’t use them you get the money back.
22. ROOM PHONE – You’ll have a phone in your room. Your phone number is your room number. You can call other guests and leave messages. Sometimes it’s hard to coordinate.
You’re on vacation PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!!!! However, if you have to use it….
23. YOUR MOBILE PHONE! - Put it in airplane mode when you start to sail! They can charge you $9 or more a minute among other fees once your service switches from the regular tower to the ship tower! If you have an iphone you should still be able to text in airplane mode with other iphone users.
24. INTERNET MINUTES FROM NCL – If you get an internet package that is not unlimited MAKE SURE YOU LOG OFF when you’re done. Unless you have the unlimited package you will be charged for every minute. So if you get 150 minutes and you forget to log off those minutes are still being used. You have to log off on the actual site. There’s an internet desk / associate who can explain this to you in person. I fell asleep on the last one and used up all of my minutes. Luckily they gave them back to me. “I swear sir, I logged off” usually works but only one time! The internet service can be slow! If you think you’ll be using this a lot for business get the unlimited package.
25. PHONE PLAN – Check with your provider to see what your plan covers. You should still be able to use your phone with no charges in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, most plans include Mexico now… If you turn your phone on and you’re in international waters or on an island that is not covered, even if you don’t make a call but receive a call, voicemail, messages… you may still be charged. AGAIN, DO NOT USE IT EVEN ON THE SHIP! You will still be on the ships tower and will get charged! If you are docked at a “US Port” which I listed before then it’s most likely safe to use on the ship.
26. FAMILY EMERGENCY / HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WIH YOU – Make sure your family knows the name of the cruise line, the name of the ship and the date you set sail. There’s a 1-800 number they can call on the cruise ships website. Feel free to give your family my information as well and I can try to help them.
27. CRUISE DOCTOR – Unless it is an absolute MUST do not use the doctor on board the ship! They won’t take your insurance and it’s about $900 just to step foot in the Cruise ER Room!
28. CREDIT CARDS - Call your credit card company before you leave and tell them your itinerary. Give them the dates you’re traveling and what countries you’ll be visiting. If you don’t there’s a good chance your credit card will be denied or marked as fraud.
29. THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU LEAVE… If you have time to spare and don’t want to carry your luggage off of the ship then you can leave it outside of your door before a certain time and they will come and take it for you. After you leave the ship you’ll get your bag on land. Get your new luggage tags with the times of departure by Guest Services. Even if they call your number you don’t have to leave right then. The tags get taken fast so get them as soon as they’re available.
30. THE DAY YOU DISEMBARK / LAST DAY OF THE CRUISE… It’s a horrible, sad, hectic and crazy day! They call you by the category you chose or received for departure. Let’s start with those of you who have an early flight. Let them know your flight time and you can make arrangements to be one of the first ones off of the ship. The lines are horrible and its really hard to get an elevator! You will have to wait and most likely separate from your group if there are more than a couple of you. If you choose not to have them take your luggage the night before and can carry your bags down the stairs that is your best bet. Just because you leave your room doesn’t mean you have to leave the ship. Go have breakfast! Sit on the lido deck! Get in some last few rays of sunshine. Everyone needs to be off of the ship by a certain time. Believe me they will let you know!
For those of you who put your bags out the night before, you’ll find them inside at the port with hundreds or sometimes thousands of other bags. They’ll have them organized by the floor you’re on. However, they're not hard to find. They put them in groups!
31. SMOKERS - There are designated smoking areas on the ship. Some only have one place. YOU CANNOT SMOKE ON YOUR BALCONY! They will fine you and ask you to leave. The winds will blow that cigarette butt right back to the ship and most likely to another balcony or part of the ship.
32. FLIGHTS - If you are booking your own flights consider flying in the day before. If you have to arrive the day of and your ship sets sail at 4. YOU HAVE TO BE ON THE SHIP 2 HOURS before they sail! If you are flying home the last day of your cruise make sure you don't book any flights before noon. It can be a long process getting off of the ship. Sometimes customs is extremely busy and slow and sometimes they don't even talk to you. You just leave. There will be lots of traffics and there can be long waits for cabs, ubers and lyfts. Plan on a 45 minute ride back to Fort Lauderdale and 20 minutes to Mia airport(s).
THE FIRST DAY OF YOUR CRUISE….
YOU HAVE TO BE ON THE SHIP AT LEAST 2 HOURS BEFORE IT SETS SAIL!
Sadly if you miss the ship you can no longer fly to the first port and sail for the remainder of the cruise. Make sure your flight arrives early that morning. It is HIGHLY recommended to fly in a day or two before your cruise especially if you're coming from a state with any chance of a wintery mix. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the port. Traffic will be very heavy around the port area.
When you arrive at the port you’ll leave your bag with the baggage handlers. They will deliver your bags to your room on day 1. Tipping the baggage handlers isn’t mandatory but is highly suggested. A few bucks is fine. That’s up to you. You might get your luggage quicker. It's hectic outside and you might be a little overwhelmed but stay calm and definitely don't be rude to them.
BRING A CARRY ON BAG TO TAKE ON THE SHIP WITH THE FOLLOWING ITEMS….
Bathing Suit. I would suggest wearing it on if its hot. If not, pack it and change in a bathroom. Grab a drink and jump in the pool or hot tub! Grab some food! The buffet will be open. You may not get into your room for a couple of hours. The last few cruises I’ve been on the room has been ready!
WHILE YOU ARE IN A US PORT YOU WILL BE A TAX ON YOUR DRINK! So every though you have the beverage package you'll be the tax. The average drink will be something like 80 cents.
Also, bring.... a change of clothes, medications you will need that day, any toiletries (if you require them), sunscreen and sunglasses and deodorant! That will get you through. Bags have been arriving quickly but you never know. Again, the buffets and dining room will be open for lunch so start eating and drinking! The hallway to your room will most likely be closed when you first get on. The room attendants are bringing the bags to the rooms and also cleaning them. Remember, THOUSANDS of people just got off of that ship hours ago so be patient with the amazing staff. You will be getting some of the best service you've ever had and treated like royalty!
MUSTER DRILL - As soon as you step foot onto the ship you are on vacation! There is only one more thing you’re required to do and that is attending the Muster Drill. Your location will be on your card. Before the ship leaves you’ll be required to go to the Muster Drill. They will tell you when you have to go. They did away with the old way so now they tell you where to go, you check in and you're done. Any staff member can point you in the right direction This is the exact location you’ll go to in the event of an emergency if the ship has to be evacuated. If you don't attend, you'll receive a notification and you have to go to it. If you still haven't gone after you receive a notice they'll cut off your room key.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS!
it’s not as confusing or overwhelming as you might think! It’ll take you a day or so on one cruise to get the hang of everything and know where you actually are! Don't forget about those fish on the carpet. They swim toward the front!
If you have any other questions please reach out to me HERE! Remember, you don't have to travel with our group to enjoy the discounts and perks. We usually do at least one group cruise per year! January of 2024 will be to the Caribbean. January of 2025 Hawaii. November of 2025 - Mediterranean Cruise from Italy to Greece.
Check back for random updates. Have an amazing trip! Thank You for using Gillie’s Getaways!