So, you’ve got your cruise booked. Congrats! If its your first time, it’s something you’ll never forge. You’re about to explore a new country with new experiences you never would have thought of back home (getting jealous of you right now). After my 3rd cruise, I’m constantly telling my friends and family the things I regret not doing, and the things I would have passed on. I remember looking for any help I could get preparing, so I wanted to do the same for you. So here it is:
What to Expect
- Excursions– I had to put this one first because I truly feel like it’s the most important one. Aside from being probably the most expensive addition to your cruise, it’s also the most memorable. I hear people say “Oh, we decided to just explore around at that stop”, and all I can think is “you’re missing out”. I’ve done it both ways- yes, make plans for a tour for every stop. Of all my cruises, the port excursions were the most memorable parts. Not to mention also a lot safer.
- Food Package– Our last cruise we decided to try this out. It wasn’t something we bought until we were on board, but it well worth it. We paid $70 per person for 3 dinner meals of the restaurants on board. I’m all about saving money, and this typically seems like an expense I’d pass up. After trying it once, I’d do it again. The meals were top notch- we had Mexican one night, a steakhouse the next, and Italian last. The meals they serve you in regular dining are also great, so I can’t complain. They do have limited choices to choose from on the menu though, and the food package took our dining experience from a four star to a five. If it’s in the budget, I’d say go for it.
- Alcohol Package– This is many people’s biggest debate when preparing for their cruise. There are pros and cons to this one. Read my blog post here about the alcohol package.
- Lanyards- You probably don’t want to carry your purse or wallet around all day every day. Nor do you have to. The buffet is always free, so is the pool. Technically, all you need is your boarding card to get back into your room. If you’re in your swimsuit carrying around your card, there’s a good chance you’ll at some point lose it. It could also fall out of your back pocket. Heaven forbid you lose it on an excursion.. you can’t get back on the boat without it. It’s not worth the risk to lose it and go in panic mode. Before you board the ship, they should have a station set up at your port where you can buy one. It’ll be the best $5 you spend all week. They’ll be able to put a hole punch in your card to connect it. Otherwise, pick a lanyard up at Walmart and bring it with you. They’ll still be able to hole punch it after you receive your card. We didn’t even notice our cards around our necks all week, and it saved us all the trouble.
- Always give yourself plenty of time to get back on the ship. If anything goes wrong, (like you forgot your wallet at the local bar), you won’t have to worry about the entire ship city leaving you behind. It’s just not worth the risk.
- Leave your phones behind. You’re paying for an expensive vacation- you need to enjoy it and get your moneys worth. They’ll give you the option to upgrade and pay for Wi-Fi, but in my opinion, give yourself a technology break. There’s plenty to do. There are also plenty of opportunities to get your picture done both on the boat and off the boat. Not only will the cruise line be waiting for you off the boat to snap the perfect picture with the best props, but mostly all of the excursions will have a photographer for you as well. Yes, you have to pay for the photos, but you also get to actually enjoy the moment. They’re great photos of you in action that you wouldn’t have been able to take with your phone. Also, don’t turn on your phone until your literally docked back at the original port. We made the mistake of turning on our phones about 30 minutes prior to landing back home. We were just trying to tell our family when we’d be getting off the boat. For those 5 minutes we turned it on, AT&T charged us $200 each since we were in international waters. We negotiated it down to $100 each, but, it was an expensive 5 minutes for both of us.
- Plan early. Save yourself the financial burden on booking those extras you want as early as possible. An extra $1,000 at once is a heavy price, but paying for one excursion one month, and the second another makes it much more bearable. Plus, they rates are cheaper early on.
- Tipping– Don’t forget to tip your dinner waiter at the end of the week. He took the time to get to know you, and vice versa. It’s the right thing to do. We didn’t know about this until they asked at the end of the week, and with all the money we’d spent, we weren’t prepared for another expense. Prepare yourself. Also, don’t forget to tip housekeeping as well at the end of the week. He takes the time to introduce himself as well. We found $100 was appropriate for housekeeping.
What to Bring
So I’ll admit.. my last cruise, I brought four bags. Yes, FOUR. Let me tell you what, my fiance was NOT happy with me. It was just too much. They told us when leaving we could bring our own bags off the boat so we didn’t have to wait for them after like a plane would do. So we thought it’d be faster to do that. Big mistake. Turns out carrying four bags at once in a crowd of people is no easy task. But if ever in doubt of what to bring, I bring it all. Since then, I’ve worked on my bag situation. But, it’s probably helpful to know what you do need and what you don’t.
- Lanyard – I know I already talked about this, but in case you forgot, I’m saying it again. Often times, they should have a place where you can buy one before boarding, or you can just get this pack of lanyards from Amazon. Amazon is probably the cheaper option.
- Towels – Skip on this one. They’ll have plenty for you.
- Sunscreen – This one is a must. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot, sunny, or cloudy. You’ll need it. Something most people don’t know is that you much you tan or burn doesn’t necessarily depend on how much the sun is out. It depends on the UV levels. So yes, on a cloudy or cold day, you could very easily be getting the same tan as you would on the sunniest hottest day of the year. This Neutrogena Sunscreen is my favorite stuff. It’s SPF 100. Not only do you need it on the pool deck, but also when you’re on your excursions or exploring the island.
- 3-4 Bathing Suits – I only brought two, and was a little annoyed when I had to wait for them to dry. I recommend at least three.
- Outfits – Yes, you’re going to need some nice outfits. I would recommend one or two nice dresses to take pictures in ( typically there’s a formal night as well). Otherwise, some casual/nice outfits are fine. There is a dress code in the dining hall though, so skip on the t shirts and sweatpants attire for dinner. Throughout the day, almost anything goes. I’d have clothes to cover up your swimsuit, and plan for something a little nicer than t shirt and shorts. After all, Royal Caribbean is a little bit nicer than Carnival, so be prepared to dress that same way. If you’re looking for some cute things to wear, check out my post about my favorite summer vacation outfits here.
- Shoes – It’s something I’m always trying to work on limiting when packing… but you want to look cute right?! Aim for 1-2 pairs of wedges/heals you can wear with anything. Bring a pair of sneakers, bring one or two flip flops to wear, and a pair of comfy shoes to walk around in. (Yall, no joke, these Adidas Cloud Foam shoes are my absolute FAVORITES! I wore these pretty much every day. They’re like a memory foam, and slip on and off easily. They can get wet no problem, and my feet don’t sweat. I’m actually wearing them now as we speak. I need to buy another pair though because I’ve worn them so much for the past year or two that I’ve poked a hole in them.. oops! Buying them again though.) Besides that, NO MORE SHOES! They take up a ton of room and matching all your cute outfits with shoes just don’t matter as much as you think it will. Stick to shoes that you’re going to need.
- Hat – Yes, this fedora is literally going to save you when you’re out exploring the ports. It’s hot, and a lot of times it’s hard to find comfortable shade. Not to mention super cute! If you want something even more stylish for laying out, I have this embroidered sun hat as well and am obsessed with it too.
- Shampoo & Conditioner – Bring your own. Although they have some, it’s not that great of quality. After being outside and/or in the water, you’ll want something to get those tangles out. This ArtNaturals Shampoo and Conditioner here is great for all different hair types. Otherwise, my all time favorite is this Pureology Shampoo and Pureology Conditioner. It’s pricey, I know, but if you can spare the change, it’ll be your favorite thing you get for the whole trip. After a long fun (but tiring) day, you’ll love being able to refresh with these great brands.
- Blow Dryer – Like any hotel, they’ll have one but it won’t be as great as your personal one. Whenever you travel, if you typically bring your own, then do so.
- New Things – Save a little room in your bag for anything you buy on your trip that you want to take home with you. Odds are you’ll want to get something on the ports.
- GoPro – So in exchange for not having our phones, we bought a GoPro specifically for this trip. We even ended up creating a video on it. Now, we take it on every trip with us. We also got this selfie stick to go with it. Definitely the most expensive accessory we bought for our trip, but definitely the most used and most appreciated.
All in all, I hope this is a helpful guide for preparing for your cruise vacation. It’s not mandatory you follow all these guidelines, but it’s good to be able to have a heads up and make a decision for yourself how you want to handle these extras that you’ll face. You’ll also feel better knowing what to expect before you’re gone for a week and don’t have access to some things. As with anything, it’s much better to be prepared early. Despite all the expenses, you’ll have those great memories forever. Remember to sit back and relax and enjoy your break from reality. Send me your photos after, and let me know – did this help? What am I forgetting? Help me become better for you. Thanks guys!