I have only been on two cruise vacations, so I am no expert. But both times I traveled with my in-laws, who are experts. Derek + his family grew up going on cruise vacations (6, at least), and I am so lucky to have had the privilege of joining his family on a couple of cruises in the five years Derek + I have been together.
Both trips, we went to the Caribbean for 7-8 days, and I was a sea-cruising mess both times. The first cruise was with Carnival, when I was 19 years old, and the second cruise was a couple years later with Norwegian. I kind of had a little more of my shit together for the second cruise, but there’s still lots of room for improvement.
Yes, I stressed on my first cruise. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t pack correctly, I lost a lot of important information + items (which I eventually found, thank goodness), but I did not enjoy my first cruise the way I wanted to.
To avoid disrupting your cruise vacation, I am going to share with you my do’s + don’ts of traveling by cruise ship based on my personal experience + mistakes.
#1. Pack light outfits. There’s nothing worse than wearing heavy clothes on a ship. Packing light + airy clothing, such as cotton tank tops + shorts, will allow you to be more comfortable and enjoy your time on deck. I struggled my first trip because I brought some “normal” clothes, meaning denim shorts, and thick + stiff dresses. I ended up wearing the same cotton shorts + 3 tanks tops the whole week because I was in + out of the pool, the buffet, and the room. I might as well just brought one dress and worn it all week (but I don’t recommend that, see Don’t #2).
#2. Bring a lanyard. I know it sounds strange, but holy crap, your stress + worry will vanish with this tip. It is amazing how many times you will go in + out of your cabin in a day at sea (almost 16 times). So it is important to have easy access to your room key for whenever you need it. I didn’t do this trick my first cruise, and I about lost my key 18 times. On my second cruise, my future mother-in-law offered me a lanyard. The people at the front desk had a hole-punch machine for room keys, and they punched it for me to attached to me lanyard. I simply wore the key around my neck and never took it off the whole trip. This way I could go back and forth from the deck to my room without worrying whether I had my key or not! Genius.
#3. Have cash + card. Always bring your credit or debit card on a cruise, and also some extra cash. The first time around, I didn’t know any of this, and struggled to pay for stuff + buy what I wanted. The cruise line puts your room expenses (tax, cleaning fee, room service fee, etc.) on your card. This makes it so you just tell the person what room you’re in on the ship and they will charge the room card. Food + most drink packages are included in the cruise price, so you do not have to worry about that. However, the spa, speciality restaurants + additional expenses are not. I would recommend bringing extra cash for the days you’re at port. These are the days you are off the ship and get to travel the islands + cities on foot. Most ports take American cash, however, most do NOT take credit cards. So if you are wanting to purchase items at port, it’s nice to have cash available.
#1. Get “shwasted” on the first night. I know that you’re probably excited to be on vacation, but try not to over do it on your very first night on board. The ship will have special events going on to stir up your night, but I recommend not getting too carried away. There’s nothing worse than having your first full day at sea with a major hangover. Seawater + hangovers do not mix well, just ask Derek. I recommend taking your time with the free drinks. You don’t have to drink all the alcohol on the ship in one sitting, there will still be some tomorrow.
#2. Forget dressy attire. Most cruise ships have dinner restaurants that require a dress code. This was my favorite part, because we would get all dressed up, then go eat unlimited fancy dinners! One night I ordered three lobsters, don’t judge me. But if I haven’t packed an outfit that wasn’t a tank top + shorts, they would not have let me eat. I am not saying you need your former prom dress, or wedding gown, but something that you would wear to a nice + casual cocktail party (is there such a thing?). Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on those fancy nights.
#3. Lay out without sunscreen. For the love of God, please take my advice! I am white, not like pasty white, but pretty close. My skin does not handle direct sunlight very well, but I always want to be tan! So both trips (didn’t learn my lesson the first time, I guess), I got SUPER sunburned. The first time was just me being stupid, by laying out on a raft in Tortola for 4 hours without a lick of sunscreen on. Obviously, I turned into a lobster by lunchtime. However, the second time (with my luck) on our first day at sea, my chest developed a heat rash. So I was miserable for 3 days trying to get rid of that (I recommend itch cream, it really works). I managed to stay in the spa for most of the days to heal, which I highly recommend (mostly because they give out oranges… ). I have definitely learned my lesson to just put the damn sunscreen on! I promise you will get tan no matter what, just make sure you protect your skin, or you will ruin some of your vacation.
Although I have learned A LOT about traveling by cruise ship through my experiences + mistakes, they were still amazing vacations that Derek + I got to share together.
Which cruise should we take next and to where?