Packing for a cruise is always stressful. You have all the necessities covered: swimsuits, shorts, dinner attire and your toothbrush. It is that one item that you remember…just as your embarkation port is out of distance. Not to worry! We have the 10 items that you need to pack to enjoy all the comforts of home your cruise vacation.

A Bungee Tie Strap

This is a crucial item for those with a balcony. Your door to your balcony has self closing hinge, a safety feature onboard the ship. Packing a tie strap will can allow you to keep the door open to enjoy the ocean breeze. In addition, it is a great way to bundle luggage together.


A Surge Protector

There are never enough outlets in  your stateroom. With all of the electronics chargers, hair dryers, and accessories, you need more outlet space. A surge protector is a great item to pack that does not take much space and can be a lifesaving time saver.

Antibacterial Towelettes

Cleanliness is crucial to stay healthy on a cruise ship. Although cruise ships are clean, you come in contact with surfaces that thousands of others come in contact with on a daily basis. Packing individual packs of antibacterial wipes can be the difference in getting sick on your trip and staying healthy.

First Aid Kit

Sunburn, cut from coral, seasickness, upset stomach are common ailments while on board a cruise ship. Packing a small first aid kit with aloe vera gel, a small back of bandages, anti-diarrheal and motion sickness medication can be a lifesaver. Pharmacies on board your ship can be expensive, so we recommend that you pack a small first aid kit just in case it is needed.

Clothes Hangers

Each stateroom comes equipped with clothes hangers, but they are limited in number. Packing a few extra can create additional closet space, act as bathing suit clothes dryers, and keep clothes wrinkle free. So plan on packing a few extra clothes hangers on your next cruise vacation.

Over The Door Organizer

Most cruise ship staterooms are quite cozy. And when I say “cozy” I mean small. Over the door shoe organizers are a great way to store shoes, bathing suits, toiletries, and items that you want to keep off the limited counter space.

Ear Plugs

You never know who you will be neighboring next to on your cruise vacation. Snoring, loud kids, loud parties, music are just a few of the noises that make keep you awake at night. Packing a set of ear plugs can provide that much needed rest.

Starch or Wrinkle Remover Spray

Limited space makes ironing difficult, however dressing to impress for formal night is a must. Packing a clothing wrinkle remover can save you from having to iron all together. If you have to break out the iron, make sure you pack a travel size starch to get the wrinkles out.

Wine & Champagne

Most people do not know that they can bring wine or champagne on board free of charge. Some allow a bottle per person, others allow one per stateroom, while others allow unlimited with a cork fee. We strongly encourage you to check with your cruise line to know their policy and corkage fees. *Please Note: Check the wine list of restaurants on board for their price per bottle and compare that to the corkage fee. You may find that it is not worth the hassle. You may end up paying more buying your own bottle and paying the cork fee versus the cost of a bottle at a restaurant on board.

Bottled Water & Soda

You will need to check with your cruise line for their policies. Some cruise lines allow you to bring your own bottled water and soda, some water only, and some none at all. This can be a big money saver while on board and on your excursions.

With exception to a family road trip, a cruise vacation maybe the greatest American vacation you can take with your family. You prepay to have fun in the sun eat as much gourmet food as you want, and see exotic places….what could be better than that. What more could you ask for? Although it can be tough to mess up a cruise vacation, planning ahead can make your cruise that much more enjoyable. Here are common mistakes that you can avoid to make your next cruise vacation a fantastic experience.

Avoid Booking Your Excursions Through The Cruise Line

Your cruise line will provide some great port excursions. However, they can be very pricey and may not be convenient to your schedule. Do your research ahead of time to find things to do in your ports of call. Compare prices of local vendors to that of the cruise line. Many times local vendors provide more amenities and a more unique experience.

**Please Note: If using a vendor outside of the cruise line, be sure that they know the time that you need to be back aboard ship. Being late can leave you stranded at a port of call.

Don’t Lose Track of How Much You Are Spending on Alcohol

You can charge just about everything to your room while on a cruise ship. So when you are just “billing it to your account” and not seeing a running tally, it makes for a shocking reality when you get your checkout bill. All of those pool side beers that you didn’t realize that were $7 have added up to quite the tab.

Don’t Attempt To Overcrowd a Stateroom

Cruise ship rooms can be quite small. Close living quarters can make for uncomfortable times while sleeping and getting ready to venture out for the evening. Although you can save money by bunking up in tight quarters, having a place to rest and retreat too after a busy day enjoying the cruise life can make for a much more enjoyable time. Sharing bathrooms, and showering can be difficult when every extra space is covered with clothes, baggage, and toiletries.

Always Explore The Ports of Call

Although most cruise terminal debarkation facilities are packed full of vendors selling souvenirs, excursions and a taste local culture, there is much more to explore past the crowded market areas. Do your research before you set sail to find out what adventures interest you in your ports of call. Many times you can stumble across a gem that will make an experience of a lifetime.

Subscriber Testimonial:

On our honeymoon, one of our ports of call was Cozumel. My new wife and I had been there several times before and wanted to find something that we both had not done before that also provided some time that we could enjoy just being together. I researched online and found that Chankanaab National Park was about a 10 minute cab ride from the cruise terminal. We decided to check it out and do some snorkeling on our own, have lunch at the park restaurant, and enjoy a relaxing day away from the crowds of the cruise ship. WOW! What a pleasant experience! The cab ride cost about $8, and the park entrance fee was $16 per adult. They had a marine life show and cabanas right on the beach that we enjoyed for free. We had a great lunch that was very reasonable. We enjoyed about 6 hours of snorkeling and the only other divers we saw were some locals that guided us to some spectacular coral formations and buried statues. Total cost for the day was around $80 including lunch, but the memories made were priceless!

Pay Attention to Your Booking Dates

If you are looking for a relaxing, kid free cruise vacation…don’t book during summer vacation, or around the holidays. Spring break dates are going to be packed full of college kids ready to blow off steam from their academic pressures. So be mindful of your goal, the group you are traveling with, and plan accordingly.

Don’t Fly In To Your Departure City The Same Day Your Cruise Embarks

Airlines can run late, delays happen, luggage can be delayed, and weather is unpredictable. Airline personnel are not overly concerned that your flight was delayed 2 hours, that you are an hour away from the cruise terminal, and you have 45 minutes to get there. We always recommend leaving yourself a day’s cushion so you don’t risk missing your cruise departure. In addition, you may get to enjoy an additional port of call that you may not have a chance to visit again.

Plan Ahead For Cellular Service While On Your Cruise Vacation

Be sure to check roaming charges and coverage areas prior to leaving home. You will encounter roaming areas quickly as you leave the shore depending on your cellular service provider. Many companies charge steep roaming fees if you use your phone outside of the coverage area. International cellular service can be pricey, so check your provider and see if you want coverage while on vacation. Don’t let your latest selfie with a dolphin end up costing your $30 because you did not check your coverage limits.

Wi-Fi is Not Always Readily Available

Most cruise ships charge by the hour for in-room internet service. Sometimes it can be as high as $25 per hour or more. In addition, the service is subpar to that you will receive at home or at an internet cafe. We strongly recommend checking with the cruise line what their wifi situation will be on board when booking. It may be a welcomed “vacation” to unplug and save the money.

Congratulations on booking your first cruise. If you’re looking for some advice and tips to cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vactationmake the experience that much better, who’s more qualified than first-time cruise travelers who’ve just returned from their first voyages?

What they didn’t know — and learned about the hard way — about packing, cocktails, ports and dining are all top of mind. But just as valuable are the insights offered by the long-time cruiser, a grizzled ocean vet who knows the decks bow to stern.

1. Research Ports in Advance

On a cruise, everything you’ll need — food, fun, cabins, ports — is neatly arranged. Your only job is to fork over the credit card, right? Well, not exactly. Andy, an experienced cruiser, cautioned about “cruising blind,” especially when it comes to the destination. Said Andy: “Read as much as you possibly can before your cruise … otherwise you might end up in a decent-sized port, overwhelmed and without the slightest clue of what to do for the next eight hours.” In terms of port info, cruise lines rarely go beyond handing out a map of the town jewelry stores (with which they often have special business agreements). So with limited time in port, it pays to hit the books before you go. And even if you’ve booked an excursion, after that three-hour snorkel trip, you might find yourself with several hours to kill.

2. Don’t Tip Double on Alcohol

Bruce, “a former Navy guy who can’t swim,” and his wife, Cindy, learned this on their first cruise, which was a honeymoon trip for the Sarasota-based couple: “You’re already automatically paying gratuities when you buy a drink at the bar. Now I don’t mind tipping … but I was handing out extra dollars for drinks without even knowing it!”

Indeed, most big-ship lines — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and others — automatically tack a 15 percent service charge on to bar bills. Unless the service was spectacular, there’s no need to add another tip on top.

3. Be a Smart Packer

cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vactationMeg, sailing on her first cruise, made a few important discoveries during her introduction to cruise travel, one of which involved a heavy downpour during a port call in Roatan, Honduras. Unless things get particularly dicey, shore excursions will run, rain or shine. Back on the ship, it was clear to see that Meg wasn’t alone in getting soaked to the bone (or being forced to improvise with garbage bag ponchos, as other cruisers did). The tropical Caribbean climate is mercurial, so high on our list — and now hers — of must-pack items is a lightweight, waterproof jacket or poncho.

4. Work Off the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

Being an independent traveler type who’s visited six continents, Rich only recently went on his first cruise. Like many first-timers, he had heard about passengers staying well fed. But how can cruisers balance the intake — multiple lobster tails, cream sauces, molten chocolate cake — with health concerns? “Take the stairs instead of the elevator for a little exercise,” says Rich. We definitely concur. Considering the flights of stairs on a 15-deck cruise ship, all that climbing will help to keep off the extra pounds. If exercise is your thing, hit the ship’s gym or sign up for a cycling or Boot Camp class to more quickly burn off those extra-large buffet meals.

5. Avoid the Buffet on Embarkation Day

While debarkation day certainly ranks as the worst day of the cruise, embarkation day is a close second. For many, it starts with an early morning jolt out of bed, continues with a lengthy sojourn to the port, and concludes with lots of thumb-twiddling in a bleak, amenity-free terminal. All this pre-cruise time makes the soon-to-cruise hungry. And once onboard, the mad dash to the buffet begins. Ottawa native Sheila, a cruise vet, offers a solid tip for those looking to avoid the famished throngs during embarkation day: Bypass the buffet or pool grill, where the masses gather, and head to a dining room for some peace. One note: Not every line opens its dining rooms for lunch on embarkation day.

For many travelers who cruise with the intention of seeing new places and having new experiences, shore excursions are key. As each cruise line’s list of shore trip offerings continues to grow, it can be downright difficult to decide which types of excursions are right for you. How do you know you won’t be paying too much for a tour that could very well be too crowded or that won’t give you the time you need at the sights you want to see? Check out our list of cruise shore excursions that aren’t worth your money before booking your next on-land adventure.

1. Shopping

Whether you prefer kitschy T-shirts, duty-free purchases or authentic, handmade souvenirs, great shopping abounds in many a cruise port, but there’s no need to shell out money for a shopping excursion. It’s far easier to do it on your own with a tiny bit of research ahead of time. It won’t cost you a cent to browse, you can stop whenever you want at the places that interest you, and you’ll also avoid the high-pressure sales tactics of local vendors who often pay cruise lines to be included on these types of organized cruise excursions.

2. Sightseeing by Bus

cruise vacation, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation excursion tips, cruise vacation excursion planning

Bus tours are great for anyone with limited mobility or those who want a brief overview of a port without a lot of walking. The trouble with these types of excursions, though, is that they often involve more time on the road than actual exploration, and each stop can feel rushed. Plus there’s nothing more annoying than tour guides who talk too much or the disappointment you feel when that awesome landmark you were hoping to see is on the right side of the bus when you’re sitting on the left.

3. Booze Cruises

When you first read the description of a “party cruise” or “sunset cruise,” it might sound like a ton of fun or a relaxing way to end the day. What you’ll more likely find is a raucous vibe, akin to that of a frat party. There’s nothing wrong with these tours if that’s your scene, but when you combine unlimited cocktails with the motion of the ocean on a small boat, the alcohol is bound to reappear, if you catch our drift — especially if you’re someone who’s already prone to seasickness.

4. Museums

cruise vacation, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation excursion tips, cruise vacation excursion planningMuseums are some of the best places to learn about local culture in the ports you visit, but the experience won’t be enjoyable if you’re in a group with several dozen other travelers, struggling to hear your tour guide while muscling your way to the front of the group to catch fleeting glimpses of important artifacts. Although organized museum shore excursions include transportation and expedited admission, in most cases you can still go it alone and minimize hassle and wait times by planning transportation and purchasing museum tickets in advance.

5. Beach Breaks

cruise vacation, cruise vacation tips, cruise vacation planning, cruise vacation excursion tips, cruise vacation excursion planningSure, a relaxing day at the beach with a cold drink, warm breezes and stunning views sounds awesome, but if you book a cruise excursion that promises you sun and sand, you might go from being a beach bum to being just plain bummed. What you’ll likely find on a beach shore trip are swarms of fellow cruisers (particularly in popular ports on days when more than one ship is calling) who all had the same idea. Crowds can make umbrellas and chairs scarce, the atmosphere loud and lines for the toilets long, leaving you with an ambience that’s anything but serene. Instead, find a beach — or even a resort — that’s a little farther away, and arrange your own transportation. There might still be an entry fee, but it will almost always be less expensive than paying for an excursion, and you’ll be more likely to escape the masses.

Just like Oldsmobile’s shiny new cars in the ’80s, some things are just meant for the next generation. Today’s cruise ships are not your father’s cruise — and most especially not your grandfather’s cruise ships.  They are no longer the rigidly formal vessels of the Titanic era or the campy party palaces from Kathie Lee’s days; nor are they a place you’ll feel trapped and bored because there’s nothing to do.

If anything, cruising is way cooler than it ever used to be.

Here are just a few ways vacations at sea have transformed into the hottest way to spend a week or more away.

1. From a single pool to an aquatic oasis

cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation planning, cruise vactationGone are the days when your only option for cooling off on a hot day was the single pool on the Lido Deck. Today’s big cruise ships have multiple pools, one or more water slides and kid’s wading and splash areas. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, for instance, has three outdoor pools, three water slides collectively dubbed the “Perfect Storm” and a kiddy water area called Splashaway Bay; the line’s smaller Liberty of the Seas also has the Perfect Storm trio of water slides, Splashaway Bay and two pools. You’ll find similar offerings on big cruise ships from Carnival Cruise Line.

2. From pure relaxation to total exhilaration

When cruising first took off in the ’70s and ’80s, travelers cruised in order to get away from it all, hang around by the pool, sip cocktails and read a book. There’s still plenty of relaxation to be had, but many of today’s cruisers are also looking for fun — and cruise ships have it in spades. Ziplines, simulated surfing, vertical tunnel skydiving, ropes courses and rock walls all offer enough adrenaline pumping action to keep most thrill seekers entertained.

3. From Las Vegas to Broadway

cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation planning, cruise vactationNo more the days of sitting through a badly sung and danced Las Vegas-style revue with cheesy outfits and no special effects. Today’s cruise shows run the gamut from high-tech extravaganzas and stage partnerships with entities like B.B. King, Lincoln Center to full-length Broadway or Broadway-inspired shows. Norwegian Cruise Line, for instance, has ships with productions of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “Rock of Ages,” “Million Dollar Quartet” and “After Midnight,” while select Royal Caribbean ships feature “CATS,” “Mamma Mia!”, “We Will Rock You” and “Grease.”

4. From one massive dining room with set seating to multiple dining venues and flexible scheduling

In the early days of cruising, all passengers ate in one large dining room at assigned tables during either an early time slot or a later one.  As cruising progressed, the lines added buffets and specialty restaurants to give cruisers a more casual option outside of the main dining room. Today, main dining rooms are only a small part of the dining equation on any cruise ship. Most ships have multiple dining venues –some included in the cruise price and some for an extra fee, with flexible schedules that allow passengers to pick what time they want to eat, rather than have to show up at a set time. (Traditional set seating is still available on most cruise lines, as well, for those who prefer the traditional set up.)

5. From a trunk full of ball gowns and tuxedos to carry-ons packed with sundresses and collared shirts

Not only was the dining system formalized on cruises back in the day, but so was the dress code.  Cruisers were required to change for dinner every night and formal night wasn’t just a suggestion. Today, cruise passengers can choose to dress up if they like or remain casual (even on formal night!), with some lines even OK with shorts and T-shirts in most onboard eateries. Whatever you feel most comfortable in is pretty much OK with most mainstream cruise lines nowadays.

6. From American and continental cuisine to a smorgasbord of tastes

With just one restaurant (two if a ship had a buffet), cruise ship chefs tended to keep meals simple and straightforward with tried-and-true American, Italian, British and French dishes on the menu. But as the lines expanded their culinary offerings to include more dining venues, the options to provide a variety of cuisines increased as well. Today’s ships might offer Brazilian, Indian, Mexican, pan-Asian or sushi restaurants, to name just a few.

7. From balconies only in top suites to all-balcony ships

Once upon a time, cruise balconies were only for the elite, with most cruise ships having just a handful of suites offering the alfresco amenity. Today’s cruise ships (at least those that are over 10 years old) offer way more rooms with balconies than without. Some ships, particularly in the luxury segment don’t even have ships without balconies.

8. From Isaac on the Love Boat serving margaritas to robots and trained mixologists

cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation planning, cruise vactationSure you can still get a frozen margarita or Long Island Ice Tea (though good luck finding a Pink Lady or Harvey Wallbanger), but today’s menu of libations is vastly expanded from what bartenders back in the day were handing out. From trained mixologists whipping up unique cocktails to match your mood to bars that specialize in just one beverage (whisky, beer, rum, tequila) there’s something to suit the tastes of every cruise drinker. Oh, and one bar — the Bionic Bar on select Royal Caribbean ships — doesn’t even have a bartender; instead drinks are served by robotic arms backlit by neon lights, which stop to dance along to the beat-heavy music every now and then.

9. From cut off from the world to as connected as you want to be

Like airplanes, getting on a cruise ship used to mean going without contact with your friends and family back home for the length of your trip. That’s no longer even remotely the case, with just about every big ship having front-to-back Wi-Fi and packages that are reasonably priced. As examples, Royal Caribbean’s super fast Voom Wi-Fi starts at $12.99 per day, per device, for everything but streaming, while on Carnival Cruise Line, cruisers can purchase social packages for $5 a day that provide access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social sites. More robust packages cost $16 or $25 per day, with the latter including the ability to stream.  So instead of having to send a postcard from Belize, today you just ‘Gram your selfie from wherever you are — even on the ship.


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cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vacation planning,cruise vactation,cruise cabin selection,cruise packing,cruise vacationOften it doesn’t hit you until you’re struggling with a stuffed suitcase at the airport: You overpacked for your cruise. Again. And while other travelers breezily zip through the airport, you’re the one lassoing your bulging bags at baggage claim and handing out hefty porter tips.

Wish your packing life could be easier?

We is here to tell you our tried-and-true secrets to avoiding overpacking. Read on for a few quick tips that can make your cruise packing process simpler, saner and less stressful.

1. Pick a Palette

It makes sense; if you have limited suitcase space, you can stretch your outfit choices by mixing and matching clothes that are similar shades. Restricting yourself to a handful of similar colors also means you can cut down on shoes.

cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vacation planning,cruise vactation,cruise cabin selection,cruise packing,cruise vacation2. Go Two if by Sea

The rule of “twos” can help you plan the perfect wardrobe. Pick two outfits – one for day, one for night – for each day you travel, as well as workout clothes, bathing suits, and PJs for every two days. Then cut the total amount in half — remember, no one is going to notice when you wear the same shirt twice.  Also, restrict shoes to two pairs if at all possible.

3. Get a Shoe Clue

Shoes take up the most space in your suitcase, so be smart with how many pairs you bring. Limit yourself to two, in neutral colors, and chose ones that can do double duty. Boots, for example, can pair with a nice dress AND jeans. Ditto ballet flats or Mary Janes. Above all, choose comfort over fashion; nothing is worse than limping around a port in poor footwear.

4. Stay Fresh

Bring travel-sized Febreeze spray to freshen up items to re-wear. A small sachet can make clothes in a drawer smell better. Clothes and underwear can be washed in the sink and hung on the clothesline to drip dry. (Or just spring for laundry.)

5. Accessorize

The same nice dress can look different with a new scarf or eye-catching jewelry so this is one area to bring multiples. Pashmina scarves can be particularly versatile, brightening up neutrals or serving as a shawl on chilly planes and in dining rooms.

6. Be Clever With Carry-Ons

Rather than pack a separate beach bag, look for a waterproof tote that’s big enough to serve as your airplane carry-on. Tablets are your best entertainment investment, as they can be used for e-books, downloaded movies and news sources.

cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vacation planning,cruise vactation,cruise cabin selection,cruise packing,cruise vacation7. Roll Up

Roll clothes when packing them. You can fit more in your luggage that way, and it also helps to minimize wrinkles. Rolling socks and stuffing them into shoes is another space saver.

8. Divide and Conquer

If you and your companion have both vowed to stick to carry-ons, don’t be afraid to co-mingle bags. The taller person might have larger things, so splitting the stuff is more efficient.

9. Tame Toiletries

If you can live without your brands, go with the toiletries provided onboard. If you need a larger size, stop at a drugstore near the port, and buy it there. If you don’t need the full 3 ounces, rebottle potions and lotions in a contact lens case. If you travel frequently, save time by keeping a bag of already measured liquids ready to go.

10. Single Out

It’s not cheap, but buying single use products can save space. Many products such as antibacterial lotion, nail polish remover, insect repellant and sunscreen come as wipes and cloths, not bottles. Simply toss when done.

11. Take Inventory

When you get home, look hard at your suitcase and take note of what you did and didn’t use. These can provide clues for the next cruise’s packing adventures. And then write yourself a reminder not to overpack next time!


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