You've booked a cruise! Now what?
[If you haven't booked a cruise, see our reasons for why you do need to take one!]
Just like any other vacation, prepping may feel overwhelming but don't let it be! Here are some tips to make your next vacation on the seas as relaxing as it can be!
In terms of what to bring, less can be more - in this case, make sure to bring more of the right things!
Your cruise is likely going to have themed nights, including at least one formal night - and if you're into that type of thing, pack accordingly! But this is a beach vacation, and we never think there's too many swimsuits, coverups or light wear you can pack, since it will be likely what you'll live in. Your cruise ship may also have laundry service available, so in case you didn't bring enough of one thing or need it for emergency purposes, you have options. Including shopping in port!
Outside the obvious, including sunglasses, sandals, toiletries, and anything you travel with for comfort, the following are items we definitely saw value in having with us!
Shopping On Board and Abroad
Some love to take advantage of shopping duty free - and cruising its so easy!
If you’re planning to purchase duty free items, we do recommend you do a bit of window shopping at home to decide if what you're about to buy on board/shore is a better deal than back home. Most of the times it is, but we have found a few items that were not worth holding out for.
Not big on souvenirs but need to bring something back? Some of our favorite things include the original Kinder Surprise (the eggs are banned in the US but you can enjoy on shore); Mexican vanilla because its the real thing; and we love to pick up unique handmade items to support the local vendors (and try not to haggle the price because they are worth every penny).
Cruise lines have in the past years cracked down on people trying to sneak drinks and avoid spending on board.
That said, most cruise lines will let you bring a case of sodas or water (canned) on the first day of your cruise for you to have. This is a great option for someone who wants their caffeine fix but doesn't want the price per glass. You can also pre-order either to be delivered to your room in case you feel like you will go through your allotment before your sailing ends.
On the same token, most cruise lines allow 2 bottles of wine or champagne (no larger than 750ml) per stateroom with an adult 21+ in. Note that Disney Cruise Line allow each guests 21+ to bring a bottle of wine or champagne OR 6 - 12oz beers on board at the beginning of the voyage AND and at each port of call (if you want to restock). These beverages must be packed in carry-on bags or luggage so we recommend a wine bag with your carry on. And pack an insulated wine cup so you can have something ready to go in your room (though you can ask your stateroom attendant for a wine glass to use as well). Just note that if you are going to open a wine bottle in the dining room, you will be charged a corkage fee. So opt for a twist top OR bring your own wine opener for your room and open before dinner.
Another option to consider if you're trying to drink but also save a bit is to order a bottle of alcohol to your room before traveling. You can do so on each respective cruise line’s website under their stateroom gifts option. These orders will be delivered the first day of the cruise and are subject to the rules of each cruise line. Then you can make your own drinks in your room for a fraction of the price of buying. While dining, you will also be able to order wine by the bottle, which can be a substantial savings from ordering by the glass. And if you don't top the bottle your meal, you can ask to bring it with you to your room OR your serving team will cork and store for the next time you join them for dinner. With either option though, you will not be able to bring any unfinished bottles off the ship, so make sure to never order more than you can have!
Finally, there's the popular "all you can drink" packages most lines offer that are worth considering. The price, though significant, can be worth it if you will be drinking the allotment. With most cocktails about at $14+ tax & gratuity and beers starting at $7+ tax & gratuity, the price for the package can easily break even after about 6 cocktails a day (if you plan to have that much). But note, most lines require that all passengers of age in one stateroom to commit, so sharing will be avoided, so a lot of deliberation may be in store depending what type of cruise you'll take. If you’re stopping on a private island with the package is honored, we recommend considering as it does being value!
I always, always, always recommend traveling with a passport! For your kids, it’s the only type of ID that has their picture on it - and for everyone in an emergency situation, the o my way you can fly home internationally.
If you are a US citizen on a US closed loop cruise (start and end at the same US port), you do have the option to bring a birth certificate and photo ID. Options exist for foreign born US citizens as well.
Remember. you are leaving the country, so its always better to have this priceless piece of identification ready to go. Also, it makes the whole embarkation and debarkation process seamless! With facial recognition software in much use, having a passport will save you lots of time when coming home. Just make sure you have at least 6 months left from the last day of your trip of your passport in case of emergency (a good standard to have when traveling anywhere in the world)!
If your stateroom came with onboard credit (OBC) - usually an offer working with a travel planner can get you - it has to be used on board. You can use if for anything you end up spending on board, including gratuities - so it may be a reason to not prepay your gratuity so you have some flexibility with this free money.
Excursions can be booked on the ship at a premium and with peace of mind (the ship will not leave without you if your excursion got delayed). But if you want to explore cheaper options or book with flexibility, check out tours for your destinations with my trusted partner Viator. You can also choose an excursion right at the port, where you can try to haggle the price a little - especially if you're okay with being completely spontaneous!
All this goes without being said, book with a travel planner - there's no additional cost, only additional perks, and you have an extra set of eyes to prepare you for your trip!
If you’re ready to explore an option for you, fill out the Cruise Form and we can get started on finding a cruise for you!
If you're already booked and interested in having your reservation taken over, fill out the Booking Transfer Form - it can easily be transferred with just your approval (as long as you're not in final payment)!
Dreaming of Rome
As an ambassador for Happyly, I'm proud to share ways to get families out and making the most of your time together.
If you're looking for travel plans to visit Italy, check out some of our recommendations for Dreaming of Travel: Rome. The eternal city is a lush destination full of so many stories and the opportunity to step back in time. You're going to find yourself wanting to discover more of this beautiful country!