Packing

The worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

In:
Category: 
16Jan2020

You will start packing for your cruise in the days leading up to the ship's departure, and whether it is your first cruise or twentieth, packing is never a simple task.

Mistakes happen, and I have the top ten cruise packing mistakes not to make!

Bringing a prohibited item

Probably the most common packing mistake is packing something that Royal Caribbean prohibits you from taking onboard. Alcohol, drugs, weapons and more are not allowed.  

Be sure to check the list of what is and what is not allowed to be brought onboard on Royal Caribbean’s website.

Putting important documents in checked luggage

You may know to bring the proper documentation with you on a cruise, like a passport or birth certificate, but be sure not to put it in your checked luggage.

The luggage you give the porters at the cruise terminal to be delivered to your room will take hours to get to your room. 

If your passport is in your checked luggage, it means a big problem with checking into your cruise. Be sure to always carry your important documents with you, or put it in a carry-on bag.

Not protecting against leaks

If you are particular about the brand of shampoo, soap or other important liquids or gels you need, be sure to guard against leaks that can ruin clothes and other things in your luggage.

Luggage gets tossed around easily, and if something explodes, it can really mess things up. Consider getting TSA approved and leak proof containers, or simply put these items in a zip lock bag.

Bringing medicine

If you have medicine you need to take regularly, be sure to first and foremost bring enough not just for the duration of the cruise, but for a few days thereafter. You never know if you will encounter a travel delay.

In addition, be sure to keep your medicine in a carry-on bag.  This guards against a lost bag creating a health issue with not having enough medicine.

Forgetting formal wear

In the grand scheme of forgetting important pieces of clothing, I think forgetting formal wear, as well as clothing to wear out at night, is an easy one to overlook.

Despite the name, formal night isn’t that formal, but you do need clothing to wear that looks nice and is appropriate for the themed evenings of your cruise.

Consult a past Cruise Compass for your ship and sailing to get an idea of what themed evenings will be offered, and pack accordingly. 

Not unpacking soon enough

Once you get in your cabin and your luggage is delivered, be sure to unpack to prevent clothes from getting wrinkled.

It is easy to leave your bags packed for a while as you explore the ship, but neglecting clothes that can wrinkle easily (especially on the first night of your cruise) can lead to some embarrassing moments.

Remember, there is no self-service laundry or irons on Royal Caribbean, so unpack sooner than later.

Overpacking

I admit, I’m an overpacker and do it often.  

While overpacking is not the end of the world, you do want to avoid going overboard with packing.  

To avoid overpacking, download a packing list, use packing cubes for better organization and think through exactly what you really will (and will not) need for your cruise.

Forgetting a jacket

I am guilty of this one all the time, because I live in Florida where it’s generally warm year-round. But if you are taking a cruise in the winter months, or perhaps a cruise up north, it is easy to overlook bringing a jacket.

Cold fronts do occur in the tropics, and of course cruises to Canada and New England, even in the fall months, can still get some chilly temperatures.

Consider bringing A lightweight, easy-to-roll jacket that's still warm.

Socks!

This is totally one I have failed at time and time again. Bring enough socks of various varieties.

Dress socks, athletic socks, low cut, whatever. Bring the kind of socks for formal night, as well as activities onboard and onshore. 

Keep in mind activities like ice skating or rock climbing require you bring your own socks, and athletic socks are easily overlooked when planning a warm Caribbean cruise.

Forgetting to leave out something to wear on the last day

There’s always someone who misses this last tip, and that is to make sure you do not pack all your clothes on the last day of the cruise.

On the last night of the cruise, guests pack their bags and leave the bags out to be delivered in the cruise terminal.  This makes disembarkation easier.

The issue is, some people pack everything, and that means they do not leave themselves a spare set of clothes to wear off the ship.   It seems there is always one family who wear their pajamas off the ship because they forgot.

What should I pack for a cruise to Alaska?

In:
Category: 
14Jan2020

An Alaska cruise will take you to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  It is filled with breathtaking vistas, new discoveries, and trails to awe-inspiring views.

The Last Frontier is known for glaciers, wildlife spotting, and the Northern Lights. With so much to see and do, packing for this kind of a bucket list adventure is no easy task.

There are a few important things to know about what to pack for an Alaskan cruise, so here are the basics.

This post contains affiliate links, however, all opinions expressed are exclusively are my own. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Layers

If there is one mantra about Alaska that is absolutely true, it is the idea of "layering".

Essentially, the weather changes a lot during the day in Alaska.  It may start out cold and rainy, then the sun comes out and warms things up, followed by a breezy afternoon and perhaps rain again.

Cruise experts will tell you want to have three basic layers while in Alaska:

  1. Base layer: t-shirt and jeans
  2. Warm layer: Fleece or down jacket/sweater
  3. Waterproof layer: Thin waterproof jacket suitable for when it rains

The idea is you can take off or put back on any of these layers at any given time. 

Base Layer

The base layer is suitable for when you are on the cruise ship, or when the sun is shining while outdoors.  This is essentially the kind of clothing you would wear in the early spring or fall back at home, where it is warm, but not hot, outside.

You should plan to pack primarily t-shirts or other casual mostly warm weather shirts as your base layer. Plan on having one for every day.

Warm layer

This is the layer you put on when temperatures start to go down and it gets chilly.  

It seems like most people opt for fleece jackets or pullovers from brands such as North Face or Columbia.  Brands aside, you want something that will keep you warm without resorting to something too "poofy".  Parka jackets, need not apply.

I invested in a quality fleece jacket, and also packed one or two hoodies that I can swap out interchangeably. You do not need one for each day, but should have a back up option or two just in case.

Waterproof layer

This is what you put on when it rains.  Rain in Alaska varies, and is often misty and light, but definitely occurs off and on sporadically.

Just like the warm layer, you do not want something bulky, because more than likely you will be carrying around this layer with you just in case it rains. 

A windproof rain jacket is a solid bet. Be sure to get one that is lightweight.

A popular choice are three-in-one jackets that have the warm layer and waterproof layer bundled together, and can be taken off as needed. 

Regardless of what rain jacket you opt for, you want to make sure it is light enough to put in a backpack to carry around without being a nuisance.

Shoes

There is a lot of advice when it comes to the proper footwear in Alaska, and I believe the proper footwear depends on what you plan to do on your shore excursions.

At the very minimum, you need sneakers or other closed toed shoes suitable for walking and perhaps light hiking (as in going up a paved trail).

If you plan on doing real hiking, where you will be going into the brush and going off-road, then water-resistant shoes/hiking boots are the way to go.  Unless you are the Bear Grylls type, hiking boots are likely overkill, and waterproof hiking shoes are a more practical bet.

Binoculars

Something you would (likely) never pack in the Caribbean are binoculars, and there is definitely good reason to bring one.

Whether on sea or land, you will be surrounded by beautiful landscapes filled with wildlife spotting opportunities. Binoculars with a great ability to zoom is what you want, and quality is important here.  

I will caution that you do not need to get binoculars, and should not spend a great deal of money in a pair that you may never use again. Ideally, borrow one from someone else, or perhaps look for a sale.  But if the price is too high, this is one area I think can be left off.

Clothing accessories to keep you warm

In addition to the layering advice earlier, you may want to pack other items to keep you warm(er).  These are items that help with keeping your extremities warm, including:

Backpack

 

You want to bring a high quality and durable backpack for your time on shore in Alaska. 

Your backpack will need to carry your personal documents, water bottle, rain jacket (if not wearing it), warm layer (if not wearing it), snacks, sunscreen, bug spray and more.

Ideally, you will want a water resistant backpack in case it rains all day.

Alternatively, some people prefer a lightweight, water-resistant crossbody bag. Regardless, you will need a means of carrying your supplies.

Bathing suit

Yes, seriously.

While it may not seem like you will swim, your Royal Caribbean ship still has a hot tub and you would be surprised how many people end up going for a swim.

Odds are you already own a bathing suit, so throw it in your bag just in case you find the desire to go.

Sunscreen

 

Yes, seriously. The reflection of the sun off snow or ice on a glacier is a recipe for getting sunburnt easily.

This is especially true on faces, so pack some to avoid paying ridiculous prices for it in Alaska or on your ship.  

Camera

If you have been wanting to upgrade your camera for a while, a cruise to Alaska is the perfect excuse.

Not only do you want a high-pixel camera that can take the kind of photos you would want to humble brag about on Facebook, you are going to want a a good zoom lens to go with it.

Be sure to also invest in plenty of memory cards to ensure you never run out of space for photos. Quite often, you will be snapping photos in rapid succession in hopes one of them came out well. 

A DSLR camera is not for everyone, so if you prefer something more compact, consider a higher-end point-and-shoot camera.  I really like the Sony RX series of cameras for this purpose.

If you are going to rely on your phone, you can purchase phone lens attachments to enhance your photo taking capability.  

Insect repellent

Mosquitoes in Alaska have a nasty reputation (where don't mosquitos have a bad reputation?), especially in the summer months.

Be sure to pack insect repellent and apply liberally to avoid becoming a walking Windjammer for the official state bird of New Jersey.

Video: Top 10 cruise packing mistakes

In:
Category: 
05Dec2019

Packing for your cruise vacation means making sure you have everything you need for an a memorable and enjoyable time away from it all.  Packing also has its own set of challenges, and I have ten packing mistakes to avoid making.

Whether it is your first cruise or your twentieth, packing is one of those things we all have to do and it can cause problems later on in your cruise.  Here are the top pitfalls of packing for a cruise and what to do to avoid them!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: Is there a packing mistake you have made? What is your advice for someone packing for a cruise?

Video: Important things to pack before you go on Royal Caribbean

In:
Category: 
05Mar2019

We are back with another RoyalCaribbeanBlog video this week, and we have the most important things to pack for your Royal Caribbean cruise!

We all know that feeling... you are getting ready for your vacation, but you cannot shake that feeling that you are forgetting something.  Our goal today is to help you avoid that feeling by sharing the most important things you will forget to pack before you go to on your cruise… so you DO NOT forget to do them! 

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your best advice for someone planning a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Top travel gadgets to bring on a cruise

In:
Category: 
11Jan2019

Packing for a cruise vacation means not just remembering to bring a swimsuit and formal night wear, but also helpful travel gadgets. These tech tools can enhance any vacation experience and ensure your days by the pool, at the beach or exploring are the best ones yet.

Here are some of our favorite picks for innovative accessories to bring on your next sailing. Note that we included links in this post that may contain affiliate links. Basically that means Amazon gives us a "finder's fee" commission without charging you anything extra.

Wireless Earbuds

Whether you jam out to classic reggae or prefer a Top 20 pop hit, wireless earbuds allow you to enjoy your favorite tunes without worrying about disturbing others around you.

Our pick: Apple AirPods

Phone Case Wallet

I have lost count of the times I have accidently de-magnetized my SeaPass card due to my phone being too close to it.  Until the whole fleet moves to RFID cards, you can guard against this problem by getting a phone case wallet.  They are inexpensive and will save you a trip (or four) to Guest Services for a new card.

Our pickSilk iPhone X / XS Wallet Case

Waterproof Bluetooth speaker

A day at the beach is about relaxing in the sun and surf, but passing the time enjoying those rays and waves is much more enjoyable with some great music.  Royal Caribbean does have some live music on the island, and some recorded music playing near the bars, but back at your beach chair it can be difficult to hear any of it.

We do not advocate blasting your music to disturb other guests, rather, provide a way for you and your family and friends to enjoy some background music while you take it all in.  Enjoying music among friends is a great way to spend the day, especially if you are in a cabana.

Our pick: UE Boom 3 portable Bluetooth wireless speaker

Portable device charger

Never let battery power on your phone, camera or any electronic device prevent you from capturing or enjoying the fun onboard or onshore.  A portable USB charger ensures you can stay charged up, and even allow multiple devices to be useful all day long.

Our pick: Anker PowerCore 20100

Clip-On phone camera lens

Your phone is capable of taking great photos, but with a clip-on lens, it can take even better photos.  By adding a clip-on lens, your phone can take wide-angle, close-up, or just plain spectacular shots that can rival any DSLR camera.

Our pickXenvo Pro Lens Kit for iPhone and Android

Travel Pillow

If you are flying to your cruise, you may want to invest in a neck pillow so that you can actually sleep comfortably on an airplane. 

Our pickEverlasting Comfort airplane travel kit   

USB wall charger

Since Royal Caribbean prohibits guests from bringing a surge protector (they are a fire hazard), your best bet is to bring a USB wall charger to keep everyone charged up during your cruise.  There are limited outlets in a standard stateroom, and a USB wall charger means you do not have to unceremoniously unplug your spouse's device and then later blame housekeeping.

Our pickAnker 60W 6 Port USB Wall Charger

Your thoughts

Any good cruise or travel-related gadgets we missed? Have any product recommendations (or dislike any of the things listed here)? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!

First time cruisers: What clothing to pack

In:
08Jan2019

Packing for your first Royal Caribbean cruise can feel like a daunting task, as there is a lot to consider. You have to take into account where your cruise is going, the shore excursions you want to book and dress codes onboard.

In a way, it is difficult to blame anyone for over packing because the longer the cruise, the harder it is to figure out just what clothing you will need. Your luggage will have vastly different clothing in it if you cruise heads to the Mediterranean versus Caribbean or Australia.

We have some tips to share for what to pack for your first cruise.

Cruise destinations

Even though Royal Caribbean has the word "Caribbean" in its name, Royal Caribbean ships serve a variety of ports around the world, so where you go can make things easier or harder on your packing.  

Caribbean and other warm water port destinations usually require a lot of t-shirts, shorts, and other light clothing.  But if your cruise is visiting cold water ports such as Alaska, New England or Northern Europe, you're going to need clothing that will feel comfortable outdoors as well as clothing that is comfortable inside the ship.

Based on where your cruise is going, you'll have a better idea of how much you will need and it's important to figure out a rough idea of what your schedule will be in terms of ports.  If you're only planning on leaving the ship at one or two ports, you may not need as much clothing than if you're planning on leaving the ship all the time.

First day packing

Embarkation day requires its own special packing strategy, because you will need a carry-on bag with certain items that you need to have on you until the rest of your luggage is delivered to your stateroom later in the day.

Pack your bathing suit in a carry on bag and then change in one of the public restrooms.  Towels will be provided in the pool area for your use.  By bringing bathing suits with you to change into on embarkation day, you will be able to enjoy the pools and hot tubs without the crowds that will soon arrive for the rest of the cruise.

You should also plan to pack anything you will need to have access to between when you arrive at the cruise terminal through the evening of the first day. This can include things such as medications, electronics, passport, credit card/cash, change of clothes and toiletries.

Royal Caribbean dress codes

The phrase "dress code" often strikes fear into the hearts of first time cruisers out of concern that they will feel out of place or break a rule. The reality is dress codes are merely dress suggestions for the main dining room, and dress on Royal Caribbean is far more casual than you might think.

Royal Caribbean has three main dress codes onboard its ships:

  • Casual
    • Most times of the cruise, Casual is the defacto dress code.  You will find it for breakfast, lunch and some dinners. 
    • Some good ideas for casual nights are jeans, polos, sundresses, blouses, and generally comfortable clothing. 
  • Smart Casual
    • Think of Smart Casual as a step up from Casual dress code, so plan on something a bit nicer than you might wear on Casual.  In practice, you could easily dress for Smart Casual the same as Casual.
    • Smart Casual dress suggestions include collared shirts, slacks, nicer dresses or skirts.
  • Formal
    • Formal Night is when guests can enjoy their evening best.  Nothing is too fancy for formal night, but keep in mind that you do not have to recreate your Senior Prom either.
    • You will find men wearing suits and even tuxedos.  Ladies may opt for cocktail dresses or evening gown.
    • If all this sounds too fussy, a simple collared shirt and pair of slacks for men or jeans, skirt or dress for women will suffice.
    • Formal nights are optional (though recommended) and will only take place one to three times per cruise. As always, there are plenty of casual restaurant options available on those nights too.

Packing for fun

Beyond what you will wear for meals, the bulk of your packing will entail what you need to wear around the ship or in town on excursions. 

For all the activities onboard, you may need a workout outfit or two for the fitness center.  You will also need athletic wear to tackle the rock-climbing wall, sports court or zip line. If you are cruising on Voyager, Freedom or Oasis Class ships and want to visit the ice-skating rink, be sure to pack socks and long pants. Likewise, the zip line requires closed toe shoes.

If there is one aspect of cruise packing that may be the most obvious, it would be for the pool deck. You will need swimsuits for the pool, hot tubs and waterslides.

Cruise packing tips

Here are some more packing tips to consider for your first cruise!

  • Do a Google search for "cruise packing list".  There's a lot of packing lists out there and most contain a lot of stuff you don't need, but they are good resources for remembering those "oh yea!" things. Our friends at CruiseHabit came up with a great list.
  • When possible, re-use clothing.  Odds are no one is tracking if you wore the same pair of jeans or shorts on day 2 and day 6 of your cruise.  Pants are the easiest to reuse, as they really don't get "dirty" after just one use.  
  • For men, if you want to pack less dress shirts, try packing one shirt and tie with your suit to wear, and then on a different formal night, just wear shirt without jacket or tie.
  • Another tip for men, try finding reversible belts that go with a "black" or "brown" outfit.  One less thing to pack!
  • Have one bag, preferably something easily portable like a backpack, full of essentials you need but wont check in, such as passports, money, cruise documents, phones, etc.
  • I find two bathing suits are usually enough for almost any cruise.  Short of you or someone literally spending all their time in the pools, you can usually operate with one swimsuit drying somewhere in your cabin with the other ready for use.
  • While this article is all about trying to avoiding over packing, it's definitely better to over pack than under pack!
  • Self-service laundry isn’t available on the ship, but dry cleaning and laundry services are offered for each stateroom at an additional fee. Nominal fees are worth it if it means packing less clothing.

More packing information

Now that we have covered packing basics, here are some additional articles to help more!

10 things you never thought to bring on a cruise, but you totally should

In:
Category: 
16Jul2018

Even if you have never taken a Royal Caribbean cruise before, you probably can figure out some basic things to bring on a cruise vacation: sunglasses, swim suits, shorts and flip flops are fairly self explanatory.  Beyond the obvious things to pack, there are some other things you really ought to bring along on your cruise that are not things you may think of initially.

After taking quite a few Royal Caribbean cruises, we collected 10 things that inspired at one point or another we thought, "I wish I'd packed that!" when on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post that kick back a few bucks to me if you happen to click on them and order something.  It will cost you absolutely nothing extra, I just get a "finders fee" from Amazon for my trouble, and it helps "keep the lights on" with this blog.

Ways to ID your suitcase

When your cruise is over and you are headed to the cruise terminal to collect your belongings and get on your way home, the last thing you want to do is play the "where is my luggage" game.  Your luggage will be waiting for you in groups that are separated by numbers, but there still can be a lot of luggage to comb over.

In order to simplify finding your own luggage and alert others that the generic black suitcase you own is not theirs is to invest in some way of identifying your luggage.  You can use bandanas, string, luggage tags, stickers or whatever else will stay affixed to your luggage.  You do not have to be very creative, just come up with a decoration scheme that works for your family.

Changes of clothes for hot days

When packing for that shore excursion adventure in a port that will take you to some historic site or incredible area, you ought to throw in an extra outfit just for your time on shore.

When walking, running, swimming, kayaking, skipping, or power walking through any port you will visit, odds are that all the energy you will expend during the day may lead to some serious sweating.  This is especially true when you go on a cruise during the summer months when just walking off your ship and down the pier can lead to epic schvitzing.

Having an extra outfit to change into after you get back to the ship is a really nice cruise hack.  After all, once you take that post-shore excursion shower, do you really want to put back on those soiled clothes that you wore around Havana all day?

Snacks for the room

When I first heard about the idea of packing snacks from home to keep in your room, I thought it was the looniest idea ever. I mean, why pack food when Royal Caribbean offers so much food during your cruise?

The reality is kids always want a snack in that time between when they get picked up from Adventure Ocean but before they go to sleep.  In fact, the first words out of my kids' mouths when I pick them up is "Daddy, can we get something to eat?".  Having a bag of Goldfish, fruit snacks or whatever else your little kiddies enjoy in the room means they can have a quick bite without having to order room service or walk around the ship in search of food.  Plus, it allows the kids to nosh on something while getting changed.  These snacks are also great for lazy mornings where everyone sleeps in. 

Speaking of snacks, be sure to grab a few extra boxes of your kids' favorite cereal from the Windjammer to keep in your room as a snack.  Just like snacks from home, they are very helpful and you can only get the cereal boxes in the morning when breakfast is served.

Magnetic hooks

Something you may not realize about your cabin is how little opportunity there is to hang stuff.  More often, people end up draping their clothes, swimsuits, jackets and everything else over the back of a chair, couch or balcony.  Instead, you ought to invest in a pack of strong magnetic hooks

Your stateroom walls are made out of metal, which means you can simply stick a magnet onto a wall or ceiling and start hanging your hats, swimsuits or whatever else needs to be hung.

Ziploc bags

As you head out of your house on your way to the cruise, grab a dozen or so Ziploc bags, because they are really useful for so many reasons.

Ziploc bags are great at keeping what is inside apart from what is outside.  This means it can keep wet clothing from your dry clothing, or keep dry clothing from getting wet or sandy. On beach days, these bags are invaluable.

Likewise, Ziploc bags can be useful for things other than just clothes.  You can actually stick your smart phone, tablet and any other electronic device in these.  I have even seen some people use their phones while in the bag as a "poor man's phone protector". 

Portable phone charger

With the proliferation of Royal Caribbean's high speed internet across its fleet and the constant drive to share how much fun you are having with friends and family at home, a portable phone charger can make a lot of sense to have with you on a cruise.

Portable phone chargers are cheap, with basic ones costing less than $20 and heftier packs that can power multiple devices not that much more money.  This means you never have to curtail sharing your vacation on social media, streaming videos, or keeping the kids entertained on a bus ride.

I always bring a portable charger with me when I go on shore excursions these days.  I love not having to worry about finding a power outlet.

Aloe vera

I never bothered to include aloe vera in my cruise luggage until the one time I needed it and then it became the thing I always pack on a cruise.

No one wants to think about getting sun burned, and it is really easy to tell yourself that you will apply plenty of sunscreen and sun burns are something that happens to other people. The reality is sunburn can happen to anyone and never fun when it does.  

Your cruise ship may sell aloe vera onboard, but it will not be as cheap as when you buy it at home.  Moreover, you want to have access to it the moment you realize you need it.  The sooner it gets applied, the sooner it helps soothe away the pain.

Tip: stick it in the mini-fridge in your room on embarkation day so it's cooled down for application later.

Wrinkle release spray

Did you know that there are no self-serve laundry options nor any clothing irons on Royal Caribbean cruise ships?  The only option if you want your clothes pressed or cleaned is to send them out for dry cleaning.

If you are concerned about your clothes being wrinkle-free after you unpack onboard, invest in a good wrinkle release spray. You simply spray any clothing to remove any unwanted creases or wrinkles.  Plus, it has the added bonus of making your clothing smell good again, which can be an issue if your luggage that you store in your basement/attic has an odd odor to it.

Sticky notes

If you want an easy low-tech option for letting your friends and family know where you are on a cruise ship, sticky notes are the way to go for staying in touch.

Put a pad in each stateroom, and you can quickly jot down a note of where you will be and place it pretty much anywhere you think that person will read it.  

Metal straw

Did you hear the news that Royal Caribbean will eliminate plastic straws on its cruise ships by the end of 2018? Saving the environment is really important, but enjoying your favorite frozen drink should not be neglected either.

If you prefer a straw in your drink, and do not care for a paper straw, investing in a metal straw may be just the right solution for you. They are rather inexpensive, reusable and easy to clean.  Plus, metal straws have the structural integrity paper straws cannot match and can stay in your drink for hours and never break apart.

Did we miss something?

Is there something you always bring on a Royal Caribbean cruise that may not be that obvious to bring along? Did you find out list particularly helpful? Share what you think in the comments of this blog post!

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