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Top 10 Cruise Must-Haves

Maria is a hard-working mom who tries to make the most out of life with her family and friends.


I love to cruise. It is my favorite type of vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I love land-based vacations too, but if I had a choice, I would choose a cruise any day of the week. What I love most about cruises is that they give you the opportunity to visit three or four different ports where you get to decide what you want to do. If you like the destination the first time you visit, you can choose to go back again, but at least you have the chance to see it for the first time.

Cruises continue to be popular with travelers because they offer many of the same amenities luxury hotels offer, all while floating from destination to destination. You have the option of choosing a mega ship carrying thousands of passengers or you can choose a smaller ship carrying fewer people. The choice is yours.

I love that I can take part in as many of the activities I can fit into a day or do nothing at all. I can drop my kids off at the kids club for a few hours and have some adult fun and then pick them up and have a great family vacation. Where else can you eat 24/7, take part in games and activities, or just lounge around basking in the sun, all while not having to worry about driving from place to place?

I’ve been on many cruises and am about to embark on another cruise soon. I thought it might be helpful to write down some hints and tips that work for me and my family when we go on a cruise vacation. Some of these tips can also apply to land-based vacations also.

1. Over-the-Door Shoe Rack

I had heard about this travel hack after I sailed on my last cruise. I have to admit, it would have been very helpful had I known about it earlier. Generally when I book a cabin, I like to book the least expensive inside cabin. Personally, I would rather spend the extra money on activities than cabin location. I think of the cabin as a place to sleep, shower and change and I would hate to pay extra for that. Since the least expensive inside cabins are generally smaller than most other cabins, utilizing the shoe rack can help tremendously in finding a space for smaller items such as sunscreen, hair brushes, hair clips, toiletries, etc. Not to mention, your cabin will look more organized.

2. Nightlight

As I mentioned above, I like to book an inside cabin to save on cost. Since there is no window, I like to bring a nightlight with me because it does get very dark in the room when the lights are off. Staying in an interior room? That means you have no windows… and no natural light. Once you shut the door and turn out the lights, its black. Bring along a nightlight to plug-in to give some light for the room.

3. Power Strip/Multiple USB charger

Today, everyone has more than one device that requires charging it to use. My family is a family of 4 and we each have a cell phone and a tablet. That’s not including the digital camera that needs charging. It’s hard to charge all of that stuff in the 1 or 2 outlets in the room. Bringing aboard a multiple socket extension cord and USB charger is invaluable.

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4. Refillable Cup/Thermos and Single-Serve Flavor Enhancers

You may get tired of drinking water all day. Crystal Light is example of a flavor enhancer that you can add to your water to instantly change the flavor. I find these packets in the dollar store and they come in different flavors. They are in a small packet so they won’t take up too much space and you can even store them in your over the door shoe rack for storage on the cruise. It’s a great way to break up the mundane water drink. It’s also a good way to get the kids to drink something other than soda while on their vacation– It’s no secret that cruise lines charge for drinks. I love to get a tropical drink daily when I’m on a cruise, but for the most part, I stick to water and tea. Each cruise line offers free filtered water, tea and lemonade, usually at the buffet. They proved cups, but they are small plastic cups requiring you to make multiple trips to refill. It would be best to bring your own cup that you can refill as you need. You can find a refillable cup at any dollar store.

5. Waterproof Phone Case/Lanyard

Another item that is essential in today’s world. Everyone is attached at the hip to their telephones. Technology has advanced so much that the cameras on our phones take better pictures than digital point and shoot cameras. A pouch to store your phone and still be able to use it for taking pictures while you are in the water is essential. There are many options and not very expensive. You can also store your Drives License, cruise key card and some cash in the pouch as well. And since it’s around your neck, you don’t have to worry about losing it or someone stealing your stuff. A lanyard is another item that you can buy at just about any dollar store. It’s a great way to keep your cruise key card handy while you are on the ship. Especially if you are traveling with children and teens, they will receive their own card for use on the cruise as well. If it is attached to a lanyard, they are less likely to lose it.

6. Ziploc Bags

Ziploc bags are essential for any cruise and beach vacation. I love to fill the Ziploc bags with cereal in the morning so that I can give my kids a snack if we are on a tour and they get hungry before we eat our next meal. An apple or some cereal from the buffet can be a lifesaver when you’re onshore and one of the kids gets hungry. I also love to bring the bags to the beach so that when my daughter collects her seashells, she has a place to store them securely. Ziploc bags have to be the most useful item you can pack. Want to keep things dry while at the pool? Put it in a Ziploc. Want to keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones? Put them in a Ziploc. Always pack a few bags (in different sizes) with you on your trip and you’ll be sure to find a use for them.

7. Clip for Beach Towel

If you are fortunate enough to get a lounge chair on one of the decks, it will be helpful to bring a clip to attach to the chair so that your towel doesn’t fly away. You can buy one at the dollar store or if you work in an office, you can even use one of the binder clips that most offices have for large stacks of paper. You never really think about how breezy it gets on a cruise. With the ship in motion, there is a constant wind on the decks.

8. Small Bills for Tips

Yes, you will be paying a fee for tips for the cruise line, but what about the porter that takes your luggage onto the ship when you first arrive, or the taxi driver if you are going on your own excursion to the islands. It’s a great idea to keep some small bills handy so that no one gets excluded.

9. Suction Hooks/Magnets

I love this idea. They are great to keep in the bathroom if you have a damp or wet bathing suit that you would like to dry before putting it back in your suitcase. You can even put them on the closet doors and hang light jackets or just about anything. Most of the cabin doors are made of metal. Bring a few magnets from home, or buy some as a souvenir from each port you stop at to hang things like your daily planner, dinner reservations, etc.

10. Pack Your Own Mini First Aid Kit

Accidents happen. It’s a good idea to bring as many first aid supplies with you. Sunscreen, constipation/diarrhea medication, motion sickness, allergies, band-aids, aloe, Dramamine, aspirin … Bring all of these medications from home because they cost about 10 times more in the cruise ship’s shop. On some cruises, you can go to Guest Services and ask if they have any free motion sickness pills are available.

Most Importantly, Have Fun!

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to have fun. This is your vacation after all. You have spent lots of time and money to prepare to give yourself, family, friends the time of your lives. Take time to enjoy it and do exactly what you want to do.

© 2018 Maria Santana

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