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. Have a bunch of small baubles that you’re packing and would like to keep together? Or maybe you want to snag a snack for later from the buffet? Put it all in a Ziploc. Always pack a few baggies with you on your trip and you’ll be sure to find a use for them.
Always pack a small portable fan for your cabin room. There isn’t much airflow in the cabins, so if you are the type that always need a breeze to be comfy, then you’ll hate sitting still in the room. As well, we like the white noise that a fan provides to drown out sounds like people talking in the hall or the weather outside the ship.
The best place to keep your passport is in your in-room safe. If you want some ID while your are in your port city, make a copy of your ID page on the passport and carry it with you, along with a driver’s license. This will make due until you can get back to the cabin. Another smart idea is to take a scan of your passport and email it to yourself. This way no matter where you go, you will have a digital copy that you can access from anywhere with Internet.
Swimsuit? Check. Suntan lotion? Check. A jacket? What?! Yes, even if you are headed to the tropics you should always pack a few items of warm clothing. If a rainstorm hits in the evening, it can get chilly on a fast-moving cruise ship with the wind whipping around. Having something with long sleeves and a hood can be a lifesaver.
Before a cruise, we never would have thought twice about towel clips. 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. That makes trying to keep your towel from whipping around an exercise in frustration. You can lay trying to relax, but the corners of your towel will be constantly flapping. Luckily, for just a few bucks you can get some clips that will keep your towel on your lounger.
The vast majority of cruise lines don’t let you bring on beer or hard liquor. Nearly all of them will let you bring on bottles of champagne or wine. Check with your cruise line, but the rule is usually either one bottle per cabin or one bottle per adult passenger. One or two bottles of wine likely won’t last your entire cruise, but considering the price of drinks onboard, anything you can bring saves you a lot of cash.
Want to save $30-$40? Many cruise lines — including Carnival and Royal Caribbean — allow you to bring on non-alcoholic beverages. The rule is usually 12 drinks per person. So if you can’t live without your Diet Coke or want to have some Gatorade for the kids, bring it with you. The only thing to know is that Carnival requires you to bring cans or cartons. No bottles are allowed. Considering that a non-alcoholic drink can cost $2-3 bucks each on a cruise ship (plus gratuity!) you can save a big chunk of change by bringing your own.
Can’t choose between the chicken or the fish? Don’t stress out. Order both. Or order two plates on lobster night. Most people don’t realize it, but you can order as much as you want in the main dining room (or other restaurants). Cruise lines know that people are on vacation to let loose and enjoy themselves. They understand that people love to eat on their trip, so they are usually happy to accommodate your request.
Want a way to earn a little extra from buying your cruise? Consider buying gift cards from grocery stores to pay for your trip. Some grocery chains offer discounts on gas based on the dollars you spend at the store. For example, Kroger lets you save up to $1 per gallon with their fuel point program. The trick is to buy your gift cards with a credit card, which gets you the fuel points and the credit card points. It’s a way to earn some serious cash back on your cruise purchase.
Don’t wait until you are on the ship to make reservations at restaurants or the spa. The best times will fill up quickly, leaving you with fewer options. Every cruise line will allow you to make reservations online (or by phone) weeks or months in advance of your cruise. As soon as you know that you will want to dine at a restaurant or get a spa treatment, make your reservations!