Going on a cruise is exciting, and there is lots to do before you travel. This guide will help you to prepare, so you can go on your cruise relaxed in the knowledge you’ve got everything covered and ready to enjoy your holiday!
Find out about the ship and ports of call
Before your cruise, it’s a good idea to research the ship you will be sailing on, if possible. There are thousands of YouTube videos about cruising – you are bound to find at least one featuring your ship (unless it’s brand new). You could also look at the cruise company’s website, travel blogs, and Pinterest for more information. This will help you understand what facilities the ship has so you can plan what you’d like to do on board. You could see if there are any online forums, or Facebook groups you could join.
Your cruise should also have an itinerary, which will show the ports of call or sea days, and any particular dress code (for example if they have a formal or celebration night, dress code may be black tie).
It’s also a good idea to research the ports you will be calling at – this was a good resource for me. You can find out whether it’s possible to walk into the tourist areas, or whether you might need a taxi or a shuttle bus service. You might also want to find out what local attractions there are – the cruise ship will do excursions, but you can also look at booking these independently if you want to. This could be a cheaper way of doing it – although with the cruise-run excursions, if they are late back for whatever reason the ship will wait for you. It won’t necessarily wait if you are doing these independently!
What will the weather be doing?
Check out the weather forecast for the areas you will be travelling to – you won’t be able to get an accurate one until much closer to your travel date, but you can get an idea of the type of weather to expect, which can help you plan your packing!
Documentation and online forms
You should also check what documentation or online forms you need to complete for the cruise company – and whether any visas are required. There may be some health and identity documentation for the cruise company before you can travel. Some offer online check-in a few days before you leave – when you can also print off your luggage tags and boarding card (if you’re flying). Keep a close eye on what documentation you need, or online information to complete before you travel, and also check your passport validity (and any visas required). You should buy travel insurance as soon as you have booked your cruise, so it covers you for anything that happens before you depart. Make sure it has cruise cover (some cruise companies insist on this), and it may also need to have Covid-19 cover. Although a lot of this could be saved online, so you can access it from your phone, I always like to have a printed copy of things like the boarding pass, travel insurance and so on in case there are any technical issues that prevent me from accessing the information on my phone.
Organise your travel money – check the currencies in the places you’ll be visiting and make sure you have enough to cover expenses such as drinks/meals and souvenirs. Depending on whether gratuities are included in your cruise fare, you may wish to take money to give as tips – so make sure you have plenty of small denomination notes. Organise buying any currency a couple of weeks beforehand and shop around for the best deal – whatever you do, don’t buy it at the airport as it will be more expensive!
It might also be a good idea to get a debit card that doesn’t charge a fee if you use it abroad – I personally use Starling, which I’ve found to be excellent. Other types of cards are available such as pre-paid travel cards like Revolut. Have a look at MoneySavingExpert.com to check out the very latest deals and offers on spending money abroad.
If you use any medication, make sure you check your supplies a couple of weeks ahead of time, and order a prescription if needed. Try and keep any medication in the original packaging, in case of any queries when you are going through security – especially if it’s a liquid or gel medication item. Make sure any essential medication is in your hand luggage rather than your checked suitcase.
Stock up on painkillers, antacids, recovery powders (for if you eat or drink too much…just saying… 😉), eye drops, suncream, sunburn cream, mosquito spray, antibacterial gel, period products, seasickness remedies, medicine for diarrhoea or constipation.
If you need to organise any personal or beauty care book it in advance – e.g. hair cut or colour, waxing, nails.
Once you know the itinerary and have a rough idea of the type of weather to expect, you can start to plan your packing. Try to pack clothes that you can mix and match, and make several outfits out of. If there is a formal or black tie evening you will want to take appropriate clothing – but if getting dressed up that way really isn’t for you, you could probably opt to eat in the buffet or one of the more casual dining venues on that evening. Just make sure to check the cruise website, or ask on the Facebook group. Roll your clothes rather than folding them as this helps prevent creasing. Shoes take up a lot of space so try to take footwear that will cover you for different outfits. Make sure you take (or travel in) a pair of comfortable shoes, as you will likely do a lot of walking, particularly if you’re on an excursion. You might also need particular shoes for on-board activities or excursions – for example closed toe, lace-up trainers, walking shoes etc.
Use packing cubes – or compression cubes, which squeeze the air out of your clothes and take up less space. A hack I recommend is splitting your toiletries up into several smaller bags rather than using one big bag, as then you can fit these into the nooks and crannies of your case rather than a single bag taking up one big space. Also put all your liquid toiletries in the same bag, if you can, and put this bag inside a ziplock bag. You could also wrap these bottles in clingfilm in case of any leakages – pressure in a plane can sometimes force bottles to open and leak everywhere (as I once found out…). Take travel-sized toiletries for everything –if you have a large bottle with only a little bit of product in it, transfer it to a travel bottle. Every little bit of space and weight will help when you are packing!
Use all of the spaces in your case – the pockets on the inside and on the outside, for packing small, unbreakable things such as books, and small items of clothing. Buy some thin shoe covers, or use shower caps to pack your shoes in so they don’t make the rest of your things dirty. Pack heavy items at the bottom of your case, where the wheels are, to help balance it out. Pack anything valuable, as well as your meds, in your hand luggage so you have it with you at all times. Obviously also your passport and any travel documents! Try weighing your luggage to make sure it’s under the weight limit – you can buy these for a reasonable price.
Check whether you will need to take a travel adaptor. An extension lead can also be a good idea (but this must not be a surge-protected one as these are not allowed on board). You can’t take irons or steamers but there may be a launderette on board with ironing facilities, and you may also be able to use the washing machines. If not, there will probably be a paid-for service if you need any washing or ironing done. You could also take a wrinkle release spray for any stubborn creases, or hang your clothes in the bathroom while the shower is on. Make sure you pack your chargers for any electronic equipment – I would recommend these are in your hand luggage. Laptops and tablets will also need to be in your hand luggage.
Check the size of hand luggage you are allowed to take, and remember you will be carrying this round with you in the airport once you’ve checked your case! I would always recommend taking a fair-sized bag as hand luggage even if you like to travel light, for a couple of reasons. One, you might buy stuff while you’re away that won’t fit in your case. Two, you may need to leave your suitcase outside your cabin on the last evening, which then gets sent to the airport for you. This means you’ll need stuff for the morning, like toiletries and clothes, and you’ll need somewhere to pack your overnight stuff. This is also why it’s a good idea to have travel-size toiletries because these will be in your hand luggage on the way home!
Prepare your entertainment
Make sure you have some personal entertainment material for travelling or downtime, such as books or magazines. Download some movies or box sets beforehand onto your phone/laptop or tablet. You may also be able to use the Kindle app, or take your Kindle, to save you carrying books around with you (and check your cruise website to see if there’s a library on board). I buy my books from charity shops, so if I take a couple on the cruise, I can then leave them behind for other guests to enjoy once I’ve read them.
Make sure you check your boarding time a couple of days before travel, and make sure you have organised a way to get to the airport or cruise port (and home again!). If you are travelling independently to the cruise port, I would recommend getting there the day before you sail, in case of any travel delays. It can be extremely stressful if your flight is delayed for example, and there’s a chance you might miss the cruise departure. Better to get there a day before and have an extra night in a hotel!
Leave details of your travel arrangements at home, or with a friend so that if there’s an emergency people know how to get in touch with you (you may not be contactable by phone depending on where you are!).
Make sure you have all your documentation to hand, and that you have checked in online.
That’s it! You should be well prepared, and ready to enjoy your cruise!
Hope you’ve found these helpful – let me know in the comments if you think of any more!