Cruise Tip Tuesday | Boarding Procedures


photo credit: Daquella manera

At the home port, you will go through several security steps before you can board the ship.  You and your carry-on luggage will first go through security screening.  You usually need to have your boarding documents and passports ready in order to enter the security lines.  The security screening is typically like that of airport screening (without the body scanners!), where you will put your coats and carry-on luggage onto a belt and it will be x-rayed.  You will also have to walk through a metal detector.

Knowing this, it is good to be prepared so as to not hold up the line or get embarrassed by “beeping”.  Avoid metal belt buckles and hair clips.  Remove all change from your pockets and any jewelry that could set off the machines.

If you bring a stroller it will need to be folded and x-rayed. Consider bringing something smaller than a typical double stroller.  It will probably not even fit through the x-ray machines nor will it fit well in the narrow hallways of the ship.

Liquids such as water bottles or cups for kids are not really an issue, but alcohol will be. Each cruise line has a policy on how they handle alcohol being brought onto the ship. Many will simply hold it until the end of the cruise and never let you have it while on the ship.  Others will charge a corking fee.  If you want to try to carry on alcohol or even put it in your “checked” luggage, make sure you know the cruise line’s policy before doing so.

After security you will usually get in another line to check-in and get your room keys which also act as your ID.  Your picture will be taken and linked to your room key for security purposes when leaving and re-boarding the ship in port.  Your passports will also be scanned, and you will need to set up your account to pay for tips, excursions, alcoholic beverages and other purchases made while on board.

Once you have all of your room cards and are cleared to board, you will then get your family picture taken for the first time of many by the ship’s photographers.  There is no obligation to get your picture taken, but it might be hard to avoid.  The photo will be put up in the photo gallery on board, where you can decide if you would like to purchase it or not.

After the photos you will be ready to board the ship.  Depending on the cruise line there might be crew members ready to take you to your room or you might be on your own to find it yourself.  If you arrive before the rooms are ready, you will be asked to go to a public area.  Head to the buffet for lunch or to the open dining room.  Explore the main public areas of the ship and learn your way around.  If you do arrive fairly early, try to bring as little carry-on luggage as possible or it will be a hassle lugging it around the ship.

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Security In Ports

And that doesn't include the camera

You might see some sort of port security personell once you leave the ship, but this Cruise Tip is about the security procedures when you re-board the ship after spending time in port.

When you exit the ship in port and re-board, your cruise card will be swiped.  This keeps track of the passengers to ensure everyone arrives back on board.  All passengers, including babies, must have their card to exit the ship.  Each time your card is swiped, your picture will show up on the computer screen so that security knows that you are the passenger.

The cruise ship will set up metal detectors and x-ray machines when you re-board the ship after spending time in port.  Cruiselines will tell you to not bring any food off of the ship when you arrive in port, and the ship will also not want any food (especially fruit) coming on board from the foreign port.  This protects everyone from bugs, mold, and such that other countries do not have.  We have safely taken our own packaged snacks as well as boxed cereals from breakfast off and back on to the ship without any problems.

The security personell are also looking for drugs, liquor, and weapons.  If they find liquor, it will most likely be held for you until the end of the cruise.  The walk-thru machines for people do not seem to set off as easily as airport ones.  I try to not wear metal belts or metal hair clips, though.  All bags will be x-rayed.  Usually you can just keep your baby or toddler in their stroller and push them through.  Security will make sure no bags or other items are on the stroller.

You will NOT be asked to take off your shoes or dump your liquids! 

photo credit: dlisbona

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Make Sure You Have an Alarm Clock


Today I have a simple cruise tip for packing an often overlooked item.  Your cabin will most likely not have any sort of alarm clock, so if you want to get up on time for the early port stops and for disembarkation you will probably need some sort of alarm clock.  If your watch or cell phone has a good alarm, then that will probably be enough for you.  We like to bring a small digital alarm clock like the one above ($10 at Walmart).

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Packing Light – Women’s Edition

89/365 Mar 30, 2011

We as a family have become lighter packers on recent trips, and I wanted to share a few ideas for women.  To read a bit about our recent packing and my tips for men, check out last week’s post Packing Light – Men’s Edition.

My tips are just suggestions.  I am by no means a fashionista nor an accessory or make-up girl.  If you are one of these, then your packing list would be different.  This list is based on a warm weather 7 night cruise.

Women’s Cruise Packing List:

  • 4+ Capri’s – Seriously, capri’s can be worn all day AND to the dining room on non-formal nights.  They are not too hot for summer and they are fairly modest – appropriate for most cultures.  If you are comfortable wearing them more than once, pack less than 1 for each day.  If you prefer skirts, feel free to pack those instead.  Just remember it is windy outside on the upper decks of the ship!  You could pack shorts instead of capri’s, but you will need to change before dinner into pants or a skirt unless you eat at the buffet for dinner.
  • 6-7 short sleeve tops - Casual shirts that mix and match with your capri’s and can be worn all day.
  • 1 beach day oufit or cover-up – I usually go with a t-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit, but feel free to pack a simple cover-up.
  • 1 skirt -  I like to have at least one basic summery skirt to wear to dinner if my capri’s get dirty or if I wore shorts that day.  It is best to pick a solid that can match any of your tops.
  • 1-2 pants (optional) – It could be nice to have some casual pants for dinner, especially if you have a toddler or baby that might stain your capri’s during the day.
  • 1 formal dress or outfit - Pick one that does not wrinkle easily as irons are not usually easily available.  You will often have 2 formal nights on a 7 day cruise.   My mom usually packs Chico’s Travelers items that she can mix and match and add a few accessories such as a scarf and jewerly to make them more formal.  There are definitely less expensive versions, so just keep a look out.
  • 1 cardigan sweater or similar -  It can get pretty cold in the dining rooms and theater at night.  Pick a solid basic one such as white or black.  I am pretty casual and usually just wear a light-weight jacket if I am cold.
  • 1 swimsuit - hand wash in the bathroom sink and hang to dry overnight.  If it is not dry by the time you need it, blow dry it for a few minutes.
  • Undergarments and socks/pantyhose- Pick what is best for you.  Remember that you can hand wash them – probably best to do it in the evening after turn down service, and hang them to dry overnight.  That way the room steward will not see them!  Consider packing some older undergarments that you could throw away once worn.  This will allow for a little extra room to pack some souvenirs for the return home.
  • Sandals – I pick sandals that can be appropriate for the beach, pool, and dinner with capri’s, a skirt, or a dress.
  • Sneakers – You do not need to “pack” them per se if you wear them onto the ship.  You will want them for the long walks and excursions.  They are not usually appropriate for dinner in the dining rooms.
  • Dress shoes (optional) – I prefer to just pack nice sandals, but if you want to be really formal on formal nights feel free to pack some.
  • Casual flats (optional) – Probably would look better at dinner with pants and some capri’s than sandals, I personally do not bother packing them.
  • Toiletries – I won’t tell you what to bring.  Just please remember that you will be provided with some sort of soap or body wash as well as shampoo.  If you want to pack just a carry-on, remember that you can pack 1 quart ziploc per person with bottles of toiletries up to 3 ounces in size.  Definitely take into account that the weather is usually quite humid in warmer climates and your hair might frizz and your face might get oily.
  • Medicines – Obviously pack any medications you need, but also consider some basics such as anti-diarrhea meds, a pain reliever/fever reducer, and an antacid.  Motion sickness pills (Dramamine or generic) are available free of charge – usually at one of the main desks such as the purser or similar.  The medical center is extrememly expensive, so back some basics of your own.
  • Don’t forget your water bottle and beach tote.

If you wear capri’s, pants, or a skirt onto the ship you will be set for dinner the first night.  If you wear shorts, you might prefer to change into something more formal, though the first night is usually okay to not follow the rules as not everyone gets their luggage in time.  Finally, remember you can wear what you want the last morning of the cruise.  So, pack what you will need to wear once you get home.

I would love to hear some of my readers’ thoughts.  If you have some tips, feel free to share them in the comments.

photo credit: becca.peterson26

Cruise Tip Tuesday | Packing Light – Men’s Edition

159 - Packing

In the past we have tended to over-pack for vacations, but with the rise in airline baggage fees we have learned a bit about packing lightly for our cruises and family vacations.  On our last 7 day cruise in January we flew on Air Tran and did not pay any baggage fees.  We are a family of 5, but had a child under 2 without a seat.  We were able to pack everything in 4 carry-ons, 2 backpacks (personal items), and 1 small child-size backpack.  This included diapers for 8-9 days (1 pre-cruise hotel night).

Here are some tips for men to pack lightly for a cruise.  This is based on a warm weather 7 day cruise where a man would wear shorts during the day and pants in the evenings to be appropriately dressed for dinner in the dining rooms.

Men’s Cruise Packing list:

  • 3 or so shorts to be worn at least twice (adjust based on cruise length).
  • 2 or 3 pants to be worn in the evenings only and at least twice during the cruise.
  • 5-6 polo shirts to be worn all day and evening. Polo shirts are great because they can be worn with shorts or pants and should be acceptable in dining rooms on all nights except those that are exclusively formal.  Wear what you want the last morning of the cruise (i.e. tshirt).  If going formal, feel free to wear a tshirt instead of a polo that day as well.
  • If you really want to pack light, skip the formal night(s).  You will have the option to go to the Buffet or Lido Restaurant for dinner instead of the main dining rooms.
  • If you want to go formal, pack 1 long sleeve button down shirt with a tie.  Make one of your evening pants more formal (suit pants?) and add a matching suit jacket if you feel it is necessary.
  • Shoes take up a lot of room in luggage, so pack smartly.  Sneakers are basically a must for day time and you will probably wear them onto the ship, so there is no need to “pack” them.  If you need sandals for the pool, beach or shower, try to pack lightweight ones.  Pick one pair of dressier shoes for evenings.  You can probably wear sneakers on non-formal nights in the dining rooms especially if they are dark in color.
  • 1 pair of swim trunks is all you need.  You can wash your swim trunks in the bathroom sink or shower and hang to dry.  If it is still wet when you need it, just blow dry it for a few minutes with the hair dryer.
  • Pack as many underwear and socks as you need  – just remember you could hand wash items if you need to.
  • 2 tshirts or so for the pool, beach, or workouts - They could also be worn as sleepwear.  Better yet, pack none and buy 1 on the ship or in the first port.
  • Don’t forget a belt and probably an undershirt if going formal.
  • Sleepwear – a couple of pajama pants or boxer shorts for bottoms could work well.  Consider some junky old tshirts for tops and throw them away before the end of the cruise.  This will allow for some extra room for souvenirs.  You could do the same for underwear and socks.
  • Outerwear – bring a lightweight jacket for cool, breezy nights and your return home.  Try to leave your heavy coat in your car at the airport or with the person that picks you up if the weather is cooler at home.  You might consider a poncho for rainy weather.
  • Try to keep personal care products simple.  The cruise line will usually provide shampoo, some sort of bodywash or soap, and hand soap.  You will need to bring a shaver, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant at a minimum.  The rest is up to you, but remember if you are only bringing carry-ons, keep the liquids in bottles of 3 ounces or less and put all of them into 1 quart-sized zip bag – 1 bag is allowed per person.

Try to wear pants and a polo when you board the ship.  Not everyone gets their luggage before dinner, so it is not usually expected for everyone to be “properly” dressed at the first night’s dinner.  This is the night to wear what you want if you prefer to be casual.  If you want to follow the rules, then go with the polo and pants.  The pants could be worn another evening when you change for dinner.

Keep in mind that there is always an option to have your clothes laundered by the crew on the ship, though it is very expensive.  You could hand wash any items that get stained with powered laundry soap you bring or even just the soaps provided in your stateroom.  There is usually a clothesline in the shower for hang drying.  Some ships even have self-service laundry facilities.  This could be a great advantage for packing light.

If you have any other tips, pleaes feel free to share them in the comments!

photo credit: LaMenta3

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