Here are a few of the things I've learned on my cruises:
- Always bring a power strip or hub. Although newer ships and hotels have plenty of plugs, most do not. It is tedious to have to share one plug between 2 or more electronic-age people.
- Although it is permitted, it is not worth carrying canned drinks aboard. Even with these, it is hard to get enough to drink. Make a conscious effort to drink. Camping out in the Trough or a bar and refilling cup after cup is the strategy we adopted. I took art or a computer and set up at a table for 2 hours drinking tea. Onshore, you cannot be cheap. Buy drinks, especially if you are swimming in salt water.
- Speaking of tea, the tea on most cruises is awful. In future, I plan to take squirt sugar-freer lemonade and teabags.
- Never snorkel without eye drops in the kit.
- Do not bother to eat the lunch included in shore excursions. Pack fruit, cheese and bread from your Trough breakfast. Buy drinks.
- Always pack a goodly number of sandwich-size zipper baggies, for lunches and beach combing. I collect sand from all my trips as well as a few shells, beach glass, etc. (Be aware that if you do collect anything, it will be damp and should be left in the baggie open until the end of the cruise.)
- Apply sunscreen early and often. The spray kind is much easier to deal with on the beach; pump spray rather than aerosol is best. It’s up to you what level of protection, but if you’re in the tropics in winter, your skin is not ready for the intensity of the sun. Take a tee-shirt or rash guard shirt; aloe burn cream is also a good idea.
- I pack 2 swimsuits. Not only is this fun and lavish, but one can be drying while you wear the second. Of course, they never really get dry, even hanging on the chairs on the balcony, but it’s less clammy at least. Do not, however, bother to bring more than one coverup. (It makes no sense to put on something clean if you’re beaching / swimming each day. It’s another thing if you’re going to town, not the beach.)
- Pack your suitcase and then take out half. If you're doing a lot of touring, you'll need clothes. If you're doing the beach, fewer clothes. It is lot of fun to bring something fancy, but everyday clothes can be held to a minimum. However, you do need several pair of shoes: closed toes if you are going walking on an excursion (Behind the Scenes Ship Tour and Blue Holes tours require them); flip flops or beach shoes and nice shoes for formal nights.
- Pack plenty of toys for sea days. The key to enjoying sea days is to be prepared. Unless you like to drink and gamble, or play games with strangers, sea days can be a challenge. I am into arts and crafts. Ron is lost without a computer. We usually indulge in a cabin with a balcony and spend the sea days playing and napping. (But this is how you get dehydrated, without realizing it.) We also bring ebooks and computer games. The key is to have enough variety of things to do; and, if you are prone to seasickness, you might need to lie down doing them. Gaming and reading might be nauseating, so be prepared with movies or TV shows. There is seldom much to watch on ship's TV. Motion sickness medicine often makes you drowsy and you might lose many hours napping. Do not be upset about this! Count it as part of your vacation and relax.
- Shows on the ship are always too loud, so bring ear plugs. Shows vary a lot in quality, with some producers thinking volume can overcome lack of talent. Still, the shows can be great fun and usually end a day nicely. Often, there are 2 shows per evening, to follow early and late dining.
- Early / Late Dining vs "Your Own Time". There are advantages to both. With set-time dining you are seated at a table with 4-6 strangers with whom you can converse. The service tends to be better. With "Your Own Time" dining, you are usually seated with your own party, and will be seated in different places around the room. This is nice for ogling other diners, but if you get tired of your cabin-mates’ conversation, you’ll be silent a lot. [The dining room is loud, so conversation is a challenge in either case.] Service can be painfully slow. with "Your Own Time" dining.
- Trough dining. The Trough is good for breakfast and lunch. Cruise ships are getting into small specialized restaurants, with different opening times. There might be a pizza joint, hamburger place, Mexican, as well as extra cost dining options, like a steakhouse or sushi bar. The only time I have ever paid extra for a meal on a cruise was when Ron and I went to The Chef’s Table, a very expensive multi-course meal with the head chef at the head of the table. This was quite wonderful, and we are not even foodies.
- Take a walk around the ship. Enjoy the decor, nooks and crannies, and games like ping-pong and putt-putt. (Such games are truly pointless when the ship heaves and wallows.. therefore hilarious.)
- I have yet to try an onboard water park. I must be too old. You have to climb a lot to get to the top of the slide. Pools are often too chlorinated to be enjoyable. Hot tubs are usually very crowded. But this is my personal hang up.
- Cruises often include evening movies on the pool deck. Looks like great fun, seldom crowded, but the just haven’t shown anything I cared about seeing.