By JeniLynn Knopp
Even when it is your first cruise, packing is pretty straight forward. You know that you need clothes, a bathing suit, slip-on shoes, pajamas and underwear. If you have put in extra effort in researching, you most likely know it is also nice to pack a pirate outfit and formal wear. Still, it is entirely possible that you have overlooked a few items that would come in very handy during your cruise. It's not that you can't survive without these. It's that the convenience of them is worthwhile, so here are our top 5 not-so-obvious items that we feel should make their way into your luggage.
5. SOLITARY PASTTIMES
There are organized activities on your ship all day, everyday. With that being said, you most likely booked this cruise to relax and find some quiet. There will probably be time when you want to do something less engaging and less structured. On land, most of us pull out our mobile device and browse the internet when we feel like this. At sea, internet usage isn't generally viable, so it becomes important to kick it "old school" in terms of quiet time.
Your cruise is actually a perfect time to sit and read that book you always intended to read but never did. A deck of cards serves the same quality entertainment with the added option to include others in your low-key activity. How about breaking in that journal you bought for yourself last year but never cracked open?
My daughter brought a drawing pad and took time daily to sketch her inspirations. My son was given a small LEGO set of approximately 20 LEGO bricks for the cruise which he returned to regularly. There are countless spots suitable for these quiet activities such as lounge chairs on the decks, cushy couches in lounge rooms, and your own stateroom or verandah. You have the time. You have the space. Make sure you bring the materials. In hindsight, I think it would have been a big mistake for us to leave these things at home simply because they ended up being items that we used on a daily basis.
4. EAR BUDS
You may not have the internet, but you do have electricity. For this reason, it is still possible to watch movies you've downloaded on your iPad, play games on your phone, and listen to music on your playlist. However, those activities are not quiet and can feel like an imposition to others around you unless you pack your ear buds. As much as I enjoy seeing my children have fun, I do not want to hear the sounds of a video arcade while I'm staring at my ocean view. As much as they want me to be happy, they do not want to listen to Maroon 5 while I straighten up our stateroom. Ear buds enable everyone to electronically indulge as they wish without imposing themselves on the others.
3. MAGNETIC DRY-ERASE BOARD
I was shocked by how critical this item became during our cruise. As a family of four with children in three different age groups, everyone had different designated activities each day. Not having the ability to reach each person by text as we normally do, it would have been a significant challenge to keep track of who was where at what time and when they were coming back. This item saved me. Attached by magnets to our stateroom door, the board allowed all of us to leave each other messages in a central location. If I needed my teen to pick up the little one from an activity, I left that message. If my son decided to check himself out of one kid's club and into another, he informed me here. If one of them wanted to hang with friends until we met up for Disney trivia in the lounge, this is how I knew. I dodged so many panic attacks over "missing persons" because of one little magnetic board and a dry-erase marker.
A small stateroom can make for awkward situations, especially in terms of bathroom habits. You've just gotten out of the shower. The bathroom is still steamy and hot. The last thing you want to do is put on your clothes in those conditions, and yet it may not be a good idea to expose yourself to your children or roommates by emerging in a towel or less. A light robe provides a great solution to an uncomfortable problem. With it you can feel free to step out of the bathroom, cool down a bit, and gather your clothing before returning to a dehumidified restroom to dress.
1. WATER BOTTLE
Possibly the most crucial item to bring is a refillable water bottle, preferably of a large size. Everyone in your cruising party should have one. This is why: On a cruise, you have access to unlimited drinks at all hours of the day. The difficulty is that you have to go to a single deck to get them, and that is not always convenient. If you bring a water bottle, it enables you to take an adequate amount of liquid with you elsewhere. You will make less trips back and forth to keep dehydration at bay. It's also handy to store these water bottles in your stateroom fridge to keep cool and easily handy. I appreciated this most when I woke up in the middle of the night, needing a drink and not having to drudge myself to Deck 11 to get it.
Undoubtedly, there are other items you could benefit from stuffing in your suitcase. Beach towels, tokens of appreciation for crew members and highlighters for your daily Personal Navigator make the honorable mention list. On the flip side, you also want to leave room for the things you'll be packing on your way back home (i.e., souvenirs). It's a lot to consider. Nevertheless, we've given you a pretty good head start here. Happy sailing!