Having been on four previous cruises, I have learned a thing or two about what things from home can make your cruising experience even better than just the amenities on the ship. This cruise I was sure to pack a few things I knew would make this cruise even nicer for the entire family. Most of these are personal preference, but the first one I’m going to list is for me an absolute essential. Without it, I couldn’t cruise.
Sea Bands and Bonine!
I am not one of the lucky ones that does not get sea sick. The first two cruises Hubby and I went on some 20 years ago I bought Dramamine before getting on the ship not knowing how I would feel when the boat started moving. The moment the boat began to move though, I found out that Dramamine alone for me was not going to cut it. First off the Dramamine made me drowsy. This isn’t good when you are trying to enjoy all that the cruise ship has to offer. Further, once that boat starts moving, the Dramamine had little effect. Apparently the patch and sea-sick pills need to numb your inner ear prior to getting sick. Not having done this before getting on the ship, the first two days on my cruises were pretty miserable.
Before our third cruise, I did a ton of research to find out what my options were. The one I found that turned out to be a life saver was something called Sea Bands. These little wrist bands can be put on at any time during your cruise and work almost instantaneously. There is a tiny little bead on the underside of the band that presses against the veins in your wrist and immediately takes the sick feeling away.
I put the bands on before getting on the ship, just because I actually can feel the ship moving when it is docked. Perhaps this is all in my head, but my brain tells me there is motion, so I start feeling queasy. I know that they work at any point though because one night I decided that I didn’t want to wear them in the shower so they wouldn’t get wet. As soon as they were removed, the sea sickness was almost too much to bear. I finished my shower and immediately put the bands back on. Within seconds I felt relief.
In addition to the Sea Bands I also pack Bonine. This pill is my backup. Although most of the time the Sea Bands are enough to keep the sea sickness at bay, when we cruised to the Bahama’s a few years ago we had one evening when we went through a storm. The winds got up to over 70 miles per hour and the ship was literally rocking so hard that you could not walk down the corridors without staggering from side to side. All shows and entertainment were cancelled for the night, the upper decks were locked down so no one could go out on deck, and everyone, and I do mean everyone including the staff and well seasoned cruisers, were sick. People were sitting in the hallways with buckets and even Hubby who prides himself on having the greatest sea-legs, was curled up in bed, feeling awful. I handed out Bonine to Hubby and the kids and took some myself and although the rocking of the ship psychologically could not be turned off, we all felt at least well enough to not need a bucket.
I’ll take the Bonine if the ship hits some rockier waters, just as a precaution. Being sea sick is the worst possible thing when you are on a cruise. There is nowhere to go to stop it until you hit port and then when you do, the motion sickness doesn’t just go away. It takes time for your body to adjust to being back on land which can then ruin any sightseeing you might have planned.
For the small investment of about $8.00 for the Sea Bands, which come in a light blue or black, I would suggest everyone pack a pair of these regardless if you think you’ll get sea-sick or not. Plus, for about $6 more, a package of Bonine can’t hurt.
Water Bottle & Insulated Mug
Although there are areas on the ship where you can pretty much always find free beverages (coffee, tea, iced tea, lemonade, water, and a few other flavored Kool-Aide type drinks) having to continually get up and refresh your drinks might not be all that convenient. Taking along a water bottle to store extra thirst quenching beverages and an insulated mug so you can drink hot coffee or tea after leaving the buffet area makes sense.
These two personal amenities are also quite helpful when heading off the ship for shore excursions. Some of the places cruise ships visit are not sanitary enough to feel comfortable buying anything to drink and others are extremely expensive. Having the option to carry a bottle of something to drink that you know will not get you sick or cost you next months rent/mortgage payment, is definitely the way to go.
Now this is definitely something that I thoroughly enjoy having while on board. Most of your time while on the ship will probably be spent outside your cabin. Unless you are heading for the pool or hot tub, this would mean throwing on your shoes and spending the day walking around in those. Comfort to me is not having to wear shoes at all, but the next best thing is to have slippers on. Not wanting to drag along my fuzzy bedroom slippers and endure the curious stares of my fellow cruisers, I opt for a comfortable pair of slip-on, hard plastic bottom, plushly lined slippers.
I found mine at JC Penney, made by Dearform. These puppies were $24 but they were on sale and I had a coupon, so I paid a mere $0.26 for them. Yep, that’s twenty-six cents. The woman at the register couldn’t believe it, but that’s what my total ended up being.
These slippers were super comfortable, didn’t look like the typical bedroom slipper, and with the hard bottom I could walk around the pool and not worry about water soaking through to my feet. Had I not found these I would have brought a regular pair of hard bottom slippers to wear during the days, but these worked out nicely.
Regardless of where you cruise, sitting out on deck can be quite chilly. First the ship is moving and it’s windy. Even traveling South towards the Bahama’s, Mexico, or the Caribbean, sitting around the pool or outside areas can get cold. Second, you are up a lot higher than street level. This adds to the wind factor and pretty much ensures that there will constantly be some sort of breeze to contend with.
I like to pack a few small blankets to take on deck with us when we sit outside. Actually though, with how low most of the cruise ships that we’ve been on keep their air conditioning, having a blanket for my lap when sitting inside can sometimes be nice too.
This past cruise to Canada/New England warranted having a blanket for sure. Sitting on deck was cold. Being that we went north rather than south, most days the temperatures while at sea hovered around 60 degrees. This didn’t stop people from enjoying the hot tubs or taking a dip in the pool, but once out of the water, it was down right cold. Factor in the wind, and we’re talking Goosebump City.
A lap blanket doesn’t take up much space in the suitcase and can really help make sitting around on deck more pleasurable. Plus, the beds in our staterooms had only a blanket on them. Having the extra blanket at night was a nice touch from home too.
This is truly just my personal preference because expecting my kids to take responsibility for anything can be risky. Every cruise that we have been on provide towels for use by the pool. The catch here is that you are responsible for those towels and have to be sure that when you leave the ship, your stateroom still has the exact number of pool towels your room was stocked with prior to you getting there. Every pool towel looks identical. This can cause a problem when throwing your towel down on a lounge chair while you head over to soak in the pool. Many a time I could hear people complaining that their towels had been taken mistakenly while they were away. Of course with kids, them forgetting them after they’ve dried off can be a problem too.
To avoid any issues with lost towels or having to argue about paying for a towel that became misplaced, I always pack a couple beach towels when cruising. When we head to the pool, our towels are distinctive and no one can claim that they mistook our towels for theirs. Also, these towels are nice to use as a lap blanket should you opt not to bring one along or say you forget it along with the handful of other things that every cruiser is bound to forget.
Pool Side/Day Time Entertainment
Although Hubby and I are content sitting around most of the day people watching and chatting with our fellow cruisers during the days at sea, it is always nice to have the option of having something else to do. A deck of cards, UNO, Scrabble, Dominos, or any other game that travels nicely and can be packed easily into your suitcase is nice to have. This past trip I packed UNO and Scrabble. We played them only once, but it was nice to know they were there to pull out if we wanted.
So there you have it. These are a few of the things I have found to be Cruising Essentials when we head out on a cruise. Planning ahead can truly make all the difference in the world between getting by and thoroughly enjoying the days you are at sea. Actually though, even when you are in port you are probably not going to be off the ship the entire time, so these little amenities can come in handy your entire cruise.
I am not a big vacationer. I am a true homebody. So for me, having a few little touches from home that can add to the vacation experience and make it more comfortable and enjoyable is essential. Planning ahead is key, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.