I am interrupting the current schedule to bring to you a very special program. A big surprise program. It was very hard to keep quiet until now but I can finally announce my big secret.
I am in the Caribbean!
Yes, you heard that right. From the German winter of 2016 that has been rather undecided whether it wants us to pack away the snow cannons or bring spring-like weather, I am leaving it all behind and jetting off to the other end of the world. Again.
Newbs All Around
But this time around I am leaving solid ground and doing a little island hopping. A first for me. And not only do I hop around, I am doing it big time, on a big big cruise ship. And the firsts do not end here. January is the first month for the new line Britannia to set sails and I will be on it on the invitation of P&O. My very first cruise and the bar is set high!
Since the newbie level is rather high, I thought I’d add up the ante a little more and thus tried my hand at my third packing style within one year. So far, I have tried excessive backpacking (not very pleasant), travelling with a backpack as carry-on only and now I will go all out with a big suitcase and a smaller daypack.
I must confess, I was at first clueless as to how to approach it, seeing that I have been living a frugal packing life but going on a cruise is different. You don’t want to don the shabby backpacker look with people in their Sunday’s best and airy sundresses. And just imagine the wardrobe that would await me and feel rather lonely with just 7 pieces in it. What a positively cruel thought!
So I yanked open my wardrobe and entered a big staring contest with its silent inmates. Whom would I choose and why? Could I dare pack an outfit for each day? Where were my summer clothes anyway? I had been so used to jetting off again once summer approached that I had banned them to a dark place under the bed.
I left Australia to see the famous snow moneys in winter. I exited Japan just as the temperatures were rising and entered Germany, when the rain front came and walked through Czech forests with freezing winds. I left tropical Costa Rican beaches to catch a little snow at the Grand Canyon. But not this time, no, I off to summery temperatures, but alas, it seems the weather wants to accommodate me and make it rain on my parade.
Can’t wait to get out of my winter boots.
How to Pack for My First Cruise with P&O
And here we enter the ‘How do I pack for a first cruise’ questionnaire. So much to consider and so much excitement to make it hard to stay clear headed. Since I have been doing the packing thing for a while, I am taking on the clear head for you and run you through all the things you should consider so you can engage in excessive delight without a worry! How does that sound?
First, you need to look at the time and season forth both your start and destination. The weather report and yearly forecasts will give you great insights no matter how far your trip is still away from you. Check for precipitation levels and average temperature as well as high and low ones as these will give you a clue over hot midday sun and chilly nights at sea. If you can, find out the felt temperatures.
When you are at sea, no matter if it is in hot or mild climates, the sea will always cause quite the breeze and that means wearing a light scarf and lots of sunscreen are a must. I am that type of person who gets a sore neck from drafts or easily gets cold from getting a chill, so knowing if that’s you, you can be better prepared. And the sun will try and burn your skin no matter the temperatures and it doesn’t care for cooling breezes, so don’t be fooled!
I know I said the sun would be hot, but no need to cover up completely.
And with the sun, you need to take extra precautions of not only your skin (on the lips as well) but also the eyes. Do not be skimpy with spending on good shades – even if they look on fleek. Eye sight is more important than fashion perfection. With the shades, take a protecting case and cleaning cloth because once you invest in good shades, you need to keep them in good working order. Trust me, I have seen way too many travellers put up with greasy and scratches glasses. I’d go crazy.
Sun and salt will surely take a toll on your skin and hair, so come prepared for moisturizing lotions, shampoos, after sun lotion, etc to get the glow you want to show in your holiday pictures (and I don’t mean burnt red cheeks). Also be sure to pack an insect repellent in case you are headed for tropical and humid places like me. I’ve got no love for the little biters, no matter how much they love me (50 bites in 15minuts in Cairns, y’all).
Now that your body is nurtured on the outside, let’s get the insides all chummy. A well prepped medi kit is essential no matter where you travel. Get your plasters, general ache pills and your other meds in your suitcase. Prescribed meds that are vital for you go into your carry on for your first cruise. Drink plenty of water before your flights that bring you to your cruises, keep refillable bottles and pack some snacks if you are a cookie monster like me or just appreciate a little energy (and chocolate) along the way.
Ready for all occasions. You won’t catch me by surprise!
Dare to Be the Dandy on Deck
Now we are beautiful from within, let’s work on the dressing up. Cruises are a little like going to an all-inclusive resort, only the scenery changes and there’s lots of water. I don’t have much experience with either (as is obvious from my previous sentence) but I know to come prepared for different types of day time activities or fancy dining out at night, for instance in the Olly Smith’s Restaurant The Glass House.
Looking through your cruise information you will be able to see suggestions on what to bring and when you are booked in for fancy evenings out. (It is especially imporant to read up before your first cruise.) For instance with my P&O Cruise on the Britannia, I will be checking out a couple of the onboard restaurants with its super star chefs and the dress code will be either evening casual or black tie. I hope you are surprised anyone would think of actually going in flip flops and swim wear to a restaurant, but I you’d be surprised how often I have heard of such cases throughout my travels.
Whether you are walking the plank, planking on random objects or are just parading around, you NEED to look well put together. Let’s ban those oversized fake Hawaiian print shirts and beige linen shorts with socks in sandals to the moon (or even farther than that). You are on a big cruise ship, not some small vessel. I say, if you want to be treated royally, you need to look the part and make an effort as well. Trust me, it will make your experience so much grander. When in doubt always ask yourself: What would Beyonce do? (See, she would never wear Hawaiian shirts.)
You are on the water, surrounded by water and will have plenty of opportunities to dive right into the wet element, be it in the pools on the cruise ship or into the ocean during your onshore beach walks. Therefore, pack two sets of swimwear in case one is wet and you want to sunbathe or just go on a stroll.
While you are cruising from one harbour to the next and trying to stay in shape after all the big meals and treats you have had, it might be a good idea to hit the gym and for that, your travel wardrobe needs to be ready. Pack your gym shoes and outfit as well as comfortable walking shoes for when you go on a tour or land activities.
Not packing snorkel gear means I won’t be able to drown in my own goggles. (Yes, that nearly happened.)
The Carry On Essentials
It’s the multimillion dollar question (I wish it actually was). What goes into your carry-on luggage and should you take two bags or a bag and a suitcase or pack a small bag into your suitcase? These of course depend on personal preference but I always find it handy to keep your number of items as small as possible. It makes the risk of leaving behind something or getting an item ripped from you less likely, in my opinion.
Keeping the slight possibility in mind of losing your suitcase or it flying off to another destination altogether, which sadly happens (read about what you can do once your luggage is lost), your carry on will be your best friend. Therefore, when packing, you pack the most important items in it. Keep your valuables and documents close to you, maybe hidden underneath your clothes or in a slash-proof purse.
Breakable electronics, such as laptops, cameras and cables should go in it as well as feel good items for your flight, such as eye mask, ear plugs, reading material and toothbrush with toothpaste. Snacks and a water bottle will come in handy and maybe even an inflatable neck pillow (the ‘ready’ ones are way too impractical for my taste). If you want to bring a hat, wear it or carefully prep your clothes around it in your suitcase (either one).
So what to Pack for a First Cruise?
Good grief, that was a rather long post this time around but you see, I wanted to make extra sure that both you and I are fully prepared. The basic steps are A) check climate, duration to B) know how much to pack for and C) find out what the dress code and activities are. It’s simple really. All you then need is a big smile in your face, excitement in your heart and a clear head on your shoulders. Catching flights on time and having everything sorted is still a priority but at least the luggage is taken care of now.
Have you ever been on a cruise? Do you have any tips? Questions? Comments?
A big thank you for P&O for inviting me on my very first cruise and to bucketlist-worthy places in the Caribbean. If you are curious as to which places I am hitting you up, check the itinerary here and follow me on twitter and facebook for first -hand insights.
No surfboards allowed in your luggage, sorry.