Our family of four took our first cruise on Jan 28, 2011 for 9-days aboard the Carnival Spirit. We traveled to the Mexican Riviera, which was the first time to Mexico for all of us. We are newbies, that have decided we like cruising, I hope you find the following posts helpful. Cheers!
For this trip we purchased passports of our girls as my husband and I already have them. We purchased the photos from Costco, less than 5.00 a kid and then went to a post office that processed the forms. Our kids received their passports within the short turnaround time.
I used post-it half-inch flags to mark the page with our photo information in the passport book to make it easier going through the embarkation process. I also rubber-banded all the passports together for easy access.
I also had a plastic mead folder (found at CVS drugstore for like… 50 cents) that had the capability for me to add three ring sheet protectors. I placed all our documentation in that folder, and could any other documentation I would receive onboard. I also added the last few pages of homework my first grader didn’t finish prior to the trip. I liked having all the documents I would need in a handy spot for easy access.
We didn’t exchange any dollars to pesos prior to the trip. If you want to you can do that through your bank, but you’ll need to give them a few days advance notice. We didn’t purchase much on our trip – we’re not big souvenir/shopping/collectors. The one purchase we made was one giant bottle of Mexican vanilla right off the port in Puerto Vallarta – but they took dollars, and I had exact change. In general, most places, if they take credit card, will get a better exchange rate, than when you pay with dollars and they give you pesos.
Since it was a 9-day cruise, and we’d never been on one. I over-packed a bit. I say I, because hubby just packs for himself. This is why I spent a month preparing/planning, then two weeks worth of assembling and packing. I typically enjoy packing, making lists, checking them off… but this was fatiguing.
It wasn’t a big deal what we over-packed some since we weren’t flying and there was plenty of storage in our cabins.
1 suitcase for hubby.
1 suitcase for me.
1 suitcase for the girls.
1 suitcase with shoes.
1 suitcase with supplies, gear, etc…
1 carry-on w/the DVD player
1 carry-on w/hubby’s laptop
1 beach bag w/necessities we needed for our one night change of clothes so we didn’t have to get out our giant bags. We spent the night prior to the cruise at hubby’s BFF’s home in LA to make the drive easier on everyone.
We had two elegant nights – which is basically where you dress in your Sunday best, or better – and you get to take pictures with various backgrounds, and there’s live music, cocktails and then you have dinner in the main dining room. That’s it.
I spent most of my time onboard in skirts, or swim coverups. I brought a lot more shirts than I needed. I also packed more shoes than I needed, but don’t tell my hubby. I also did overdo it on the shoes for my girls too – but hey, we live, we learn… we try to resist the urge to bring lots of shoes.
Here are supplies I’m glad I packed:
– 2 photocopies of our passports – just in case – also mailed a photo copy to my Mom.
– two candles powered by batteries (from costco) – for night lights for my girls
– cd player – they like to listen to stories, music to sleep
– dvd player – there aren’t dvd players in the Carnival cabins – I know other ships do have them – check before you go
– decorations for the girls’ cabin (streamers, balloons, markers for windows, dry-erase crayons, art supplies for the girls to create, inflatable toys, bubbles, tiaras)
Notice my battery-powered candles?
– duct tap – one of the support for our suitcases, to help it stand upright got mishandled and I easily taped it up and voila – fix.
– cable lock ties which I sharpie’d pink – for when we left our suitcases out in the hallway our last night for pick up.
– power strip cord – there’s only one socket in the room – so we were able to plug multiple items in
– ziploc bags – diff’t sizes
– small first aid kit – one of my daughters got a paper-cut and the other needed for one of her ankles from the friction with her shoes.
– flashlight w/batteries
– kids Advil – Hubby’s BFF’s son banged his head into a counter in the room – giant goose egg
– my own shampoo/conditioner – Carnival has complimentary bath gel and shampoo in the showers, but if you are picky about that – bring your own.
– snacks – yes, the food is unlimited, but sometimes you just need a snack (clif kids organic fruit twists, amy’s organic bunny cracker/pretzel snack bags, dry roasted peanuts, some Chinese fruit candy, beef jerky, chocolate)
-reusable water bottles – because, you’ll get thirsty, and you won’t want to pay what they overcharge for bottled water. There’s filtered water you can fill up your bottles with.
– my own blow dryer – the little ones just don’t cut it when I want to get the job done quickly
*I wish I had thought to pack my girls’ small alarm clock as there weren’t any clocks in the cabins, and my hubby and I hate wearing watches. Cell phones don’t cut it when we were out at sea, in International zones.
I was worried about motion sickness onboard. I know that these days the ships are quite large and they do have stabilizers. However, you will still feel some motion depending on the speed of the boat and winds.
My mother tends to get sea sick on cruises, and I know she also has felt car sick as well if she’s not in the front, passenger seat. I have tendencies with car sickness and my 6YO always feels awful on car trips. So I did a lot of browsing online to find out what solutions I could use for kids.
Turns out Dramamine and Bromine are only for adults. I bought sea bands for the three of us gals and had all of us wear them the drive to LA and San Diego and that first day onboard. My 6YO who always complains of her tummy feeling queasy on car trips, but didn’t complain once with the sea bands on.
I also purchased ginger gum from the Sea Band company, found at CVS pharmacy. While at CVS I also discovered an anti-nausea, liquid medication for kids. I figured it was better safe than sorry – and purchased all these solutions. Luckily we didn’t need any. After that first day we were all set to sail.
The trip was pretty smooth, except for the last few days – due to the crazy cold wind from the East Coast. We had 40 mph winds and walking around on the ship was a little like a drunk trying to walk straight. We sea banded ourselves just as a precaution one evening, and all was well. On the flip side, sleeping was quite nice.
I am the kind of person that likes to be prepared, just in case. If I never had to use the remedies I have available, even better.
Since we were going to be gone for 9-days, I had to put my mail on hold. Did you know you can put your mail on hold online? I didn’t until this trip, and it worked like a charm.
I also have a great neighbor, who I promised chocolate cake and goodies to, for putting out our garbage/recycling while we were gone.
I made sure all my daughter’s teachers knew we would be gone, got necessary make-up work, and let our piano teacher, and dance, performing group teacher know that we’d be out of town.
Once all that was taken care of, I tried to straighten up the house as much as possible, and paid any bills that needed to be, and we were set.
ps. I am not being compensated in anyway to post about cruising. I like information, and am sharing information that I would want, if I were considering my first cruise.