Last week, I talked about preparing for my first Caribbean cruise and all the things I wish I had done. This week, I’ll go further in-depth into the specific things you should bring to make your life easier for those seven to ten days.
As a West Indian, I already had the good sense to bring most of these items with me. However, as a newbie cruise-taker, there were still some things that didn’t even cross my mind until I got there. Here goes!
1. Snorkelling Gear
If you’ve been following my blog for at least the past six months, you know I love snorkelling. I picked up the hobby while living in Jamaica and it never gets old. So far, I’ve been snorkelling in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the Maldives, Mexico, and even California.
When you go snorkelling in tourist areas, you can always rent gear. Unfortunately, this can be expensive. The price you pay to rent gear for a day or two is often the cost of owning your own set. Since you do have a mouthpiece as well, you might also feel more comfortable just using your own.
This is the oneⁱ I brought with me on the cruise. Sadly, I had it for years and it broke while in the Cayman Islands. For my trip to the Maldives, I got this new set and have to admit, I much prefer it. It doesn’t have fins, but you can always get those separately if you really need them.
2. Underwater Camera
On a cruise, things tend to get wet, even when you don’t mean for it to happen. If you plan to take pictures, get an underwater camera. If you drop it at the pool or in the sea, then you can rest assured it’s still in good working order. If you accidentally drop it off the side of the ship, well … at least it wasn’t your cellphone.
Last week, I said I wouldn’t give the name of the action camera I had because it wasn’t very good. That’s probably not a fair evaluation. It took decent pictures and I loved the camera — until I saw the photo quality of the GoPro it’s meant to be an alternative to. If you just want a cheap point-and-shoot camera, you can find it here for just $30.
Considering that the GoPro costs upwards of $160, it’s not a bad substitute. But, if you want top-of-the-line, high-quality photos, a GoPro is probably still your best bet. See below for some photos I took with the DP Power in Honduras:
3. Water Shoes
What spurred the decision to write about the Carnival Cruise for the past two weeks is my discovery of an odd pair of shoes in the living room closet. They looked like running shoes, but not quite. After jogging my memory for a bit, I recognized them as my water shoes from the cruise. You can spot them in one of the photos above.
My Mom is a strong advocate for wearing water shoes at the pool and the beach, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory. You never know when you might step on a sharp rock or sea urchin, especially if you’re not used to walking around barefooted. That said, I didn’t bring these.
While in the Cayman Islands, Mom talked me into getting them. I’m glad I did. When I got to Mexico, they paid for themselves. The snorkelling in Cozumel was the first place that even came close to snorkelling in Jamaica. But, without those shoes, the rocks close to shore would have cut my poor feet wide open!
4. Wide Brimmed Hat
I often get asked about my fabulous hat on Instagram and this blog. It’s the signature many readers now look out for as soon as I say I’ve been to the beach. That’s because it’s my only beach hat!
I picked this up at the same time I got the shoes. Mom thought it was the most flamboyant hat the world had ever seen, but I sure got it anyway. This hat is a lifesaver if you burn easily. Even if you don’t, you’ll be glad you got one.
For the record, this isn’t one of those things I forgot or neglected. I ordered a fabulous black and white hat that was just as enormous on eBay and it never came. By the time I realised it wasn’t going to show up, it was too late to order another one.
If you plan to be entertained by the internet on deck, you’re fresh out of luck. You have no phone signal at sea and using the cruise ship’s WiFi costs money and isn’t worth a single penny. If you weren’t big on reading before, a cruise trip can change that.
If you’re a fast reader and think you’ll breeze through a book too quickly, consider getting a Kindle or another type of tablet. These devices can store tonnes of books. I have several thousand between all my devices and they kept me occupied on sea days when there was no data connection to be found.
Also, while we’re on the topic of books, what kind of writer would I be if I didn’t mention my own? If you haven’t read my paranormal murder mystery yet, and you think that a novel featuring Caribbean characters is right up your alley, give it a read!
6. Solar Battery Bank
Reading my novel, taking photos, recording videos and constantly searching for a WiFi connection will all kill your batteries. Even if you have a dedicated camera, you’d be surprised at how quickly these die. Also, you don’t ever want to be the one with a dead phone if you get separated from the group or get lost.
I brought my solar charger with me on the cruise to keep my devices powered while off the ship. The one I have, I got all the way back in 2017. It’s a 300,000 mAh model, which is just a fancy way of saying, it stores a lot of power. I use it constantly and love it. All these years later, it maintains its charge like an angel.
I keep it in the car at all times for emergencies. So far, it has stopped me from getting stranded in the middle of nowhere at least twice. This tends to happen after killing my batteries on hiking and biking trails. I can’t find the specific one I have online, but this one is made by the same brand. It seems to be more updated and more powerful but may not hold as much charge as mine does.
7. Vitamin C
You’ve probably heard the stories before of people getting sick on cruise ships. These are no exaggerations; it does happen. People very often get gastrointestinal sicknesses on board. I’m not sure what the cause is, but having a few thousand people packed together on a ship doesn’t help.
My parents take vitamin C religiously to boost their immune system, so they brought a whole bottle with them. I believe the ones they take are the “One a Day” brand. After throwing out my last bottle (more than half full and expired!) a few weeks ago, I switched brands.
I’m now taking multivitamins made by the same company that sells the magnesium supplements I’ve already come to love. I like these because they’re gummies. This makes them a lot easier to take and you hate the process a lot less.
I already covered this in the previous post about prepping for a cruise trip, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. Please don’t make the same ridiculous mistake I did. When you travel, bring cash.
Note that while aboard the Carnival Magic, we did not pay for anything in cash. The food is 100% free if you stick to the buffets and we didn’t buy any souvenirs. However, if you did need something, such as terrible WiFi, you paid using your ID card that’s issued by the ship. You then clear up your bill at the end of the trip.
So, why do you need cash? When you leave the ship, to experience the Caribbean Islands and Latin America, that ID card is useless and not everywhere accepts credit. Use cash to buy souvenirs in stores or from vendors, pay for tours, and get local food. If you’re worried about identity theft while abroad, then cash is probably the best way you can prevent this.
I can’t stress enough how absolutely important it is to bring your own food. Here’s why:
- If you have dietary restrictions, the buffets may not always cater to your needs.
- The buffets may not always be open when you’re hungry.
- Believe it or not, the buffets sometimes don’t have anything you like.
- Food in the tourist areas can be expensive, so if you’re trying to save money, snacks can tide you over until you get back to the ship.
The Carnival Magic also allowed me to bring one bottle of wine on board. Alcohol was not free on the ship as far as I can remember, so if you know you want to enjoy a glass or two, bring a bottle. However, if memory serves, you can only enjoy a glass of your own wine in your room.
10. The Right Company
Over the past few months, I’ve written several blog posts on travelling solo, especially as a woman. Cruise ships are probably one of the safest places for travelling alone, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You can’t pack people per se, but for this trip, you sure should try.
Cruise ships are a family-type vacation and you’ll be happier if you bring them along. If I’m wrong, and the idea of sharing a room with your family makes you want to tear your hair out, then consider booking with friends or a romantic partner. As an added bonus, shared rooms means you get to split the cost. I shared mine with two other people.
This was a budget trip, so the space was small. If you end up with a room the size of a matchbox — like I did — trust me, it won’t matter. The only time we ever went back to the rooms was to sleep. You spend the rest of your time either exploring countries ashore or wandering around the ship.
Vacationing on a cruise is not for everyone. You might fall in love with the wake at the back of the ship like I did. Or, you might get seasick from the boat’s movements. You might find your next favourite book. Or, be mad that you can’t get on Instagram.
Still, if you’ve never tried one before, I highly recommend giving it a go at least once. As an added bonus, if backpacking isn’t your thing, this is the best alternative for you to see half a dozen countries in one vacation.
Since starting this blog in the summer of 2015, I have done annual round-ups for the best hiking spots as well as a summary of what I’ve worked on and achieved throughout the year. I spent 2019 planting seeds in desert sand and trying my very best to water them. To share what I’ve been up to is to give too much away too early, hence the silence.
To start you off though, by next week, I should have an update on my immigration status. December was a very stressful month, thanks to Uncle Sam, and I just hope this is really the last leg of the journey. Next week, we’ll both find out if this is the case. Wish me luck! I hope your 2020 is off to a much less stressful start than mine.
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