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What to Pack for a Carnival Cruise

Carnival Splendor

The Carnival Splendor

This summer, we spent a delightful five days at sea on the Carnival Splendor. It was a great opportunity to get up to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, in a way that did not involve packing up the car and spending 10+ hours reminding the kids to stay on their own side of the back seat. Of course, it was a BIG experience – the Splendor is currently the largest ship in the fleet (this will change next year when Carnival Vista takes its maiden voyage), and Carnival is the world’s largest cruise line.

Packing for a cruise is easier than packing for air travel – you don’t have to worry about paying extra for the suitcases, even if they exceed 50 lbs. And no pesky 3-ounce rule for liquids! But it’s also more difficult than packing for a road trip. After all, you can bring a lot more stuff in your car.

So, I utilized the typical packing strategies, including planning our wardrobes to use ubiquitous pieces more than once (hello, little black dress). I also found some not-so-typical packing advice, after scouring online cruise forums for tips from frequent cruisers (hello, Cruise Critic).

There are the usual things you’d pack for a cruise, like bathing suits and motion sickness medication. You may not even need to bring your kid’s stroller; you can rent them from Camp Carnival, either on a daily basis or for the entire cruise.

Above and beyond these, here are a few items to pack for your cruise that may not be on your radar:

WHAT: Snack Food
WHY: Land Excursions

Food is available 24 hours a day on board the ship. When the restaurants are closed, there is still 24-hour room service and the pizza bar serving up several yummy types of pie. However, you should still bring a box of granola bars or other non-perishable, sustaining snack if you’re taking excursions. Meals aren’t necessarily included on these, and any local food that may be available may not tickle your kids’ fancy.

Bay of Fundy

At a beach on the Bay of Fundy. The Girl does not eat steak, lobster – or any type of seafood, for that matter. Granola bar to the rescue!

WHAT: Refillable Water Bottles
WHY: Bottled Water = $$$

A new Carnival policy means you can no longer pack bottled water in order to avoid paying for it on board. However, the water available at the drink fountains is just fine. We carried our bottles to every meal and refilled them whenever we could. If you still want to stick to bottled, you can pre-order a case for your room to save time.

WHAT: Clothesline / Rope
WHY: Drying Clothes

Our bathroom only had a shower stall, so the short clothes line that could be drawn across the top wasn’t long enough to hang more than two wet bathing suits. Thanks to an online tip, I packed a cheap clothesline rope ($3.00 at Walmart) and hung it across our balcony. This isn’t really protocol; our steward asked us to take down any clothes when we left the room.

WHAT: Shoe Pocket Rack
WHY: Storage

Another suggestion I read online was to hand a shoe pocket organizer from the back of the bathroom door so everyone has easily accessible storage space for their toiletries. We brought one, but found that our bathroom had plenty of shelf space for everyone’s kit. (I wish more of the hotels we stay at would follow suit!) But if you like to spread out and see all your stuff, it’s a good space-saving solution.

WHAT: Fun, Colorful Magnets
WHY: Cabin Door Bling

Did you know that all doors on cruise ships are metal as a fire safety measure? It’s a lot of fun for our kids to decorate our cabin door with magnets, from which we could hang notes for each other; e.g. “Meet me at the pool.” Even better, we could easily identify which cabin was ours from the long row of identical doors!

WHAT: Lanyards With Badge Holders
WHY: Keeping Your Card Close

On each cruise we’ve taken, we’ve been given a plastic card that acts as a room key, identification, and a charge/credit card. On Carnival, it’s called your “Sail & Sign” card. It’s easy to misplace when you don’t have pockets…or when you’re eight years old and like shiny objects. Bring a lanyard, stick your card in the badge holder, and wear it around your neck.

WHAT: “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” T-shirts
WHY: Seuss at Sea Program

This program, available on nearly all Carnival ships, includes Seuss story times, parades, character photo ops, and a character breakfast where you can order Green Eggs and Ham. The photo ops are much more fun if your kids bring and wear those Thing 1 and 2 shirts you have from Halloween last year! Another tip: If you plan to attend the character breakfast, make your reservation the day you embark to ensure a table.

Seuss at Sea

Yes, they’re getting too old for these cut-out thingies. No, I don’t care.

Carnival Cruise Lines