Beach on Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

What You Need To Prepare For A Cruise Vacation

(Last Updated On: May 5, 2020)

A few years ago in early 2018 my husband and I took a cruise on one of Holland America’s newest ships, The Koningsdam. We took a seven day eastern caribbean cruise and had a blast. In this post I will explain everything you need to prepare for a cruise vacation. 

Disclosure: This page contains some affiliate links . Please know that I may receive a percentage or commission from a link included on this page, at no cost to you. I will only recommend a product or service that I have used or believe has substantial value to my readers.    

Before I jump into telling you all what to prepare for your next cruise vacation, I thought I would share a little about me incase you haven’t stopped by my blog before.

Hi! I’m Jane and I started Plain Jane Lifestyle as a fun creative outlet to write about lifestyle topics such as travel, food, coffee saving money, and blogging!

If you are thinking about starting a travel blog, or any type of blog for that matter, here are a few of my most popular past posts that will help you get started: What Every Blogger Needs To Know About Blogging Legally and Start A Blog In Less Than 10 Minutes With Siteground (affiliate).

Okay back to preparing for a cruise vacation…

Looking back at planning for our first cruise together, with only 10 days to go before we set sail I started thinking really hard about what to pack for the weeklong adventure.

How many bathing suits does one really need? How many pairs of shorts, dresses and different types of footwear do I need?

Well in case your in the same boat as me and will be taking a cruise vacation in the near future, or you are starting to think about planning a cruise, I’ve got the perfect Cruise Packing List.

The reason why we decided to book a cruise as opposed to a weeklong vacation on a tropical island somewhere was multifaceted.

For starters, you get the opportunity to see more places in a short amount of time. For example, the cruise we booked on Holland America’s Koningsdam ship has 4 stops for a 7 day cruise. We will be going to the eastern Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Turks and Cacaos and the Bahamas. I feel like going to 4 different islands in one week is pretty darn cool!

Me with my first cup of coffee relaxing poolside.

Secondly, booking a cruise is fairly easy and worry free. We know that all we need to do is show up and have fun. We know we don’t have to book a detailed itinerary on how we will spend every hour, because a cruise is a relaxed atmosphere. Sure there are shore excursions that you can plan, and special dinning options for extra money that you can schedule, but for the most part cruise vacations are worry free.

Tip – Bring more bathing suits than you think you need!

Here’s the deal – most likely you will be in and out of the pool or sunbathing pretty much every day of the cruise. Therefore you should bring at least one bathing suite per day if not more.  As I have been preparing for this cruise I had to do some bathing suit shopping pronto! 

One day on Pinterest I came across a pin from a company called Cupshe advertising really fun bathing suits. At first glance I thought, these are cute…but how much are they…and can I really order a bathing suit online and hope that it will fit perfectly? I was skeptical.

Nate and I dressed up for a formal dinner night

So I saved the cute pin, thinking I will take a look at this later and investigate more.  As I looked through the online catalog of cute styles and read the reviews and sizing chart I thought what the heck, I’m going to try these suits! Not to mention the prices were really affordable…all around $25.00 and the styles were better than anything I have seen in the stores of downtown Portland, OR where I live. Portland isn’t exactly a place to find awesome bathing suits…I mean c’mon it’s always raining here!

So I ordered 4 bathing suits! They arrived exactly one week later in the mail…which was super fast. The styles were so cute and fun.

I was so impressed by the quality and fun styles that I decided to be an affiliate for Cupshe!

 There are wonderful bathing suit options that are available. But let me show you what I loved the most:

Here’s what I ordered:

Aside from packing, what else do I need to prepare for a cruise?

Once you have made the decision to go on a cruise and you have booked it, you now need to think about flights and hotels.

Me in the Portland, OR airport getting ready to depart

Get a hotel the night before.

It is highly recommended that you do not fly to your cruise departure destination the day your cruise departs. The reason being is that so many things can go wrong with your flight. Perhaps there is an epic snowstorm and your flight is delayed… too bad that cruise is taking off without you.  So, if at all possible, try to fly to your departure destination one day prior to starting your cruise vacation.

Cruise departure ports have a wealth of available hotels available. To save money bundle your flights and hotel stay together when booking if you are able to, as this method will provide a better discount than doing so separately.

The Koningsdam pool at night

Make sure you have correct documentation

Depending on where your cruise is going you may need more than just a government issued driver’s license. More often than not you will need a passport and in some cases a visa.  To see what documentation you need, go to the cruises website you are booking with and there should be a section on the webpage instructing you on what type of documentation you will need depending on what countries you are visiting.

Did you  know…

Most cruise lines do not allow you to bring liquor aboard the ship but they will allow you to bring bottled wine!  Check with your cruise line to find specifics, but know that is an option for most ships.  Remember to bring your wine opener!

You can also usually bring a case of bottle water aboard.  Cruises don’t outwardly advertise that you can do this, but most do allow you to bring aboard a case of bottled water. To be sure, call your cruise line ahead of time to ask if they allow it.  You can also bring a water bottle, and refill it aboard and take it with you when you are walking around various islands/cities during excursion days. The water aboard is perfectly safe to drink, but for those that prefer bottle water, I recommend you bring some instead of paying the hefty cruise prices.

A fun animal towel in our state room

Be prepared to pay for gratuities

Surprise! You will have to pay gratuities aboard most cruise ships. Gratuities are generally around $60 per day per person.  You can pay for those up front on your first day of the cruise or wait until the end of your voyage.  The workers aboard the cruise ship rely on tips, as most do in the service industry. But the cool thing is that you do not need to worry about tipping and taking out your wallet the rest of the trip. Some people decide to give cash tips to those that they felt went above and beyond, but that is at your own discretion.

Tip, Don’t overbook yourself on excursion days

While it is so exciting to get off the ship and explore a new island / or city don’t overbook yourself on too many planned excursions.  My tip is to plan only one excursion per stop. Why you may ask? Well a few reasons. First off, you don’t want to have too tight a schedule incase an excursion takes longer than expected and then you find yourself racing to get back to the boat so it doesn’t leave without you. Second, if you are too busy running around everywhere it can be stressful. Everyone is different, and it will just depend what you are looking for. Some folks may want to just chill on the beach or stroll the town and have lunch. Either way, I still think planning just one excursion is enough.

Bon Voyage!!!

You now know all the basics to prepare yourself for an awesome cruise vacation!!!

What does a cruise stop look like?

Below is a stop in Honduras that my husband I stopped at in January 2019 while on a cruise to the western Caribbean on Holland America.


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