Well, we just returned from a wonderful week aboard the Royal Carribean Rhapsody of the Seas touring the Mexican Riviera. The tips I gained from www.cruisemates.com
were invaluable -- we felt like experienced cruisers, even though this was our first time!
In return for all the advice we gained here, I felt a strong obligation to keep track of what I was happy that we packed and things I wished we had packed. Fortunately, the former far exceeded the latter.
I hope this list I kept during our trip helps those planning their next trip. I'll list the items and how or why they came in handy.
GLAD WE PACKED:
* Air freshner -- This would come in most handy with a stuffy cabin. But in our case, the bathroom had a musty smell, and in short order it was smelling as fresh as a daisy. I also packed a Glade Plug-In air freshner, which ensured our cabin was always fresh-smelling.
* List of clothes/outfits -- This was invaluable! Even me, Mr Organized, forgot what we were supposed to wear the final casual night. Every day, we just consulted the list I typed out, and there was a minimal amount of thinking, "What do I wear today/tonight?"
* Plastic Zip Lock Bags -- These had innumerable uses! I packed stolen snacks in them for excursions, bottles of liquor in them to keep it from leaking in my bags, etc. Pack at least 4.
* Shampoo -- Even though our stateroom had it on the wall in the shower, it in no way would lather as well as our brand. Our smaller travel size was just perfect.
* Liquor -- I put gin in half-liter bottled water bottles before we went on board (packed in the carry-on tote bag in cased in Ziplock bags). That way, we could mix drinks as soon as we got there. It was great, and our liquor bill on board was minimal compared to others (we still ordered drinks at dinner and in the bars, but this was so much easier during down times on the cruise). Big mental note: They sell no mixers on board, so bring your own. Luckily, I brought plenty of tonic water, but the last two days I was snagging grapefruit juice in the cafe for a mixer (just put it in a platic travel mug I brought -- another good idea)
* Eye drops -- Let's face it, even on board, you get up before the body is willing to go on a shore excursion. The eye drops were a last-minute purchase, and so handy. I always looked fresh at dinner, too, even though we just got back on board three hours before (with a nap in between time)
* Dry clean your clothes -- Those plastic bags work great to keep away wrinkles!!! I spent $50 in dry cleaning before we left and kept everything in the plastic bags. These are wrinkle guards! I had silk and rayon shirts, and they looked great straight out of the bag! This was one of the best tips I learned -- it works!!
* Bottled water -- I brought some with us -- it was great on excursions and in the room. The cost they charge you on board is like 5 times as much as costs on land. But go for the smaller bottles -- they are easier to lug around, and you can always go for tap water from the ship for shore excursions.
* Robes -- Luckily, we had some in our stateroom, but I heard other cabins did not have them. In fact, I ended up loaning my silk one to our tablemate. It seems they provide them based on the expense of the room, so those in less expensive cabins should probably pack their own. If worried about bulk, pack a cotton or silk one.
* Shore excursions -- This deviates from the packing list, but we felt we got every dime back in the shore excursions. We felt we saw tons in every port. And, for those who went it alone, there was hardly any savings in money -- perhaps, just more freedom and more time. But each of our excursions lasted 31/2 to 51/2 hours. And we had to think about *nothing* other than getting up on time. These were great for first-time visitors to a port!
* Backpack -- This again was a last-minute purchase before we left and was *invaluable.* I cannot underscore that enough. Forget the fanny pack, the backpack was much more useful! When leaving for a port, we packed snacks, water, candy, ball caps, Bonine (in case the bus trips generated motion sickness), wallets, the camera, etc. Then, when we bought something ashore, we just popped it in the back -- T-shirts, liquor, painted tiles, crystal, etc. This was *so* great!! We never had our hands full as we toured, and everything was zipped up for safety.
The final list -- what we wish we brought -- is so short.
WISH WE PACKED
* A travel clock -- There is not one in the room, other than on the TV. I swear my partner would shoot me if I asked one more time, "What time it is." Spend the money -- you'll want one.
* Aspirin -- I swear, I brought cold medicine, sleeping pills, allegy medicine, but forgot aspirin. I ended up borrowing some from our table-mate at dinner.
Other than those two items, I felt like an experienced cruiser! Read the Internet suggestions -- you'll gain a lot. Plus, follow the advice -- recycle clothes! I wore two pairs of dress pants a total of 5 times, shorts at least two times, a suit twice and two-three shirts two times. Our total luggage was two garment bags, one suitcase, one duffel bag-style tote and a tote bag for a week for two people! We ended up with two shirts we never wore and a load of socks and underwear, but everything else was used. *Plus* the cleaners on board are not astronomical for those on longer trips than a week. (We are planning two weeks on the Panama Canal next -- what I would do is bring one week's worth of clothes, and wash or have everything dry-cleaned on board.)
Hope this information helps those who are crusing after me, and my heartfelt thanks to those who posted or wrote such helpful information before our trip.