April 20, 2018

That Time I Went to the Pool...

It's nearly here! I will soon be embarking on a 14-day transatlantic cruise starting in Barcelona, ending in NYC. As I start to pack, I am checking off my out-and-about on the boat items. Here are my necessities for hitting the pool, the bars, and getting some sun!:

Travel mug:
If you are a coffee or tea drinker, you can bring a lot more coffee back to your room in a 16oz travel mug than the 8oz plastic mugs that are provided. You can get (not technically but basically) air tight mugs that won't spill which is always a bonus, or Starbucks has very basic ones for $1-2 at the counter. You can also potentially use this in place of the item below.

Reusable water bottle:
You're actually not allowed to bring bottled water on board most cruise lines, because people use them to sneak alcohol on board. The tap water is perfectly fine to drink, and bottled water is expensive, so pack an empty bottle and fill it up to carry around with you on and off ship.

Lanyards keep your room key close at hand at all times. You can buy these on board, but you can also get them very cheap. I'm told you can get a hole punched in your card at guest services, check-in, and/or the casino. They'll be giving you a round punch so plan accordingly. I'm trying out wrist-sized lanyards on my next cruise, I think I'll like them better than the around-the-neck kind.

Hole punch:
Not really a necessity, actually a frill, but if you already have lanyards from something or other, and it has the flat clip, this will give you the proper punch shape. I am in this category so I am splurging on this and will be brainstorming additional uses for it. Probably will skip packing this when flying to the cruise port.

The flat clip allows for faster release when handing your card over to the bartenders.

(Females only [probably/not judging]) If you packed heels to go with your cocktail dresses, you may want to change it up by the end of the night. These take up little space in your luggage and provide an excellent alternative to broken feet.

Cruiselines are starting to get hip to the damage that disposable plastic does to the environment. Some will give you straws by request, others will not. Either way, skip the danger noodle and bring your own! Look how cute! I bought long silicone ones and cut some of them to pint-glass length (7-8"), and some to cocktail-glass length (5-6"). Most come with cleaning brushes. #savetheturtles
Silicone Straws

Waterproof pouch:
I actually have not used one of these yet, but have one for my impending cruise. I do not plan on putting my phone in it for the first go- just our keycards. However, I've seen people swear by these, and they claim to be 100% air-tight so you *should* be able to safely put your phone in them. They have 3 strips of zip locking plus velcro. You can get them in phone-size, small, or large, depending on what you want to fit in it. I got the small size but may find we don't need anything bigger than the phone one.
Small waterproof Pouch

Card holder:
If you're going to take your phone with you to use the cruise line's app, stick one of these on the back. I use on in my everyday life and it's equally handy for cruises. It can hold your key card when on board (and skip the lanyard) and add your driver's license* when going into port (both needed to get back on the ship). Personally, I like the cloth ones.
card holder

*You can use your passport to get back on ship instead, but won't fit in the card holder!

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget these! "I want to get out of the pool, and then put on bulky shoes so I can get to lunch in the main dining room before it ends..."said no-one-ever. Make sure to pack a pair of flops so you can easily go from pool, to indoors, and back again.*
Old Navy Flops
Probably less $$ in store than on Amazon

*Do be careful when using very smooth bottomed flops (a la Old Navy, etc.) on wet surfaces, very slippery!

(Probably) Ladies only... it may be hot outside, but guess what, the A/C will be cranking in all the indoor areas. And if you are dressed for warm weather, this means you can be quite chilly indoors. Carry a blanket scarf or pashmina when going to dinner, the casino, or bars, in case of arctic blast. A light jacket can of course be substituted.
blanket scarf

Luggage Tags:
Okay, this has nothing to do already being on board, but until I write a post that is all pre-cruise items, this lives here. First, I want to mention that you do not HAVE to check your luggage. The reason for doing so is 1) so you don't have to trek it all over the cruise terminal and onto the ship, 2) so that once on ship, if your cabin isn't ready yet, you don't have to trek it throughout the ship, 3) the same as 1&2 when getting off. I usually do not check my luggage because we tend to board after our cabin is ready, so we are able to go straight to our cabin, and because, when checked, said bags aren't delivered until sometime in the evening and are left outside your cabin door. (It's not common for bags to be lost or stolen, but they can be).
If you are going to check your bags... these plastic holders are handy for attaching your luggage tags. You can instead tape or staple your tags, as directed, but that increases the chances of it getting lost. Different cruise lines have different shaped tags, so search accordingly.
luggage tags
More stuff you should bring!:
Couple's Packing List
Cabin Must-Haves

April 03, 2018

That Time When Every Day in March Was Green...

For the past few years I have played a game with my wardrobe I call "Green Everyday in March." What the game entails is wearing a different green something-of-clothing every day for the duration of March, in honor of the greenest holiday of the year- St Patrick's Day. Here is this year's results!

March 20, 2018

That Time I Tried Anytime Cruise Dining...

I've been following a bunch of cruise message boards and I've noticed that a lot of people are confused about what's called "Anytime" dining that more and more cruise lines are starting to do. I decided to break it down.

First let me explain what "Traditional" dining is. The way cruise ship dining was done traditionally was that passengers picked what time they wanted to eat, early or late (usually ~6pm and 8pm), and then they would be assigned to a table. Most of the tables are large so generally cruisers eat with passengers they hadn't previously met. They would eat at the same time, at the same table, with the same people, and the same wait staff every day. Some people like this experience because they get to meet new people and potentially make friends to hang out with on board.

Note: to be a considerate cruiser, if you're not going to be able to make it to dinner at your assigned time, and/or you are just choosing to eat else where on any night, you should make the effort of letting the dining room know ahead of time because the waiters will wait to serve your whole table.

Some lines still offer traditional dining on a first-come-first-served basis (selected when booking the cruise) and some have switched entirely to Anytime Dining. My guess is that cruise lines started offering Anytime dining as a way to feed more passengers in the same amount of space because not everyone takes 2 hours to eat dinner.

In the Anytime dining rooms there are more smaller tables so guests only eat with the people they want to eat with; appealing to those who are trying to have an intimate vacation, people who don't love meeting new people (no judgement from me!), and those who have had bad experiences getting stuck with people they didn't care for with the Traditional dining experience.

Anyway... how does Anytime dining actually work? *Disclaimer: I have only experienced Carnival & Norwegian's Anytime dining so I cannot elaborate on other lines*

Anytime dining (Carnival calls it "Your Time Dining," NCL calls it "Freestyle Dining") is like going to any restaurant on land without reservations. For Carnival, you go to a specified location when you're ready to eat (the earlier the better or you might have to wait) and then they send you to the dining room with a table assignment (or they give you a buzzer and you wait somewhere nearby). NCL only offers Anytime dining, but has two or three Main Dining Rooms on each ship. Go to the one you want when you're ready to eat; if there is a wait they will give you a buzzer (eat early to avoid a wait). NCL offers reservations for their MDRs but they are not necessary unless you want to eat at a very specific time.

The only differences from that point is that you aren't seated at a big table with the same people and waitstaff every night. You would be seated with just your party (though I think you can ask to be with other people? I never tried), and you'd have different waiters every night. You can request the same waiters and/or table if you like them one night, but may have to wait longer if you do so.

The main negative I've read about Anytime dining is that they are set up for smaller groups/couples, so if you are cruising with a large group you may wait a while for your table. Basically, you'd want to plan on going on the early side, and then expecting to wait at a nearby bar for a bit.

With Anytime Dining , you can opt to eat at the buffet any night and not have to tell the dining room not to expect you. When I had Anytime Dining on the Carnival, I was happy enough with it, and haven't gotten to try Traditional Dining as I'm pretty new to cruising. The one time we went later at night (8ish?), the service was not great, so you're better off going to the buffet if you're eating later than 7:30.

March 08, 2018

That Time I Went to The Movies...

I saw a new movie on Tuesday. The general plot was that a stone was stolen from a structure, resulting in darkness spreading across the land, and only Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson could save the day by returning the stone from whence it came.

If you think I'm talking about Moana...

I'm not. This was also literally the plot of the new Junmanji movie.

The main difference was that they had to traverse a jungle instead of an ocean.

Actually, I really liked it. I thought it was going to be an adaptation, but was legitimately a sequel. We laughed, we cried, and I got to watch Amy in a movie.

...But also couldn't stop pointing out how we were essentially watching Moana.