by Monica Humphries: On July 3, I boarded the Carnival Vista in Galveston, Texas, with a carry-on suitcase and backpack. As I boarded alongside vaccinated passengers, I hoped I hadn’t forgotten anything…
The seven-night vaccinated cruise — Carnival Cruise Line’s first ship to set sail in more than a year — made stops in Honduras, Belize, and Mexico.
This was only my second cruise, and as I packed for the trip, I wasn’t confident in my packing list.
Did I need shampoo and conditioner, or is that something the ship provides? What about the ship’s temperature? Would I be cold in my bedroom?
I had almost everything I needed — emphasis on almost. Take a look at what I forgot and what I’m so happy I remembered.
An outlet splitter would have been worth the room in my suitcase.
I spent seven nights on the ship in a 185-square-foot stateroom on the Carnival Vista. While the room was tiny, the king-size bed was not.
The only problem was that the bed blocked one of the two outlets in the bedroom. I spent the week juggling my phone, laptop, camera battery, and hair straightener.
An outlet splitter wouldn’t have taken much room in my carry-on bag, and it would have saved some hassle.
I could have avoided wasting time in my cabin if I’d brought a portable charger.
One of the biggest differences I noticed on Carnival’s first ship since the start of the pandemic was a new reliance on my cellphone.
Passengers accessed food menus using QR codes; shore excursions were booked through the app; and you could even access guest services from your phone.
While some passengers loved the app, others said they felt as though it made it more challenging to disconnect on their vacation.
Either way, I found myself carrying my phone throughout the entire day. This also meant my phone’s battery quickly died.
Instead of wasting time charging my phone in my cruise cabin, I wish I had brought a portable charger.
I forgot small bills for tipping and had to shell out a $6.50 ATM fee.
Arguably one of the biggest mistakes first-time cruisers make is thinking you won’t spend any money once you’ve book the trip.
In theory, you board the ship, and your lodging, food, and gratuities are all paid for.
While you might not spend a lot of money during a cruise, you’ll quickly find places you want and need cash.
For example, if passengers go on excursions, they should tip their tour operators. It’s also nice to leave an additional tip to your stateroom steward, so I’d recommend bringing cash in the form of small bills.
Since I made the mistake of forgetting cash, I had to pay the ship’s $6.50 ATM charge. Plus, I only got $20 bills, so I had to track down someone who could break the bills for me.
All my shore excursions involved water, and I wish had packed a waterproof bag.
When I arrived at my kayaking excursion in Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras, I quickly regretted the cloth tote I’d slung over my shoulder.
We’d be spending the day splashing around in a kayak, and I didn’t have an easy way to keep my clothes, towel, and phone dry.
A few days later, I was scuba diving in Cozumel and in the same predicament.
While my belongings stayed dry for the most part, a dry bag would have made the excursions easier and more carefree.
I naively thought I wouldn’t get seasick.
I had been on one other cruise before the Carnival Vista.
Recalling my first cruise, I don’t remember getting seasick, but I also don’t remember hitting any rough water.
Since I didn’t remember feeling motion sickness, I assumed I would be fine on this cruise, too.
That all changed when the ship hit rougher waters halfway through the cruise.
I realized I wasn’t prepared if the boat continued to sway and rock for hours.
Next time, I’ll be packing Dramamine — just in case.
I should have packed more evening clothes.
Most cruises have at least one formal night.
When I packed, I thought I would dress up for some evenings. But I also figured there would be a few nights when I stayed in my beach attire.
I was wrong.
Toward the end of each day, I was sweaty from the humidity and sticky from the sunscreen. It became a habit to shower before dinner, and the last thing I wanted to wear was clothing that had been in the sun all day.
Reflecting back on my packing list, I wish I had brought a few more dresses, shirts, and pants.
I thought towel clips were trivial, but by the end of the cruise, I wish I had invested in a set.
If you’re planning on spending a significant amount of time at the pool, towel clips are worth the investment.
The clips secure your towel to a pool deck’s chair. It’s an easy way to claim your spot on the pool deck, plus you never have to worry about your towel blowing away in the wind.
They’re small, which makes packing them a breeze.
A pit stop to a wine store would have been worth it.
Some cruises allow passengers to bring an allotted amount of wine, soda, and water. On Carnival Cruise Line ships — including the one I was on — passengers over the age of 21 can bring one bottle of wine per room.
Since I was flying with just a carry-on bag, there wasn’t an easy way to pack a bottle of wine, so I didn’t think to take advantage of the rule.
A bar of laundry detergent will be on my future packing lists.
One experienced cruiser I spoke with on the Carnival Vista shared her favorite cruise secret. After more than 25 cruises, she said that she always packs a block of laundry soap.
Similar to a standard block of soap, the woman uses the soap to wash her clothing at the end of each day.
This allows her to pack lighter.
I found myself rewearing a handful of items throughout the cruise, so laundry detergent would have come in handy.
While there were plenty of things I regret bringing, a few items in my suitcase saved the day.
Without things like a reusable water bottle or a sweater, I would have spent the trip thirstier and colder.
I’m glad I packed multiple face masks.
Vaccinated passengers needed to wear face masks on embarkation and debarkation days and on port days.
With only a few masked days, I initially planned to bring only one or two masks. But before I left my apartment, I grabbed a few more masks.
With hot and humid weather, I was thankful I didn’t have to recycle my masks throughout the seven-day cruise.
A reusable water bottle was helpful both on and off the ship.
Water is a surprisingly hot commodity on a cruise ship. In order to grab water, I’d have to leave my cabin, go up to deck 11, and fill up an 8-ounce cup.
There were no large glasses or bottles for guests (unless you were willing to spend $5 on a plastic water bottle), so I was thrilled that I remembered to pack my own water bottle.
My reusable water bottle also came in handy on port days. It saved me money and kept me hydrated.
A small tote bag was worth the room in my personal item.
Since I had only a carry-on suitcase and backpack for the seven-night cruise, I was happy I remembered to pack a small tote bag.
I used the tote to store my towel, notebook, room key, sunscreen, and sunglasses when I explored the cruise ship. I also brought it with me when I explored the ports.
My sunburned shoulders were thankful I remembered to pack aloe.
Unsurprisingly, I got sunburned on my trip, so the 3-ounce container of aloe I remembered to pack came in handy throughout the cruise.
Waterproof shoes are a must on every cruise packing list.
The pool deck of the Carnival Vista gets hot — really hot.
The ground was so hot that my feet couldn’t handle the 30-second walk from a recliner to the hot tub without shoes. But once I got to the hot tub, the only place to store my shoes was at the edge of the pool, where they were bound to get wet.
I was thankful I brought my waterproof sandals that could handle the sun and water.
They also came in handy for my two water-based excursions.
It might not sound intuitive to bring a sweater on a tropical cruise, but it saved the day inside the freezing ship.
There were moments on the cruise when I was dripping in sweat. Surprisingly, there were also moments when my teeth were chattering from the cold.
The temperatures inside the ship are much cooler, so I was thankful for my sweater.
My packing list could have used a few tweaks, but packing in a carry-on wasn’t as challenging as I expected.
I initially thought my suitcase’s seams would split from being overfilled, but after I finished packing, I’d fit everything easily.
Next time I’ll just remember to pack my portable charger and towel clips.