Is there a Caribbean cruise in your future? Before you board, check out my top 10 tips for smooth sailing.
1. Break Wind
Feeling chilly on a Caribbean cruise? Trust me, it can happen. Once you get out into the open sea blustery nights are common even in Caribbean waters, and they'll put the kibosh on a romantic evening stroll on deck faster than a case of Norovirus. So I always recommend bringing a wrap, shrug or light jacket for outdoor evening wear. Bonus: It'll come in handy in aggressively air-conditioned show theaters, too.
2. Tote a Towel
You'd never think to bring a beach towel to hotel but it can come in handy when you're sailing on cruise lines that require passengers to return their towels at the end of each day. I'd much rather start my morning with a cup of Blue Mountain coffee on deck rather than standing in line for a towel, so I say BYOT. It really doesn't take up that much room (and there are no luggage weight limits on a cruise, anyway) and it'll stand out from all the other tired towels so you'll never lose it.
3. Flip Out
I never leave for a trip without flip-flops. Whether, like me, you're skeeved out by shower floors, or you're hesitant to walk barefoot on carpet that's been trampled by hundreds of passengers before you, these cheap kicks are an essential in your cabin, at the onboard spa, and, of course, on the beach. (Also consider bringing along a pair of hotel slippers for some premium cabin-style pampering in your inside stateroom.)
4. Bring a Bottle
The first rule of tropical travel is to stay hydrated, so I always make sure I bring along my own liter-sized water bottle. That way I can fill up at the onboard bars or drink machines whenever I choose and carry it around with me instead of making multiple pilgrimages from the buffet to my cabin decks four decks below, hoping that my tiny plastic cup survives the journey. Can't do without three cups of joe in the morning? Bring a large insulated cup for the self-serve coffee stations and save yourself a few trips.
5. Learn a Lift Lesson
It can take a few days to learn how to get around the ship (for me, this usually happens on the final day). But it only takes a second to learn whether the elevator you're waiting for is going up or down. On many ships the arrival chime will sound once when the car is on its way up (ding!) and rings twice (ding-dong!) when descending. Trust me, this is such a timesaver when you're boarding or disembarking and you, your luggage and 2,000 other passengers are all fighting for the next elevator to the gangway.
6. Take Hold
So there you are soaking up the sun on a lounge chair with a piña colada in hand. Life is good -- except for the fact that your towel is threatening to take off with the wind and/or shifting every time you do. Take your deck experience from pretty good to perfect by bring along two dollar-store clothes pegs to pin your towel to your chair.
7. Ditch the Designer
So you've spent a pretty penny on that Louis Vuitton Neverfull or Goyard St. Louis tote and now you want to show it off. But a Caribbean cruise isn't necessarily the time. If you visit rural or disadvantaged areas on excursion, you don't want to be the insensitive person flaunting the bag that costs more than some islanders make in months. And who wants to worry about getting sand or sunscreen on a pricey piece? I leave my designer bag in the cabin and carry a cheap and cheerful canvas or nylon tote with me when I'm in port. Better safe than sorry.
8. Strip Off
We all carry so many electronics with us when we travel, but I've yet to find a stateroom with enough outlets to charge them all. My solution: Pack a power strip so you can plug in and juice up as you sail on.
9. Tune Out
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's been jolted into consciousness after a long night in the Lido Bar by the cruise director announcing the day's activities over the cabin PA system. Avoid the rude awakening by bringing along a pair of earplugs. Admittedly they're not the sexiest sleepwear, but they sure do come in handy for light (and hungover) sleepers.
10. Have a Breakdown
I love that cruising allows me to bring as much luggage as I like on board (What can I say? I like having outfit options). But storing my sizable suitcase in the limited space under the bed can be a challenge. Which is why I'm a fan of Biaggi's Contempo line of luggage, which folds down to half its size to neatly fit beneath the bed or in the closet. Genius!
Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon is a Caribbean travel expert, award-winning travel journalist, TV personality, and black-belt shopper. Former executive editor of Caribbean Travel +Life magazine, she ventures to the beach and beyond, sharing the diverse culture, relaxed lifestyle and colorful people of the world's favorite warm-weather destination for a variety of travel brands. She is also jetsetter-in-chief at JetSetSarah, where travel and shopping meet.