Manner Monday®: Packing for a Cruise with Julie and Gopher

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by Carey Sue Vega in Cruise Ships, Manner Monday

Happy Memorial Day from the M/S Norwegian Getaway!   We are SOOOO excited to be on a ship again!  It’s been 15 years since Ricardo and I worked for NCL, so we thought it was about time to enjoy cruising as a passenger (not as a crew member).

We are having so much fun showing our son, Billy, what we used to do for years before moving to ‘land’ and starting our family.  For those of you who may be new to Manner Monday and don’t know our story yet, I worked for Norwegian Cruise Line for 10 years.  Starting as a Youth Coordinator and working my way up to Cruise Director (yes, think Julie McCoy).  Ricardo worked for the company starting at the Front Desk (the front line of customer service) and worked his way up to Hotel Director (yep, he was Gopher!)  He had been with the company for over 7 years when we met as crew members on a ship that sailed out of Houston, Texas in the late 90’s (cue the Love Boat theme song).  After dating for a couple of years and working on different ships – it was when he was on a ship in Hawaii, and I was on another ship in Egypt – we decided we needed to move to land and ‘get a life’.  So, we decided to ‘drop anchor’ (pun intended – I can’ t resist) in Oklahoma City during 2000.  That year, not only did we get married, but we bought cars, got ‘jobs’, and started figuring out what the real world was like as far as insurance, utility bills, grocery shopping, and everything that comes with being home owners.  It was overwhelming to say the least.  But we are really glad we decided to land in Oklahoma City, we love it here.

Last week, as we were telling friends that we were heading out on a cruise, everyone asked ‘are you packed yet?’  And as I answered no, ‘I’ll do that the night before’ –  most everyone looked at me with a strange look on their face.  I guess after packing to be away for months at a time for so many years, we kind of have it down to a science.

A few friends asked for some packing and cruise tips, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

Packing and Planning Tips for a Cruise:

Fly out the day before if you can:  Of course the majority of the time your flight is not delayed and everything goes as planned.  But for a cruise, if you’re flight is delayed, there’s a good chance you will miss the ship.  And if  that happens, you’ll be stressed trying to figure out how to meet the ship at it’s first port of call.  Not fun.

You really don’t need that much stuff:  A few mix and match pieces for evening.  Maybe a ‘formal’ outfit (check the website of the line you’ll be sailing).  A few mix and match pieces for day.  Two or three pairs (no more) of shoes that will work with everything.  Swimsuits (more than one so you’re not trying to put on a wet swimsuit everyday) and sport sandals for walking to and from the pool/beach. I have a pair of old-school Teva’s I’ve had for years that are perfect! Not only are they good for getting you to the beach, but they’re great in the water if there is rough terrain.  If you like to workout don’t forget a couple of outfits for the gym.  Don’t forget a light jacket or wrap, it can be chilly at night and in the air conditioning. I always keep a pashmina in my carry on ‘just in case’.  A hat is also a great accessory to bring.  Once you have picked out what you would like to take, take a hard look at everything and whittle it down.  The cabins are not that big and you really don’t have a lot of storage space – so lighten your load and you’ll be happy you did.

Ziplock Baggies:  These are the best travel accessories you will ever have!  They’re obviously great to keep liquids corralled, but they’re also great to pack your clothes in and they help to save space.  I suggest buying the extra large 2-gallon size, the 1 gallon size, and the quart size.  The quart size is great for small bottles of liquid, stockings, undies, etc.  I use the larger gallon and 2-gallon bags for clothing.  I can pack two-three mix and match outfits in one of the 2-gallon bags, then squeeze the air out and throw it in a suitcase.  For my son (9), we take his outfits and roll them together; shirt, shorts, undies, socks, and stuff them into a baggie.  It makes it so easy for him to pull out an outfit and go.  The baggies help to keep things organized and they also provide an extra barrier of protection from luggage that may have been caught in the rain, or a bottle of lotion that exploded and made it’s way out of it’s little baggy.  And don’t laugh at this one – but you can put your smartphone inside of a ziplock baggie to protect it from water and sand and still be able to talk and text on it.  You just need to remove it from the baggie before you take pictures!  They’re also really helpful in keeping dirty clothes compartmentalized for the return trip.

Divide and Conquer:  When placing your clothes into the suitcase, divide your outfits and put them into different suitcases. For the three of us, each suitcase will have a few outfits for each person instead of each family member having all of their stuff in one.  Again, you hope everything goes as planned, but when you show up to the ship and a suitcase doesn’t…I’ve seen ‘lost luggage’ situations way too often – not fun.  If you find yourself with lost luggage, head to the front desk, they will be able to help you in some way.  They may not be able to find your suitcase, but they will more than likely be able to help with a small stipend for something in the gift shop and they may even have a few items of clothing to loan you. Hopefully the airline will find your luggage and it will meet you at your first port of call.

Carry On:  Realizing that carry on’s are limited by the airlines, you’re going to have to be very creative.  I suggest packing at least one or two outfits in your carry on.  Remember the part just above about lost luggage… you want to be prepared just in case.  Plus, it usually takes quite awhile to get your luggage to your room.  By having the items you’ll need as soon as you get onboard in your carry on, you will be able to venture out and explore the ship without waiting for your suitcase and a change of clothes.

A few items I leave in my carry on for every trip (land or sea):  a short extension card.  It never fails, the outlets aren’t where you need them.  And I keep my toiletry bag packed and ready to go at all times.  When I return home from a trip, I refill the small bottles of soap, lotion, etc., and repack my toiletry bag so it’s ready to go.  This saves a ton of time every time I pack, even for camping trips or weekend getaways.  Throw in some of those ‘command hooks’ and they give you extra hanging storage wherever you need it and they won’t damage the walls. And last bust not least, duct tape!  Wrap some duct tape around a sharpie, and you can MacGyver just about anything!

Toiletries:  Unless you’re a crew member signing on a ship to work for a four month contract, you really don’t need the Sam’s size bottle of shampoo and lotion!  Take a look at what you need, and transfer it to smaller containers.  Most ships offer shampoo and conditioner if you need it.  If you have to have a particular hair dryer, bring it.  The small hairdryers found in your cabin will work, but they’re definitely not like your favorite.

Leave room for souvenirs:  Don’t stuff you luggage so full that you don’t have room for a few souvenirs.  Even if you are not planning on doing a lot of shopping, trust me, you’ll end up with something extra to bring home. We won’t talk about the rugs, china, crystal, samovar, drum and many other things I bought while traveling 😐 but I always found a way to get them home! 🙂

Packing for Shore Excursions:  Make sure you pack a small tote for heading ashore or trips to the pool, you can throw your ziplock baggies in the tote that has your sunscreen, phone and cash and you’re ready to go.  If you’re planning to do a lot of snorkeling, you may want to consider bringing your own gear.

Important Documents:  If you need a hard copy of your boarding documents, don’t forget to pack it in your carry on.  Keep copies of everything on your smartphone.  Take pictures of your passport, drivers license and any other important documents and save them to your device in case something goes missing.  While you’re at it, take a picture of your kiddos so if you get separated you can easily access a picture to show anyone who may be helping you find the little vagabond.

Books:  If you plan on reading while you’re on vacation, don’t forget to pack your book (a ziplock baggie is great for books too!)  If you read books on your smartphone or tablet, make sure you download them before leaving.  You don’t want to eat up expensive onboard data charges because you forgot to download your favorite book.  And while you’re at it, make sure you charge your tablet at home before you leave so you’re ready to go!

Once you’re onboard…

Learning your way around the ship:  It can be overwhelming, some ships are bigger than the small town you may live in!  Look closely and pay attention to the details, often times different decks will have different colors in the carpet.  Sometimes the carpet may have a pattern that points forward.  There will be little things that can help you if you look for them, artwork, sculptures, and other landmarks will be helpful in finding you way around.  Ask crew members to point hidden landmarks out to you – they’ll be happy to help!

Just because there is a line – doesn’t mean you have to stand in it!  This obviously doesn’t have anything to do with packing, but it will make your experience onboard SO much better!  Not sure what it is about lines, people see them, and think they have to get in line or they’ll miss out.  Find out first ‘why’ people are standing in that line.  If you don’t ‘have’ to be there standing and waiting, then don’t.  Go and do something else!


  • It’s a ‘ship’ not a ‘boat’  🙂
  • Port – is the left side of the ship when facing forward (four letters in left, four letters in port).
  • Starboard – is the right side of the ship when facing forward.
  • Forward and Aft – Front and Back.
  • Poop Deck – it’s a funny phrase for the kids (and grownup kids) to get a chuckle out of.  Historically, the poop deck is the deck that forms the roof of a cabin built in the rear or aft part of the ship.
  • Fullfart – another great one for the kids.  It’s Norwegian for ‘Full Speed’.  And yes, I’m apologizing now to the many families when back in the day as a Youth Coordinator I taught that phrase to their kids :-/

And if something does go wrong, don’t demand to speak with the Captain!:  You’ll get much farther going to the front desk and being nice to the crew member waiting on you.  Trust us!  We’ve seen it all, and we can promise you, the nicer you are, the better off you’ll be, and the farther you’ll get!!!

I hope you found these tips helpful, if you enjoyed them – please share with your friends!


Click to Tweet: Just because there is a line: doesn’t mean you have to stand in it! #MannerMonday has more cruise tips for you!

And always… thanks for reading!
– Carey Sue

On another note…

Have you seen our end of the season video yet?  Thank you to one of our Student Ambassadors, Presley Rhea, for creating the video this year!

And if you’re curious as to why I was verklempt at the end of the video, you can visit this link to read the story:

The highest compliment you can give us is a referral to your friends and coworkers. Please share our registration and contact information with any families you think might be interested in participating in our program.

Each year we build on the previous year as we add to the curriculum.  We have many students who continue with us each season, from our Level 5 (5th grade) program through our Passport (High School) Program.  Our goal with the continuous exposure, and gentle reminders, of the courtesies we teach over consecutive years – is to assist you in raising well-mannered young adults.

  • Continued Exposure:  Just as continued exposure to athletics and school homework reaps rewards; continued exposure to the social skills taught in our program will provide lifelong lessons that will benefit your child throughout the classroom and into the boardroom.
  • Benefits and Rewards:  One of the biggest rewards of our students returning year after year, is the virtual ‘light bulb’ that seems to turn on and stay on; the students are really starting to get it and they are very proud of themselves.  Their confidence is building.  We’ve highlighted some of our graduating seniors on my blog at

For more information click on the links below:
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