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I feel like the one thing that shocked me most when I went on my first cruise was that I needed to pack an Embarkation bag. A what? Well, when you arrive at port, you hand your bags off to a porter who will take them to the ship. Unlike at a hotel, you do not get a room or get access to your bags right away. That means you’ll need to pack a bag that is going to hold everything you need for the day, before you get your luggage.
On average, your cabin will be ready after 2:00 p.m. This is only an average depending on the cruise you’re on. Your bags can end up arriving even later, sometimes even right before you sail away which is usually around 4 p.m. So with this uncertainty, you’ll need a bag to help you last until you can access your cabin and luggage.
Your Embarkation bag doesn’t need to hold everything. Simply follow this list below and you’ll have a great first day on your cruise!
- Passport, ID + Important Documents – This is a bit of a no brainer, but to gain access to the ship, you’ll need your passport and a government issued ID. Your passport is to show citizenship and the ID is for the customs ports that you’ll be going through in each port. Plus instead of having your passport as your photo ID in port you can use your license.
For our documents, CA always prints out all of our documents from the cruise website that’ll have all of your information. The main thing you need is your boarding passes and your luggage tags that’ll show what room and section you’re in. If you’re traveling with children you’ll need their birth certificate or passport for them. Make sure you’re checking the cruise website for anything important you need.
- Medication – Prescription and OTC meds alike, it’s best to have them on hand instead of luggage. Especially if you have time specific medication. Don’t forget to pack Dramamine or some type of seasick medicine, because once you’re on the ship it could start right away.
- Jewelry – They always tell you to keep your valuables on your person just for safekeeping. I usually have jewelry that I wear at night with the different dresses, it’s fun to switch it up. I have a jewelry holder that can keep earrings, necklaces and rings organized and untangled.
- Change of Clothes – This goes back to the not having luggage right away issue. Depending on when you want to eat dinner, you may want to change into something other than what you wore on the ship. Especially if you flew in or drove that day, you can freshen up in your cabin and head to dinner! The skirt + top I wore is no longer on sale that’s why I suggested this denim skirt and top.
- Camera – We love to take photos and sometimes we take a video when we’re walking onto the ship! We usually bring the GoPro so we can use it on the ship and when we’re in port!
- Electronics + Portable Charger – This goes for basically anything electronic! Especially if you have kids, or want to bring headphones, your laptop, etc. And make sure you bring the cords for all of them! For our portable charger, we bring one that can charge both our phones. Depending on what kind you buy, you can charge anything that uses a USB port. There aren’t many outlets that are available outside of your room so this could help you stay charged! (Insider tip: inside your room you get one US plug & one European plug.)
- Refillable Water Bottles – We always use this for our water or lemonade when we’re walking around the ship. You can fill up your water bottle once you get on board and start exploring the ship.
- Sun Protection + Pool clothes – This will depend on where you’re cruising to or from, but having sun protection regardless is always a smart idea. Sometimes CA will wear his swim trunks on board or bring them to change into.
- Mini Toiletry Bag – Hand Sanitzers – On a cruise there are so many opportunities to touch doorknobs, elevator buttons, so many spots for germs to hang out. They have hand sanitizer onboard near the food and elevators but it doesn’t hurt to carry one on you. If you use a lanyard or have a mini cross body you can connect it to the strap.
- Book / Kindle – After we grab lunch, we usually will lay out or go to a section and just take in the ocean and the fact that we’re on vacation! We both use kindles but if you would rather a book, there is a library on board that you can borrow books from!
When you get your luggage will depend on the cruise line you’re taking. When we went on our cruise in January we had our luggage around 2:30 pm. I do know that if you’re a Diamond or Platinum for Carnival usually your room is ready first and most of the time your luggage gets to your room sooner. I am sure other cruise lines are similar to what they offer on Carnival, the more days you cruise the higher level you are on the cruise line. The embarkation bag can be a beach bag or a collapsible bag that you can double as your port day bags.