My Cruising Family's Caribbean Cruise Packing List

My Cruising Family presents to you My Cruising Family's Caribbean Cruise Packing List.  We hope that this helps to put our blog posts, WHAT MY CRUISING FAMILY PACKS: CARRY-ON EDITION and WHAT MY CRUISING FAMILY PACKS: CHECKED LUGGAGE EDITION in a much more mommy-friendly package for you.  Please utilize this checklist when preparing for your next cruise, and please also provide us with your feedback.  Happy Packing!  

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Dear Overwhelmed/Tired Mom

Dear Overwhelmed/Tired Mom,

Let me start by acknowledging that I don’t understand.  I say that because I can sometimes be annoyed by people who tell me that they understand what I’m feeling when I don’t think that they do.  Many times, the person means well, and I think the person means to convey that they hear me, they care, and they have been through similar experiences. 

There is only one you, so only you know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.  Only you know what it’s like to wake up in the morning, Mondays through Fridays, to get yourself ready for work, and also to get your children up and awake, showered, clothed, and fed before school.  You may drive them and yourself to school and work, or like me, you may walk or drive a portion of the way, then take a train – in our case, at least 3 trains – just to get to school and work.  Only you know how you feel during and after the shuffle, hustle, and bustle just to get your children to school.  Only you know how you feel walking into your place of work before 9am, yet feeling as though you have already completed a full day of work.  Only you know

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My Cruising Family's Anniversary!

January 19, 2018.  Today marks 5 years since My Cruising Family’s first family cruise. 

Sidebar… It’s funny because my first cruise – not a family cruise – was in 2005, prior to becoming a mother and prior to meeting my husband, yet it was on Disney Cruise Line, which is probably the first cruise line that comes to mind when you hear the words “family cruise.”  I’ve got to let you know that Disney is loads of fun for adults without children, as I experienced it first-hand in 2005.  Nevertheless, I now say that that Disney Magic cruise, being my first cruise, was a sign that I’d be loving family cruising years later, and that I’d be a resource for all things related to family cruising. 

So, back to January 19, 2013.  My husband, our then 2-year-old son, and I sailed on the Carnival Dream’s 7-day Western Caribbean itinerary.  Little did we know then what we know now, and what we put into practice as we now usually sail as a family of four or five. 

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Pause. Reflect. Dream. Give.

Hello cruisers, soon-to-be-cruisers, cruise-daydreamers, and everyone in between!  A month ago, I shared with you that My Cruising Family suffered a loss in the sudden passing of my brother, which has led to a whirlwind of emotions, and also to a season of pause and reflection. As a result, our website posts and social media activity has slowed a bit. 

While we plan to resume blog posts in the near future, this season of pause and reflection, which we did not plan, has led us to take the time to DREAM BIGGER and to GIVE FROM THE HEART.

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On Shore: Getting Back To Port On Time

I recently received a question regarding boarding times, distance to the cruise port, and recommendations for getting to the ship on time, and the blog post in response to those questions addressed these concerns for cruise embarkation day.  This blog post will address similar concerns about getting back to the ship on time when in a port-of-call. 

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Getting To The Port On Embarkation Day

I recently received a question regarding boarding times, distance to the cruise port, and recommendations for getting to the ship on time.  The general rule of thumb to address all three of those areas is to pay close attention to the documents provided by the cruise line.  Specific cruises differ with regard to the time that guests should arrive to “check in” at the port.   Keep in mind, that most, if not all, cruise lines require online check-in which will then produce cruise documents for guests to print and take along to the port.  So although I say “check in” at the port, what that entails on embarkation day is usually guests presenting their printed cruise documents, along with their passports, for a fairly quick process at the counter with an agent from whom guests will receive their stateroom keys and a number to be called to board the ship. 

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Our Cruise Is Approaching, But Our Children Are Sick! Now What?

Why am I writing this now?  Well, because, right now – today – just about one week before our family goes on vacation, both of our boys have what seems to be the common cold, with stuffy and runny noses, and coughing.  There have also been complaints of ear pain, which we know can happen sometimes simply as a result of congestion, but can also happen if there is an ear infection. Their symptoms started developing on the weekend, so I am thankful that we had that opportunity to treat them at home without having to take days off from school, day care, and work, and without contaminating other people’s children. Nevertheless, with our next cruise around the corner, I called the doctor’s office this morning to try to get an appointment as soon as possible.  

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What's The Best Way To Pick A Cruise?

I recently responded to the question, “What’s the best way to pick a cruise?”  A lot of this information will be similar to an earlier blog postMake Planning A Cruise A Breeze.  However, this question came after that blog post, so I think it's worth sharing my response here.  Let me start by saying that this is really subjective.  For some, this decision will be primarily driven by dates.  For others, this decision will be primarily driven by cost.  There are many cruise options out there, so the quick answer about the “best way to pick a cruise” is to know the factors that are most important to you and your family, and to prioritize those factors accordingly.  As an example, I share with you, below, what My Cruising Family’s decision-making process usually looks like when choosing a cruise. 

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After A Rough Hurricane Season, Can We Still Travel To The Caribbean?

When traveling with a family, especially a family that includes young children, we tend to be very thoughtful about our travel plans.  That being said, given the rough 2017 hurricane season, some parents may be re-thinking their planned family cruises and others may be reluctant to plan Caribbean family vacations at this time because of the idea that the Caribbean islands are in bad shape right now.  While a number of the hardest hit islands have a long road to recovery ahead of them, there are many available options in the Caribbean that were virtually unharmed by the 2017 hurricanes.

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5 Commonly Asked Questions

In an effort to assist those who are considering, planning, or already booked a cruise, I have answered many questions regarding cruising.  In answering those questions, I caution that there are some things that all cruise lines have in common, but there are other areas in which each cruise line differs.  Here, I have included a list of five commonly asked questions, as well as a list of some cruise lines and the corresponding links to how they address each question. 

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What My Cruising Family Packs: Checked Luggage Edition

My Cruising Family’s philosophy is that it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, especially when cruising with children.  The below list should be repeated for each person cruising. 

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CRUISE REVIEWS: Our Family's MSC Divina Cruise

Although this was my 5th cruise, this was my first MSC cruise, and I loved it.  My mom, my husband, my 6-year-old son, my 2-year-old son, and I sailed together on the MSC Divina, from March 25, 2017 to April 1, 2017, from the Port of Miami to Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Nassau.  We had two Bella staterooms on Deck 8, one room across the hall from the other: balcony stateroom 8251 and inside stateroom 8253.  We had a wonderful time!  The crew and staff were generally very helpful and cheerful.  Our stateroom steward, Lynyrd, was excellent in keeping our rooms in order and providing any requested services, such as

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CRUISE REVIEWS: Our Family's Southern Caribbean Cruise

Upon our return from this particular cruise, I didn’t do much of a review of the ship itself.  However, I can say that the ship was fine. We had connecting Promenade View Staterooms, which were very convenient because my mom and our two sons stayed next door, while my husband and I had some space to ourselves. It should be noted that Promenade View Staterooms are listed as double occupancy, but by calling Royal Caribbean and explaining our group’s dynamic, including the fact that our younger son was one-year-old at the time, and would have a Pack 'n Play to sleep in, Royal Caribbean was able to book three of us in the room given that one of three was a one-year-old.  It may not be an option on every cruise, but it does not hurt to ask.  After all, that’s how we learn things.  I know that, as a mom, I teach my children that it’s ok to ask questions.  I know that many other parents take the same approach, so if you’re one of those parents, let’s take our own advice on that.  Therefore, if you’re wondering whether or not this is a possibility on your cruise, I suggest calling and speaking with either your travel agent or the cruise line directly. 

This particular cruise was port-intensive, so our focus, as well as this review, was more on the ports than the ship.

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CRUISE REVIEWS: Our Family's Carnival Splendor Cruise

As mentioned in My Cruising Family's previous blog post, I have written cruise reviews, excursion reviews, and more, to share my experiences, and to, hopefully, help other cruise-planning/cruising moms and families to plan the best cruise vacation for their families.  That being said, I will share some of those reviews in this week's blog posts, starting with a review of our family's Carnival Splendor Cruise.  

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Make Planning A Cruise A Breeze

While juggling life’s demands, planning a cruise can seem like an unnecessary use of your time, or like a luxury that you can live without.  This working wife and mommy – yours truly – is quite familiar with the day-to-day juggle, and I am also quite familiar with the tools that can make planning a cruise a breeze! 

So, what are some of the things that go into planning a cruise? 

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Not To Be Missed On Your Next Cruise

There will be many activities to choose from during your cruise.  However, My Cruising Family recommends attending the following events.  As with all the information we share here, we hope this is helpful to you and yours.  

**MANDATORY** Muster Drill:

Prior to your ship setting sail, you will be required to attend a muster drill.  The purpose of the muster drill is to familiarize all guests and crew with their assigned muster station, which is, basically, the location at which guests and crew are to assemble in the case of an emergency.  There are multiple muster stations on the ship, and to allow for an orderly evacuation, if necessary, each guest and crew member should report to his or her assigned muster station.  The muster drill also includes information on how to put on life vests, which are included in each stateroom. 

Note: Generally, the life vests that are in the stateroom are adult-sized.  If cruising with infants, toddlers, and/or other small children, you may need to request the appropriately sized life vest for the child.  However, My Cruising Family has experienced at least one cruise line that

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When Is The Best Time To Book My Cruise?

Simply put, the best time to buy a cruise ticket is as early as possible.  Why?  (1) Cruises can be booked with a deposit that is usually about $100-$250 per person, but can sometimes be as low as $49 per person, with final payment usually due around 60 to 90 days prior to sailing; (2) cruise lines will, generally, honor any price drops that occur after booking, so long as the price drop occurs prior to the date that final payment is due; and (3) it is best to book as early as possible to secure one’s preferred stateroom because the stateroom choices are more limited closer to sailing as more bookings are made and the ship fills up. 

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It's Not Always Smooth Sailing

So, as I sat, reclined on our couch in the living room, after 9pm on a weeknight, excited about travel and all the information I’m preparing to share with you on this blog about traveling together as a family and how great and awesome it is, my six-year-old provides me with material for this particular blog post.  It’s not what I had initially planned to write, but hey, if it’s one thing being a mom has taught me, from the moment a routine ultrasound appointment turned into an unexpected admission to Labor and Delivery, is that life, especially life with children, is unpredictable. 

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When Life Events Happen And Cruising Doesn’t

The purpose of this post is to acknowledge that, sometimes, we may encounter circumstances in life that make cruising less feasible than at other times.  In those moments, breathe, give thanks for life, and realize that, as long as there is life and family, there are opportunities for family memories to be made. 

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