First-Timers Tips for Cruising (with Children)

This post is #3 of our series on Cruises.  Our family of 6 had never cruised before so we didn’t know what to expect. Today I’m going to address our biggest questions/concerns, (before the trip) and tips from the cruise to help you navigate yours.  Some of these tips apply if you are cruising with children…some apply regardless…and some are The Norwegian Jade specific.

First-Timers Tips for Cruising (with Children)

First-Timers Tips for Cruising (with Children)

  1. Be preventative in dealing with motion sickness. I addressed before, but PLEASE bring something for your little ones for motion sickness! Sea Bands or motion sickness patches are my top recommendation since neither cause drowsiness. You don’t want to be that family that has a child that threw up in the buffet area. Blegh.
  2. Meet other families and exchange information. Our kids made quite a few friends on the cruise. We only exchanged info with one family, and that was at the very last second on disembarkation day. What is cool is now we’re able to keep in touch on Facebook and if the boys ever get chatty enough, they can talk. Or if our families cross paths, we’d love to grab a bite to eat with them.  I’m very disappointed our oldest didn’t get email/penpal addresses for the little friends she made. To do it again, I would have made up little cards for them to hand out with their email addresses.
  3. Have a plan for your port days. The least favorite port we went to was Cozumel. This was not because Cozumel wasn’t gorgeous but because we had absolutely no clue what we were doing. Last minute, we decided to rent a car and explore. This really equated to a whole lot of wandering around aimlessly and missing the best spots until it was too late in the day and close to port call time. Then we got lost! We know how to read a map but as luck would have it, on that particular day, there was a color run and most of the roads at the port and rental car agency were barricaded. Thank goodness for a kind-hearted police officer who used his personal cell phone to help us meet up with the agent on a side street. Stressful!
  4. Leave electronics at home. This is probably more of a pet peeve of mine, but there is SO much for everyone to do on board.  In my very strong opinion, there is not enough dead time for them to need to play video games. Because we didn’t bring them, they weren’t even an option, but the absence of electronics forced us to be engaged with our children when they were with us. Now if you’re worried they’ll drive you bonkers all the time, the kid’s club, to drop them off) is open much of the time so they will not be bored. Our kids had a blast and like I mentioned in #2, they’ll get to make a bunch of friends.
  5. Read the fine print on the shows. Oh goodness, one of our worst parenting moments happened onboard. The cruise entertainment was spectacular but one particular show was VERY seductive! I mean so much so I yelled down the aisle for them to look away. Keep in mind, our kids are homeschooled we keep it very G-rated in our house. After the show, we looked at the program for the day. Sure enough, it was there in the description, “seductive”. Crikey!
  6. Pictures pictures pictures. #1 – Make sure you take enough pictures to capture your awesome vacation. (I didn’t take nearly enough)  There is a fine line with enjoying your vacation and constantly needing to document your vacation. #2 – Get shots with everyone…if you are the family photographer, have a camera others know how to operate so you can also be included.  You may be camera shy but in 20 years I think you’d much prefer to see how amazing you looked 20 years y0unger and on your vacation. Most often, I used my DSLR but Mark doesn’t know how to use it so I was rarely in the photos. I’m not really into staring at photos of myself but it would be nice to see us all together in more of our photos.  Thankfully, our tour guide in Belize took pictures of our family at Altun Ha (Mayan ruins) and ziplining.  #3 – The cruise line is there to take photos at all the ports but we just couldn’t justify the cost for expensive novelty photos, (that were rushed and we all looked uncharacteristically haggard) vs real-life vacation photos.Ziplining-BelizeAltun Ha Mayan Ruins in Belize
  7. Eat at a specialty dining restaurant.  We had 4 meals included in our package and loved the break from the buffet for dinner. (if you’re on the Jade…I highly recommend Teppanyaki, Cagney’s Steakhouse, & Le Bistro!
  8. The Coin Pusher game, (in the casino) is loads of fun, but you can’t win. I find it hilarious that I’m even sharing this tip, but we had a lot of fun playing that game on the cruise. As you know…#1, the house always wins. And…#2, the folded up bills the machine drops are just puny denominations. For instance, the bills in one wad consisted of just 1 $10 bill and two $1 bills wrapped up. So much fun, but know that is all this game is…fun. The dice keychains are just souvenir keychains and the “Winner” coins are for a bottle of dreadfully tasting wine.  Ummm…yeah…we played that game a few times. Rest assured, there are no winners with Coin Pusher aka Coin Snatcher. LOL!
  9. Keep smaller bills, (in good condition) to tip staff. As I mentioned before, tipping is included in the daily gratuity/service charge that you pay at the end of the cruise. However, you have to know that the staff works long hours for very little pay. There are times when you really want to bless them for their service. We paid larger tips to our Steward, Concierge, & Butler but also tipped several of the wait staff because they were so accommodating. The people who run the Splash Academy (children’s activities) were saints and I wish we would have tipped the ones who we know made it all so much more enjoyable for them.
  10. Don’t be a jerk. I don’t think this is a tip, but instead, more of a reminder…kindness goes a long way. Be friendly and gracious. Meet others, (unless you are anti-social) and go with the flow.  No one likes a diva.

First Timers Tips for Cruising with Children

Any cruising experts out there…I’d love to hear what tip you’d share!

7 Reasons You Should Splurge for a Suite on Your Cruise

I was planning on sharing all my handy tips from our family of 6’s recent Norwegian Jade Cruise. But as I began writing, I realized the biggest tip I have is…

Get a Suite.

That’s it.


We are frugal and don’t like to go crazy on vacation but hands-down the suite we got was the best decision we made.  The best!

7 Reasons You Should Splurge for a Suite on Your Cruise

7 Reasons You Should Splurge for a Suite on Your Cruise

  1. Room to Stretch.  Our suite had 4 rooms to it and had a crazy amount of storage and space. Our suite didn’t get junked up or cluttered and we had space to be quiet during naps for our little guy.
  2. Priority Embarkation and Disembarkation. When we first arrived at the port in Houston, we had NO clue what we were doing. We got in line with everyone else but our agent told us we were “VIP” much to our surprise and laughter, (like really…didn’t this sweet young lady know that we are not exactly VIP type peeps)!  We were escorted to a little room off to the side where we met our Concierge, (Omar), coffee, water, fruit, and desserts abounded.  We sat down and Omar asked us if we were ready to board.  “Why yes, yes we are lad!”  We were taken directly to the front of the line and escorted onboard.  Once there we were taken the specialty dining room to eat and relax until our suite was available. At the end of our trip, we were at the front of the line to disembark the ship.  I will confess, I heard plenty of grumbling from other passengers as we passed them but that is a benefit for suite guests.
  3. Access to Special Dining.  For all meals, the buffet is open to everyone.  But if you’d rather sit at a restaurant and order from a menu for breakfast or lunch, you are able to as Suite guests. On the Norweigan Jade, the restaurant is in the same space that Cagney’s Steakhouse is and the menu stays the same all week long (at least as far as we could tell).  It was nice to not have to navigate the buffet with so many children.  The menu is not large but we ordered a few things that were available on the buffet and the awesome staff brought up our requests to our table.
  4. Priority Tendering. We didn’t have to get tickets to pick slots for leaving the ship.  As suite guests, we simply met in the designated lounge and they brought us off on one of the first tenders or slots available. This was a very nice perk and gave us maximum time off-ship at the ports.
  5. Butler Service.  I almost hesitate to mention this because our butler didn’t do a whole lot for our trip. Ha!  But you get a butler when you have a Suite.  They bring goodies to the room, (cookies, sandwiches, fruit, chips, etc.) and movies to borrow.  I’m sure the butler probably does more, but we didn’t need his services.  (we mostly interacted with our Concierge and Steward).
  6. Concierge Service.  Our Concierge was wonderful and set up all of our reservations at the Specialty Dining Restaurant.  He handled it all for us and we didn’t have to coordinate ourselves.
  7. Little Extras.  We had a cappuccino machine that made delicious coffee, (way better than the coffee in the buffet).  There were also other little touches, such as a complementary bottle of wine, bathrobes, slippers, and bath salts.  Nice touches.
  8. Priority Customs and Baggage.  I was shocked when we got to the big room with all the baggage, our bags were in a seperate area and we were able to jump to the front of the line for going through Customs.  Awesome perks.

7 Reasons You Should Splurge for a Suite on Your Cruise

All this to say, I highly recommend you book a suite if you are able to do so!  With little ones in tow, the perks of being a suite guest save not only frustration but also plenty of time!

When we got to our suite, I did a quick Facebook Live video tour of our room…here it is:

I’d love to hear a comparison from suite to staterooms if any of you have sailed both ways before.  Were all the perks worth the added expense to you?

True Essentials to Pack for a Cruise – Norwegian Jade

As I mentioned last time, our family recently went on a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise.  I shared with you what to NOT pack for a cruise. I couldn’t leave it at that so today I’m sharing essentials to pack for a cruise, especially if you’re on the Norwegian Jade.

Essentials to pack for a norwegian cruise

We wondered about baggage limits, just so you know you can bring 2 bags.  Each bag is supposed to be 50 lbs or less. With those numbers, you can pack a whole bunch of stuff.  But a bunch of stuff just means more to clutter up your room and to have to repack. With that in mind, this is a list of items that packed a big punch as far as usefulness.  A few of the items were not obvious to us, but we’re so grateful we did packed them, (or were able to buy them on board).

Essentials to Pack on a Cruise

Lanyards – Wow! This is at the very top of my list! Lanyards are super-useful for keeping everyone’s key cards close by and accounted for. You use your key card multiple times throughout the day and it needs to be handy, (and NOT lost). Drinks, checking your children into the kid’s club, specialty dining, stateroom access, hopping on and off the ship at port…you get it. Mark was a rebel and a few times he stuck the kids cards in his pocket. So I ended up walking all over the cruise ship to round up cards for drop off in the Splash Academy, (kid’s program). It is so much more convenient when they just wear them all the time, (except at port). You can buy lanyards and the plastic holders in the office section at WalMart.  If you need more than 6 of them, you’re better off buying them in bulk from Amazon .

Highlighter – Surprisingly, highlighters are a close second as far as importance on my list. I mean really, who would have thought a highlighter?!?  A couple other cruise sites/blogs recommended the highlighter and I didn’t think I’d use it.  Let’s face it, highlighters don’t take up much space.  So we brought a highlighter and I’m so glad we did!  Every day we were brought a new schedule of activities and events, (the schedule is loaded with diversions to keep you busy so it is easy to miss something you want to do).  Our trusty highlighter was used excessively and I’m so thankful I had it.

Light Sweater or Jacket – It was unexpectedly chilly on our cruise, (especially at night) so we needed to layer up on with our summer clothes.  I ended up buying a sweatshirt in the gift shop, doh!  

Which brings me to….

Warmer Clothing – I know I said it earlier but it was chillier in the cruise than we expected, especially as we got closer to the U.S. We packed 1 pair of jeans but would have worn them 3 days of our trip.  If you’re cruising during the winter months pack some clothes that will help you be comfortable.

Bottled Water – We drink a ton of water!  There are some rumors going around that the filtration system on board is not very good and the water has a bad taste.  I wouldn’t call us water connoisseurs but we honestly had no problem with the taste of the water.  We still needed water while we were in our stateroom and that’s where our bottled water came in handy.  You’re allowed to carry on your bottled water, so I say go for it.


You are technically required to physically carry your sealed bottled water, (through security) rather than pack it in your luggage.  We didn’t know this for certain so we pleaded ignorance and stuffed it into a large duffel bag.  We had a very cool Porter in Houston that essentially turned a blind eye and told us he’d say he never saw it. Our water ended up making it to our room but definitely carry it on your person to be safe.

Ziploc Bags – I found the 2 1/2 gallon-size Ziplocs help store dirty laundry. The 1 gallon-size kept their undergarments together. We used the smaller sizes for shells we found along the beach and for liquid toiletries.

Extra Empty Duffel Bag –  If you plan to buy souvenirs on your trip, you need a plan to fit everything by the end of the trip. It’s always harder to fit dirty clothes in your luggage at the end of a trip, so we brought along an empty duffel bag.  We also used the duffel bag we smuggled our bottled water in on. Win-win.

Small $ Bills – You want smaller bills for tipping and purchases made at the ports.  On board, the only place that accepts cash is the casino.  All other purchases are billed to your credit card on file. Everywhere we went, (Cozumel, Belize, & Roatan) U.S. dollars were accepted but they couldn’t ever make change. Really this was a duh moment for us. We knew better and spent far too much money off ship because of it. More often than not, we ended up using a credit card.  On the trip, we brought mostly $50’s & $20’s but thankfully we were able to use the casino’s change machine to break some of our bills up into smaller denominations.

A word on tipping.  At the end of the cruise, you pay a gratuity for your entire stay.  This is a daily rate and it is fixed. Still we found that there were times when the service we received was exceptional so we wanted to tip more, (this was mostly in the specialty restaurants). We left larger tips for our Concierge, Butler, & Steward (housekeeper) – I’ll get into that in an upcoming post with our tips for cruising with Norwegian.

Earplugs – In our stateroom, the cabinets and drawers creaked and squeaked as the ship shifted and moved.  The first 2 nights we hardly slept at all. Our Steward was so helpful, he tried to get our room to stop creaking but it’s impossible with a moving vessel. Ear plugs went in.

Sea Bands or Motion Sickness Patches – (cheapest I found were on Amazon).  Sea Bands were a lifesaver and we didn’t have to be drugged up on Dramamine. Ellie and I are especially prone to motion sickness and thankfully no one got sick.  After the 3rd day at see, we took them off and felt great. A lot of the passengers used the motion sickness patches, (the children had the patch cut in half and it was placed behind their ear).

On a side note, we got to witness 2 kiddos throw up from sea sickness. Oh, the joys!  LOL!

So that’s it! Essential to pack on a cruise.


What I Wish We Would Have Brought

Poly Folder – Throughout the cruise, they give you GOBS of paperwork.  I wish we would have kept the daily schedules and information, (at least until after the cruise).  A simple poly folder would fit the bill.

Waterproof DSLR case or a waterproof phone case – I so badly wish we could have taken some underwater shots. The phone case would probably be my 1st choice since I’m a little scared by the reviews of the DSLR case. 🙂

Essential Oils – Our little guy got a cold on the trip and I wish I would have had our immune support and eucalyptus oil.  A travel essentials oil kit would be ideal like this one over at Mother’s Niche.

essentials to pack for a cruise

Experienced cruiser….do you try to be a minimalist in your packing or do you prefer to bring the kitchen sink too?

What to NOT Pack for a Cruise

This past February, our family went on a 7-day Western Caribbean Cruise.  Here I’m going to share with you what to NOT pack for a cruise. Next I’ll be sharing What to Pack for a Cruise so check back soon or subscribe!


We packed everything AND the kitchen sink on our recent Norwegian Cruise, here is a list of things you DON'T need if you are cruising with Norwegian on the Jade.
















This cruise has been a long time coming and we’ve wanted to set sail for almost 14 years!! There was always a reason not to go, we had just moved, job changes, having a new baby, and then we had three more babies and 3 more moves. It was just never the *right* time or enough money for us to cruise. Thankfully with my growing Plexus business, we were able to afford to take our entire family of 6 on the cruise.  I’m so grateful since this is something we could never have done before!

While we were getting ready for the cruise, I did gobs of research, (aka Google searches) to find out what we should bring with us. I compiled a ridiculously long list of “must haves” and we headed off to buy what we didn’t have on hand already. Our family always packs lightly for trips so this way of approaching our trip was very against our tendencies anyway.  Truth be told, I was nervous and didn’t want to be caught off guard at sea, so we forged on and overpacked.

Through various websites, I saw the same things mentioned over and over again, things such as magnetic hooks for hanging wet swimming suits and towels to power strips, flashlights, mini fans, walkie talkies, sticky notes, snacks, etc.

I must admit, for our family, most of it was a waste of money and space. But instead, let me break down why so you can evaluate whether you should bring them on your next family cruise.

Disclaimer:  This is our perspective having just cruised on Norweigan Cruise Lines, (specifically the Jade) with our 4 children in a suite.  If you are on a different ship or cruise line you’ll likely have different needs.

Here goes…

What to NOT Pack for a Cruise

Towels – The ship is packed full of towels and has pool towels for you as well. If you need beach towels for your destination, (or you don’t want to rent them or buy them off ship) bring your own along.

Towel clips – it simply not worth the extra hassle of towel clips or chip clips to secure your towel to the poolside lounge chairs.  If you’re not on the lounge chair (and you’re not hogging all the chairs)  you can fold your towel up so it doesn’t fly away.  I think it’s totally unnecessary to bring these, (I saw people with them…but it struck me as overkill if you’re trying to conserve on space).

Magnetic hooks – we read over and over again that there were limited options for hanging items in the cabin, however, we found that to not be the case.  In fact, we had an overabundance and had to laugh about it.

Power strips – there was plenty of outlets for us to use for our family (we did not bring iPods or handheld devices on the trip either).  Each room had several 110V outlets.

Snacks – Umm… There is an all you can eat buffet on the ship, no need for snacks.  The only thing we really needed to have in our stateroom was yogurt for our children’s probiotic we give them every night.  Our fix was to carry yogurt from the restaurant and store it in our mini fridge.

Flashlight – so we bought these because we didn’t know how dark the cabin would be but the reality is we have cell phones and we have flashlights on our phones so it’s really unnecessary to bring a flashlight.  We also had a balcony suite so there was plenty of light during the day.

Mini fans – we didn’t actually bring these on our cruise but we really wanted to because we regularly use white noise to go to sleep at home. Instead, we downloaded an app called Sleep Pillow (free) for our children.  We adjusted to the noise, (creaking from the ship’s movement) in our cabin…oh goodness…that was rough – lol!

Walkie talkies – this was one of the items we really thought would be useful so we brought our good quality walkie talkies. Our oldest is 11 years old and we knew she’d rather stay in the room and read instead of going into the kid’s program at times. However, that wasn’t possible because we had absolutely horrible reception. (I think it has to do with the amount of metal on the ship) We tested it out the range and after going up just one floor, we lost the signal with her. I do not recommend walkie talkies personally unless you want them for when you are offshore.

Sticky notes – obviously these were really not a huge space waster. However, we didn’t use them at all since we either all stayed together or had our kids in the kid’s program. If in doubt, bring them.

Bungee cord – everything we read said to bring a bungee cord to hold the balcony door open. There were plenty of doorstops in our cabin and our balcony door had a safety lock on it to keep it open.

Over-the-door shoe organizer – we didn’t use this as there was plenty of drawers and storage space in our cabin. Granted, we had a suite but from what I’ve heard from others, there’s plenty of places to stow your belongings.

So that’s it. Our list of 10 things that are completely unnecessary on a cruise. As I mentioned previously, we prefer to pack minimally.  If you’re not a minimalist, I doubt you’ve read this far.  Ha!!  BUT you can always pack these items and know you may or may not need them.

We packed everything AND the kitchen sink on our recent Norwegian Cruise, here is a list of things you DON'T need if you are cruising with Norwegian on the Jade.

We packed everything AND the kitchen sink on our recent Norwegian Cruise, here is a list of things you DON’T need if you are cruising with Norwegian on the Jade.

Up next, Essentials to Pack for a Cruise.

But I’m curious…if any of you had read a recommendation for items to bring on a cruise and found it to be a waste of space…please share!