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.

Ha!

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.

****TIP****

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.

BONUS:

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?

Big News, We Are Florida Bound!

We’re excited to announce that we are moving to Florida in about a month.  Mark put in for a transfer with his work and surprise, surprise, he got it.

florida

Fort Walton Beach, FL

Image Source: faungg, on Flickr

So why the change of locale?

  1. We are wimps.  I’m the one who loved 4 seasons and snow.  And I really DID love it, until we moved into a camper that is.
  2. Good friends.  We have some amazing friends in Fort Walton Beach and we are looking forward to living near them.
  3. The food.  Umm…not really but I AM looking forward to getting to dining on some better Mexican food and all the good restaurants down there.
  4. The beach.  I’m looking forward to living near the beach and soaking up some natural Vitamin D.
  5. The adventure.  Really it’s not so much the adventure as it is just wanting to see where the Good Lord leads us.  We are being led to Florida. Whether it’s the Lord or just us? We aren’t sure but we’re going with it.

I’ve never been to Florida, ever.  This has caused a few raised eyebrows.  Okay, look.  We live in a camper with 4 children.  We’re not your typical family.  🙂  I’m okay with moving somewhere I’ve never been.  I may be somewhat imbalanced, but I’m excited about the possibilities.

We do realize that there are hurricanes, alligators, and sink holes.  We also know it is humid there.  But really the worst thing about the move, is our amazing friends here in Rapid City.  They are like family and we’re sad to be saying goodbye to them.  We have a few weeks left with them and we are going to relish every moment.

In looking ahead to Florida, what are some things we should be looking forward to?

Peace out,