I built a checklist for my first cruise earlier this year, and wanted to publish what I had, in case others found it useful. Some items are specific to the JoCo cruise, and are flagged with the 🐵 emoji.
This document may change over time, so I will try to take notes of the changes at the bottom.
Well Before the Cruise
- Check passport expires six (6) months or more after the cruise!
- Get recommended vaccinations. Talk to your doctor, and consult the CDC website for travel
Before the Cruise
- Consider travel insurance (at least for medical coverage)
- 🐵 Install the CruiseMonkey App
- Download offline areas in Google Maps for port cities
- Download music/audiobooks/podcasts/etc
- Notify banks/cards of travel (usually in the app, or call)
- Set up phone data/internet for international travel (see end of article)
Packing for a cruise is a fairly individual thing, but here are a few major points.
Items on this list will probably be confiscated, or simply left on the dock. Refer to cruise line policy for specifics, but these items are nearly universal.
- Surge protectors (see below)
- Alcohol (in substantial quantities, see HAL rules)
Surge protectors are typically forbidden due to a quirk of shipboard power, as they can physically damage the ship. Power strips without surge protection are fine, but you probably don’t have one (think an extension cord with multiple plugs). See below for multi-plug USB chargers, which solve this issue.
Must Pack Items
You will be a very sad panda if you don’t bring at least a few things:
- Passport (also, Passport Card if you have one)
- Boarding documents
- Travel insurance (if you need it)
- Copy of passport
- Prescription medication (and paper copies of Prescriptions)
Day & Checked Bags
Always bring a day bag (a backpack works well) with everything you need for the first day or so. Checked baggage will be delivered to your cabin… eventually. It could take quite a while, and occasionally things are misplaced.
Your day bag should have the following:
- All paperwork discussed above
- Medication for 48 hours (or all of it, in case your luggage is lost)
- Phone charger
- Battery pack (there are probably newer options)
- Anything you may want for the first few hours onboard (swimwear, book, etc.)
JoCo Items 🐵
These are some things you may want to bring specifically for JoCo cruises:
- Pajamas – Pajama day is for wearing these all day long!
- Cards/tokens with name, social handle, and/or email for after-cruise followup
- Post-its or whiteboard for door
- Other decorations for the door
The doors and walls of cruise ships are often metal, and adhesives are not usually allowed. So if you want to decoratre your cabin or door, magnetic attachment is a good idea.
Since you will meet many people, and hopefully make new friends, bringing some cards along with your name/email/handle are very useful for catching up after the cruise. You can easily make your own with a printer and some cardstock 🙂
- Formal clothing (for gala nights)
- Light Jacket or windbreaker (the deck can be very chilly/windy while underway)
- Board/Card games
- Earplugs (for near-elevator rooms, noisy neighbors, snoring roommates)
- USB power strip (this 5-port Anker model was perfect for me)
- Rash Guard – sun blocking swim shirt (I will be trying this shirt from Kanu, but I hear that black shirts are better. YMMV)
- Sleeping Earplugs – Too close to the elevator? Sleep soundly anyways
- Concert Earplugs – The music can be loud, but your ears can rest easy with these
- Lactaid Pills – If you need them, there will be many temptations
- Toiletries in travel bottles
A few collected bits of knowledge. Some will be specific to Holland America or JoCo, but only the JoCo items will be marked (haven’t cruised with any other carrier yet).
- Tips are included in room charges ($13.50/day for standard rooms, more for suites)
- Room service really is free, but generally the same food as the Lido Buffet
- Ship laundry is really useful (free for suite guests, otherwise charged to room) (a whole-cruise flat rate is available, see card in your room)
Holland America has a “Know Before You Go” guide, which is mostly filler, but worth skimming.
And finally, there is the JoCo Cruise “I’m Booked” guide.
Phone Data & Minutes
If you will be using your phone at all, you should look into how you can get data & minutes in Mexico (or wherever your cruise is headed).
- For more about shipboard data/wi-fi, keep reading for more (end of this page)
- Verizon customers can get Travel Pass for $5/day (Verizon Unlimited gives this for free)
- Verizon Travel pass get 512MB/day of LTE speeds (then 2G, which is awful)
- Not a Verizon user? Let me know, and I will fill this section in.
In 2017, the Verizon Travel Pass was enough to last until dark while in Loreto (the only day I really used it). Once I hit the 512MB cap, it immediately switched to 2G, which broke my VPN, and was barely better than shipboard internet.
Internet on cruises in the Mexican Riviera is still pretty bad (the Caribbean is getting better). It is entirely satellite internet, and the whole boat is sharing the single connection.
In 2018, the plans offered are:
- Pay as you go ($0.75/min.)
- 100 minutes for $55 ($0.55/min.)
- 250 minutes for $100 ($0.40/min.)
- 500 minutes for $175 ($0.35/min.)
- 1000 minutes for $250 ($0.25/min.)
In 2017, the plans offered were:
- Social Plan (limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp): $14.99/day, $69.99/full cruise
- Enhanced Plan (general web surfing and email. Does not support streaming music or Skype): $24.99/day, $99.99/full cruise
- Premiere Plan (fastest possible connection, supports Skype video calling): $29.99/day, $139.99/full cruise.
The premiere plan… worked; most browsing was quite slow, but functional. The internet went down several times in on the 2017 JoCo Cruise, but mostly because 1800 people joined a wifi system built for a boat full of octogenarians. Heroically, the IT staff kept is mostly functional.
Amazingly, I was able to regularly make FaceTime video calls, so they were clearly prioritizing some traffic above others. FaceTime audio calls also worked well.
For chat, I used iMessage which worked perfectly, until any pictures or stickers were sent. Pictures could easily take several minutes to send, even for something as trivial as a sticker. I would suggest sending pictures some other way, and stick strictly to text chat.
- Jun 14, 2017 – Initial publication
- Jun 16, 2017 – Reformat to remove sub-bullets
- August 5, 2017 – Somehow forgot the Fez, black rash guards may be better
- August 6, 2017 – Add card/token idea from Marie Huynh
- Feb 9, 2018 – Updates!
- August 26, 2018 – 2018 Updates!