Cruising over Christmas has long been a tradition for my family and in recent years we’ve leveled up and started slashing through our remaining bucket-list cruises over the holidays – last year we sailed a rare Sea of Cortez itinerary, this year we’re cruising around New Zealand, and next year we have South America and Antarctica booked.
For those who are new to Christmas cruising, here are my 5 best packing tips, some learned the hard way:
1. Don’t wrap Christmas gifts
Remember that any Christmas gifts you bring along will need to make it through security, probably twice – once at the airport and once at the cruise terminal. Any wrapped items will be unwrapped by security if they need to inspect them. As such, don’t wrap items in advance. I always bring gift bags to throw gifts into once onboard.
You may also consider packing any especially valuable items (like the one thing your kid asked for from Santa or the jewelry you plan to gift yourself because last year your husband gave you a vacuum) in your carry-on bag just in case your checked luggage gets lost.
If you have kids along, you’ll also want to be strategic in hiding their gifts in other items so they don’t find them by mistake. I always wrap underwear around my son’s larger gifts and stash smaller items in a box of feminine hygiene products. Works every time!
2. Check your cruise line’s list of prohibited items
To find out what happens when you DON’T do this and bring a prohibited item as a Christmas gift, read my article, “What Kind of Idiot Brings a Skateboard on a Cruise Ship.” Here’s a hint:
And the Reader’s Digest version of the story is that last year my son asked for one thing from Santa, a skateboard. And after lugging it from Seattle to our embarkation terminal in San Diego in an elaborate disguise so my son wouldn’t know we had it, it was confiscated by port security and I had to plead with ship security to let us have it in our cabin on Christmas morning for my son to open.
So now this year my son asked Santa for a juicer. A JUICER! And I’m like, “are they going to let THIS on?!?!” Seriously weirdo, can’t you just ask for Legos or a Barbie like a normal kid?
Thankfully this time I have a backup plan – I’m going to take a picture of the juicer sitting in our apartment and print it, along with a note from Santa in the event that it doesn’t make it past security.
3. Pack a tasteful Christmas sweater
You could also pack an ugly sweater, not that I’d know anything about those. Every Christmas cruise I’ve been on regardless of line, has had an ugly sweater context and it’s always very entertaining and fun.
Hot Tip: You’re more likely to win on Carnival with something like this (I kid, I kid):
4. Pack door decorations, a travel tree, and stockings
Some people hesitate to book a Christmas cruise because they can’t imagine not being at home with their family, decorations, and tree. Easy solve. Bring your family (next year we’re planning on bringing both sets of in-laws on our Christmas cruise), your decorations, and your tree with you!
Your cruise ship will be beautifully decorated for Christmas, you’ll have a special Christmas dinner, and Santa will even make an appearance! But if you want your cabin to feel like home, pack some door decorations (those shown below are inexpensive and customizable), a travel tree, and stockings (consider going with a nautical theme).
5. Pack special thank you gifts for the crew
While I always value how hard crew members work to provide me with an amazing, unforgettable cruise vacation, I appreciate it even more over the holidays when many of them are away from their own family traditions and celebrations. So I like to give them a little something extra to express my thanks. While I’ve seen many creative ideas for crew gifts, I prefer to give an extra cash tip. However, to make it more personal, I always bring along a pack of these thank you cards and write a note inside.
I avoid Christmas cards because not all crew members celebrate Christmas.
And with that…
Homework (10 points): Read my article, “Considering a Christmas Cruise with Kids?” and share to the comments your questions about or experiences with cruising over Christmas.
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