Packing for a cruise can be a daunting process, especially when you consider all the different dress codes and rules that tell you what you can and can't bring. Luckily, packing for a Carnival cruise is kind of like the atmosphere onboard: fun and simple. There's no pressure to dress a certain way, and its laid-back beverage policy allows you to bring some of your own nonalcoholic drinks onboard -- a nice way to save a little money.
While our ultimate guide to packing for a cruise is filled with tips that can apply to pretty much any ship or itinerary, if you're wondering what to pack for a Carnival cruise, here are five must-have items that will ensure you have a carefree time onboard.
Photo: Cruise Critic
Travel Toiletry Containers
All Carnival cruise ship cabins come with generic shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion (suites offer slightly higher quality body care products) -- so chances are, you'll want to bring your own. Whether you're traveling with full-size luggage or a carry-on bag, we recommend this travel toiletry container set. Different colors and changeable labels make the containers easy to identify, and they all fit into a small TSA-approved bag, which allows for more room in your suitcase. The company touts a triple-leak proof design, with wide openings that make filling and cleaning a breeze. As an added bonus, the silicone is FDA-approved, BPA-free and food-grade, meaning it's safe enough to fill with even food.
Long Swimsuit Cover Up
Carnival has one of the most relaxed dress codes in the industry, but like other cruise lines, it prohibits passengers from wearing only swimwear in public areas and dining venues, including at the buffet. For days when you're catching rays by the pool and work up an appetite, we recommend this breezy, mesh-side cover-up. It's loose, lightweight and easy to slip on -- not to mention, it's cute and matches with just about anything. What we love most, though, is the length, so your bum isn't exposed. We have nothing against showing off what your momma gave you by the pool, but no one wants to see that while they're eating.
Noise-Canceling Ear Plugs
There's no shortage of activities on Carnival's self-proclaimed "Fun Ships" -- from pool games and dance parties to trivia and cornhole matches. So, it's inevitable the sounds of fun might be heard throughout the ship. Light sleepers and those who need absolute peace and quiet while they bask in the sun should come prepared. We prefer this noise-canceling ear plugs set, which comes with three pairs of plugs for different uses -- sleeping, ambient noise and swimming. Wear them on the adults-only Serenity Deck to shield distant sounds of steel drums from the Lido Deck, or to sleep if you happen to have rambunctious neighbors or your cabin is near a high-traffic area.
Collapsible Beverage Cooler
Sneaking alcohol onboard your cruise is a major no-no, but bringing one bottle of wine and a small quantity of nonalcoholic beverages onboard is allowed -- as long as they're in a cooler no bigger than 12 inches all around (length, width and height). Your saving grace: this collapsible, insulated cooler bag. The bag is the perfect size for Carnival's maximum allowable limit of drinks per person: one sealed bottle of wine and 12 unopened cans or cartons (no more than 12 ounces each) of nonalcoholic beverages such as sparkling water, soda, juice and milk. Just slip the collapsed empty bag into your luggage; then fill it up with all your favorite drinks before you board the ship.
Smartphone and Card-Holder Lanyard
Gone are the days of everyone locking their phones in the cabin safe and disconnecting (if you still do, preach). But if you prefer to keep your phone handy during your cruise, you can't go wrong with this smartphone and cardholder lanyard. Not only does it secure your phone (while keeping it easily accessible), but it also has a small pocket that's perfect for your Sail & Sign key card. The flexible, lightweight, adjustable strap is comfortable around your neck or wrist. It also eliminates the anxiety of dropping your phone overboard when taking pictures -- like that iconic shot of you holding a drink over the edge of your cabin balcony, with the sunset in the background.
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Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.