Updated January 8, 2020
1. Waterproof your valuables.
Pack a waterproof case you can wear around your neck (like a beach locker) for your money, cruise card, ID and credit card, so you don't have to leave them behind when you go in the water. (A lanyard also works well for just your cruise card.) Also, consider a waterproof case for your cellphone or your camera. Your camera stays safe with you, plus you can take underwater pics.
2. Go early.
Beaches get packed with mega-ships in port, so wake up and get off the ship early to beat the crowds and get your preferred spot on the beach.
3. BYO toys.
If you're traveling with kids on a beach-focused cruise, hit up the dollar store, Amazon or other shop for easy-pack sand toys or beach mats, or pack a few inflatable balls. That way, your kids have entertainment on the beach, and you don't feel bad if you have to leave them behind at the end of your cruise.
Adults might consider bringing their own snorkels, masks and flippers rather than shelling out for rentals in every port of call. You can't leave these water toys behind, but if you're avid snorkelers, it's worth bringing the extra bag.
4. Research beach options.
In most cruise ports, there's the one main beach that everyone goes to (such as Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman). Those may or may not be the best beach fit for you. Do your research in advance to find out if there is a more secluded beach or one that is more family-friendly or better for snorkeling and other water sports. Also, research which beaches have facilities or restaurants if that's important to you.
5. Make the trek.
Most people are lazy. They find the first free patch of sand and plop down there. If you want a bit more personal space, head to the far end of the beach, and you'll find the crowds thinning as you go.
6. Don't underestimate the power of the sun.
One token sunscreen application in the morning will not keep you from returning to your cruise ship looking like a lobster. For a full day at the beach, make sure to bring a strong sun screen and reapply it several times throughout the day. (Cover your ears and feet too!) Wear a hat and cover-up, and don't forget your lips -- keep them protected with an SPF lip balm. Note that the chemicals in many sunscreens are harmful to coral reefs, so if you plan on snorkeling, bring a reef-safe sunscreen (not to mention, a swim shirt to protect your back).
7. Hide your cash.
The internet is full of clever ways to hide your money in your beach bag, if you don't plan on carrying it on you in the water. Some suggestions include stashing it inside feminine hygiene products or in empty Chapstick tubes. (You can buy empty lip balm tubes on Amazon.)
8. Pack ziplocks.
Re-sealable plastic bags are lifesavers on the beach! Use them to keep electronics dry, store wet swimsuits and T-shirts, collect souvenirs and keep small items together in a cavernous beach bag.
9. BYO snacks.
Food stands at beaches can be far away from your sunning spot, overpriced and crowded. Pack snacks -- either packaged foods you brought from home or even PB&Js you make at the cruise ship's breakfast buffet -- for between-meal noshing. (Just check port regulations about bringing fruits and meats off the ship -- some don't allow it.)
10. Bring a second towel.
It's annoying to lug a whole bunch of towels to the beach, but you always end up needing one to sit on and one to dry off with. Suck it up and bring two per person.
Sitting in the sun all day leads to dehydration. Bring plenty of water (reusable water bottles are an environmentally friendly option) and keep drinking throughout the day. If you're prone to dehydration, bring Gatorade powder or buy a sports drink for extra electrolytes.
12. Bring beach-friendly bags.
The day pack you used on your Mediterranean cruise or on that rainforest hike won't cut it at the beach. When you're packing for your beachy cruise, make sure to bring the right bag for your day by the sea. Good options include large, brightly colored bags that can hold towels and are easy to spot from the waves, mesh bags that let the sand out and even dry bags. A collapsible cooler or insulated lunch bag is another idea if you want to get ice to keep things cool.
13. BYO beach tent.
If you like the beach but need shade and don't want to shell out for overpriced clamshells or beach umbrellas, considering bringing a beach tent with you -- especially if you're driving to your homeport. They're great for escaping the sun's rays, napping children, changing clothes and stowing belongings out of sight.
14. Don't forget about Mother Nature.
Sun isn't the only natural enemy to your idyllic beach day. Sand flies, jellyfish and sea lice are among the other killjoys waiting to ruin your fun in the sun. Before you book that resort day pass or pricy beach excursion, find out if it's the season for any beach-residing pests. If so, you might want to opt for that catamaran ride or zipline tour instead. If not, it can't hurt to tuck a bottle of bug spray in your beach bag, just in case.
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