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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It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.