For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the Carnival Horizon Southern Caribbean cruise my family and I went on in the fall. It was pretty darn spectacular to say the least.

It was a first for the four of us. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would be the cruising type. When I go on vacation I like to wake up when I want, eat when, where, and what I want – and please don’t think you can schedule my fun…so I thought. For some reason, I thought a cruise would dictate all of that. Come to find out I could do everything I love about a vacation and more.

When we boarded the Carnival Horizon we couldn’t help but smile as all the staff greeted us as we boarded the ship. It was sensory overload when we first boarded.

I could not get over the size of the ship. How the heck does a ship float? Where do we eat first? To be honest, it was a bit crowded (for my taste) when we first boarded and I started to doubt the idea of a cruise. We finally escaped the crowds and headed away from the all-you-can-eat buffets and instead veered to an Italian restaurant that was a floor above the crowds and totally free on boarding day. Do your research – find out what restaurants are included! Nobody likes to be hangry looking for a free meal.

Once everyone was able to settle in to their rooms/cabins the ship was not as crowded, which brought some relief.

The Carnival Horizon is a pretty new ship — it was very clean and well-kept, which as a germophobe I was a bit nervous about.

Before our cruise, my family and I watched this video which was super helpful – it gave us an insight as to all the restaurants and some of the activities on board. Search for videos on YouTube if you are on a different cruise ship.

While on the cruise and finally learning to relax I was trying to come up with a theme for a blog post recap, and a packing list is what first came to mind. It might sound simple, but as I sat there realizing everything we should have packed, and feeling thankful for all that we did pack, I figured it would be a great idea to share some tips for any first-time cruisers.

I also want to share all the highlights of our trip and inspire you to take advantage of all the extras and excursions that may or may not cost additional on a cruise. I will be writing another blog post later with those details. You won’t regret the splurge – you deserve it.

Proper I.D.

Proper identification requirements, including a passport or original birth certificate, as well as photo I.D.

Download the cruise app

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to download the cruise app. Wow, it truly is awesome. It’s an activity guide all on your phone. You can also text via the app with your friends or family who are on board the ship. No need to pack walkie-talkies.

Water Bottles

I highly recommend packing water bottles – there are filling stations on board so having a Nalgene water bottle or stainless water bottle is so much better than filling up small plastic cups. We didn’t think of packing water bottles so we bought some at our first port stop.

Towel Clips

If you are the sun bathing type and plan to sit out on a beach chair on deck or at a port then you might want to pack some towel clips. They hold your towel snuggly in place and the help identify your chair.

Small Bills for Tipping

Before you board the cruise, your credit card will be on file and programmed on to your room card. Anything extra like restaurants not-included and drinks will be charged to your room key card. You can set a limit on the amount you put on your card so you don’t go over budget, and you can keep track of all your charges on the app — it is very convenient. But if you want to tip with cash, small bills would be really convenient. If not you can tip on your card on file.


You might think why do you need to pack snacks when there is food all around on the ship. Snacks for port days and excursions would have been a great idea. I wish I would have packed a box of granola bars or beef jerky. Once you are off the ship and driving to an excursion a packaged snack would have come in very handy. Especially, if you are traveling with kids and they are always hungry.

Dramamine / Ginger

You can bet I packed Dramamine and I am so thankful I did. As soon as the ship started to move so did my head and stomach. I popped a Dramamine every time I felt nauseous and it would immediately go away. I recommend the non-drowsy formula. We also packed candied ginger, which was a lifesaver.

Lanyards / Fanny Packs

You could totally tell the rookies from the cruisers. All the professional cruisers had lanyards around their necks. Totally smart, especially to carry a waterproof phone case. It’s a great place to keep your room key, phone, and money for tipping. Fanny packs are back in style so it’s totally acceptable (and fashionable) to wear a fanny pack if you’d rather hold everything around your waist vs a lanyard.


Can you believe I forgot to pack a hat? What was I thinking? On my next cruise, I plan to pack a floppy hat that can easily be packed without crushing and a baseball cap for excursion days.

Sunscreen and Aloe

Sunscreen is obvious, but I would highly recommend you pack more than one bottle. We ran low half way on our trip and we had to buy a new bottle at one of the ports. My go-to sunscreen for my face is Neutrogena and I love this Coppertone Sport for body. And if by chance you don’t wear enough sunscreen I highly recommend packing some Aloe Vera Gel which can give some much-needed relief and healing to a sunburn.

Insect Repellent and Anti-Itch Medicine

I never imagined packing insect repellent for a cruise, but I would highly recommend it. My daughter and I were eaten alive by mosquitos while we were on an excursion in the Dominican Republic. We bought bug spray before we boarded back on the ship but I didn’t think to buy anti-itch medicine. Luckily the next day at port we bought aloe which did bring us some relief but an anti-itch medicine would have been lovely.

Bag Pack / Tote Bag

My hubby packed a bag pack and I packed a tote bag. Luckily, they both came in very handy. Bag pack was great during excursions to hold water bottles, sunscreen, and towels. My tote bag was perfect for cruise days.


Don’t over pack and don’t pack high-heels. Jumpers, rompers, shorts and tanks were my go-to outfits. They were all light and can be worn more than once with different accessories to change up their look. Men will need pants for dress up nights so men should pack at least two pairs of pants – jeans are fine, but a nice pair of khakis or slacks is a great idea too. On a cruise ship, there is laundry service which is Super affordable and comes in very handy. Oh, and don’t forget a couple of swimsuits!

Closed Toe-Shoes

Obvi pack some sandals, but don’t forget some closed-toe tennis shoes. On dress up nights I packed wedges which came in very handy. I would highly recommend not packing high-heels/stilettos. The floors can be slippery and not worth falling.

There are plenty of stores on cruise ships for necessities, but if you can pack smart then you can spend your money on fun stuff like shore excursions, cocktails, dining, and souvenirs.

I’d love to hear from you! Have you been on a cruise? Stay tuned for a blog post where I share all about our shore excursions and all the amazing food on the ship.

I was invited by Carnival Horizon. The views and opinions expressed are purely our own and based upon my personal experiences. I am thrilled to partner with brands, which are an ideal fit. This page contains affiliate links.