We're always on the lookout for ingenious ways to improve the family cruise experience. Here are some of the very best cruise tips we've found on Pinterest. Find more on the Cruising With Kids and Family Vacation Tips Pinboards.
Multiply Your Outlets
There are never enough outlets inside a cruise ship stateroom, and that's even more true for gadget-loving families. This inexpensive Belkin power strip and surge protector features three electrical and two USB ports (buy it on Amazon). It's a godsend when you've got multiple gadgets to recharge at once.
Need another USB port? You'll find one on the side of the flatscreen TV.
Pack Your Carry-On for Fun From Minute One
On embarkation day there's often a lag of several hours between when you board the ship and when your bags arrive at your stateroom. Cruise Critic's nifty infographic highlights how you can start having fun from Minute One if you've got your swimsuits and workout gear with you. That obviously also applies for essential medications and baby supplies.
Use a Collapsible Closet Organizer for Extra Storage
Even in the most cleverly designed cabin, there never seems to be enough hangers or storage space. An inexpensive collapsible closet organizer with shelves (buy from Amazon) doesn't take up much room in your suitcase yet adds significantly more room for everyone's belongings.
Outsmart Those Smart Light Switches
These days, virtually every cruise ship stateroom features an energy-saving main light switch that requires you to leave your key card in a slot in order to power the cabin. The idea is that it will prevent you from wasting power, but it's problematic if you want to charge electronic gadgets when you're out of the room.
No problemo, says Cruise Critic. You can outsmart the power police by putting any other similarly sized loyalty card, library card, or business card in the slot as a placeholder. Just remember to switch the lights off when you step out.
Use Magnets to Turn Your Door Into a Command Center
Fun fact: Stateroom doors on cruise ships are made of metal. Follow the lead of experienced cruisers and put your door to work as a magnetized HQ for all the invitations, maps, schedules, lanyards and other essentials you will collect. This photo by Flickr user aznaphrodite shows off how magnets can help organize all your cruise flotsam and jetsam.
Pack DIY Costumes for Theme Nights
Before your trip, take a peek at your cruise itinerary. If you're sailing on one of the kid-friendly cruise lines, there is likely a theme night where passengers are invited to dress in costume. On every Disney Cruise, for example, there is always a pirate night with big Pirates of the Caribbean deck party. You can buy pirate gear at the ship's gift store or bring awesome homemade outfits that cost a lot less, as shown on the mom blog Foster2Forever.com.
Pack a Dry Bag for a Day at the Beach
Going ashore for a day at the beach or a snorkeling excursion? You'll need your stateroom key card and a photo ID (to get back on the ship), and you'll likely also want your phone, credit card and some cash. Ditch your wallet in your stateroom safe in favor of a small, waterproof, floatable dry case on a lanyard. This one is designed for paddlers and runs about $15 on Overtons.com.
Personalize the Outside of Your Stateroom Door
Cruise ship corridors tend to be very long and monotonous. Every door looks the same, which can make finding your stateroom a little tricky for kids. A practical yet fun solution is to use magnetic decorations to personalize the outside of your stateroom door.
You'll find suggestions for decorating a Disney Cruise door at Family Travel Magazine and the possibilities are endless, from banners and posters to dry erase boards. Don't have time to do it yourself? Customized cruise door magnetic decorations are a booming cottage industry on Etsy.
Booking an Interior Cabin? Pack a Night Light
Many families opt for value-priced interior cabins. At night these cabins become pitch black, which can be unnerving for kids who wake in the night. Packing a night light is an alternative to leaving on a muted TV all night.
Use Clothespins to Hang Wet Swimsuits
While your stateroom shower will likely have a retractable clothesline, bringing your own clothespins will help swimsuits dry faster, suggests Inspired to Style.
Avoid Steep Onboard ATM Fees
You can charge pretty much anything on a cruise ship to your onboard account, but at some point, you may want to withdraw cash for a trip ashore. The bummer is that shipboard ATM machines typically charge a pretty steep withdrawal fee.
To get around the fee, go to the ship's casino, sit down at a slot machine, insert your room key card and deposit the amount you want to withdraw, instructs Cruise Fever. "Once the money is loaded into the slot machine, simply hit the 'cash out' button and take the ticket to the cashier to get your money. Your onboard account will be charged and you will not have to pay any credit card or ATM fees."
Note: This hack won't work on Disney Cruise Line because the ships have no casinos.
Find Peace and Quiet on a Mid-Level Deck
"The main lobby deck is shaded and a great place to get away from the crowds around the pool," advises Living Locurto.
Agreed! On Disney ships, for example, a favorite place to steal away with a good book is vintage-style Deck 4, a low-key haven with mahogany loungers and shuffleboard courts.
Choose a Stateroom With a View
If you're choosing an exterior stateroom, consider the ship's route so you can enjoy a view of the sunrise on your first morning at sea and the sunset on your last evening, suggests The Travel Bite.
You might also think about views while in port. For example, when Disney ships dock at Castaway Cay, staterooms on the starboard side are typically treated to a sweeping view of the island, while those on the port side overlook the dock.
Change Your Phone's Lock Screen
If you lose your phone while you're on the ship, how could a Good Samaritan return it to you quickly? SmarterTravel recommends changing your phone's lock screen to an image that displays your emergency contact information, including your email address and an alternate phone number.
Wear a Wristwatch and Set It to Ship Time
There's ship time and there's local time, and the two may not be the same. Your cell phone's clock will automatically update to local time, which can cause great confusion since shipboard activities and port departures will be on ship time.
When you board the ship, set your phone to airplane mode in order to use the cruise line's app without data roaming. Ignore your phone's clock. Instead, pack a wristwatch and set it to ship time.
Choose a Stateroom That's on an Upper Deck and Aft
Travel guru Wendy Perrin, the former Conde Nast Traveler consumer news editor and current TripAdvisor Travel Advocate, offers some excellent reasons to book a stateroom that's high and toward the ship's stern: "It’s a quick walk to the places you need to get to most often—the pool deck, the sports deck, the kids’ club, the buffet—and you can avoid elevator waits and crowds." That's solid advice for every family.