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SailMates: What to Know Before You Go on a Cruise

Oprah Cruise Holland America

Thinking about taking a cruise? The JetSet Family has you covered!

This is a sponsored post in partnership with O, The Oprah Magazine and Holland America.

Set Sail: What to Know Before You Go on a Cruise


Whether this is your first time embarking on a cruise of a lifetime, or you have earned 5-Star Mariner status, it’s always smart to refer to what I call a “Cruising Checklist.” It’s an easy way to make sure you have everything covered, from remembering odds and ends, to the important stuff like passports, visas, and documents.


I don’t know about you, but for some reason whenever I am about to set sail on a cruise ship or even think about setting sail, the song Baker Street immediately begins to play in my mind. I can’t escape it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s such a great tune, but it’s what follows next that makes me slightly cringe…without fail it is followed by the Piña Colada song. But that’s a completely different blog post that we can save for another time. Regardless, if you can’t tell by now, I have a penchant for AM Gold yacht-rock tunes. Yes, I am totally and completely serious.



If I had to guess, my love for Yacht Rock probably had something to do with my Friday night ritual growing up.  I’ve been enthralled with cruising since the 1980s when I would celebrate the weekend by unwinding from a long and demanding week as a 1st-grader with a bowl of Jiffy Pop and  my TV friends: Gopher, Julie, Isaac, Doc, and of course, Captain Stubing. You bet, when I close my eyes, I’m somewhere on the Lido Deck with my umbrella drink setting a course across the crystal blue sea to a faraway tropical island. Sans Monica Gellar hair of course,  and shoulder pads which are inevitable, but hey, this is MY daydream, so I’m perfectly coiffed.




My trip with Oprah and Gayle is just a few short months away, but I’ve already begun counting down the days, I mean wouldn’t you? Consider this post my “Cruising Cheat Sheet” filled with must-haves, tips, tricks, and suggestions directly from those who know, my fellow O Mag Insiders. Oh, and before I forget to mention, don’t ever think of committing a cardinal sin by calling it a boat, it’s a ship and you can bet someone onboard will correct you almost instantly.


Oprah Cruise Announcement

Just in case you missed my BIG announcement

Tips and Suggestions for Going on a Cruise

Will I Get Sea Sick?


Believe it or not, this is the question I am asked most. The short answer: You could. I’ve been on many cruises and boat rides in my life and I never began to get motion sickness until this last year. Same with my 11-year-old daughter. She never gets sick, but for some reason, she gets very seasick while sleeping. Because of this, I always pack non-medicated Sea Bands. Cruise ships do have stabilizers, and if you are sailing through the Caribbean, rough water is unlikely; however, it’s not unheard of. Should you, in fact, hit some unruly waves, you may notice the staff strategically place disposable bags throughout the corridors. Thankfully, I’ve never had to use them, but I was relieved to know where I could find them at a moments notice.


And one word of advice: STAY HYDRATED. Sure the piña coladas go down like water, but between the sway of the boat the first few hours, and the beautiful sunshine, this will help you avoid a dreaded headache…or worse.


O Mag Insider Tip: Jenn Santana has been on many cruises- Alaska, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacoa, and Mexico, but really wished on her first cruise someone would have told me to take Bonine the night before my cruise started- I was sick for the first 30 hours! And Jai Pierre Raven brought up something very interesting, did you know that an apple has the potential power to end seasickness? Neither did I, but I know what I’ll be snacking on!  Stacie Arker Hamilton has also been on her fair share of cruises, so her best advice is go prepared! Stock up on every medicine you can (she uses the prescription scopolamine patch) to prevent it from happening and extra medicines just in case.. The patch has helped her the most. “I don’t get sick despite some rough waters. I wouldn’t cruise without it now.”  


Is a cruise the right trip for you?

O Mag Insider, Sarah Massengill Harris, wrote a blog post titled “Top 10 Reasons to Cruise with OMAG and HAL” and how she learned to be present, and be open to receiving each thing that crosses your path whether a person, food or new experiences while trying something new.



Bring something to hold the key to your stateroom

I can’t stress this enough, bring something to hold your room key in as you will need it at all times. A stylish lanyard, or small business card case works beautifully. You are going to want to keep this card safe and on your person as it has all of your information held on it from charges to opening your stateroom door. You also need to have this card on you when getting on and off the ship. If you forget, don’t fret because you can purchase one in the ship’s gift shop.


Pack a water bottle or travel tumbler

This may seem cumbersome, but I promise you it’s worth it. Leave some room in your suitcase of carry-on because the cups provided are on the small side. By bringing your own container, you will be able to enjoy your time exploring the ship’s many activities without having to leave and refill every few minutes.


Power up! Extra charge ports for your room are necessary

If you travel with multiple electronics as we do, you will definitely need to bring an additional travel power strip with surge protector and USB outlets. Some staterooms only have one outlet which is not ideal especially if you are traveling with a roommate.


Don’t forget your sunscreen even on days at sea

This is a biggie. The sun is strong, and perhaps even more powerful when you are out at sea so lather up! Just because you can feel the ocean breeze, does not mean you don’t need to bathe in SPF. The sun’s reflection off of the water is enough to fry you up like bacon! And that’s one way to ruin your trip.



Arrive early for the onboard shows to get the best seats

Are you a fellow theater geek? Then make sure you arrive at the show a bit early to snag an awesome seat! Performances aboard cruise ships are usually very entertaining and Broadway quality, and known to be quite popular. I’d hate for you to struggle to find a seat or not be able to sit with your party.


Get Spoiled! Treat yourself to quality spa time


Cruise ships have some of the best spa facilities around, so don’t wait until the last minute to book that long overdue massage, facial or body wrap. In fact, if you don’t book prior to sailing online, make a beeline up to the spa as soon as you board for some of the best-discounted deals available. It’s not unusual for the facilities to offer special rates for treatments booked the same day, and at times they may even extend your service even longer! I love getting a massage the first night because it’s such a wonderful way to start off your trip.


Should you miss your opportunity to schedule an appointment, you can always check in with the front desk to see if they can accommodate you. Most ships also offer day passes where you can use all of the facilities including saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, and the most amazing heated loungers you can possibly imagine. Should you decide not to depart the ship at one of the ports, this is a great way to spend the day for some well-needed R&R.


O Mag Insider Tip: Amy Boyle Signed up for her spa treatments the moment she boarded. She loved her time at the Holland America Greenhouse Spa, and said, “It is SO worth it!!!”


Be prepared to unplug

When you are traveling miles out in the middle of the ocean, WiFi is not always your friend. Use this downtime to soak up the fresh air, read a book, enjoy the endless activities, and most of all, embrace this time and catch-up with the loved ones you traveled with.


Documents: Passports, paperwork, visa, traveling with a minor


Every cruise is different, so be sure to research carefully online what type of travel documents you will need for your trip. Whether it be a standard passport, visa, or notorized letter when traveling with a minor, I’d hate for you to get there, only to be turned away!


The Bridge


While it is not publicly advertised, there are times passengers are invited to “see where the magic happens,” with a quick tour of The Bridge if they ask nicely. This is where the Captain and crew navigate the ship’s course through the use of maritime navigation charts, radar, and other GPS units. But make your visit quick, and be on your best behavior because they are after all hard at work.


Download the App and Check the Daily Newsletter


Downloading the specially designated app will allow you to communicate with others in your group without facing those dreaded roaming charges. You are able to send text messages and keep track of one another.


Each morning, you will also receive a newsletter with all of the day’s activities, and information you may need when you are in port. Take a few minutes to glance at the day’s agenda for it is always changing.


Should I stay or should I go? Ports of Call


During your trip you will be stopping at a few different ports, but you have the option to explore the area, or stay on board. Make sure to do some research online and learn more about the ports as it will give you a better idea if you would like to take part on a tour, or lay low and enjoy the ship all to yourself.


O Mag Insider Tip: Tonya Riddick Parker of The Real Chic Life feels reading the excursion reviews is the best plan of action. She also always brings workout gear, familiarizes herself with the drink packages, books a spa treatment the earliest possible, and makes a point to enjoy the fine dining restaurants at least once.


Bring Your Appetite!


Above and beyond your assigned dining room, there are plenty of places to grab meals and snacks aboard the ship. From specialty luncheonettes to more formal spots, there will never be a shortage of options for breakfast, lunch, brunch, happy hour, dinner, and in-room dining. Cruises are known for their world-class food, with the best chefs from around the world at the helm, so this is the perfect time to be adventurous!


O Mag Insider Tip: Betsy of Betsylife wish she ate lunch before boarding since not all the restaurants were open right away! She also let us know that on some ships, you are allowed to bring two unopened bottles of wine for your stateroom! And Shelley Webb checks out the wine selections available on the cruise before packing. “We brought our own case of wine with us on our Alaska cruise and just paid the corking fees.”


A Carry-on Bag is a Must!


The day of departure, you will be required to check your luggage when you receive your boarding pass. Since your bags will be brought to your room a few hours later, it’s smart to bring a carry-on filled with necessities for the day like a bathing suit, cover-up, sunscreen, your toiletries, and any meds you may need that day. Once your bags are with the porter, you are unable to retrieve any items until they are placed safely in your stateroom.


While waiting for your luggage, this is the perfect opportunity to explore the different areas, visit the spa, grab lunch, take a swim in one of the pools and familiarize yourself with the ship. Oh, and don’t forget to inquire about those spa treatments I mentioned earlier because they book up quickly!


O Mag Insider Tip: Annita Stokes Thomas Suggests packing a small well stocked carry-on bag to keep with you when you board the ship. “There will be several hours before you see you bag again. Couple of things to consider. Include personal items to freshen up, a swimsuit or workout gear, change of clothes, toothpaste/brush, change of clothes. Meds, passport, camera….. keep your wallet in your purse/ pocket.”


By the time your luggage arrives, your steward for the duration of the trip will welcome you, and this is a great opportunity to let them know of any special needs or requests you may have, like extra towels, hangers, and ice.


O Mag Insider Tip: Stacie Arker Hamilton has a great post about her recent Oprah Holland America cruise to Alaska where she was able to send her luggage ahead of time so it was waiting in her stateroom when she boarded the ship!


JetSet Mom’s Tip


Ever since I was a little girl I’ve kept a travel journal. As I got older my words transformed into photographs, but I still found myself missing the words. So on our last family trip, when I saw JetSet Kiddo writing in her travel journal, I decided to pick up my Moleskin and do something different. Instead of writing word for word about the day, I created what I call a “Gratitude Travel Journal.” Every night, I open it up and jot down five to 10 things that made me grateful that day on our adventure. I highly recommend it as it is a great compliment to all of my “mama-razzi” photos.

The Ultimate Yacht Rock Playlist


So are you ready for my Ultimate Yacht Rock Playlist. Here it is, and it is good. We’re talking AM Gold’s finest. Enjoy! Because I KNOW you will have this on repeat old skool style.


STAY TUNED… What to Pack!

Next up on The JetSet Family because as a part of my on-going “cruise chats” I will be sharing everything you will need to bring and wear on your next cruise.


Cruise with Oprah!


Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine have partnered to pair the eye-opening wonder of travel with the soulful, inspiring content found in every issue of the magazine. Experience the power of carefully curated O-inspired onboard programming rooted in O’s Live Your Best Life mission throughout 2018 on Holland America Line cruises sailing from North America. Plus, in October 2018 sail with O and Holland America Line on the final Adventure of Your Life cruise, featuring special appearances by O editors as well as thought leaders, visionaries, and members of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100. Learn more at HollandAmerica.com/OprahMag




Do you have a great cruise tip?

We would love to know more about your experience. By sharing your tips, recommendations and memories in our comment section below, you help fellow members of The JetSet Family community decide the best fit for them and their families. Let us know or if you have any questions about our upcoming Girls’ Getaway with Oprah Winfrey on Holland America!

Promotional consideration is courtesy of O, The Oprah Magazine. As an official brand ambassador of O, The Oprah Magazine, Nicole of The JetSet Family is invited to experience gifted products, events, and services. This practice does not hinder my point of view. My descriptions have always accurately reflected my overall feelings, and The JetSet Family will only ever share things that we genuinely love and believe worthy of being featured. Thank you for supporting us and our sponsors. >
Review overview
  • Annita September 18, 2018

    A GREAT list of tips. And, they are excellent for planning, preparing and enjoying your cruise.

  • Stacie Hamilton September 18, 2018

    I love all of these tips (and thanks for including mine). I’m going to be sailing on this Girlfriend’s cruise and I plan to use these, especially the tip about booking the spa services.

  • Amy September 18, 2018

    Thanks for including me. This is a great resource for planning your next cruise. 🛳🙌🏻

  • Shelley Webb September 27, 2018

    Great list of tips… And thanks for the playlist! Can’t wait for our cruise in January!

  • Kathy@DavesTravelCorner March 3, 2019

    Never been on a cruise. Appreciate the tips. A cruise with Oprah – now that would be memorable!

  • Cloyster April 19, 2019

    ohh man this is amazing article. I have been 2 or 3 times in them and the experience that i have is amazing. you remind me all that and learnt so many new things in it.

  • jim corbett April 19, 2019

    Cruises are the crucial for transport and travel as well. When you see water everywhere around you it’s best experience that one can have. Thanks for letting us know this great info about the cruises.


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