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Cruise Line Primer
The first day can be dizzying. This is true of a first day of school, at a new job, of being a dad.
It’s a universal thing and cruising is no different.
Embarkation day (that’s the first day, for first time cruisers) is of course filled with waves of excitement over the tasty never-ending food, the pools, water slides, hot tubs, the kids clubs, activities like laser tag, ziplining, escape rooms, mini golf, and Broadway-style musicals, but on the other side of the coin is unbearable logistical dread thanks to long lines at check in, the wait for your luggage to reach your cabin, and the muster drill.
Kids HATE the muster drill (the mandatory safety briefing on embarkation day that is only usually 15 minutes long but feels like 15 hours to a kid eager to keep playing, sliding, eating)
Having recently embarkated (not a real word) for a cruise within Europe in August 2018, my teen daughter and I built a brilliant first day cruise itinerary on board. We are cruise experts at this point and want to share our cruise line knowledge with you. Here is your ultimate Cruise First Day Essentials itinerary! But first, you gotta pack properly! Packing Tips Incoming!!
Cruise Packing List
Let’s talk about what to pack for your cruise vacation in your carry-on bag. It doesn’t matter if you’re with Royal Caribbean or Carnival, these tips work on any cruise line. First, make sure you have at least one carry on bag with cruise essentials because you may not see the checked luggage you handed over at the pier for a few more hours.
Before you even start to pack for a cruise, you have to dress properly for embarkation day (that’s your cruise first day, remember?) I’m not trying to say there’s a dress code for your first day, but what you wear before your luggage arrives at your room will ensure you’re comfortable, whether you’re headed to Hawaii or Alaska. If you’re into formal wear, that’s cool, there’s a formal night on most cruises. But maybe don’t rock the tux on day 1!
Make sure you and your kids are wearing close-toed shoes (no flip flops…not yet!), shorts (no skirts or dresses for this first day!) and t-shirts or tank tops. Be comfy because you are going to have a whirlwind first day on your cruise ship before everyone else gets on board!
What to Pack for a Cruise, the Cruise Packing List Essentials
You will want to carry backpacks onto the cruise ship with you. This is a must for a best first cruise day ever. Pack your bathing suits, sunscreen, a comfy change of dry clothes, a cover up (if you’re sun averse), and sandals or flip flops. If you’ve got a lot of people with cell phone chargers, you may want to consider a power strip. Leave the Dramamine (motion sickness sucks) in your luggage as it will arrive before you set sail (typically). You’re gonna need all of those cruise clothes and gear to have the best first cruise day ever on the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas.
Cool, we’re on board, now LET’S EAT!
Here’s your perfect Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner for your First Day Itinerary!
Head directly to El Loco Fresh on Deck 15 Forward and pile up a fanciful melamine plate with soft taco shells, succulent carnitas, rice & beans, chips and nacho cheese, guacamole, chopped crisp iceberg lettuce, and scallion sour cream.
Don’t forget the chocolate and peanut butter cup dessert!
OMG! After a 7-day Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas cruise, I’ve determined that the carnitas at El Loco Fresh are the finest free food on the entire ship. They’re outrageously delicious.
While you eat, watch the kids (and adults) play soccer, basketball, volleyball or whatever else is cooking on the blue sportcourt in front of the El Loco Fresh dining area. As you munch munch munch your tacos and chips, look at the zipliners make that perilous journey 9 stories above the Symphony of the Seas Boardwalk. It’s better than a shore excursion and doesn’t cost you a thing!
Before you’ve polished off the chocolate pot, you will have build up the courage to zipline across the ship on embarkation day before the masses arrive and the line grows. Now go do it…twice at least! Ziplining on the Symphony of the Seas is free and it is amazing, and this comes from a guy who is 1) terrified of heights 2) had never ziplined before in his life.
While you are still on deck 15, play a game of mini golf with your kids on the colorful, fun course and then go around the corner to grab your first (of many) soft serve ice cream cones on the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas!
While still dry and dressed, plummet down the Ultimate Abyss along with one of your kids! Bet them $5 worth of candy at Sugar Beach that you will beat them to the bottom.
At the bottom, you will find yourselves on the Symphony of the Seas Boardwalk!
You will also find that you lost the bet and are five bucks lighter, so make the short walk across the Boardwalk to buy them some sweets 😉
Let your little ones ride the carousel while enjoying their sugar rush!
You are half way finished with your perfect first cruise day!
Treat yourself to a cold one at Playmakers and catch a few moments of the afternoon soccer or football game or design your own mixed drink to be shaken and stirred by a robotic arm at the Bionic Bar before continuing. You earned it, pops.
By now, because it is after 1:30pm, you can get into your cabin. So go! And get changed into your bathing suits and flip-flops because it is time to get soaking wet!
Climb up the The Perfect Storm steps to the platform where you will choose between one of three water slides.
The green one will literally flush you down the bowl, the blue one is mostly pitch black save for the two transparent tube sections, while the yellow one (my personal favorite) has the shortest line, is like a pleasant steam sauna, and has a delightful orange glow thanks to the sun fighting through the yellow tube. It is a sheer joy to slide down over and over again.
Pro Tip: Tell the lifeguard you want to go down the yellow slide and you will zoom to the front of the line!
After you’ve climbed up and slid down a few times, get thee selves over to the two Flowriders on deck 16 Aft to try your luck at surfing and/or body boarding in front of a modest crowd of onlookers seated on the bleachers. The wipeouts are epic, hilarious and every bit as fun as the activity itself so lean into your best beach bum skill and go with the flow (literally).
Ok, now it is time to chill out in one of the pools or hot tubs scattered around deck 15. If you are comfortable with it, let your kids make friends in a pool while you and your significant other head to the tranquil, adults-only Solarium. Located at the front of the ship on deck 14, you can soak in a hot tub in a serene, palm tree lined quiet area rimmed with deck-to-sky windows looking out over the clear blue sea.
You will absolutely find yourself back in the Solarium throughout your Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas cruise vacation, for some serious grown-up R&R. It is lovely and super chill in there.
How was that? You ate good, did much, and had a blast and you haven’t even left port yet! I’ve hardly left you anything to do on your sea days! Well, this is the largest passenger cruise line ship, so I’m sure you’ll find something. 😉
Head back to the cabin to be reunited with your luggage and make a plan for your first dinner and first theatrical performance in the Royal Theater (Hairspray!) on board this magnificent ship.
Have a great cruise and come back here to tell us all about what you loved on the Symphony of the Seas!!
The Symphony of the Seas arrives at its home port in Miami in November 2018, and will begin service to Caribbean ports from then. Find out more on RoyalCaribbean.com.