I’m a big fan of lists and wouldn’t set off on any trip without putting together a holiday packing list, even if it’s just in my head. When it comes to planning a family cruise a pre-holiday check list including what you need to pack for your cruise and tasks that need to be ticked off before you set sail is essential. This will provide extra peace of mind, especially when cruising with kids. Here’s my recommended pre-holiday check list for family cruises from Southampton, which is where we joined our last adventure at sea:
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11 things to do before joining family cruises from Southampton
Here’s what I recommend having on your family cruise checklist:
1. Transfers to cruise ships in Southampton
Once you’ve booked your cruise one of several tasks you must tick off as soon as possible is planning your journey to the port. Luckily here are plenty of options to get you to your cruise starting in Southampton.
If you’re flying into a London airport you’ll want to book a transfer to Southampton. This will take about 1.5 hours from Heathrow or Gatwick and up to 2.5 hours from Stansted Airport.
When traveling with the large number of bags and children a private taxi transfer is definitely the most comfortable option. Companies like Tourshuttle don’t just offer services to Southampton but have more than 208 operators in Europe providing private transfers to 328 European airports and more than 97 ports.
From Southampton Airport you can take a taxi to the cruise terminal or a train or bus from Southampton Parkway to Southampton Central from where the port is a short taxi ride away. I’d not recommend walking it with luggage.
2. Pre-cruise hotels and parking in Southampton
If you’ve got a fair distance to travel before joining your cruise then you might want to book overnight accommodation.
For a touch of luxury try the Grand Harbour Hotel* where you can kick off your cruise holiday in style with pampering in the spa. They also have pre and post-cruise stay packages including parking.
For a cheaper option, a few minutes from the cruise port and easily accessible from the train station, try the Travelodge Central which has family rooms. The Holiday Inn* overlooks Mayflower Park and Terminal so you may spot your ship from your window.
The Southampton Harbour Hotel offers the ultimate pre-cruise stay with a price tag to match. Rooms are available for families of up to four in this ship inspired waterfront hotel.
If you’re looking for parking for the duration of your cruise you can leave your car with ABP Parking for around £85 for seven days. Or if you’d prefer cheaper cruise parking in Southampton why not rent a driveway?
If you are planning an extra night or two in the city then there’s lots of things to in Southampton with kids that we can recommend. Or if a city break doesn’t appeal head to the New Forest National Park.
3. Shop for family essentials that won’t be onboard
If you are cruising with young children there are some essentials you won’t find in the ship’s shops. We always make sure nappies, wet wipes and Calpol are on our cruise packing list. These can be picked up in the huge West Quay shopping centre in Southampton if you are staying in the city prior to cruising.
Cruising across the pond? Take a look at my packing list for Caribbean cruises.
If you are cruising with a baby or have recently found out you are expecting you might also like to read about the extra things you need to take into consideration when cruising with an infant or when pregnant.
If you haven’t cruised before, then take a look at these tips for first time cruisers.
4. Buy your drinks package
Pre-paying for soft drinks and alcohol packages will save money before your cruise. However, this brings me on to the question of whether cruise drinks packages are worth it for families?
We have young children and have not bought one yet as at about £50 per adult per day for the alcohol package (each adult on your cabin has to buy one) we know we wouldn’t get the value from them. Downing at least five alcoholic beverages every day and herding small people onboard does not appeal.
The soft drink packages are better value for families with kids who like fizzy or hot drinks. Again everyone in your cabin must buy the soft drink package or alcohol package.
If, like our kids, yours don’t like fizzy pop then you can easily get by on still soft drinks available from the buffet on Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises. Other cruise lines may vary in the inclusive drinks they offer.
Here more about the Ultimate Drinks Package on P&O.
5. Buy WiFi… unless you want to totally disconnected
Just like drinks packages, WiFi packages are cheaper to buy before your cruise. The difference was $6 a day during our last cruise with Royal Caribbean.
Don’t expect too much from your onboard WiFi. From our experience and speaking to people have cruised with several different cruise lines, the standard package will allow you to check your emails and share updates to your social media.
But it’s not designed for large downloads or uploads. It might be more worthwhile totally disconnecting when you’re not in port.
6. Book excursions and plan your port days
If there’s a port excursion that you’ve got your heart set on book it in advance. This will make sure you get a space and you can spread the cost of your cruise.
If you’re planning on exploring on your own do your research about how family-friendly each port is and budget for shuttle buses if the cruise terminal is any distance from the closest town or city.
Booking your shore excursions ahead of your cruise will also help you decide on what you might need to pack, such as walking shoes and snorkels, or clothing appropriate for changeable European weather.
7. Check in online
Access your cruise account online and add the details of all the passengers in your family as well as the credit card which you’ll be using to pay your onboard account. This will give you access to more pre-cruise tools to help you plan your holiday and speed things up at check in at Southampton.
We also love it when there’s a cruise countdown clock – it’s the little things that get us excited about our upcoming cruise adventures!
8. Add the cruise to your travel insurance
You need to let your travel insurance company know if you are going on a cruise, just like you would if you intended to try out water sports or adventurous activities.
Update them or add it into your quote to avoid hefty costs should you be taken ill or need to be repatriated from the ship.
9. Double check the expiry date on your passport
Cruise lines will want you to have a passport with at least six months to run before it goes out of date.
Give yourself plenty of time to renew if you need to, especially around peak times for the Passport Office in the run up to the summer holidays.
10. Buy all currency for your destinations
Pick up currency for each of the ports and countries you’re visiting before you board the ship to get the best exchange rates. There are also options to get pre-paid currency cards.
Money Saving Expert has lots of top advice on these and where to get the most up to date best currency deals.
11. Print your travel documents
Have a folder ready with all your passports, travel insurance and boarding passes before you leave home. Well before then, check that everything has your name on it exactly how it appears on your passport. Also print off your luggage labels if instructed to do so by your cruise company.
I hope this pre-cruise check list has been helpful. What else would you add to this check list for family cruises from Southampton?
Also take a look at our checklists for every family holiday.
Read more of our cruise tips and posts:
- A guide to cruising with toddlers
- What to pack for a cruise
- How to have a more environmentally-friendly cruise
- Toiletries to pack for a winter sun holiday
- Are cruise drinks packages worth it?
- A 15 night Caribbean cruise without kids
- Tips for disembarkation day
- Is the Retreat on P&O Cruises worth it?
Disclosure: this is a collaborative post with Tourshuttle who offer private transfers from airports and cruise ports. This post also contains affiliate links marked with *. If you click on one of these and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.
Planning a family cruise from Southampton? Why not save this pre-cruise checklist for later.