10 Things You’ll Wish You’d Packed for Your Cruise

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Every experienced cruise traveler has a list of must-haves for their vacation packing. What items should you be adding to your travel gear for your next cruise vacation?

With your ship on the water hundreds of miles from the nearest convenience store and ports of call in foreign countries with different languages and currencies, you’ll want to be sure you pack these items along instead of leaving them behind.

Few cruise passengers will forget basics such as sunscreen, a swimsuit, or formal attire, but once you’re onboard, you may wish you’d found room in your bags, totes, and carry-ons for these cruise essentials.

1. Extension Cords and Adaptors

Outlets are notoriously sparse in cruise ship cabins, and if you have several devices to recharge, need a CPAP machine, or use different hair styling tools, you’re going to be juggling those few plugs. A couple of short, simple extension cords can help you arrange what you need exactly where you need it.

At the same time, don’t forget the appropriate chargers and USB adaptors for your devices, especially if your cruise ship will be departing from a foreign port. Take care not to pack along power strips with surge protectors, though, as they’re not permitted on most cruise ships and will be confiscated.

2. Pen and Paper

Whether you want to jot a note to your stateroom steward or leave a note for a friend or family member to let them know where you’re going on the ship, a pen and a small pad of paper can be invaluable.

It can also be easier to have your own comfortable, reliable pen or pencil if you enjoy onboard trivia, Sudoku, or other games instead of trying to write with a tiny and possibly not-too-sharp pencil when a coveted keychain, ship-on-a-stick or other prize may be at stake.

3. Small Currency Bills

Your cruise ship card is your room key, on board identification, and ship-wide charge card, but it won’t be useful off the ship, such as renting a locker during a beach excursion, tipping a fabulously funny bus driver, or paying for that quirky little souvenir. Instead, bring along small bills suitable for minor onshore purchases or tips as needed. Also, if you want to tip your cabin steward or room service attendants a bit extra for their hard work, cash is most appreciated.

US Currency
Photo Credit: RomanR / Shutterstock

Cash is also necessary for playing games of skill in the casino or arcade, where just $1 can win you fabulous prizes – if your hand-eye coordination is good enough. As a special note, if you prefer to carry larger bills for the convenience, the casino cashier or Guest Services desk can usually break bills into smaller denominations.

4. Air Freshener

The sea air may be fresh and bracing, but your cabin and its teeny bathroom won’t smell so good with wet and dirty clothes, smelly shoes, room service food, or the inevitable results of overeating or overindulging on alcohol. A simple room spray, Poo-Pourri toilet spray, or a hanging freshener can do wonders to keep your cabin smelling clean and fresh.

Do not, however, bring scented candles, incense, or anything that requires heat or flame to release a pleasing aroma, as these are prohibited items that will be confiscated at check-in and not allowed on any cruise ship.

5. Alarm Clock

Most cruise ship cabins do not have any alarm clocks, and while you can arrange a wake-up call through the ship’s phone service, it is a good idea to have a backup alarm ready so you don’t miss the early departure time for a popular shore excursion or your scheduled debarkation time.

Travel Alarm Clock
Travel Alarm Clock (Photo Credit: ByNuts FotoBike / Shutterstock)

Setting an alarm can also help you enjoy an afternoon nap without missing any upcoming activities, but avoid smart watches, cell phone alarms, or any clocks that automatically reset when you move between time zones. Many cruise ships remain on “ship time” which doesn’t always match local time zones.

6. Ship Shoes

A comfortable pair of slip-on shoes, sandals, flip-flops, or slippers will be welcome footwear on board the ship. Instead of lacing up sneakers or putting on uncomfortable heels for a quick trip to the buffet, a round of miniature golf, or wandering over to a trivia contest or craft project, you’ll be glad you have more casual footwear to make walking across hot or slippery decks safer and easier.

Before setting sail, make sure to break in any footwear, so it is comfortable and won’t cause blisters or sore feet. On bigger and bigger cruise ships, you’re bound to do more walking than you might anticipate!

7. Travel Fan

Cruise ship cabins are air-conditioned, but the power of the air conditioner can vary greatly depending on the ship and individual cabin locations. A small travel fan can create a nice breeze to circulate air and keep your cabin much cooler, and the fan’s white noise can make sleeping even easier as you rest up for another fun-filled day.

Travel Fan
Travel Fan (Photo Credit: studio_24 / Shutterstock)

A fan can also help you dry off swimwear or damp shoes much more quickly so you can wear them again. For a fan that will do double duty, look for a design that can also charge USB devices, but be sure the fan is small enough to meet cruise lines’ individual guidelines for what can be brought onboard.

8. Playing Cards or a Travel Game

There is always a packed schedule on a cruise vacation, but there are times when you want to arrive at activities early – to get the best seats for the nightly show or to be in the lounge for a comedy act, for example. While you’re waiting for the fun to start, a pack of playing cards or a fun travel game can pass the time.

This will also be very helpful on both embarkation and debarkation day, when you may spend an hour or two waiting in the cruise terminal or a lounge before it is your turn to board or leave the ship. Furthermore, if any shore tours you choose have long bus rides, you will welcome the diversion!

9. Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is essential on a cruise, when exposure to salt water, not to mention warmer temperatures, can dry your skin out. Staying hydrated will also help keep you healthier and more energetic, so you don’t miss a moment of your vacation.

Travel Water Bottle
Travel Water Bottle (Photo Credit: Darya Lavinskaya / Shutterstock)

Instead of paying for increasingly expensive bottled water or struggling to bring your own water on board (which is not permitted by every cruise line), just bring a reusable bottle you can easily refill whenever you’re thirsty. The ship’s water is perfectly safe to drink, so have no fear on those refills.

10. Binoculars

There is so much to see in port and just watching over the side of the ship, you’ll wish you had better eyesight. A pair of binoculars can be the best thing you pack, whether you plan to use them while watching for whales or dolphins from the ship, scouting out ports as you dock, or taking them along on shore tours for an even better view of everywhere you visit.

Read Also: What to Pack for a Cruise Vacation

Binoculars do not have to be expensive to offer you a better view, and opt for a travel pair or even a monocular to save space in the luggage as you pack everything you need for your cruise.

What essential items do you always bring along on a cruise? Share your must-pack tips on the Cruise Hive boards!

Melissa Mayntz
Melissa Mayntz
Avid, enthusiastic cruiser (35+ cruises and counting!), having sailed on multiple cruise lines, 25+ different ships in a variety of classes, and visited ports of call in more than 6 countries, including Caribbean, Mexican, Alaskan, and Hawaiian ports. Widely traveled on multiple continents and homeported from Port Canaveral, as well as a professional freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience and thousands of articles published. Find out more about us here.


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