Cruise ships are full of fun things to do, yummy things to eat, and cool places to hang out. But they’re also home to some of the most expensive shopping malls on land or sea. I’ve already covered What to Wear on a Cruise. Now I’m going to cover everything else you should pack for your next cruise. These essentials will keep you healthy and entertained without needing to buy anything on the ship. After cruises to Ensenada and the Caribbean, these are the things I wished I had packed.
When you board a cruise, you receive a ship pass. This little piece of plastic is more important than anything else on the cruise. You need it to access your room, use your drink package, get on or off the ship, etc. To keep it safe, I recommend bringing a lanyard. Wearing your ship pass around your neck is the best way to keep track of it. Then you don’t have to worry about it falling out of your pocket or purse. Plus, you can easily hand it to your favorite bartender. If your ship pass doesn’t already come with a hole punched in it, visit guest services and they will do it for you.
A reusable water bottle is also a must have for a cruise. It’s important to stay hydrated between all the drinking and the sun. A reusable water bottle allows you to keep drinking water in your stateroom without all of the fuss and waste of disposable plastic water bottles. They won’t allow you to fill your bottle from the taps in the public dining areas, but you can use one of their cups to pour water in your bottle. If you want to make a cool souvenir to commemorate your trip, you can customize a tumbler. That way you’ll have something to put water in while you’re on the ship and something to remember your cruise when you’re at home.
If your cruise allows you to bring wine, make sure to pack a corkscrew. The corkage fee is outrageous if a bartender or water opens a bottle for you. Plus, your stateroom is the only place where you can drink the alcohol you bring on board so you might as well be able to open it in your room. As an alternative, bring screw top wine.
Finally, don’t forget highlighters, post-it notes, and wrinkle release spray. Each day, highlight the activities you wish to attend in your cruise itinerary. You can use the post-it notes to leave notes for other members of your party on your stateroom door so they know where to find you. And wrinkle release spray will keep your clothes looking sharp even if they’ve been in your suitcase for days. An iron is not allowed in your stateroom so wrinkle release spray is the next best thing.
There is a doctor’s office on a cruise ship. But it’s not free or cheap. It’s much easier to pack a few essentials items than to visit the doctor. Of course, you should always bring any prescription medications that you’ll need during your trip. Make sure to keep this in your day bag when you board the ship in case you need to access them before your luggage arrives. Additionally, you should bring motion sickness medication, something to relieve an upset stomach, and pain relief medication.
Some people say you can’t feel the ship move so you won’t get seasick, but I disagree. I can feel the ship move even on a calm day. If the seas are rough, you’ll definitely feel it move. It’s much easier to take motion sickness medication in advance rather than play catch-up if you do get sick. I personally use Dramamine and sea bands, but Bonine is another popular choice.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of entire cruise ships overcome by the norovirus. While Pepto-Bismol or Tums probably won’t relieve norovirus symptoms, they might help if you overindulge at the buffet or eat something you’re not used to. Pain medication like Tylenol or Advil is always good to have around. You never know when you’re going to drink too much or injure yourself walking around the ship. It takes a little while to get used to the motion so you might fall down a time or two.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring sunblock, disinfecting wipes or spray, and hand sanitizer. There’s not a lot of shade when you’re on open decks of a cruise ship so make sure you have plenty of sunblock. Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer will also help you combat all of the yucky germs that get spread around a cruise ship. I always wipe down the TV remote in a stateroom (or hotel room) because I worry it’s overlooked by cleaning staff.
A is seriously the most important item you can take on a cruise (after that lanyard for your sea pass). Staterooms have very few electrical outlets. On both our Ensenada Cruise and our Caribbean Cruise there were two outlets per stateroom outside of the bathroom. If you’re sharing a room with anyone, you need more outlets than that! Most electronics can be charged with a USB port so a is a game changer. Others might tell you to just bring a surge protector, but there have been numerous reports of security confiscating them from checked luggage. Skip the surge protector, bring a instead.
Also, a backup battery is a great way to keep your phone charged. You can carry it around the ship with you or you can charge the battery during the day and keep it plugged into your phone at night. Those two outlets in your stateroom will not be next to your bed so if you want to keep your phone handy, use the backup battery at night on your bedside table.
Even if you don’t plan on spending a lot of time in your stateroom, you might want to get away from all the people for a little while so bring things to entertain yourself. While cruise ship TV can be entertaining (I love the cruise director’s daily talk), sometimes the options are slim. Most staterooms have flat screen TV’s with HDMI ports. I like to bring my iPad, HDMI connector, and a short HDMI cable. It can be difficult to change the input on a cruise ship TV. They’re usually hidden on the TV and they’re not on the remote. To work around this, pack a universal remote and you’ll be able to change the input easily.
Finally, a waterproof, portable speaker will keep you entertained whether you’re in your room or up on the pool deck. Just maybe don’t plunk it down on someone’s table as a way to introduce yourself and keep the volume low so you don’t disturb other passengers.
When you leave the ship for an excursion, you want to take everything with you that you’ll need for the day. Depending on your destination and activities, this might include a waterproof camera, a change of clothes, sunblock, hand sanitizer, bug spray, and a waterproof camera. I like to use a foldable, compact beach bag to carry all of my excursion gear. It can also double as your first day pack, and when you’re heading home, you can fold it up and toss it in your suitcase.
With all of these essentials at hand, you’ll be well prepared for anything that comes your way on your next cruise. Here’s to happy and healthy cruising! For more packing tips, check out my 10 Tips For a Well Organized Suitcase.