Now That the Clothes are Packed…What Else?
Before our first cruise, I spent HOURS reading online lists of things to take on a cruise. We bought, packed and took many of those suggested items….and came home having used about HALF of them. This list is my opinions of the “Thing You Must Take”, the “Thing You Might Need (Depending on Personal Needs/Itinerary)” and the “It’s Absolutely Ridiculous to Take This” I hope it helps others to NOT travel as we did on our first cruise…with WAY TOO MUCH stuff!!!
- Cell phone: A cell phone is somewhat of a paradox for the cruiser. We cruise to ‘get away’….then worry about ‘staying connected’ while we’re there. hmmm…. That being said, on our last cruise, there WAS an emergency at home and we were SO thankful to have the ‘connection’ when we needed it. So….First thing to know about cell phones & cruises: Cell phones will constantly ‘ping’ for a connection if turned on – That could end up costing you a LOT. Unless you have an international plan (some carriers will add this for just 1 month) turn data off (or put in airplane mode) when you board the ship. Note: Incoming texts will incur charges.
- Computers: Ships offer internet minutes packages, however, the connections are extremely slow and unreliable…and charged by the minute. In the middle of the ocean, internet connection at all is an incredible thing. To expect it to be fast and consistent is expecting a mite too much. If you must connect, find a place in port with free Wi-Fi…or “wi-fi with food purchase”. 🙂 Crew members will be your best source of information for finding free or cheap internet in port.
- Carnival has recently begun offering a “Social” package for social media sites through apps for $5/day. I expect to see other cruise lines follow suit with similar things… 🙂
- Princess now offers Princess@Sea that allows access to ship-related info (schedules, menus, etc…) AND texting among other passengers on board – ALL WHILE IN AIRPLANE MODE. I heard recently that Norwegian is now offering the same…. The race is on, Folks!!! haha!
- We just don’t take the laptop on cruises. It’s a hassle to fly with and we won’t pay for the internet plans. We bought an extra memory card for the camera so don’t need the computer for photos either. We enjoy ‘cruises’ BECAUSE we can really get away from everything! 🙂 🙂
Must Take List
- Passport — To apply for one if you don’t have it: Applying for a Passport
- photo ID (drivers lic)
- cruise documents
- Tickets/confirmation for shore excursions or items purchased from the cruise line ahead of time.
- Possibly a Vaccination certificate or VISA (Depends on itinerary.) Your cruise line will let you know if your itinerary requires these.
JUST NOTE: If you forget your passport or ID, you’re NOT going on that cruise!!!! MAKE CERTAIN (double check, triple check…then check again) THAT THEY ARE IN YOUR CARRY ON and NOT in your checked luggage given to the porter outside the terminal…. If you forget, instead of waving ‘bye’ ON the ship, you’ll be waving ‘bye’ TO the ship. 😦
I have a small coupon organizer I use for all vacations. (Purchased at Dollar Tree for $1) I label the sections as needed for that trip and it keeps everything compact, organized & easy to locate.
→ A Word about Passports. Some cruise line websites say that passports are optional….that a birth certificate is enough. That’s true AS LONG AS you don’t run into any problems. However, if you have to travel on your own (miss the ship in a port, are transported for medical reasons, etc..) you will NOT be allowed to board an aircraft in a foreign country without a passport. For that reason, I highly recommend getting one.
One Exception: Military personnel can travel with their Military ID card and a birth certificate, however, their family members/traveling companions will still need passports.
As a security safeguard, either photo copy the information page of your passport or scan it and email it to yourself (to a web based email) in case the hard copy is lost or inaccessible. Some suggest taking a picture on your phone for the same purpose… That is NOT a good idea as a lost or stolen phone could create some SERIOUS issues.
Lastly, carry your passport close to your body…in an RFID blocking sleeve or purse/backpack/wallet. Passports are now a ‘hot’ item on the black market.
More information on RFID security: Security & Anti-Theft Bags for Travel
- COPIES: Make a copy of all important documents -ID, front/back of credit cards with the 1-800 number, and your passport (if not emailing it to yourself). Keep these in a secure place and separate from the originals.
- ….and speaking of credit cards….Limit the number of card(s) you take – to one or two. If you’re a victim of a pickpocket or other crime, you don’t want to have to cancel 10 cards! My husband and I each carry 1 card – from different accounts. If one is lost, stolen or compromised and we have to cancel it, we still have one we can use. For more information on keeping your personal information secure read Security & Anti-Theft Bags for Travel
- Duct Tape Why? If you’ve read my blog, you know that I take duct tape on every trip, and it’s gotten us out of more than one bind. It has multiple ‘rescue’ uses and we rarely come home from a trip without using it for something. 🙂 Don’t take the whole roll. Roll a few feet around a pencil stub, hairspray bottle, or anything else that works. 🙂
- Medications/First Aid – Take anything you think you might need….in small travel size bottles. I’ve put a list of suggested meds in Packing for a Cruise: Clothes & Personal Items One things that’s mentioned there, but deserves repeating here concerns prescription medications. Take those in their ORIGINAL bottles. Some countries require that; others don’t; but rather than trying to differentiate between them, we have just adopted the policy to keep all those meds in their prescription bottles. Individuals on ‘life-saving’ medications might want to have a copy of their prescription from the doctor as well. (just in case…)
- Sea-sickness medication. Take 2-3 options, especially if supplying a family. Different remedies work for different people. Even if you don’t think you’ll need this, bring it anyway. This is one of those ‘just in case’ items that I DO recommend. 🙂 Most cruise lines will distribute Dramamine pills free, however, it requires a trip down to the medical facility….when you’re not feeling well….and it just might bring you in contact with germs you’d rather avoid. The generic forms are very inexpensive at Walmart and having them with you is MUCH more convenient. 🙂 More Info: Dealing with Motion Sickness
- $1 bills – for tipping Tips are customary for porters, drivers/luggage handlers at the terminal, excursion tour guides, room service waitstaff. Of course, you are in control of how many of these services you use…Bring the amount of tip money you need for the services you plan to utilize. (ATM fees on ships are pretty hefty!!) We usually take $15-$20 as we are willing to take care of ourselves most of the time. We use it for tour guides mostly.
- Air Freshener – In addition to the obvious reasons 🙂 🙂 ships can sometimes have issues with plumbing/toilets that causes unpleasant odors. A little scent can go a long way to making everyone more comfortable. You may not need it…but if you do, you’ll THANK ME for telling you to bring it. Get a travel size at Dollar Tree…for $1.
- Brita water bottle (the one with the filter in the lid) I’m an avid water drinker and honestly, there is NO time when it’s MORE necessary than when you’re eating the ‘extra’ food on a cruise. While tap water on cruise ships is PERFECTLY SAFE, it sometimes tastes like you would expect water that’s stored in a tank to taste. The Brita bottles work VERY well.
- Ear plugs: If you’ve chosen your cabin carefully, you may not need these. However, sometimes, you may not know you have a bad location until you’re on board and it’s too late…. For those situations, a pair of ear plugs really comes in handy. These from the Dollar Tree come with a storage container….for $1!
- Medical information/List of prescription medications: For those with medical issues and ESPECIALLY for those traveling alone, it’s a good idea to bring a basic medical history and list of medications. It may be useful to medical personnel on board should you have a medical emergency. A Word About Insurance: Chances are, your medical insurance won’t cover you while out of the country, (That’s another ‘plug’ for travel insurance) but it doesn’t hurt to bring your card in case you are transported home for medical care. Also be aware that Medicare does NOT work outside the country.
- Magnets: Did you know that the stateroom walls are metal? Bring magnets (clips, hooks or ordinary magnets) to attach any number of things to the wall. I found a little magnetic metal ‘box’ at the Dollar Tree. It’s not shown in this photo (cropped to eliminate personal information) but it held smaller items I wanted easily accessible… 🙂
- Emergency numbers at home. Even if you have these numbers memorized, it’s a good idea to write them down and put them with your passport/important documents in case someone ELSE needs to access them. (if you are incapacitated) Make sure you have ICE #(s) in your phone. (In Case of Emergency) Yes, the cruiseline has an emergency # for you…but we have 4-5 ICE #’s…not just 1. 🙂
- Journal/notebook & pen/pencil – I bring a small spiral notebook (3×5) for notes, etc…and for the contact info of the cruise line liason in each port. (This name will be listed in the cruise newsletter each day & is your point of contact for emergencies in port. Take this contact info into port each day.) With my phone safely tucked away in the cabin safe, my little notebook becomes the place for those bits of information I need to remember.
- Binoculars: I can’t imagine very many cruise destinations where I wouldn’t want these…. They were VITAL on our recent Alaskan cruise.
Might Need…..YOU Decide
- Power strip or one of those plugs that turns one outlet into 3 – Outlets are VERY limited in cruise ship cabins. (1-2) If you have multiple items requiring electricity, this will come in handy. 🙂 NOTE: Celebrity and Princess prohibit surge protectors and will confiscate them at check in. For now, cruise lines are still allowing this.
Night light – Interior cabins, especially, are completely dark when the lights are out. Outside cabins may have a little light filtering in from the ship exterior lights…and possibly the moon… but it’s not much. 🙂 Note: There are no street lights on the ocean. 🙂 🙂
- Alarm clock (Battery operated – one that doesn’t require an outlet) Cruise ship cabins do not have clocks. While cell phones may work as an alarm, they don’t make very good room clocks. Passengers in interior cabins especially may need an alarm on port days with no ‘morning light’to wake up with. Personal preference is the reason this is on the “might need’ list.
- Highlighter: We use these to highlight activities in the newsletter that interest us. (Honestly, I consider this to be a “Must Take Item”, but thought others might not…so I put it here) This is particularly helpful when cruising with multiple family members (teens?) with varied interests. Each night, we sit down and highlight everyone’s choices with different colors. That makes it easier to locate each other during the day – or plan our ‘together’ times.
- A Few Post-It Notes: (Remember when we used to communicate with one another with pen and paper???) 🙂 Post It notes are useful for leaving notes for your cabin steward or for others in your party (such as teens). Awww… Life without the cell phone…. 🙂 🙂
- Reading material: Do you like to read by the pool???
- Items Needed in Ports of Call – Consider: Guidebooks? Maps? Foreign Language Dictionary? Snorkel gear? (equipment can be rented, BUT I bring my own mouth piece) Underwater camera(s)? Children’s water floaties or sand toys (Purchase these at the Dollar Store, then leave them with local children in port rather than toting them back home) Coats/jackets/gloves/scarves for “northern” destinations?
- Lanyard for the ship ‘ID card’. This can either SCREAM “Tourist” or be the item you absolutely LOVE!!! (it really depends on YOU…) It IS nice to have that card right there…whenever you need it. It could also be a good idea for children during debarkation…so they keep track of their card.
- Insect repellant (with DEET): depending on itinerary. (Definitely Alaska in July)
- Over the Door Shoe Holder: Many cruiers use these to organize small items (not shoes…) to keep them OFF the very small counters, but still accessible. Cruise lines are starting to prohibit them however…(Disney will actually confiscate them and charge you for damages…). If your cruiseline allows it, (call if in doubt) it’s VERY helpful in cabins with 3 – 4 people. It’s probably not necessary in cabins of only 2
- Insulated travel mug with lid. I like hot tea…with a lid to keep it hot. But I don’t like the geno-estrogens in the Styrofoam cups. The insulated mug is my solution – In fact, we took Yeti knock-offs on our recent Alaskan cruise (We didn’t want to take real ones…to much chance of them getting lost or ‘borrowed’) On warmer itineraries, however, these may be more trouble than they’re worth (imho) as you must carry it around even when empty…or return to the cabin to put it away. That’s the reason it’s on the ‘Might” list. 🙂
- Wristwatch Cell phones will sync with local time – which may or may not be the same as ‘ship time’. Ships leave port on SHIP TIME. Bring and set your wristwatch to ‘ship time’ so you don’t miss the ship on port days. 🙂 (Now…say that 3X really fast…)
- Swimmer’s Ear product – (if traveling with children who are prone to this) All meds are expensive on the ship….and choices are limited on meds suited to children.
- Laundry pods – if you plan to do laundry. Laundry soap is quite expensive on board. Note: Not all cruise lines or ships have self-serve laundry. (Royal Caribbean and many Holland America ships do not) Check cruiseline websites for information on YOUR ship.
- Clothespins/Clips of a variety of types: I usually bring 4-6 clothespins or clips and have used them to clip swimsuits to the clothesline in the shower….or to chairs on the balcony….or to hold curtains closed when windows open to the deck….or hold those closed when cruising in Alaska in June when there is 18-20 hrs of daylight….or to keep the shower curtain closed…or hanging properly. There’s just sooo many uses. 🙂
- Extra bag – a small lightweight bag is nice to take into port for all those things you need or buy OR to carry towel, sunglasses, book, etc… around the ship. It can also help you to get off the ship at the end of your cruise if you ‘over-buy’. 🙂 These are cheap bags I found at Dollar Tree….for $1. I don’t worry if they get dirty or covered in sand…and I like the idea of getting a new one for each cruise…. They’re only $1! 🙂
- Pre-packaged foods for the ports: (peanut butter-n-crackers, fruit rollups, etc…) It may seem strange to bring food when embarking onto a FOOD BARGE, but pre-packaged items are the ONLY food that can be taken off the ship into port. (Many countries have VERY strict laws about bringing ‘open’ food or produce into their country. The person defying this law may find themselves in a LOT of trouble.) If you have a medical issue that requires food at regular intervals or with medication, just bring a few pre-packaged items.
- Extra zip ties: I use these on our suitcase when we place them outside our cabin the night before disembarkation. NOTE: At disembarkation, you have a choice of either carrying your own bags off the ship (Rather cumbersome, crowded & difficult) or placing luggage outside your cabin the night before to be stored then unloaded at the port. Zip ties offer security for those bags. You can use these at embarkation too, but realize you will need a way to cut them to unpack. A cabin steward may be able to do that, but you may have to wait until he/she is able to.
(I include this for laughs more than anything.) There are online lists who suggest these things….REALLY. Read and Laugh, but don’t think I’m suggesting anything here…. 🙂
- Blender or coffee pot (yes, someone suggested this…. ) NOTE: Norwegian cabins have coffee pots in them.
- Bubble wrap for souvenirs! This is just NOT necessary. Your suitcase is full of clothes…Wrap any breakable souvenirs in them…or inside shoes if the item needs more protection. You can also carry items off the ship in your carry on. 🙂 🙂
- Walkie talkies: It sounds like a good idea for communicating with family members on board, right? However, the reality is that these typically have a very short range…500 feet…4-5 decks maximum… so they aren’t very reliable with today’s HUGE ships. If you have the really expensive ones, they don’t have that static noise…but the cheaper brands can be really irritating to other passengers.
- Windsock for your balcony. Honestly, there is no need to bring ‘decorations’. You’re there to sail, swim, explore, sight see, learn, eat, shop, tour, sleep 🙂 enjoy, relax, meet new friends…………Not decorate! 🙂
- Matches or a lighter to eliminate odors in the bathroom. OK, Think About This….open flame….on a ship….middle of the ocean. Folks DON’T DO THIS!!!! If odors are a concern, bring a small air freshener.
- Cruises: Finding Cruise Bargains and Booking
- Your Cruise is Booked, Now What?
- Cruises: Embarkation Day – What To Expect
- Cruising On a Budget
- Packing for a Cruise: Clothes & Personal Items
- Dollar Tree Items For a Cruise
- Alaskan Cruise: Scenic Cruising in Glacier Bay
- 13 Questions First Time Cruisers Ask