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What Should I Bring on Cruise Trips?

By R. Kayne
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Traveling on a cruise can be a fun and exciting experience, but it is different from many other types of travel. The nature of being at sea for extended periods of time can mean that you don't necessarily always have access to a store if you need to pick up something you've forgotten. Much of what you decide to bring on a cruise will be determined by where you're going, but in almost all cases, certain items are commonly forgotten and others are overlooked.

Begin with personal items. Things that often miss the suitcase include nighttime items like pajamas, a robe, and slippers. Depending on the season, you might need a jacket or sweater, or even gloves. Don't forget bathing suits, hats, and a belt. If you love your hair dryer, you'd better bring it; the one on the ship probably won't be as powerful.

When selecting clothes for cruise trips, take a few minutes to consider the ports of call you'll be visiting and imagine the activities. If it will be buggy at any of those ports, don't forget to throw DEET in with your toiletries. Pack a small medical kit of adhesive bandages, antacid, and aspirin too. You can get these onboard, but if you need them, you'll appreciate having them at your fingertips.

Bring along some handy items. A plastic picnic kit is a very useful thing to pack, not just for having an actual picnic but for snacking in the cabin. A small reading light is nice at night, and cabins tend to be dark during the day, so a bright digital alarm clock will let you know quickly if you've overslept. To plug those in, you might want to bring a power bar and extension cord; there may only be one outlet in the cabin and one in the bathroom.

A highlighter will allow you to accent items on the daily events calendar that you don't want to miss, and tape will ensure it stays on the door where it can't get buried by clothes and towels. A spray bottle will keep you cool, along with your sunblock, and a backpack is great to throw stuff in on the go. You also might want to bring an extra duffel bag for items purchased.

Your favorite insulated drinking cup is good for cocktails and coffee alike, and a small coffeemaker with your own brand of coffee will not only be convenient but will probably taste better than the ship's brew. Soda and alcohol are expensive on cruise trips, so if either is important to you, you might bring some of your own. Check with your cruise line ahead of time to find out their policies on bringing liquids — especially alcohol — onboard.

While you're sipping your drink on deck, you'll want binoculars to watch the dolphins. They'll also allow you to watch the people at the other end of the ship. If you are taking a flight to the departure dock, bring a carry-on bag with a change of clothes in case your luggage arrives to the boat late.

Don't forget your gadgets — cruise trips are made for cameras. Disposable underwater cameras are available on land for a fraction of the price they're sold for aboard ship. While you're preparing, you can pick up a cheap pocket-sized solar-powered calculator, handy for figuring exchange rates while collecting souvenirs.

If you want your PDA, laptop, or MP3 player, don't forget extra batteries and the headphones. Remove any pictures from your digital camera so the flash memory is clear, and bring any extra memory cards and the charger. Your cell phone and its charger also need to make the trip.

Remember to pack your necessities. If you are traveling out of the country, don't forget your passport, identification card, and your reservation and tickets. Maps and a book of phrases can also be invaluable as well. Traveler's checks are much safer than cash, but small bills are good for tipping.

If you're allergic to foods or medications, make sure someone with you knows about it, though wearing a medical necklace or bracelet is safer. Don't forget vitamins, medications, or other oral regimens and make sure you have enough of them to last through the trip. Carry something in your wallet that lists the medications you're taking, if any, and refill prescriptions in advance.

Bring emergency phone numbers that may not be in the address book of your cell phone, especially your physician's. Prescription glasses, contact lenses and spares, solutions, and sunglasses are other items often forgotten. An emergency flashlight is a good idea, too. If the electricity should be interrupted for any reason, you'll still be able to make your way around the ship.

Working from a categorized checklist is the best way to ensure nothing of importance is left behind. If you start the list early, even weeks ahead of time, you can add to it as you think of things. This will make packing that much easier when the time comes, and you can start your trip stress-free.

The one thing people always claim they over pack on cruise trips is clothes. Think about what you'll actually wear, and pack light. You'll need to remove some to make room for the coffeemaker anyway.

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Discussion Comments

By anon333613 — On May 06, 2013

Leave hot plates at home. They might cause fires. If you travel with children, bring toys and books, crayons, color books, etc. for them to use in the room, plus snacks and drinks. Evenings are rough on kids. They're overtired. Be sure they get a good nap in the late morning and not late afternoon. They won't sleep at night. Be sure the crew has a babysitter you can use so you and your spouse can enjoy evenings 'out.' Bring a radio you don't have to plug in as well as an alarm clock you don't have to plug in. It's easier.

By nicoleao — On Nov 19, 2010

That first comment made me smile: I can see myself now, going on a cruise with my trusty coffeemaker! But I don't take I'll take it with me when I go on my Carnival Cruise.

A cruise feels so luxurious, you shouldn't have to brew your own coffee.

Or am I the only one who feels that way?

By daisy17 — On Jul 08, 2010

I always remember my motion sickness bracelets because I get seasick easily.

The best part of taking a cruise is that everything is included. Most of the little items you forget to pack can be bought on board. They may be more expensive though. There is so much to do on board and at the ports that I spent little time in my room.

If you plan to get souvenirs, it’s a good idea to leave some extra room in your bag.

By stargazer — On Jul 08, 2010

I love to go snorkeling, so I always bring my own snorkeling equipment. There is usually something available to use or rent if you plan to go snorkeling, but I just prefer to use my own.

Check to see if there are days on the cruise when formal attire is required, and pack accordingly. Sometimes there are theme days that you may want to pack for. I think that it is optional, but it’s fun to get dressed up and have your picture taken. The cruises I have been on did not have irons, but they did offer to iron clothes for a fee.

By ostrich — On Mar 27, 2008

I have had friends who said that bringing your own coffeemaker is a must because sometimes you have to pay for coffee, and coffeemakers aren't provided. Also, a lot of cruise ships don't offer irons because of liability for fires, so you might want to bring your own iron if you have clothes that will wrinkle.

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