25 Weird Things to Pack for a Cruise (and What not to Take)

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Things to pack for a cruiseHave you been dreaming of a winter cruise? It's January, and where I live that means frigid cold, bad air quality and a big case of the "cooped ups." If that sounds familiar a winter cruise to a luscious sun filled and beach infested location may sound up your alley. For years now a group of my favorite travel buddies and I have embarked on a winter cruise as means to do a little exploring, pamper ourselves, beat the winter blues and warm our souls.

We've estimated that between the 12 of my cruising friends we have been on over 125 cruises total and to 6 different continents. While I don't consider my one self to be a cruising expert, I think the group as a whole would have some pretty good advice. So, we put our heads together and came up with our top list of weird and wonderful things you might forget, as well as a few packing hacks. Here you go, my list of top must travel packs and packing hacks for a cruise.

Best Insulated Cup for a Cruise

Cruise Must Pack Items:

A coffee mug or a drink cup
Yes, I take both in form of a 2 in 1. While the coffee, juice, water and soda flow freely on a cruise ship, the means of transporting them doesn't. Most often the beverage vehicle is a small plastic cup. This makes for a short lived refresher by the pool and can be a messy and create hot spill traveling about the ship. My personal favorite to bring is one that doubles as both a hot and cold cup like this one found on Amazon>>

Zip Bags, Zip Bags and Zip Bags
Don't leave home without them. They take Zero space in the luggage and handy for a monumental number of things. I pack both food sizes bags as well as one of the big bags and would not travel ANYWHERE without them. Need I say more?

Waterproof case for camera iphone

Protection for your phone
We purchased a couple of these waterproof cases for our phone from Amazon for some play at our local theme and waterpark and have used them many times since. It works with a touch and is great around the pool or at the beach. Note that the manufacturer states this product is waterproof to 100 ft. We don't use our phone underwater, so we haven't tried that. If you do decide to take it underwater, make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and test with a paper towel in the pool first.

Pack Shower Hooks for Cruises

Shower hooks (you heard that right)
Shower hooks take zero space in your luggage and you can hook them right on the closet rail or shower bar. They are perfect for hanging your swimsuit and cover-up, hat, tank tops and more. I like these plastic C-hook style they are cheap and handy. I imagine whatever you have on hand will do the trick.

An insulated beach bag or backpack
If you're going to take a beach bag or backpack with you anyway with you anyway, you might as well make it an insulated one. These same bags will hold your personal items but can also keep a self made PB&J sandwich (remember the zip bags), yogurt, fruit, granola and other items that are readily available at the ship's breakfast buffet.

Protein Travel Snacks
The ship does not have pre-packaged snacks. So, we take a long a small stash of things like nuts, Kind Bars and Granola for land exploration.You don't need an entire kitchen, just 1 snack per person per land day has been plenty for us.

While I do strongly recommend enjoying the local cuisine when off ship, having something to take the edge off at the beach or while browsing around is a good idea and being able to keep it somewhat cool works nicely.
See a variety of different insulated cooler bag options on Amazon here>>

Portable Power and Plug Strips

Power Strip
Some cabins only have one accessible power outlet. That can make for some major inconvenience. We've found that toting a power cord can be very valuable.

Multi outlet USB charger
One like this one found here on Amazon works perfectly for making charging all your devices and portable power easy. Don't forget the portable power. You'll likely be taking lots of pictures, I find my battery drains much quicker when I'm on vacation.

A Mini Stapler
At the same time you print your boarding pass, you'll also need to print your luggage tags. Luggage tags are to be attached to your bags before boarding. Your luggage is then taken by a ship's employee, scanned and put at your door. Don't put the tags on at the airport, they will just get torn off and cause confusion for the airline. You'll need to wait until you are dropping off your luggage at the port.

Tags for Cruise Luggage

Travel Tip: Speaking of luggage, since these ship tags are just regular paper from your printer, I recommend you cover them with packing tape (as a self lamination) before you go. This makes them stronger so they don't accidentally get torn off. For added security, purchase Scotch Self-Sealing Laminating Pouches, Bag Tags with Loops to use instead.

Sticky Notes
For leaving notes at your cabin door for your fellow travelers about where you'll be or what time to meet etc.

A Watch
While wandering the ship it's not likely you'll want to carry along your phone. With limited phone services available during sea days there just really isn't any reason too. Watches are so popular on the ship, the sell them by the droves. Save the cash and remember to take along your own.

The best things to bring on a cruise

Sunglasses and Hat
Also, if you're going to a colder climate make sure to bring gloves.

Sarong and or Palazzo Pants
Ladies, if you're traveling to a warm island climate, don't forget the Sarong. They are great for beaching it, covering your shoulders if they burn or just hanging out at the pool. I've even used it as a makeshift scarf for my head in the heat. Amazon has a large variety of colors here >>

Palazzo Pants are my perfect must have for a warm weather cruise. They are comfortable, cool, cute and can be worn EVERYWHERE, including as a cover-up on deck, while exploring the islands and they are even dressy enough for dinner. I never go on a cruise without at least two pairs. Both these items can be expensive on and off the ship. I'd save the dough and make sure to bring your own. Amazon has a large selection here >>

The Best list of Travel Hacks for a Cruise

Packing Hack:
And, speaking of Sarongs here's a little packing tip for you. To keep the quick to wrinkle fabric from looking like a wadded up mess, roll them around a wrapping paper or paper towel tube. Then use the inside of the tube to stash your flat iron, wrinkle reducer, stain remover pen, personal supplies or jewelry.

Packing for a Cruise. The do's and don'ts.

Binoculars
That's my cruise buddy Kerry, hanging out with the seagulls in the Caribbean. A common occurrence when you're setting sail. For moments like these I like to carry a small pair of Binoculars like these found here on Amazon. I've found they get used often on and off ship.

Things to take on a cruise

A Lanyard
Everywhere you go the second you leave your cabin you will need to have your ship card available. In the past I've struggled with where to put it, who wants to carry a bag or purse with them everywhere they go? I attached my card to a simple lanyard and was so happy to not have to worry about it. The ship sells lanyards for around $10.00, save the money and bring your own. Most ships will punch the hole for you.

I also saw some folks using around the neck travel wallets. While that seemed a bit bulky for my taste on the ship me, it may be something to consider while on shore.

A Beach Towel Clip (Boca Clip)
These clips are not only useful for keeping your towel in place on your deck chair which assures you won't come back to lost chair when you swim. They can also keep your hat from blowing away. As double duty I've used them in the cabin for hanging clothes in the shower to dry. You can purchase them at most stores like Target and Walmart.

Laundry Detergent Samples Packs and Dryer Sheets
Some cruise ships have laundry facilities. If you choose to do a load of wash it's usually around $4.00-$5.00 for the soap alone and that doesn't include the $2.00 to use the machine. Depending on the length of your cruise, you may want to have some on hand. If you're ship doesn't have a laundry room, detergent is useful for spot cleaning in the sink. Make sure to put them in a zip bag in case one should break.

Stain Removing Pen and Wrinkle Reducer Fabric Enhancer

Cruise Ship Packing Hack

Packing Hack: Speaking of laundry, here's a little packing hack. If it's been awhile since you dusted off that suitcase. Put a dryer sheet or two in with your clothes to get rid of the musty smell.

Mini First Aid Kit, Common Medications and Needle and Thread
These mini first aid kits from REI are great to have. Remember to pack common medications in it, like pain reliever, antacid and Dramamine if you fear sea sickness. I also like to stick a hotel sewing kit in mine. You can purchase these items in the cruise ship gift shop, but with the small amount of space they take, it's better to cart it from home?

What to pack for a Cruise Packing Light

A Suction Cup Toothbrush Toothbrush Holder
These handy little covers provide a clean place to keep your toothbrush in a cramped cabin bathroom. They are actually great for all travel. Just don't forget to take them with you when you disembark. I got mine for around $2.50 shipped free on Amazon.

Playing Cards or Card Game
They're easy to carry and are great to have while on deck. If you're traveling with kids, consider bringing UNO, Phase 10, Yahtzee, or other compact family game for down times.

Inflatable Beach Ball, Swim Goggles, and Snorkel Gear

Cruise Ship Packing Hacks

Cruise Packing Hacks:

Should you take zip ties / cable ties on your cruise?
The answer is yes! I first packed them when a fellow scuba diver was using one to fix the broken strap on one of his fins. I have learned the value of having them handy, in fact they are a staple in my land and sea travel bag. I've used them for fixing a broken a zipper pull, a broken camera strap, and an added way to secure my luggage tag. So, I say for the zero amount of space they take, pack them and leave them in your travel bag everywhere you go.

I've read that many people use zip ties in attempt to keep ship personnel from going through their luggage. I personally have never used them for locking my luggage and haven't seen that it would be useful for that.

Should you take an over the door shoe organizer?
The answer is probably not! They're great for hats, gloves and scarves, pantry and kitchen items, craft room and office supplies, bathroom necessities, toys and even shoes, these babies have so many uses around the home, I literally have one the back of every door of my home.

But are they as handy on a cruise ship? Some say yes and some say no. That's because the ship's design doesn't always work with them. So you will want to check the layout of your room first. If you are thinking of purchasing one only for a cruise, at around $8.00 and the space it takes in your luggage, I'd skip it, if you think you need one, you're probably packing too much.

Should you take a collapsible laundry bag?
The answer is it depends on your cabin! I've read on many blog posts where the writer suggests bringing one of these collapsible hampers. No one in our group said they had ever brought one, and none of us has ever wished we had. Squeezing one into your luggage and then cabin seems like a waste of space. I'd definitely skip it for a short cruise, if you are on an extended cruise, it might come in handy.

Do you need to bring extra hangers?
The answer is it depends on your clothes! While no one in our group has ever stated the wish for extra hangers, we're a pretty kick back crowd of light packers. With that said, the standard closet can be somewhat skimpy on hangers, so depending on the cruise length and your style of attire you may want to stash a few flat hangers in your bag. With that said however, we all agreed that they are on our do not pack list.

How to Pack Wine

Shoe Armour - Put bottle in a sealed bag, then offset in a pair of shoes.

Packing Wine for your Cruise:
To protect your wine lodge it tightly inside of two shoes and put them in between your clothing. Besure protect that wine in a zip bag first, just in case it breaks. This also keeps any shoe sweat away, ewee.... Make sure to check your cruise lines specific rules regarding bringing your own booze, most we've been on allow you to bring 1 bottle of wine per passenger to have in your cabin, most do not allow passengers to bring on the hard stuff, but that doesn't mean we haven't.

Pack Jewelry in small zip crafters bead bags:
Keep your jewelry tangle free and organized by putting in small beading bags. The put the whole shebang in a zip bag. These little bags are cheap and also handy for many other items too.

Best Way to Pack for a Cruise
Roll, Don't Fold
Roll your clothes when packing. Doing so not only allows your to carry more in less space, it also keeps them from wrinkling as much.

Cruise Ship Luggage Disembark

photo credit SeattleTodds

Decorate Your Luggage:
When debarking if you want crewmembers to carry your suitcases off the ship for you, you will need to have your packed bags set outside your cabin door the night before you disembark. Crewmembers will then pick up your luggage and place the bags in pre-assigned sections for you to reclaim.

There are quite literally 1,000's of bags in this area of every size shape and color. This is where a having a quick way to identify yours from others comes in handy. To make our luggage stand out, we wrap brightly colored duct tape (great for airports too) around the handle and use a colorful luggage tag. I have also seen people use pom-poms, ribbons and bows.

Note that this is just a list of things you might not thought of, it's up to you to remember, the sunscreen, swimsuit and flip flops. Happy Sailing.

Are you a cruise junkie? Leave a comment with your favorite thing to bring, packing tip or other cruise hack.

And, stay tuned for my upcoming posts: The clothes we take and how to cruise with just one carry one, where to find solace on busy cruiseship and how to save money on ship and off.


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2 Responses

  1. Great list!! Sarongs are the best! No need to lug a beach towel when you have one plus the sand won't stick to it. I would also add a waterproof watch-(-big 5 sells one for $10 that looks like a bracelet) so you are always on ship time. You can't rely on your phone because ship time may be different than "island time" and you don't want to miss the boat! Business cards-- I always meet lots of people and make new friends. It's great to be able to share contact info quickly. Lastly, lots of small bills for souvenirs, tips, etc.
    • Joani
      I love them too! There are so many uses for them.

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