15 Must-Pack Cruise Essentials
These products separate the first-timers from savvy cruisers and will 100 percent elevate your trip.
Cruises are one of the best, budget-friendly ways to see several destinations in one vacation. But sometimes life at sea can be challenging. Staterooms are getting smaller. There’s never an outlet where you need it. And cruise coffee is so, so gross — even on the fancy ships! We’ve rounded up the best items that will up your cruise game and make your time at sea more comfortable. Check out these must-pack products before your next cruise. Bonus: most are less than $20!
Cruise ship staterooms are tiny and outlets are limited, especially when you’re trying to charge phones, an e-reader, a hairdryer and your camera battery all at the same time. A power strip is a great way to create more outlets and charge multiple devices at once.
Whether you’re exploring a port of call or lounging on the pool deck, it’s important to stay hydrated while in the sun. And if you don’t bring a water bottle, you’ll be forced to make constant trips back to the cafeteria to refill those tiny plastic cruise cups. This water bottle from S'well holds 16 ounces and can keep beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours.
Cruise lines are cutting down on their single-use plastics and you won’t find plastic straws anymore. If you don’t like how mushy those paper straws can get —especially in a frozen pool cocktail — bring your own reusable straw. This set comes with a travel case and a handy cleaning tool.
For first time cruisers, you won’t really know if you struggle with seasickness until you’re at sea. Cruising on big ships is totally different boating on your local lake so it’s a good idea to be prepared and bring these anti-nausea bracelets with you because they’re three times the price in the cruise ship gift shop. The way the band works is by applying gentle pressure to your wrist and long-time cruisers who get seasick swear by them.
Though some people do struggle with seasickness, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel much movement on major cruise lines because the ships are so big and use stabilizers to prevent rocking. However, tenders — the tiny boats that take you ashore on port days — can be brutal on choppy ocean water. I actually try to avoid cruise itineraries with a lot of ports that tender in because I get so sick. I also, unfortunately, don’t do many charter tours at sea because I just can’t handle small boats. But when I do, I take a Dramamine about 30 minutes before getting on the boat and it magically takes away the seasickness. Make sure to use the non-drowsy formula and not the original. Because the original will make you feel like you’re sleepwalking in broad daylight.
Most cruise ships offer laundry facilities, and I always take advantage of this as I refuse to check a bag when I travel. I wash my clothes mid-cruise and outfit repeat so I don’t have to pack as much. While using the machines is typically free, I’ve seen some cruise lines charge for detergent, so I just bring my own. These soap sheets are amazing because, unlike travel-size detergent bottles, they won't take up any of your precious TSA-regulated liquids space.
I’ve traveled on several different cruise ships and with several different brands and I’m calling it: cruise ship coffee is nasty. It’s watery, not strong enough and, no matter how much creamer you add, it just tastes like emptiness. Instant coffee packets aren’t perfect either but definitely a step above cruise coffee and WAKA instant packets have rave reviews on Amazon.
If you’re going on a Caribbean cruise, chances are you’ll be spending time on a beach or doing a water tour. Keep your phone safe from water and sand while keeping it at the ready for photos with this handy lanyard case. It comes in tons of different colors, but I really like the iridescent one.
If you’re traveling on a river cruise or a port-intensive Mediterranean cruise, you want to think about security just as you would on any other European trip. Crossbody bags instead of backpacks are always better to deter pickpockets and you should definitely use an RFID-blocking wallet to keep your personal data safe. I’m a big fan of this travel wallet on Amazon. And if you don’t believe me, check out the 6,000+ gold star reviews. It comes in more than a dozen trendy colors and there’s a pocket for everything; so, you can keep your cruise documents, IDs and cards safe and organized.
Most major cruise lines let you start boarding the ship before lunchtime on embarkation day. However, you typically can’t access your stateroom until later in the afternoon — sometimes as late as 3 p.m. And if you’re using the cruise line's luggage service to load your bags you might not see your clothes until the evening. So, it’s a good idea to pack a lightweight carry-on with your essentials and swimsuits so you can make the most of your first cruise day and not miss a minute of fun. Away’s Everywhere Bag is nylon so it’s easy to wipe down if a kiddo spills sunblock or ice cream. And it’s the perfect bag for air travel, too, because it features a handy slit for sliding the bag on top of a roller.