15 Must-Pack Cruise Essentials

These products separate the first-timers from savvy cruisers and will 100 percent elevate your trip.

Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money off these affiliate links. Learn more.
February 21, 2020

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.

$10.99, Pack of 2

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.

$6.99, Pack of 2

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.

$7 $4
46% Off

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.

$11.99, Pack of 8

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.


A first aid kit isn’t the first thing most people think of when packing for a cruise, but it should be. While every cruise ship has an infirmary with medical supplies, you’ll pay a hefty stateroom charge for some Advil or TUMs.


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.

Next Up

The Best Packing Cubes for Traveling

Use these top-rated organizers to shore up suitcase space and keep your essentials easily within reach.

The Best Shoe Pouches for Travel

Keep sneakers, heels, hiking boots and more organized with these top-rated packing cubes and bags.

I Tested Solgaard’s Best-Selling Luggage – Here’s What to Know Before You Buy

Considering buying a new piece of luggage? This suitcase keeps you organized throughout your travels with a removable shelving unit that allows you to pack and unpack in seconds.

The Best Luggage for Every Style, Need, Budget and Trip for 2023

Pack up for any type of travel with these top-rated suitcases, weekenders, carry-on bags and more.

What HGTV Editors Can't Travel Without

Brave the busyness of travel season with our editors' tried and true packing essentials.

41 Things You Need for Your Next Road Trip

Hit the highway in comfort and style with these travel heroes.

The Best Backpacks for Every Trip

Shop backpacks that are highly rated by HGTV editors and travelers around the world.

The 10 Best Carry-Ons for Every Type of Traveler

From hardside spinners to duffels, backpacks and ride-ons for kids, we've found the perfect carry-on for your next trip.

15 Must-Have Items for a Family Road Trip With Kids

Keep kids of all ages happy and entertained while on the road with these gadgets, games and more.

10 Scenic Vacation Home Rentals That Are Wheelchair-Accessible + Perfect for Your Next Family Getaway

We scoured Airbnb and Vrbo for some of the prettiest vacation rentals suitable for the whole family.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.


Home Town

10am | 9c

Home Town

11am | 10c

Home Town

12pm | 11c

Home Town

1pm | 12c

Home Town

2pm | 1c

House Hunters

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

House Hunters

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

8:30pm | 7:30c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

10:31pm | 9:31c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

House Hunters

1:31am | 12:31c

House Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

House Hunters

3:30am | 2:30c

House Hunters

4:30am | 3:30c

House Hunters

5:30am | 4:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.