When it comes to planning your cruise, there are a number of things that you need to bring with you. Obviously you’ll want to pack a swimsuit, underwear, and a formal outfit (if your cruise does the fancy dinners) as well as t-shirts, shorts, and comfortable shoes. And remember regardless of when you’re sailing out, the Caribbean is HOT. So if it’s snowing when you leave, expect some hot summer sun once the boat gets a little ways out. Oh, and don’t forget your phone charger!
Okay so you have the basics packed but now what? You might think that the basics are all you need but seasoned cruisers can tell you that there are more essentials that will make life at sea that much better. And if you’re tempted to say, “well, I’ll just pick up whatever I’ve left behind or decide I need,” keep in mind that you’re on a boat. In the middle of the ocean. Miles from the closest store. In other words, you’re far away from the nearest store. While these floating hotels do sell general items like feminine needs, medicine, and toiletries, they won’t carry a variety of other things besides basics.
While it’s tempting and often a good idea to pack light for trips, cruises are the one vacation that you should probably come fully prepared; and yes, over packing is a good thing in these scenarios.
So below we have compiled a list of our favorite cruise essentials that you might not have considered.
1. Rolling Suitcase (preferably a 4-wheel spinner)
This is the most important item to bring on your cruise and while it’s obvious that you’ll need a suitcase, it might be as obvious that you’ll need one on wheels. And if you’re tempted to bring a couple of duffel bags instead, please don’t. Having one to carry on your shoulder with a few items is great but you definitely don’t want to rely on just them.
There are usually stairs, inclined walkways, and packed thresholds along your journey to your cabin and the walk from the cruise terminal to your destination can be pretty long as well. This means that you’ll be incredibly sore and tired from lugging stuff around if you aren’t careful.
Think two wheels are enough? In most cases it’ll definitely suffice, but a four-wheel spinner will make your life way easier. Traditional rolling suitcases can get caught up around your feet and they take up quite a bit space when trailing you. A four-wheel suitcase will insure that your belongings stay right beside you and it’s much easier to navigate.
2. Small and portable cabin fan
We consider this one a must have and absolutely will not set foot on a boat (or anywhere for that matter) without one. Depending on what part of the boat you’re staying at, you can expect it to be dead quiet or rather loud; especially if you’re near the gambling or arcade areas. Cruise ship walls are also pretty thin so you can sometimes hear your neighbor’s TV. A small fan will give you the white noise you crave and also help circulate air.
While you might be tempted to bring something kind of bulky or your favorite fan from home, pick something small and portable. You don’t want to be loaded down waiting to get on the cruise ship nor do you want to have to lug it around.
Also if it’s battery powered, bring several spares for it.
Okay, we admit that’s probably awkward to see this on the list and honestly it’s a little weird recommending it but you’ll have to trust us on this one. While it’s probably not necessary if you’re staying by yourself, it’s definitely a must have if you’re sharing the cabin with someone. Why? Well, the cabins are notoriously small and the bathrooms are located right inside the room with you. This means that when you do your business and open the door, the smell’s coming out into the room with you. So unless you have a balcony, there’s no airing the smell out.
Even if it’s just you, bringing one will seriously improve your cabin life quality. Nobody wants to sit in a room filled with stink and poo-pourri takes care of it. Plus the bottles are small enough to fit in your suitcase without taking up much space.
4. Sleep mask
Sleep masks aren’t necessarily a must bring but we figured they should have a place on the list regardless. If you’re staying on in the interior of the ship the rooms are rather dark so you might not necessarily need one. But if you’re planning on getting a balcony room, a sleep mask will definitely come in handy; especially if you’re like us and love to sleep in the dark.
If you don’t have one already, get a contoured sleep mask. Not only do they block the most light, but they are also incredibly comfortable since they don’t press down on your eyes.
5. Outlet adapter
Chances are you’re bringing your phone, maybe a laptop or tablet, a curling iron or flatiron, maybe a nightlight and hopefully your portable fan (assuming it isn’t battery powered). These are all good ideas to bring but your outlet options are typically limited inside of your cabin. This means that if you want to run multiple devices at once, you’ll need a couple of outlet adapters.
We recommend bringing at least two. You might also be wondering why we didn’t suggest a surge protector instead but cruise ships have barred these as they are fie hazards. So this means you’ll need to rely on the adapters.
6. Hanging toiletry bag
Okay, so you’ve got all of your toiletries packed nice and neat in your suitcase or their own bag. Now it’s time to take a shower and use them. So where do you put all of your stuff? It’s a pretty big inconvenience to go back and forth to your suitcase and once you get a look at the size of your in cabin bathroom, you’ll realize that there’s barely enough room on the counter for your toothbrush and toothpaste. This is where a hanging toiletry bag shines. They take up very little space in your suitcase but can hold a lot of your items.
Hang the bag up on the bathroom door for easy access. You can also pack a “his” and “hers” and still have room in the bathroom without feeling cluttered.
7. Water shoes
Water shoes are a must have for any cruise, especially if you intend to go on excursions. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve neglected to bring a pair and our feet have paid the price. Once we visited a pretty rocky beach and it was impossible to get into the water with flip-flops. We kept slipping and ultimately had to go in barefoot and believe us, it wasn’t pleasant!
Head to an outdoor store like Cabela’s or Academy for your shoes. Not only will these offer better grip quality that your standard water shoe, but the sandal style allows your feet to breathe and means that both your foot and the shoe will dry faster.
8. SPF lip balm
This one may or may not surprise you. If you’re one of those that carries lip balm everywhere you go, then you know how important this one is. The last thing you want to deal with are chapped lips on your cruise. For those that don’t consider lip balm a staple (we’re jealous), don’t neglect this one. The winds on the ocean are very strong, drying, and salty which wrecks havoc on your lip.
Honestly, you can’t beat Sun Bum lip balms. Not only are they SPF rated, but the ingredients also leave your lips incredibly soft and refreshed for hours. You won’t have to constantly reapply the balm and the flavors/scents are truly delicious.
If you opt for a different brand, make sure it’s SPF rated. You definitely don’t want your lips roasting in the sun!
9. Beach blanket
When you’re booking your excursion, chances are you’ll be spending some time on the beach. While most of these places will have lounge chairs, they typically won’t provide towels. And even if they do provide towels, they’re rather scratchy and worn, but honestly we can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve had access to a towel that wasn’t ours on an excursion. This is where your decision to bring one along shines.
We suggested a beach blanket rather than a towel and for good reason: it can double as something to sit on if you’re not quick enough to score a lounge chair. We also suggest taking a microfiber one. Not only do they dry much faster, but the microfiber cloth also takes up much less than space than a traditional towel.
10. Slip resistant flip-flops
Okay it’s a given that you’ll want to bring flip-flops on the cruise. After all, they’re easy to slide in and out of so pool/beach time is a breeze. What you might not realize is that not all flip-flops are created equal when it comes to cruises.
You’ll definitely want to opt for slip resistant ones. The deck areas, especially around the pool and hot tubs, can get very slick making them fall risks. The lido deck is another dangerous area where these shoes will come in handy.
Don’t sacrifice quality for price. It can be tempting to pick up a cheap pair or two from Old Navy but it’s not worth the slip risk. The last thing you want to do is spend your vacation in the medical bay instead of out on the ship enjoying the weather. And while the water shoes will probably cover you in this area, sometimes it’s nice to have something you can quickly kick off before you get into the hot tub.
11. Ziploc bags
This is one of the most overlooked cruise essentials out there in our opinion. Not only can you store your cell phone, wallet, and passport inside and keep them dry, but they will also protect them from sand.
Ziploc bags can also be used to keep your wet clothes separate from your dry clothes. Want to separate your dirty clothes from your clean clothes? Toss them in a Ziploc bag. Wet toiletries that you don’t want to put back in the bag the morning you depart from your cruise? Simply put them in a Ziploc bag, pack them up, and you’re ready to go.
Use resealable Ziploc bags and don’t skimp on the quality; regardless of what you plan on keeping in the bags you want to make sure it’s protected. We also recommend bringing a variety of sizes ranging from sandwich to gallon.
12. Mask and snorkel
If you’re planning on spending any time under the water, you’ll want to bring a mask and snorkel. Many excursions will rent or loan equipment but keep in mind that other people have had this on their face and it may or may not have been cleaned to your standards. For this reason, we recommend bringing your own. Plus if you have a small head/face like one of our writers, it might prove difficult renting one that actually fits.
Test it rigorously before bringing it along! You want to make sure that the mask not only fits right but is also comfortable and leak proof. If you don’t have a pool or lake nearby to test your purchase at, simply fill the tub or sink up and stick your face under! The last thing you want is to not be able to see all the beautiful sea life on your excursion.
Spend more time in Margaritaville and less time worrying about what you didn’t pack
For our seasoned cruisers, how many of these items do you consider necessities and how many on our list do you take with you? For new cruisers, which one(s) on the list surprised you the most? And of course if we missed any must haves, feel free to let us know! We’re always looking for ways to improve our vacations so if you have any suggestions for cruise necessities, drop us a line.