Cruise Packing Tips

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

A compilation of all the packing items you never thought to bring on a cruise by the experienced sailors at CruiseMates

Packing for a cruise can be more complicated than a typical land vacation, for reasons the uninitiated probably never thought about. For example, did you know that almost all cruise ships are built in Europe? This means most power outlets are round sockets and 220 volts.

Other things to ponder: How does one define "formal" for a cruise to Barbados? And what if you get assigned to a cabin next to the anchor drop?

Fear not, for we have assembled a list of cruise-exclusive packing tips offered to us by our loyal and experienced CruiseMates readers:

The Things You Never Thought to Pack for Your Cruise

  1. An AC extension cord or adapter. While most cruise ships use the European 220-volt power as their standard onboard, they still supply your cabin with one U.S.-standard AC outlet. It is usually by your desk so you can plug in your hairdryer or laptop. Most CruiseMates take along a power strip so they can plug in other incidentals. Typically, you will need to plug in your laptop, digital camera recharger, hair dryer, curling iron, etc. Never plug anything made for 110 volts into a 220-volt socket even if you have an adapter to make it fit. Your curling iron will burn your hair off, and you may see your video camera go up in a puff of smoke. Many separate power adapters for laptops and cameras, however, can sense what voltage they are plugged into and will automatically reconfigure for it. Read the fine print on your adapter. A three-way AC adapter you plug directly into the socket is handy and small to carry.

  2. A handheld GPS. They work just as well at sea as they do on land, though there are fewer roads. You can track exactly where the ship is at any given moment. If you download maps for the ports you are visiting, you might avoid getting lost.
  3. A travel alarm -- lighted. Most cruise ship staterooms do not have a clock. Inside cabins have no window or other source of light at all. A lighted clock not only tells time, it gives you a beacon to help you find your bed in the middle of the night.
  4. Makeup mirror. Some lines provide them, but most do not. Besides, you can't count on the bathroom lights as being ideal for makeup application, so a portable mirror adds flexibility. A two-sided mirror with magnification on one side is best.
  5. Coffee warmer. Those easy-to-plug-in coffee warmers come in very handy for coffee and tea anytime of the night or day.
  6. Sewing kit and safety pins. They are small and you never know when they will come in handy.
  7. Highlighter Pen. Every ship gives out a schedule of the next day's activities every night. Use the pen to select those that interest you.
  8. Pre-pack your "port bag." Pre-pack a tote bag to carry on shore calls; put in insect repellant, moist towelettes, sunscreen, Kleenex, disposable poncho, etc. That way you always have it ready to go with everything you might need. Waterproof bags are perfect for the beach.
  9. An extra carry-on bag. Many people use it to bring wine or soda with them to the ship and then pack it with souvenirs for the ride home. During the trip you can use it for dirty laundry.
  10. Plastic baggies. Select food items at the buffet and put them in these bags, then take them ashore for your lunch so you won't have to spend money in over-priced tourist trap restaurants.
  11. A water bottle -- sometimes called a Camelback or hydration kit. You may want to bring water back to your stateroom from the buffet, or take water with you in port. This saves you from buying expensive bottled water onboard or ashore.
  12. A thermal capped coffee mug. You can take it up to the Lido on disembarkation day and get a tall cup of coffee to take back to the room. Also handy for sitting by the pool with lemonade or iced tea.
  13. Small amounts of laundry detergent. Many ships have self-service laundries, but if they are sold out of soap or you don't have any quarters, you are out of luck. Also, a small bottle of Woolite can save you from having to pay for laundry service.
  14. A travel steamer for clothes. These little steamers do a great job taking wrinkles out of linens and cotton. Better than an iron in many cases.
  15. Bright ribbons to identify your luggage. In airports or cruise line port areas, you want to find your luggage quickly. Get something you will recognize immediately.
  16. Small bills for tipping. These days it is considered appropriate to tip for room service. A dollar or two is usually enough. Plus, you can use them for taxis and bellmen.
  17. An "over the door" hanging shoe holder. This will give you extra closet and drawer space. Many of them have compartments for many things -- underwear, socks, hose, bathing suits.
  18. A document holder that hangs around your neck. These usually hold your passport and boarding passes in compartments where they are easy to find. You will be asked to show your ticket and ID several times in an airport.
  19. A list of email addresses, login names and passwords, credit card numbers, passport numbers, emergency phone numbers.
  20. Business cards. An easy way to dispense your contact information even if you are retired.
  21. Travel jewelry case. These soft cases have holes for earrings, loops for rings and zippered pockets. Keep your jewelry organized and easy to inventory. Also easy to put in the room safe.
  22. A nightlight that also doubles as a safety light or flashlight if the power goes out. Cruise ships' inside cabins can be total blackness, as they have no windows at all. These little lights are invaluable.
  23. Earplugs. You never know when you are going to end up in a cabin next to the disco, or the chain holding the anchor. Earplugs can be a lifesaver if you are a light sleeper.

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