Whether you start packing for a cruise three weeks before the embarkation date, or you're the type who throws together a bag a few hours before heading to the airport, don't leave home without these essentials. Fodor's cruise expert Andrea Rotondo shares her must-pack items for every cruise—some are no-brainers, but others may surprise you. Bookmark this list to help you ensure smooth sailing on your high-seas adventure.
1. Power Strip With Surge Protector
Even if you booked the smallest cabin aboard the ship, you’ll still be happy that you brought an extra power strip with you. These days we all travel with a bazillion electronic devices. We want to plug in our smart phones that double as alarm clocks while we’re charging our laptops and digital cameras. That doesn’t even cover any electronic games you or your kids are bringing along.
2. Flexible Tripod
A small, flexible tripod should be in your go-bag at all times. You can hook it to your tablet, set it on a table in your cabin, and watch a movie. Or, you can use it in conjunction with your camera to set up terrific portraits of you and your traveling companions. Joby’s GorillaPod comes in a variety of models to suit your needs.
3. Sun Protection
You’re probably thinking this tip is a no-brainer. Of course you’d bring along sunscreen on your warm-weather cruise to the Caribbean, Mexico, or French Polynesia. But, doctors suggest bringing along some sun protection—at least SPF 15—even when traveling to places like Alaska. Active cruise itineraries mean you’ll be outdoors for many hours at a time and it’s best to have some protection on your face and arms, at the very least.
4. Emergency Medicine Kit
If you get sick onboard, you should be able to find most common over-the-counter medications at either the ship’s boutique or medical center. However, you might have to fork over an arm and a leg for it! Before you leave home, create an emergency medicine kit that includes basics like aspirin and other pain relievers, diarrhea medicines like loperamide (found in Imodium among other products), seasickness protection (meclizine works well for most and is found in products like Bonine). Of course, you should also be sure to bring plenty of any prescription medications that you require.
5. Night Light
Before going on your next cruise, pick up a cheap nightlight at your local grocery or department store. Cabins—with their blackout drapes and tight fitting doorways—are often pitch-black when the lights go out. It’s helpful to place the nightlight in, or near, the bathroom so you and your travel companions can make your way around the cabin at night without turning on the harsh overhead lights.
6. Thumb Drive
There is no end to the useful documents and files you can archive on a tiny thumb drive. File away copies of important documents like your cruise itinerary, images of your passport and driver’s license, credit cards, emergency contact information, and airline etickets. Keep the thumb drive with you at all times. You hopefully won’t need any of the data on it, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing you have a backup plan if you lose any of the original documents.
7. Dry Bag
You’ve probably seen professional photographers carrying around “dry bags” to keep their equipment safe and dry, but you should consider acquiring one as well. Dry bags are made out of waterproof material and seal so that they are watertight. Most people use them when kayaking or canoeing but you can also use one as your shore excursion daypack. Use it as you transfer from the cruise ship to the tender and from the tender to shore. A variety of dry bags in all price ranges are available at your local outdoor/camping store.
8. Backup Batteries or Charger
There’s nothing worse than having your cell phone or camera run out of juice while traveling. Be sure to bring extra batteries or rechargeable batteries and a charger.
9. Antibacterial Wipes
You’ve no doubt heard of norovirus. It’s a contagious virus that you can pick up from contaminated food or water or by touching tainted surfaces. Office buildings, hospitals, and cruise ships can be breeding grounds for the norovirus. The cruise industry is vigilant in following best practices to make sure the virus doesn’t take hold of a ship. All cruise ships are outfitted with dispensers of alcohol or antibacterial gel. Use them whenever you get on or off the ship and before entering the dining room. Don’t rely on the ship though. Bring your own stash of easy-to-pack antibacterial wipes. You can buy a pack at any drugstore or grocery store.
10. Corkscrew/Bottle Opener
We’ve saved the best bit of advice for last. Trust us: don’t forget to pack a corkscrew/bottle opener. You may choose to bring a bottle of wine or two onboard to enjoy in your cabin. Most cabins don’t come outfitting with such accouterments so it’s best to bring your own. Just be sure to pack this in your checked luggage. Otherwise, airport security will confiscate it if it’s found in your carry-on bag.
What items do you always pack before a cruise? Tell us in the comments section.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.