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10 Things You Probably Forgot to Pack for Your Cruise

Pack smarter for your next cruise with this list of 10 commonly forgotten items.

The way you pack can make or break your cruise experience. One forgotten medicine might mean the difference between partying on deck at the Sail Away Party and curling into a seasick ball in your stateroom. Once that ship sails into the sunset, leaving Target and Amazon in its wake, don’t be left wishing you’d spent more time researching what you might need at sea. This list of 10 items will get you packing smart for your next cruise and set you up for a relaxing, worry-free week away from home.



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SIM Card

Picture this: Your tour guide drops you off at the beach in Aruba and promises to return in an hour to take you back to the boat. An hour passes and there’s no sign of the bus. You don’t need this kind of stress on your vacation. Make sure you have an international phone plan to cover your port days. If your cell phone provider doesn’t offer service in the countries you’ll be visiting, consider purchasing a SIM card to use for the duration of your trip. Let your friends and family know the new number, too, so they can contact you in case of emergency.

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Small Bills

Before your trip, stock up on one- and five-dollar bills to have on hand for port days. Remember that you might not be able to use your credit card for every purchase and plan ahead. Street vendors and beach bars in port cities often accept U.S. currency, but might not have change for a twenty. If they do, there’s a chance the bills they proffer are counterfeit. It’s best to have as close to the exact amount needed as possible. You might also want dollars on hand to tip for taxi drivers and tour operators. Plus, it’s nice to offer a bonus cash tip to your room steward at the end of your cruise, for folding all of those fabulous towel animals.

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Refillable Water Bottles


You never realize how much you appreciate a glass of cold water until it’s not readily available. If you’d like to have drinking water in your cabin, bring a thermos or water bottle to fill up onboard at a 24-hour beverage station. Reusable cups are also helpful if you’d like ice in your room. Depending on the cruise line, you may be able to bring bottles of water onboard, but they will need to be packed in your carry-on luggage. Review your cruise line’s policy for guidelines, as most have limitations on the number of beverages you can bring.

INSIDER TIPCarnival does not allow guests to bring bottled water onboard, but offers the option to pre-purchase water that will be delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day. Prices for the bottles are reasonable, but there is an 18% delivery fee.

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Laundry Detergent

All ships have laundry service where you can pay per item cleaned, but if you’re looking for a more affordable option, see if yours has guest laundry rooms. Several Carnival ships have small launderettes onboard. They’re tucked away, and even the crew members might not know their location, but you can find them on the ship’s deck plan. These launderettes offer powder detergent for sale but bring pods and dryer sheets from home for added convenience.

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Travel Clothesline

If there’s one thing you’re bound to have a lot of on your cruise, it’s wet bathing suits. Bring along a travel clothesline to hang them up them in your cabin, because you don’t want to risk putting them on your balcony to dry. They might blow away!

INSIDER TIPTravel clotheslines that don’t require clothespins are available on Amazon for less than $4. These don’t take up much space when packing and can free up space you might otherwise need for extra bathing suits.

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Power Solutions

Cruise cabins have notoriously few power outlets. Plan ahead and buy a flexible power outlet multiplier, which acts as a power strip but takes up very little room in your suitcase. Power adapters with multiple USB ports are also handy for charging several devices at once. Just be sure to research your cruise line’s power policy as most do not allow surge protectors and may have other restrictions.

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Wine and Coffee

If you need good coffee to start the day, don’t count on a cruise line. Bring your own. Pack your favorite pour-over filter or, for the hardcore caffeine consumer, a small Nespresso machine. Whatever it takes. Coffee might be your most important meal of the day, so don’t leave it to chance. Once you’ve got that squared away, consider buying yourself some wine. Most cruise lines allow you to bring one bottle of wine per adult, as long as you pack it in your carry-on luggage.

INSIDER TIPIf you take the wine you’ve brought from home to a restaurant on the ship, you will be charged a corkage fee of up to $25 per bottle. You might enjoy the wine just as much, or more, by drinking it on your private balcony for free.

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Excursion Extras

It’s easy to forget that items readily available on a cruise ship—like youth life jackets—might not be available onshore excursions. Think through what you will need for port days, based on the activities you have planned. Consider packing Puddle Jumper life vests for new swimmers, a waterproof phone pouch, inflatable booster seats for small children, snorkels, towel clips, and even snacks (or at least ZipLock bags, so you can stock up on cruise snacks for your day off the ship).

INSIDER TIPYou’ll be able to borrow towels from the ship, but don’t forget to pack a shoulder bag or backpack to help carry them.

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Themed Apparel

Theme nights on cruises are a blast, as long as you know they’re coming.  It’s no fun to learn about Elegant Night once you’re onboard with only wrinkly shorts and tees at your disposal. Be sure to research the nights your cruise will celebrate, so you can get in on the action. Royal Caribbean often offers themed nights like Masquerade Ball and Toga Party. Carnival schedules a White Hot Party, where guests don all white. And Norwegian often plans a Vintage Night. These special evenings make great photo opportunities, so you won’t want to miss out.

INSIDER TIPGo the extra mile and get everyone in your party matching shirts to wear on embarkation day. When it comes to themed tees, the more ridiculous the cruise pun, the better.

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This five-dollar purchase might just save your vacation. If your body goes into shock from the sheer volume of delicious delicacies you’re consuming from sun-up to sundown, you’ll be happy to have these little pills on hand. Stocking up on TUMS is also a good plan. And motion sickness bands. In fact, any medicine you might possibly need at sea, go ahead and throw it in. Tell yourself that if you have it, you won’t need it.

INSIDER TIPThink about your shore excursions when packing, too. Planning a catamaran tour? Don’t forget the Dramamine!

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