Taking your first cruise? It’s exciting, but can also be surprisingly nerve-wracking.
When you are a rookie cruiser, there are likely a million questions in your head. What time do I get to the port? What do I wear on formal night? Should I buy the drink package? How does tipping on a cruise work?
For such a relaxing and fun vacation, taking your first cruise can seem to cause a lot of stress. And of course, perhaps the biggest question is what do you pack for a cruise?
We’ve covered the most important things to pack for a cruise, but when you’re a first-timer, there are a number of things that you need to bring that are easy to forget — or you might just not think about.
Why Packing for a Cruise is Different Than Any Other Vacation
At first glance, you might think that packing for a cruise is pretty easy — pack a few swimsuits, some shorts, and you are set. And thankfully, packing isn’t that hard. But it is different from taking a regular vacation.
The big issue is that cruise ships head to sea. Head to a land-based resort and forget something, then it’s not a big deal. You can just run out and grab whatever you didn’t bring. At sea, you can’t do that. You either have to wait until you reach a port or hope that the ship has it for sale. Even if it’s available on the ship, it’s likely to be expensive (we’ve seen $17 bottles of DayQuil!).
With this in mind, Cruzely wanted to bring you the items that first-timers always wish they had packed for their cruise… but all too often didn’t know or forgot at home.
Note: The links to Amazon used below are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase, we receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
One of the most unusual things you don’t think to pack on cruise is an outlet adapter. But it’s not because the ships use different plugs like if you travel to Europe. It’s to add more plugs to the cabin. While newer ships are adding plugs and USB ports for all your devices, many older ships have just a single plug. That’s right, one plug.
An inexpensive outlet adapter plugs in and provides more outlets. Just be sure that it doesn’t have a surge protector, which are against the rules on the ship. This plug adapter from Amazon is less than $5 and is perfect for a cruise.
When you pack your luggage as a first-timer, you are likely thinking about what will fit on the plane, in your car, or in your stateroom. What many people forget about is when they head to shore at a port. There you will want to bring your towels, sunscreen, wallet, phone, and any number of other items. In other words, you’re going to want a bag. We think it’s best to bring a lightweight backpack (about $25 on Amazon) that folds up easily when empty. That way it doesn’t take much room when packing for your trip.
Cruise cabins can get dark. But if you want a little light, then your options are to turn on the overhead cabin light or the lamps next to the bed. Both bathe the cabin in a lot of light and can disturb another person trying to sleep. A good idea is to bring a small headlamp or reading light that you can use in the cabin after lights out so that you can read without bothering your significant other with a bright light.
Never taken a cruise before? You are likely worried about seasickness. Truth is that most ships are stable and the cruise lines like to sail in calm seas. Oftentimes you won’t feel a thing. Still, you will feel the ship moving if the seas pick up some. It’s a good idea to bring some seasickness remedies from home. They can be the patches that go behind your ears or pills that you take. No matter, having some relief is a good idea.
Headed to the beach, or hanging out in a pool? With any luck, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing on your cruise. In that case, what do you do with your wallet and phone while you’re enjoying the water? You can leave them on the beach or on a pool lounger, but then you have to keep an eye on them at all times. Instead, pack a waterproof pouch to stash your valuables that you can then take into the water with you. It’s an easy way to worry less on your cruise. The one shown above is about $10 for two on Amazon.
The Cruise Line’s App
These days, all the major cruise lines have apps for your phone. For instance, Carnival has the Hub app (read a full review here). These apps are extremely useful on your cruise. They let you see what’s going on at any time around the ship, have deck plans at your fingertips, book reservations on the ship, and even keep in touch with other people on your cruise. In other words, it’s like having a complete guide to everything on the ship right in your pocket.
You can download the app before you get to the ship, or download it once you are onboard.
Wine or Champagne
Unfortunately, cruise lines don’t let you bring beer or liquor onto the ship. But they will allow you to bring some wine or champagne. The limit is usually one bottle per stateroom or one bottle per adult, depending on the cruise line. If you drink these beverages, we highly recommend bringing your bottles. It may not seem like much for a long cruise, but it’s a much cheaper way to drink versus buying glasses of wine on the ship.
If you’re headed to the Caribbean, then warm clothes may be the last thing on your mind if you’re a first-time cruiser. The truth is, however, that nights in the Caribbean can get downright chilly on the ship. When you’re at sea at night, the temperature is in the low 70s, but with the breeze from the moving ship, it feels much colder. Even the air conditioner on the ship at night can get cold if you stay indoors. Pack a jacket or a hoodie for use during the evening hours.
Copy of Your Passport or Birth Certificate
You can travel on most cruises with only a birth certificate, but it’s a good idea to have a passport instead. Passports offer more flexibility if something happens and you have to head back home early (it’s rare, but does happen).
That said, no matter whether you have a passport of a birth certificate, it’s a smart idea to pack a photocopy of it. This way, you have a backup in case anything happens to the original.
Again, chalk it up as something you’d never think to pack on a vacation, but bringing a nightlight is smart. Inside the ship — especially interior cabins — it can get extremely dark in the room at any time of day. You’re likely not scared of the dark, but what about trying to walk to the bathroom in an unfamiliar cabin in the middle of the night in pitch black?
A simple nightlight (like this one) can make things much easier so that you’re not bumping into furniture when you have to get up.
Towel clips are one of those things that you’ve likely never really thought about. However, on a cruise they are worth their weight in gold.
Consider that a ship can easily sail 20 mph. Even if there isn’t a hint of breeze, that means there is still a 20 mph wind on the deck of the ship. In other words, you might be sitting poolside but the towel that you’re laying on will be flapping in the breeze. With a few of these towel clips you can get rid of that annoyance and enjoy your relaxing time getting some sun.
Aloe Vera/Healing Lotion
Sure you know to bring sunscreen on a cruise. But after day one you’ll find all sorts of people with bad sunburns. And how many of those people do you think remembered to bring some aloe to help that burn heal? That’s why first-time cruisers are smart to pack some relief with aloe vera lotion right alongside the sunscreen on their trip.
Need more ideas on what to bring? Here are 39 things to pack for a cruise.