After working on cruise ships for six years, I developed a list of things I pack for every voyage.
You can save money by bringing your own reusable water bottle, snorkel mask, and water shoes.
Motion-sickness meds, hand sanitizer, and small US bills can make your travels more convenient.
When you work on a cruise ship for six years, you pick up tips that will save you money and make traveling more convenient.
Whether I'm doing a six-month contract as a crew member or cruising for a few days as a guest, these are the 11 things I always pack for a cruise:
Marine- or reef-safe sunscreen protects both your skin and the environment.
Sunscreen is vital if you're going to be spending a lot of time outdoors.
Marine-safe sunscreen is free of chemicals and ingredients that could potentially damage coral reefs or harm marine life.
Even if you don't plan on going to the beach, the water in the cruise ship pools usually comes from and is returned to the ocean. By buying this type of sunscreen, you can protect both yourself and the sea creatures from harm.
Not bringing an adequate beach bag or backpack can detract from your time in port.
When packing for a cruise, it's easy to remember your luggage and purse. But sometimes, we forget to pack a mid-sized bag for our time spent in port.
Depending on your itinerary, this could be a beach bag or a backpack. Either way, it's always helpful to have a decent-sized bag that is both comfortable to carry for long periods of time and big enough to hold all the essentials.
Motion-sickness meds are always worth packing, even if you don’t use them.
A number of guests I've met throughout the years found Sea-Bands (a type of acupressure wristband) to be very helpful in avoiding motion sickness on board.
Come prepared with tissues and hand sanitizer.
Although there's been an abundance of hand sanitizer on cruise ships long before COVID-19, the public bathrooms in the countries you visit on your cruise may be less well-equipped.
As a rule, I carry tissues and hand sanitizer with me on all my travels, just in case. This is also helpful when there's nowhere to wash your hands but you want to sample the local cuisine.
Be ready for theme parties and formal nights with the right costumes and attire.
Most, if not all, cruise lines have an elegant night or captain's dinner where formal attire is either encouraged or required for eating in the main dining rooms.
In addition to this, every cruise line I know of also has various theme parties, from glow parties (where guests are encouraged to wear neon) to '80s parties.
As a member of the entertainment department, I was always required to have costumes or attire to match the theme.
Even now as a guest, it's fun to check the itinerary before the trip to see which theme nights to expect.
Bringing your own snorkel mask and/or water shoes can save you money.
Rentals can be overpriced when you're cruising in the Caribbean or any tropical spot with good snorkeling conditions.
If you're a strong swimmer who doesn't require a life jacket or fins, bringing your own snorkel mask and/or water shoes can save you a lot of money on equipment rentals.
An added bonus? These items don't take up too much space in your bag.
Small US bills are a necessity for purchases in port.
When off the ship in port, it helps to have some US dollars on hand to pay for taxi rides and other small purchases.
You can't always guarantee credit cards will be accepted, but many ports in the Caribbean and other parts of the world will take US dollars.
If you pay with big bills, however, you will likely receive change in the respective country's currency. This can become an issue if you end up with more local currency than you intended to spend that day, which may not be super useful if you have no plans to return.
Keep your phone charged on the go with a power bank.
Sometimes I get so busy on cruises that I don't get the chance to properly charge my phone. A power bank is a great way to make sure you don't run out of battery when you need it the most.
Some activities require a waterproof or action camera.
Action or waterproof cameras can be a great way to capture the moment without risking damage to your phone. These cameras can endure a lot and will cost less to replace if something goes wrong.
Personally, I prefer a conventional waterproof digital camera to an action camera because of the photo quality.
Although they may be bigger in size, a lot of waterproof cameras are still meant to withstand low temperatures and/or being dropped.
A reusable water bottle with a filter is the best way to stay hydrated.
A reusable water bottle can save you a lot of money on bottled water. Although most ships have refill stations with filtered water, I usually opt for the bottles that have filters.
Magnets can be used to hold up decorations, photographs, tour tickets, and other important pieces of paper.
A lot of people don't realize that the walls of a ship — also called bulkheads — are metal and can be decorated with magnets.
As a crew member, I always had a collection of photographs of close friends and loved ones back home that I would take with me on every contract.
Magnets can also be used to decorate for holidays or special occasions. Whether you're going to be staying in a cabin for a few days or a few months, personal pictures and other mementos can be a great way to make your room feel more like home.
You can also use magnets to decorate your cabin door so that it's easier to find your room.
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