Magnets, duct tape and over-the-door-shoe bags are just some of the low-tech items knowledgeable cruisers bring with them to make life on a cruise ship even easier than it already is. You can keep packing these old standbys, but we recommend taking your packing list into the 21st century with some more modern gadgets that bring even more wow to your cruise experience.
Whether you're looking for better ways to record your cruise memories or keep your identity safe, or want to communicate more effectively with the locals in the ports you visit, a handful of high-tech gadgets may be just what you need.
Cruise Critic has rounded up some of the most useful gadgets all cruisers should consider bringing on future sailings.
Regardless of whether you're a fan of the selfie or not, a telescoping selfie stick is actually a very handy gadget to have on a cruise with you. Putting aside its effectiveness as a selfie enabler, the arm also helps you capture better vacation photos in crowded locations, especially if you're short. Just pull the arm out to whatever length you need, and raise your camera above the heads of the crowds to capture the photograph you want. We recommend a selfie arm with a built-in shutter button (only available for smartphones) so you don't have to rely on a self-timer.
The funky, flexible tripod known as the GorillaPod has been around for a while, but by no means is it passe. It's smaller and easier to transport than a selfie stick, and it frees up both hands to be in the photo. Just attach it to your balcony railing, and hit the self-timer. The flexible legs allow you to set the tripod up on uneven surfaces (think rocks on the beach); you can even wrap it around the handlebars of a bike and shoot some video as you explore a port on two wheels.
Waterproof Video Camera
If you're a fair weather cruiser and enjoy spending most of your port time on the beach, the waterproof Kodak Action Cam SP1 might be the gadget for you. This compact -- it only weighs 5.4 ounces -- video camera records HD-quality video, has an LCD screen for easier viewing and is Wi-Fi-enabled so you can upload your videos straight to your laptop or tablet. It's perfect for capturing beach play, water park fun and snorkeling, as well as water-based excursions like swimming with stingrays and dolphins.
Waterproof Smartphone Case
Don't want to invest in yet another camera, but instead want to be able to take underwater photos and videos with your smartphone? To do that, you'll need a specialized waterproof smartphone case. One option, only for the iPhone 4 or higher, is the Snow Lizard SLXtreme, which not only protects your phone in the water but also acts as a solar-powered battery booster. While you're hanging out on the beach, you can be charging your phone, too. Another option is one of 11 cases, designed to fit just about any smartphone or tablet, made by Aryca Products. All have touchscreens, so you can use most, if not all, of your phone's applications while playing in the surf or snorkeling.
Electronics aren't the only things you want to keep safe when cruising. Your identity and financial security are also at risk. The easiest way to keep them safe, of course, is to throw your passport and wallet into your cabin safe for the duration of your cruise, but that doesn't work when you're in port or coming and going before and after the cruise. Keep your credit cards safe while visiting a port city by putting them in an RFID wallet, which shields them from anyone trying to scan them illegally. You can do the same for your passport with an RFID passport sleeve. Just make sure to do an online search before purchasing to make sure you're getting one that actually works.
One of the greatest facets of cruising is the abundance of onboard fun to be had. At night, you can choose from live music in a lounge or a show in the theater. On some cruises you can even catch a flick on the sun deck. Sometimes it's just as nice to stay in with your friends or significant other for the evening, but there's not always a large selection on the TV to keep you entertained. With the Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector, you can project standard definition-quality movies from your smartphone, tablet or laptop onto your cabin wall, and -- voila -- it's move night.
With so many of us toting around multiple electronics (his and hers smartphones, a tablet or laptop, a camera, maybe a curling iron or hair dryer), the one or two outlets most cruise ship cabins provide are not nearly enough. That's why a power strip is a must-pack item, but cruise lines don't like passengers bringing large strips with them. Instead, throw a small, two- or three-outlet strip with USB outlets into your bag, and you're all set. Our favorite is the Belkin mini surge protector with three outlets and two USB chargers.
On some cruise itineraries, the view is just as much a part of the cruising experience as the port calls and onboard fun. For those cruises, a good pair of binoculars is a must-pack item, whether you want to look for whales at sea, try to spot bald eagles in Alaska or identify the cruise ship that's been trailing your ship for the past hour. Because space is at a premium when packing for a cruise, we recommend finding a compact pair. You can snag a decent set that's barely larger than the size of your hand.
Language isn't a problem if you're heading to the Caribbean or Alaska, but if you've booked yourself onto a Europe, South America or Asia cruise, you might find yourself up a creek without a pagaia if you need to ask for directions or find out how much something costs. There are dozens of handheld translators, as well as any number of phone apps, that can be used in countries around the world to help you get navigate on your own. We recommend one that does the speaking for you, in a native accent, for your best chances of being understood.
The best time to write about your cruise (and we really, really hope you write a Cruise Critic member review) is while you're on the ship and everything is fresh. But we understand how frustrating -- or downright impossible -- writing a review (or your blog, or messages home) can be if you've only got a touchscreen tablet or smartphone with you. That's why we recommend bringing a small, wireless keyboard. Such packable keyboards can be fixed and solid (meaning you have to pack around them), foldable (like the QQ-Tech folding keyboard) or rollable (like Mini In the Box's silicone Bluetooth keyboard).