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Woman getting ready to board her cruise (Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock.com)
Woman getting ready to board her cruise (Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock.com)

Top 10 Items We Will Never Cruise Without

Woman getting ready to board her cruise (Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock.com)
Woman getting ready to board her cruise (Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock.com)
Dori Saltzman

A good packing list can enhance your cruise vacation, ensuring you're prepared for whatever comes your way. No need to worry your cruise will be ruined because you stubbed your toe in a dark bathroom or got a cold because you weren't prepared for the over–air-conditioned theater.

After hundreds of cruises, the crew at Cruise Critic have compiled a list of 10 items we never cruise without, knowing these things will get us through almost anything a cruise vacation can throw at us. They aren't sexy. They aren't life-changing. But, they can make all the difference on your next cruise.

On This Page

  • Passport
  • Travel Wallet
  • Bathing Suit
  • Medicine Kit
  • Magnetic Hook
  • Snacks
  • Night-light
  • Tumbler
  • Headphones
  • Black Sweater/Wrap

1. Passport

Passport and Travel Documents (Photo: Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock)
Passport and Travel Documents (Photo: Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock)

Regardless of the itinerary, every single staffer at Cruise Critic brings their passport with them when they cruise. Not only are passports required for all sailings outside of our home countries but they also provide us peace of mind even on sailings for which they're not required. Should anything go wrong and we find ourselves outside of our country, we have the one document we'll need to get home.

Additionally, the REAL I.D.-compliant driver's license requirement is on its way -- in May 2023, you'll have to have a REAL I.D. or passport to fly. Save yourself some time in the DMV. If you've already got a passport, it's much easier to bring it and not have to worry about whether you'll be allowed on your plane or not.

Related: 8 Tips for Driving to Your Cruise

Find out if you really need a passport to go on a cruise.

2. Travel Wallet

While we love to push the boundaries (or at least our suitcase seams) by cramming as much as we can into our bags, we know that paring down our wallets is essential when traveling. No reason to bring four credit cards, all the business cards for every doctor we've ever seen and a wallet-sized photo of everyone we know.

Instead, we pick two credit cards (just in case our preferred card doesn't work), a bank card, our driver's license (to use as I.D. in port so that we don't have to take our passport off the ship) and our insurance card and transfer it to a small travel wallet that can fit easily into a front pocket or a small bag.

3. Bathing Suit

A bathing suit is an obvious choice if you're going on a warm-weather cruise. But, cruisers on cold-weather and port day-intensive cruises often choose to leave their swimwear behind, thinking there's no point. Often, they end up regretting it. Hot tubs are awfully inviting when it's cold outside, and what's better than soaking your sore footsies in a massaging whirlpool after a long day exploring ashore?

For cruisers with pre- or post-hotel stays, there might even be a chance to go swimming at your hotel. One swimsuit and a pair of swim trunks don't take up much space, and you just never know when you'll want 'em.

4. Medicine Kit

Best Travel Medicine and First Aid Kits (Photo: gcpics/Shutterstock)
Travel Medicine Kit (Photo: gcpics/Shutterstock)

We may not all have been Boy or Girl Scouts, but we all cruise by the motto "Always be prepared." A good medicine kit, with seasick pills, Advil, diarrhea and cold meds Band-Aids, is never a bad idea, and it'd be fair to say we hit up our kits at least once every cruise.

Leave the kit at home and you may end up paying too much at the cruise ship's sundries store or wasting time in port tracking down a pharmacy. (FYI, we're including personal hygiene items in this category as well; bring plenty of your favorite brand of tampons, pads, etc.)

5. Magnetic Hook

One of our most consistent complaints about cruise ship cabins is the lack of hooks for hanging things, such as sweaters, jackets and baseball caps. Rather than curse the proverbial darkness, we bring our own hooks, little magnetic ones that can hold about 10 pounds or so.

While more and more ships are being created with less steel, you can always find somewhere metallic -- particularly the cabin door -- to stock a hook and voila, you've just increased the cabin's storage!

For more storage ideas, check out the cruise cabin hacks that will change the way you cruise forever.

6. Snacks

We doubt you'll ever need your own snacks on a cruise sea day, but port days are another story. snacks, such as nuts, chips and trail mix, are perfect to carry with you on a long port day. Even if you're doing a lunch-included excursion, you'll often have to wait longer than you'd like before that meal is served. What if you hit traffic or have that are hungry every 20 minutes? We never travel anywhere without a granola bar or bag of M&Ms because you just never know.

7. Night-light

We envy you if you're one of those lucky people who never has to get up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom. We're not so lucky, and too many stubbed toes have taught us to bring a night-light to keep in the bathroom. Believe us, it's no fun going snorkeling the day after you've smacked your foot against the step into the bathroom. Throbbing toes and snorkel fins do not mix well.

Here are more bathroom hacks to make your cruise ship cabin more livable.

8. Tumbler

Black color stainless steel tumbler or cold storage cup with water straw and cap on wooden background.
Stainless steel tumbler (Photo: Tony Stock/Shutterstock.com)

One of the most common mistakes people make, wellness-wise, when traveling, is allowing themselves to get dehydrated. We're no exceptions to this and, as a result, we've started carrying a tumbler with us whenever we travel, including on cruise ships.

It's easy to fill with water and ice in the buffet. We can even throw in some Crystal Light mix if we want something other than plain water. It's less expensive than purchasing water, healthier for us than soda and we feel like we're doing good by the planet, too.

9. Headphones

While we always recommend being fully present during your cruise vacation, there are times when you want to tune out, whether it's jogging on the treadmill in the gym or vegging out on the adults-only sun deck pretending you're the only one in the world.

We're pretty picky about what we put in our ears and some headphones can be uncomfortable. We also like having our own pair if we end up on an excursion during which they give us headsets to wear so we can hear what the leader is saying (most common on river cruises or tours in museums and big cities).

10. Black Sweater/Wrap

A nice black sweater (we prefer cardigan style) or black wrap is as essential as a pair of versatile black pants that can be dressed up or down depending on the situation. Not only is it fashionably flexible but it will also keep the chill away on an over–air-conditioned cruise ship.

It's easy to get caught up in all the 80s and 90s you see when researching all your warm-weather ports, but the cruise ships themselves are rarely that warm, especially in public lounges and theaters where the A/C is often dialed up as high as it'll go. Unless you're one of those people that's always hot, we suspect you'll be glad you brought a sweater.

Updated February 18, 2020

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