smoother than that first margarita
These 29 cruise essentials have been deemed “absolute must have accessories” from our amazing community. We’ve added Amazon links to each of these cruise accessories to make it as easy as possible.
Cruises are weird. You’ll be floating in the middle of the ocean with 2,500 strangers. Your cabin is small. The dining situation is unusual. Port visits last half a day.
Face it… the whole cruise experience is like no other type of vacation. Don’t get us wrong. We LOVE to cruise. But, we enjoy it much more now that we’re experienced and know what to expect and the cruise essentials to pack.
After dozens of cruise, you learn the cruise packing hacks to make the most of your time at sea. At first, we had no idea what items to pack for a cruise. We rolled up like it was a normal vacation. Hats, sandals, lotion… the basics.
Our Cruise Essentials list below is NOT a complete checklist. Click through here if you’re looking for a full cruise packing list with PDF. Otherwise, continue for the most clever cruising essentials to make your travels even more enjoyable. This is a curated list from hundreds of cruise passengers and thousands of must have cruise essentials submitted for consideration.
Fortunately, you don’t need to go on dozens of sailings (like we had to) in order to learn these cruise hacks. And you don’t need to spend hours searching for the best cruise accessories online. We’ve done the heavy lifting.
Below, find the 29 cruise essentials with links to easily purchase from Amazon. Most of these “must have cruise accessories” we’ve actually tested and fully endorse ourselves.
Before you dive in, check out our quick video showing these cruise essentials in action on our last sailing!
Here are the must have cruise items for your next sailing.
This may or may not be a necessity. It’ll all depend on your cruise cabin placement. We’ve had staterooms so quiet you could hear a crab burp. Other times we weren’t so lucky. On one cruise, our neighbors must have been on a honeymoon (yup, you know what I’m saying). On another, it sounded like the anchor was going to come through our porthole. Play it safe. Pack ear plugs!
We consider this one of our better cruise hacks. When deciding what to pack for a cruise, have some consideration for your cabin mate. If you’re not familiar with the product, here’s how it works. You spray into the toilet then go about your “duties.” The natural oils trap in the odor. Given the size of your cruise cabin, this is a must have accessory to stay on good terms throughout the week.
Remember that sea turtle you swam with in Cozumel? Of course you do. And you have the pictures to prove it! Thanks to your waterproof phone case. Not only will you have amazing photos and videos, you’ll protect your device and other goodies while at port. There will be no soggy dollars and broken iPhones on this trip.
This cruise accessory is brilliant. It’s perfect for lugging your stuff up to the Lido Deck or to carry back all your souvenirs from port. When not in use, it fits into your back pocket. We’ve lost count of the times other cruisers have asked where we got this must have, collapsible tote bag.
Your mini travel fan serves two functions. First, it keeps you cool. We can’t sleep unless it’s cold and often staterooms are too warm. Second, it provides “white noise.” The late night buffet parade will get drowned out with a gentle “whirring.” It also helps at night if you decided not to go with the poo pourri seen above.
Keep your bathroom tidy with this cruise essential. The double vanity at home will look like a football field next to your counter-top while at sea. Rather than piling your lotions onto your toothbrush which is stuck in your hairbrush, pack a bathroom organizer. The cruise hack here is to use vertical space rather than horizontal. Your hanging organizer makes that possible.
If looking to make friends, here’s one of the best cruise hacks you’ll find. Wear a funny cruise shirt on Day 1 of your sailing. You’ll be surprised how many shipmates you’ll make. It’s a great ice breaker! We’ve made a number of life-long friends with this one trick. Here’s more funny cruise shirts to choose from.
This is one the best cruise accessories ever invented. If you’ve cruised, you can relate… it’s 2am and you have to pee. You get up to find the restroom and it’s pitch black. You step on the conch shell souvenir you picked up in Nassau. With tears in your eyes, you turn on the light. Your spouse wakes and yells obscenities. Neither of you can go back to sleep. Problem solved. This motion sensor night light gives a soft light when you get up. And it magnetically attaches to your cruise wall to point in any direction you’d like.
Sa-rong it’s right. We love cruise accessories that add convenience. That’s why this cover up is a must have for your cruise. Slip it on or off with ease. It’ll make your transition from pool to buffet that much quicker.
There’s some sneaky burglars out there. The software they’re using is so advanced, that they can steal your credit card info by getting within a few feet of you. A quick bzzzt bzzt and there goes your savings. We’re fighting technology with technology with this must have cruise accessory. The RFID money belt will stop hackers. And face it, “nerdy” is the new “cool” so let them call it a “fanny pack” if they want.
Here’s another cruise hack that we wish was more obvious. Stay hydrated! We want you going strong all week and you can’t do that unless properly lubed up. The cruise lines don’t make it easy. Water stations are few and far between. And the thimble-sized cups are a joke. Make sure you get plenty of water with this must have cruise accessory. Oh, and it’ll also fight back those hangovers.
We often hear cruisers talking about irons. But here’s another cruise hack to stick in your hamper. Wrinkle Release Spray! Yes, it’s a thing and it actually works well. You can’t stop your dresses from getting wrinkled during before the cruise. You can fix the problem, though! Unpack your stuff. Spray your wrinkled cruise wear. Hang up. In a few hours, you’ll be ready for Formal Night.
Whether we like it or not, technology dominates our lives. Phones, cameras, video games, iPads, e-readers, e-cigs, blah, blah. Everything runs on power. It’s tough to keep everything charged while poolside or at port. That’s why we always mention a Portable Charger when asked what to pack for a cruise.
This cruise accessory is like “organization porn” for the tidy. There’s a feeling you get when unpacking your cubes and sliding them into your closet. It’s a satisfaction reserved for the Type A out there. If the list were “how to pack for a cruise” instead of “what to pack for a cruise,” it would be #1 on the list.
In addition to the question, “what to pack for a cruise,” we’re commonly asked “can I do laundry on the ship.” And our answer is, “forget all that noise.” Your on vacation. Laundry is not a vacation chore. We say stuff it in a sack and leave it for home. That’s why the travel laundry bag makes our list of cruise essentials. Shove that stink-pile into a corner and go back to the piano bar.
This is a super fun way to meet shipmates and to easily find your cabin after a long day at the Rum Bar. We’ll print five or six designs before the cruise and swap them out with each passing day. Some show where we’re from and what we’re celebrating. Others show interesting port info or fun facts about our ship. We like to mix it up and keep passerbys interested. We’ve met a ton of friends this way!
Remember the last time you snorkeled and you had to chew on that piece of jagged plastic while breathing spit-foam? Well there’s good news. Snorkeling has upped it’s game. The snorkel 2.0 has entered the arena. You’ll be more comfortable down there than Ariel. You may even decide to just swim home.
“Travel safe” sounds like something your neighbor yells as you leave for your cruise. But, that’s not we’re talking about there. We’re talking about an actual safe. A portable safe that will make sure you come home with all of your passports, wallets, credit cards and iPhones. This essential cruise item locks onto any fixed object to secure your most precious goods. It also doubles as a great room safe since the one that’s provided is as secure as your mother’s AOL account.
Here’s another cruise hack that we recommend when asked what to pack for a cruise. It’s more of a strategic investment. How, you ask? When you get to the beach, vendors will charge $20 per lawn chair per person. That’s $40 per day for just one port! You could buy a few of these for that price. And, with this cruise accessory, you’re not limited to how far you can drag a beach chair. You’ll have the freedom to escape the crowds and lounge where you please.
This is a must have cruise item for all of those scared of pirates. Or more likely, for those just interested in sightseeing from the ship. Check out other ships, the shore line, your port, or some passing sea creatures. This is absolutely essential for Alaska itineraries!
These Cruise Crew Thank You cards are one of the most important items on our must have cruise accessories list. We started handing these out with a little cash as a nice way to say “thank you.” As an unexpected consequence, we’ve since received the best service we’ve ever received. Most importantly, though, we’ve shared some truly special moments with our cruise staff!
What’s that? Another cruise hack you say? Don’t share this one with too many friends and family or you’ll spoil the trick. Towel bands are great for… well, banding your towel to your deck chair. But, they have a hidden talent. They also secure your deck chair so nobody else grabs it. While we don’t condone chair-hogging, this is what we’d use if we were of that variety.
Some people take a little while to get their sea-legs. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re a land-based people. The rocking back and forth is unnatural. If you get a little wishy washy with motion, then you’ll want to get ahead of full blown sea sickness. At that point, you’re done. You may as well walk the plank. If Dramanine isn’t your drug of choice, check out these 33 sea-sickness options to choose from.
Here’s another trick we’ll file in the “cruise hacks” bin. Most people aren’t aware that their cruise cabin walls are metal. That means they’re magnetic! These hooks will stick right to the walls wherever you choose. You can then hang your cruise lanyard, bathing suit, handbag, or whatever else you fancy.
If you’re not a coffee fan then you can skip this cruise tip. If you ARE a normal human, however, then this is absolutely essential. This might just be the most important item you’ll add to your cruise packing checklist. The coffee mugs provided are a joke. It would take 14 trips to the coffee machine with those things to get my daily fix. Nope. Not this time. I come equipped with my own coffee mug. Some staff members may frown on this cruise hack, but momma needs her coffee.
Whenever asked what to pack for a cruise, we proudly include this item to the list. We also consider it among our super secret “cruise hacks.” It lets cruisers take advantage of “vertical” storage space as opposed to horizontal. Most cruisers have piles of stuff stacked on the small counter-space provided. Go clutter free by neatly organizing those items in hanging pockets.
On your last cruise, you probably noticed 20% of the passengers wearing cruise lanyards. Those are the veterans. When the bartender asks, “can I have your card please?” These are the few at the ready. They’re half-way done with their mai tais while you’re digging through your tote bag trying to find your key card. Add this to your cruise packing checklist and you’ll be slinging keycards like no other. To find your ideal key card holder, check out this helpful post on cruise lanyard types and features.
Your cruise luggage tags will have you looking like you’ve done this before. Not only will your luggage turn heads, it’ll also show up to your room. Unlike the sucker that stapled his e-tags, you’ll be swimming in luggage. While you’re on your third wardrobe change, he’ll be arguing with Gustav at the “Passenger Services” office below decks. Make sure they’re fitted for your cruise line! Here are our favorite cruise luggage tags for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Princess, Celebrity, and Holland America.
This is the most purchased cruise accessory out there. Why? Because we are addicted to our devices. Does this make us an “enabler?” Let’s not point fingers here. Facts are, you need your smartphones, cameras, laptops, iPads, video games, e-cigs, C-PAP machines, electric tooth brush, e-readers, e-massagers… umm, I mean. Well, cruise cabins have 2 outlets. This is the only cruise-approved power strip out there. Get that power!
We hope that this Cruise Essentials list was helpful and that you have a wonderful vacation. If you enjoyed this, you’ll love our most recent product recommendations in this post-covid era. We call it our PPP List (Post Pandemic Packing List). Click for our must have healthy cruise items for cruising post pandemic.
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