If taking to the high seas on an amazing cruise is in your future, you’ll want to take some time to consider all of the pros and cons of this popular vacation idea. From the length of the cruise to the location, from the price to the accommodations, picking out the perfect cruise can be tricky. And once you do, of course, there’s always the chance that you’ll fall into the same trap that any vacationer might fall into — you’ve forgotten something or you’ve packed several items you just don’t need.
We talked to a couple of experts — Ryan Baird — a cruise director for Royal Caribbean — and Princess Cruises Spokesperson Jill Whelan (you may remember her from the tv show The Love Boat) — about the things people are most likely to forget to take on a cruise and things they should leave at home.
What People Forget To Pack
Here’s something both of our experts didn’t hesitate to list — and it’s easy to understand why! “A good pair of binoculars, whether stargazing from your balcony, searching for sea life on sea days or when you’re in port, it’s great to see the beautiful sight close-up,” said Whelan.
“Binoculars may not be at the top of your list, but they should be,” added Baird. “Cruise ships are massive — so much so that one tends to lose scope of scale. For example, a brown bear along the banks in Glacier Bay, Alaska, might look like a tiny rock from the ship! Guests that have binoculars will see more wildlife onboard. Binoculars are a must-have item on all my ships.”
2. Spare Clothes And Toiletries
File this suggestion in the “didn’t think of that” file. Be prepared for the unexpected! “Lost or late luggage, let’s face it — it happens. All too often, I see guests join the ship without baggage,” said Baird. “Imagine how uncomfortable that would be. Now imagine how uncomfortable that would be if you didn’t pack a set of spare clothes, toiletries, or undergarments in your carry-on bag.”
Are you someone who likes to stay organized, even on vacation? Then this is a tip you’ll want to note. “This is my absolute favorite, boy-oh-boy-I-wish-I-had-thought-of-it tip… magnets!” said Whelan. “What? Why? Who even has those anymore? Trust me, I learned it from the most traveled cruiser I know and it’s been a must-pack ever since: If you didn’t already know, the walls of cruise ships are magnetized so it’s a great way to keep things organized. Like what, you ask? The Princess Patter, which is a daily newsletter of events and pertinent info on board Princess Cruise lines, excursion tickets, spa reservations… this makes sure you don’t lose them and can find them easily.”
4. Small Bills
As someone who rarely carries cash, this is a tip that hits close to home. Not only should you carry cash, but carry small bills for lots of good reasons. “I know this seems odd, but go with me here. Most guests travel with cash but rarely with small increments. Here are some reasons you may find yourself wanting smaller bills,” said Baird. “Tipping onboard, tipping tour operators, buying cheap souvenirs ashore, using USD in foreign countries (change may not be in USD). I was recently cruise director on a ship that sailed up the Amazon River. Dollar bills went far in this part of the world. Nearly every guest was lined up at guest relations asking for smaller bills — our ship ran out.”
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but as someone who has been on a trip where something has been left behind, trust me — heed the advice of our expert here. “If you forget your medication, your cruise vacation could be over before it even begins,” said Baird. “I recently witnessed this on one of my ships. We headed out of Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal to San Diago. A guest had forgotten his medication and was going to be disembarked. Luckily for the guest, our doctors had his particular medicines available in our pharmacy.”
This is a fantastic tip — go through your day mentally and write down everything you use and need. You’ll be glad you did. “We have so many gadgets these days, phones, tablets, portable speakers,” said Whelan. “If you’re a woman, extend that list by a million! Curling irons, flat irons, and on and on. I learned early on that a good power strip can make your life so much easier and it takes up virtually no space.”
Editor’s Note: While Whelan likes packing a power strip, you might decide to streamline your packing list and leave it at home. Read on to see why another expert’s advice landed power strips on the no-pack list.
7. Charging Cables
Here’s another one that might seem obvious, but let’s not pretend we all haven’t forgotten to pack a charger at some point. “It’s 2023, and for better or worse, electronic devices are part of our daily lives,” said Baird. “We use charging cables for phones, cameras, video cameras, tablets, and electronic readers — the list is endless. Cruise ships can’t accommodate spare chargers for all the different devices these days.”
8. Romantic Lighting
Looking to bring some additional romance to an already romantic vacation? This tip is for you! “For me, there is nothing more alluring than the ocean,” said Whelan. “The sound of the waves, the smell of the salty sea air, the endless horizon… it’s a recipe for romance. On our first vacation since our honeymoon, my husband packed battery-operated fairy lights and battery-operated candles (no real candles allowed on a cruise). It turned our room into a magical place!”
What You Should Leave At Home
Here’s one more item that would have never crossed my mind to bring on a cruise. This is one thing we all know is readily available on a cruise, right? “The number one item I recommend not bringing on your cruise vacation is alcohol,” said Baird. “I’m all about weight when packing and glass bottles filled with liquids hardly seem worth the effort considering cruise ships offer everything under the sun regarding bar needs. Some cruise companies will confiscate hard alcohol for the duration of your cruise. Some cruise lines will allow bottles of wine onboard, but usually with a corkage fee. It’s best to leave the alcohol at home and enjoy your itinerary and the region’s local flavors.” Leave it behind — you’ll be covered!
2. Power Strips
This is truly an insider tip! Chargers: Yes. Power strips? No! “With all the electronic gadgets, power outlets are in high demand — especially on cruise ships,” said Baird. “Bringing a power strip to charge multiple devices simultaneously may be tempting, but it’s not a good idea, and here’s why: The power generated on ships is different from land-based power. If you bring a power strip from home, it might be confiscated by security for inspection. Most cruise ships will provide a safe power strip onboard — ask guest relations for one when you join.”
3. Electric Kettles
To be honest, this is not something that would have been on my list. However, our experts have seen things and they know things! “Ah, the saga of the electric kettle. Again, another item best left at home,” said Baird. “Firstly, anything you would use an electric kettle for is free on cruise ships — dining rooms, cafés, in-room dining, and hot water is available 24 hours a day. Secondly, security might confiscate kettles — or at the very least, inspect them to ensure they meet onboard power restrictions.”
There’s one last thing our experts recommend you leave behind — no matter how great you think you look. “In the spirit of Bob Dylan, ‘The times, they are a-changin’. This is my husband’s favorite evolution — the evening dress code is much more ‘cocktail’ than uber formal,” said Whelan. “But if you love to rock a gown or penguin suit, you do you, and make sure to have a portrait taken — it’s a beautiful memento to remember your cruise, I have so many fun ones marking some of my most precious memories. Happy cruising!”
5. Beach Towels
It’s easy to see why you think you should pack beach towels for your cruise, but fear not — your hosts likely have you covered. “Swimming and cruising go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean you should pack a beach towel,” said Baird. “To maximize space in your luggage, leave the towel at home. Nearly all cruise ships offer towels poolside onboard and provide beach towels when going ashore — making the beach towel one less thing to worry about on your vacation.”
6. Hair Dryer
While it’s tempting to bring along every convenience you can think of, some items just need to be left off of your packing list. Included in this category is your beloved hair dryer. “Your room already has one,” said Whelan. Simple enough — leave this behind.
7. Robe And Slippers
We all have our comfort clothes — especially when it comes to getting comfortable after a long day. Fight that urge — don’t pack that robe. “The ones on board (at least on Princess) are great!” said Whelan. One less thing — scratch this off of your packing list.
Another item on the list of things we all love — especially our own — is slippers. But this is another thing that just isn’t necessary to bring with you. “Princess has those, too!” said Whelan. This is a particularly good tip — trust the experts!
8. Shampoo, Conditioner, And Soap
We all have our favorite shampoo and soap — we all just need to get over that when going out on a cruise. These items could leak, get heavy, and take up space. “We’ll make this easy for you — leave them at home,” said Baird. “Most cruise ships provide these essentials in your stateroom. Again, one less thing you have to pack.”
Pro Tip: There’s not much to add to these insights from our experts, but there’s one thing you must do on any trip — particularly a cruise where you can’t just head out to shop — make a list! Keep a written list that you can check off as you go, or use an app on your phone to make a list of what you have to take and check things off as you go. Make a note of everything you touch or do on a given day and consider adding that to your list — you won’t regret it.
Ready to find that perfect cruise? Go ahead and take the plunge!
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