Living on board - useful tips
Download the cruise line app.
It's an easy item to "pack" — just download the cruise line or ship app to your smartphone before you set off. The app will show you things like daily schedules, on-board plans, restaurant reservations, shore excursion options and much more.
On VCL ships, you have the app available on your personal tablet, but you can also download the app to your smartphone.
Key card keychain
Keep your cabin key card, which also serves as your ship's ID and a conduit to your on-board cruise account, handy at all times. You'll need to swipe it when you leave the ship, when you return, and when you shop in the ship's boutique or buy a drink in the bar (unless you're travelling with a true all-inclusive cruise line, like Victoria Cruises). You can even use it to open your room, so you'll need to have it handy.
A keycard lanyard can be a fun way to keep track of your keycard.
Newer cruise ships are designed so that each cabin has enough power sockets and USB ports conveniently located throughout the room. However, older boats can be a bit cramped when it comes to the number of power sockets in the cabin.
It's wise to bring a power strip with you so you can convert one outlet into multiple outlets. Just make sure that the outlet strip does not contain surge protectors — these are banned from most cruise ships, as are extension cords.
Smart sailors are looking for power sockets that not only have multiple outlets, but also a USB charging port. We like lightweight, low-profile options like this Omoton travel wall plug from Amazon. No cords taking up valuable space in your suitcase.
You may wonder if you need some sort of power adapter or power converter. Many cruise ships have both 110 and 220 V sockets, so you usually don't need to buy anything new (except perhaps the power strip suggested above).
Just to be on the safe side, check the cruise line's online FAQs or call your travel agent to find out what type of outlets are in the cabin you've booked.
Having the right bag to use at the right time is super important on a cruise. A waterproof wet bag comes in handy if you’re visiting beach destinations or going on shore excursions that include time for a dip, for example, a kayak trip with some beach time.
A good waterproof, leakproof wet bag is ideal for after you change out of your wet layers and are carrying your bathing suit back onto the ship.
You may also need a dry bag. It’s also waterproof, but the goal is to keep water out and not in as is the case with a wet bag.
A dry bag seals tight so you can stow your camera gear, smartphone and other electronics. Even if the bag falls into the water, the contents will stay dry for a good amount of time — long enough for you to rescue them. As a not-very-coordinated kayaker, I wouldn’t take that kind of shore tour while electronics without a dry bag to keep them safe.)
There are some itineraries, like transatlantic voyages, with very few ports of call. But your cruise is probably a nice mix of sea days and port visits. You’ll want a strong but lightweight backpack to stow everything you want to take off the ship with you as you explore destinations and join shore excursions or independent tours. It can hold snacks, sunscreen, a hat and more.
Look for a backpack with mesh pockets on each side. Those pockets are the perfect place to tuck away a water bottle. Don’t worry if your pack isn’t big enough to stow more than one sweater or hat, the next accessories on our “must-pack” list will come to the rescue.
Frequent travelers usually have several of these straps to take on trips. They are marketed as jacket grippers and luggage straps. They have a ton of uses, from attaching your airplane neck pillow onto your carry-on to making sure your jacket, sweater or hat stays close to your backpack.
You might want to use a waterproof smartphone case if you’re spending time at the beach, on the pool deck, in the ship’s hot tub or heading out on a shore excursion on the water (think catamaran tour, kayak excursion or glass-bottom boat ride).
Most of these cases are roomy enough to also store your keycard and some cash, if need be.
Or, a waterproof sports case that floats may be a good idea if you are taking a small variety of items into a wet environment.
Many cruises visit warm-weather destinations with a beach visit or two on the agenda. Packing water shoes — also known as aqua socks — is essential, especially if you don’t know what the beaches will be like. Water shoes protect your feet from rocks, shells and coral. If the ship’s pool deck is a little slick, it’s also wise to wear them there for extra traction.
Staying healthy on a vessel should be everyone’s priority. When you fly, board a cruise ship or check into a hotel, you should have some sanitizing wipes in your carry-on. Use them to wipe down the TV remote, phone and door handles in your cabin. Also, take them with you on shore excursions so you can always “wash up” when you need to.
If you don’t like the wipes, you can instead carry a gel-style hand sanitizer. If you’re new to cruising, you should know that there will be hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the ship — mainly at the gangway when disembarking/embarking the ship and at restaurant and lounge entrances.
Hopefully you won’t feel queasy on your cruise. Some people never feel seasick on a cruise while others may feel a bit wobbly the first hour or so on the ship or during moderate to rough seas. It never hurts to have a few items packed to help prevent or alleviate seasickness if it pops up. To begin with, you can use an over-the-counter product like Bonine (meclizine hydrochloride), which is effective at preventing or treating motion sickness, airsickness and seasickness. Try the raspberry-flavored chewable tablets or the ginger softgels.
You can also try snacking on ginger candy (you’ll often find a bowl of it in front of each cruise ship restaurant entrance) or bring your own. Or wear an anti-nausea acupressure wristband like the Sea-Band.
If you do start feeling a bit green, go up on deck in the fresh air and look out over the horizon. It really helps. And visit the ship’s medical station or front desk to ask for seasickness remedies if you forgot to bring your own. They’ll hook you up.
Don’t pack these items
There are a few items that you should always leave off your cruise packing list. They include the following:
Liquor or (often) beer
If you’ve never been on a cruise before, you’ve probably never heard of the “naughty room.” This is the room where the crew quarantines luggage that contains an item that the cruise line has banned. That could be an electric kettle, a weapon of some kind or liquor/beer. You’ll be called to this room to have a discussion with the crew about these no-no items.
Before stopping off at the packing store on the way to the port, check the rules with your cruise line.
Candles and electrical appliances that create heat
When you’re aboard a cruise ship, safety comes first. That’s why things like candles with a real flame and electrical appliances that produce heat should stay at home. Forget about bringing your clothes iron and steamer or electric tea kettle. These are often banned for onboard use. (Ladies: Some cruise lines allow curling or straight irons and some don’t, so consult your cruise line’s online FAQ).
Drones and kites
You might want that perfect aerial shot from above the ship, but you can’t bring a drone on board. Same goes for kites and other similar items that are meant to be deployed in the air around the ship.
Guns and knives
Guns aren’t allowed on cruise ships and although some cruise lines allow knives up to a certain blade length, others ban them altogether. Check your cruise line’s online FAQs or check with your travel agent for the rules that apply to your ship.
First-time cruise passengers tend to overpack when it comes to clothes and shoes but sometimes forget about other necessities. When you take your suitcase out of the closet and begin packing for your next cruise, refer to this list and be sure you’re covered when it comes to those all-important accessories. Happy cruising.
Author: VCL team