Our family loves all kinds of traveling. We love to adventure in cities, get lost in breathtaking nature, and we even love to cruise, because who doesn’t love the ocean?
Cruises can get a bad reputation, and I honestly was wary of my first one too. I get motion sick, I don’t like confined spaces, and I am very picky about food. I was honestly surprised at how much I loved our first Caribbean cruise, and our second Greek Isles cruise was just as amazing. We have found that there is so much ease in cruising, which makes it a great family vacation that is relatively low-stress since everything is already taken care of. Yes, you normally only get a day in each port, so you have to go with the attitude that you will come back to any place where you are dying for more time.
We are planning for our third family cruise in September to the Mediterranean, so we are starting to collect additional items to make the trip easier and more enjoyable for everyone. Aside from your own clothing and toiletry necessities, there are some unique items that will help you feel more comfortable on the ship. These are my top 20 Cruise essentials that you should look into if you are planning a trip on the open ocean!
- Your own cup: Every cruise line has different rules and guidelines about cups and how you refill them. I still think it’s best to bring your own drinkware both for on the ship and excursions. We love the Yeti Rambler for sodas and iced teas on board. This will keep whatever you’re drinking ice cold, even out on the ship deck in the sun. There is great debate in our family about the optimal sized Yeti—Kim loves the 20 oz but Amanda swears by the 30 oz. We also love S’well bottles (as you probably know by now) and you should absolutely bring one both to carry around with water and to take on excursions.
- Wine drinking: Most cruise lines allow you to bring a few bottles of wine on board when you embark the first day. You should absolutely take advantage of this since alcohol is so expensive on cruise ships. Check your line’s rules about how many bottles you can bring. If you bring wine, you also need non-breakable wine glasses and a corkscrew (make sure to put this in your checked luggage).
- Sun protection: Regardless of where you are cruising to, you will likely need sunscreen while out on the deck of the boat. Forgetting sunscreen can be an extremely costly mistake, since it will be a small fortune to buy it on board. Bring as much as you think you will need for the duration of the trip. Ladies, a great BB cream is also a must for being outside all day. Don’t make the mistake of leaving your sunglasses in your car! Bring a great polarized pair since the reflection off of the water can be even more brutal than usual. We love Warby Parker everything over here. I am currently loving these with the pink lenses.
- GlamGlow: I am really sorry if you are sick of this recommendation. My face is sensitive to literally everything, and being in the wind and sun and around new towels, sheets, and pillowcases can be a disaster. GlamGlow Thirstymud clears up everything and keeps my face moisturized. For the daytime, I also love this light everyday moisturizer from Origins.
- Lip protection: The ship is moving quite quickly, so you definitely will be experiencing wind and sun while on board. Also, your excursions will more than likely be outside and in the elements. I suggest a chapstick with sun protection (bring a few tubes). I also love Fresh Sugar in Rosé for a little pop of color, with sunscreen!
- Device charging: My experience has been that there aren’t a ton of outlets in the staterooms, so a handy device that charges multiple items at once is great for a family. This minimizes the arguing between (adult) sisters over who gets to charge her phone next.
- Photo backup: I travel with a DSLR, and I am always careful to bring an extra SD card. But, sometimes you want to look at your pictures on a bigger screen after your excursions, or you may want to back them up to be safe and protect those memories. This device plugs into your iPad and your pictures go straight to your photo app. I never travel without this.
- GoPro: A GoPro is a big investment, but it could be really worth it for your trip depending on the kind of cruise you are doing. John is in charge of the GoPro over here, and he has made some really cool videos with it. With the waterproof housing, it can go diving in the Caribbean, down the waterslide on the ship, or sailing in Mallorca. It is also just takes great video, even if you aren’t going to be in the water.
- Entertainment: I wouldn’t expect to have a ton of down time on the ship, but it doesn’t hurt to have the essentials just in case. I love my Kindle for traveling, and it doesn’t have a backlit screen so it is perfect for the pool deck. You also may want your iPad or other technology since most ships have wifi.
- Waterproof phone case: A lot can happen on a cruise (remember the time we climbed up a waterfall in Jamaica and almost died?), so I suggest having a sturdy case for your phone, even if that isn’t something you normally do. We believe in LifeProof cases. I would absolutely test the waterproof feature and register your case before deciding to take it swimming, but it really protects your super expensive phone from drops and splashes. I have done about all you can do to this phone and it is still alive, thanks to the LifeProof. Click here for links to the cases for: iPhone 6/6s, iPhone 7 & 8, iPhone 7 & 8 Plus, and iPhone X.
- Laundry items: These little Tide sink packs are a lifesaver. I think these are especially a must when you are going on a cruise that will involve a lot of swim suits, since you don’t want to bring a suit for every day. I like to wash swim suits every couple of wears so they feel clean. Other great ideas are: mini Febreze and Wrinkle Release bottles, and Ziplocs of all sizes for wet items/to protect things from getting wet.
- Jacket: Even if you think you are headed to a tropical location, I have found that it gets chilly on the ship in the evening. There is constant wind, and you may want to have a light jacket just in case. You also should have a rain coat just in case your excursion days are rainy.
- Shoes: I know packing shoes can be the most stressful part of the trip. You want to make sure you have the correct footwear for whatever you will be doing on excursions, and on the boat you definitely need some comfortable sandals for walking around. Some of the newer ships are huge, and you will be walking miles just on the boat! We also love Tieks flats since they fold up tiny, pack easy, and are some of the most comfortable flats I have ever worn. And there is an actual rainbow of colors to choose from! These would be perfect to dress up your outfits for dinner.
- Small backpack: I truly love this backpack. I have brought it everywhere with me, and it is the perfect size for my camera, water bottle, and all other things I need while on excursions. A small backpack (not leather or something easily ruined) is handy to have for keeping everything close by while trekking around. Note: if you are visiting European cities and plan to go in cathedrals (for example, St. Peter’s in Rome), check if backpacks are allowed. If not, leave it on the ship that day.
- Ship card and ID holder: Your ship card will be your key to everything on board. It is your room key, how you pay for everything, and you need it to get on and off the boat at every port (you will also need a photo ID for this). Bring a lanyard or wristlet to carry everything together around the ship and when you are in port. You can buy a lanyard on board, but it will cost way more than you would pay beforehand.
- Extra folding duffle: We all know that dirty clothes take up more room, and that bringing back souvenirs from your awesome vacation are a must. A small duffle that folds up tiny is a great addition to your bag so you can expand into it for your trip home.
- Packaged snacks for excursions: There is no way for you to go hungry on board, but it is possible that you will end up on an excursion and find yourself wishing you had some food. I suggest bringing some snacks on board that you can grab and bring with you that are individually packaged already.
- Motion sickness prevention: I am someone who gets extremely motion sick, but I have actually never been sick on a cruise. Still, it is probably best to take precaution. Dramamine is always an option, but I still feel sleepy with the non-drowsy kind. My favorite thing to avoid motion sickness are Sea Bands. I find them to be extremely helpful. See your doctor if you have more severe symptoms with sea sickness and require prescription medication or a patch. Sea sickness will ruin your cruise.
- First aid: As always, bring your own favorite first aid essentials. I am sure you will have access to first aid on the ship, but it is easier if you have your own. My favorites include: band-aids, Neosporin, tums, Pepto-Bismol, and anything else you may need. I also can’t help but think about how many people are on the boat and what everyone touches. Bring hand sanitizer and wet wipes if you are a germ freak like me.
- First day essentials: If you have never cruised before, you may not know that when you board the boat, you won’t get your luggage right away. It will be delivered to your state room hours later. In my experience it has been before dinner, but that may not always be the case. I suggest having a bag with everything you need for the day. You may want to hit the pool right away, so bring a swim suit, or you may want to make sure you are dressed appropriately for dinner or you have something to change into. We have found this particularly challenging when we fly in to get on the boat the same day. I would bring a whole carry-on devoted to getting cleaned up and ready for the day in that case.
This post contains affiliate links, but all recommendations are based on personal experience!
I hope I was able to share some ideas with you that you hadn’t thought of before! If you want to know more, check out our post on Surviving an International Flight! Our next post will detail our most recent Greek Isles cruise, so stay tuned!
Do you love to cruise? What is something you can’t live without on board?