16 Unexpectedly Essential Cruise Items

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013
  Hanging Shoe Holder

Unexpectedly Essential Cruise Items
I tend to live my life reactively, like putting off a visit to the dentist until I finally get a real toothache. This character trait makes packing for my cruises a major challenge - I have to try to predict what I am going to need. That is why "packing lists" are among my favorite forum topics.

Our astute forum participants at CruiseMates have contributed a number of "essential cruise packing items" - including many that I never would have imagined on my own. The best thing about this "Cruise Packing Tips" forum is that it was started five years ago, so now our readers have had plenty of time to test all of the ideas and report back on their relative value. Here is a list of unusual travel items to pack for your next cruise:

Yellow Highlighter Pen: Before and during your cruise you will receive a great deal of information, but while some of it is essential, much of it is forgettable. This pen can be used to highlight the paragraphs in your guidebooks most pertinent to your cruise. It is also invaluable for highlighting the activities on your daily cruise schedules where you want to arrive early for a good seat.

Over the Door Shoe Hanger: These collapsible, plastic shoe organizers add dozens of cubby-hole size storage compartments for everything from cameras, binoculars, eyeglasses, socks, underwear and even shoes. This is one of our top recommendations from the people who have tried them.

Night Light: Staterooms can get very dark at night, especially inside rooms. Obviously, a nightlight helps you see if you want to walk around late at night without disturbing your partner.

Laundry Bag: You are going to accumulate dirty clothes on any trip. Whether or not your ship has a laundry you want to keep the "dirties" separated. Even though many cruise ships already supply laundry bags, or you can use an empty drawer, the bags also aid during the trip home - unless, of course, everything is dirty by the end of the cruise anyway, usually true for me.

Plastic Bags: Many people suggest bringing simple plastic garbage bags - extra large - because they can hold laundry or become ad hoc raincoats in emergencies. Being waterproof is a big plus for any bag - you may have to pack bathing suits before they have a chance to dry.

Disposable Rain Poncho: I prefer this idea to wearing an adapted garbage bag over my shoulders, although I have used both. These disposable ones come in clear plastic so flexible they take up no more room than a fountain pen - unless you have to use it. Once unwrapped it will take up half of your suitcase - that is why they are "disposable."

Thermal Coffee Mug: This is one of my personal favorites. Sometimes room service is not offered on disembarkation days. These coolers let you get any drink in the buffet area and take it anywhere on the ship. Especially good for hot coffee because you can carry it back to the stateroom without spilling a drop.

Room Deodorizer: Sometimes there are smells you create, and sometimes odors come free with your stateroom when you arrive. Either way, this is one way to help you cope and maybe even save your entire vacation.

Bungee Cords: These flexible cords have many unexpected uses - make a clothesline for drying clothes you wash in the sink; hold the balcony door open on cool days or fasten your laptop carry-on bag securely to your rollaway luggage.

Duct Tape: Many people bring tape just because it is so versatile. They may use it to mark their luggage, hold the verandah door open, or put signs on their cabin door.

Luggage Identifiers: There are too many black or red bags these days. Obviously these help you identify your luggage quickly and on sight. They can be anything from pink pompoms to colored electrical tape applied to the handle.

Collapsible Cooler: This is for people who want to buy soda in port. Many staterooms don't have refrigerators, or else they are too small. An empty collapsible thermal cooler can be made very small and easy to pack.

Small Binoculars: The top cruise lines include binoculars in every stateroom, but a small pair from Wal-Mart can be surprisingly powerful and very handy for glacier watching in Alaska as well as sighting dolphins and whales.

Ear Plugs/ Eye Masks: Another one of my personal favorites, not only during the cruise, but even more important for the flights to and from the ship. Like the old Calgon trademark - ear plugs "take me away" from my surroundings.

Clothes Steamer: The simple device holds a cup of water and contains a heating element to steam it. The steam takes wrinkles out of your clothes like a regular iron, which many cruise lines do not allow on ships. These steamers can also heat a cup of water for tea or instant coffee.

Power Strip: Most cruise ships only offer one U.S.-standard, 110-volt electrical outlet per stateroom. The rest are European standard two round-prong 220-volt outlets. You can use a simple adaptor for many devices manufactured to use either voltage (110v or 220v; such as digital cameras, laptops, cell phones), but it can be a big mistake to plug a curling iron made for U.S. sockets into an adapted European outlet. You can burn your hair right off.

A power-strip makes it easy to plug in as many U.S. devices as you need. However, you should check with your cruise line before you pack this item as some (Carnival) put them on the "verboten" list in the past and would take them if they found them on a luggage x-ray.

Note: the last two items are not allowed on some ships.

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