Powering your Plug-ins

Dear Pamda, Do I need to take my own hairdryer on the ship? Curly  

Dear Curly, Hairdryers are almost standard equipment in the mainstream cruise fleet, but they may not be what you are used to. They are usually wall-mounted in the bathroom (think accumulated steam after showers) and, well, wimpy. You can purchase a dandy 1600-watt travel dryer for less than $20, and they can use both U.S. (110) and European currents. They fold, and will fit in a shoe if you have big feet.

Dear Pamda, I am worried about wrinkles.  Are there irons and ironing boards on cruise ships?  Or should I bring my travel iron? Tidy Tess

Dear Tidy, Some cruise lines do have self-service laundries, irons and ironing boards.  There are usually long lines of crabby people waiting to use them.   Do not cruise to do laundry or ironing. Travel irons are a major no-no on cruise ships for safety reasons: It's far too easy for someone to use a bed as an ironing board, put on the freshly-pressed garment and sally forth for the evening's activities, forgetting to turn off the iron.  This is a serious fire hazard.  Leave the iron at home and let the ship's laundry do the pressing for you.    Pressing shouldn't really be necessary if you pack each garment on a hanger and enclose it in a dry cleaner's bag.  You might want to pack a small steamer, but hanging whatever is wrinkled in the bathroom after a steamy shower should turn the trick.

Dear Pamda, I know I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I still have to work.  I'll be toting my laptop and cyber-commuting.  Any tips? Gene the Geek

Your Geekness, Some of us have to do it.  The first thing to remember is that the ship's power is not as "clean" as that provided by our local monopolies.  According to Richard Alexander, an expert on electrical power subjects, the chances of power spikes or drops are significantly higher from the ship's internal power supply than from the outlet at home or in the office.    Take along two battery packs for your laptop. One can be charging while you're working with the other. Work only from battery power.    Alexander also warns that the motion of the ocean can pose a danger to laptops' hard drives. Before you power up, cushion your computer with something as simple as a bathmat, or carry along a spare mouse pad.

Dear Pamda, Both my husband and I have MS, and use heavy-duty wheelchairs that run on batteries. How can we re-charge them on the ship? Wheelie

Dear Wheelie, It's easy enough to recharge.  Just bring along an industrial-grade power strip and roll on! If you encounter any problems with electrical power, the Chief Engineer is your first phone call.

Dear Pamda, I've heard and seen a lot about power strips and something called a "cube tap."  Do I need something like that?  Why? Currently Cathy

Dear Cathy, One thing ship's designers seem to be unable to learn is that we like our electrical devices -- hair dryers, curling irons, night lights, CD players and who knows what else. Most cabins have only one electrical outlet.  The outlet in the bathroom is suitable only for electric razors.    Sometimes the single outlet is located in a completely inconvenient location. A power strip -- which is what your computer system is probably hooked into -- offers several outlets.  A short extension cord will do the same thing, but with only three plug-ins.  A cube tap is about the size of six on-your-pillow mints stacked on top of one another.  Cube taps also have three plug-in spaces.

Dear Pamda, Is there anything we should beware of, electrically speaking, on a cruise? Nervous in Nebraska

Dear Neb, Other than normal precautions you would take at home (e.g., don't use electrical appliances while standing in water, or stick your finger in an outlet), no. However, if your life requires a dependable source of clean power -- for something like a portable dialysis machine -- make certain that your equipment is compatible with the ship's supply.  You don't want to be evacuated in a wire cage by the Coast Guard.  Also, your cruise brochure should advise you about the type of power  delivered to your cabin (usually U.S. 110).  If you are planning pre- or post-cruise stays in exotic places, you might want to purchase an electrical converter.  Most good hotels offer them, but it's nice to have your own. 

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