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The First-Time Cruiser's Packing List: 20 Things Your Cabin Won't Have | Frommer's GreenOak / Shutterstock

The First-Time Cruiser's Packing List: 20 Things Your Cabin Won't Have

What do you need to bring on a cruise? The items on this checklist—unless you want to buy them at inflated prices later.

A recent Reddit discussion among fans of Carnival Cruise Line answered a simple question crucial to any kind of travel: What stuff should I bring?

The ideas they came up with were decent, but we knew we could add even more items to their list. You already know the obvious things like your passport, your prescription medication, your toothbrush, a little first aid kit, and other essentials.

But other items may not be as obvious. Don't expect to receive these other things for free in your cabin. You may not even find them in the ship's boutiques. You're better off packing this stuff yourself.

Conditioner

The top suggestion among Reddit's users was hair conditioner. Luxury lines may furnish some, but don't count on it on the mass-market ships. (The free shampoo you'll get may be low-quality, too.)

Earplugs

Cabin walls are thin, and you can often hear your neighbors on their balconies through your own balcony door.

Power strips

Travelers bring more rechargeable devices than ever before, and there are rarely enough sockets to go around. Surge protectors are banned on ships due to the fire risk, but simple power strips that offer more outlets without a surge protection feature (such as this outlet extender) are generally permitted—and needed. Some cruise lines, but not all of them, may allow you to bring an extension cord.

Your charging cords

You know what your devices require. Smart travelers make a list of all the chargers they need and consult the list whenever it's time to pack for a new trip. Don't forget to include adapters that convert USB to electrical sockets, because only the newest ships or the latest renovated cabins will have USB ports built in.

A portable battery

If your phone's battery runs down, you don't want to have to return to your cabin and sit there, missing the fun, while the device recharges. Carry a portable battery instead. This model has a flip-down foot so you can also use your phone as a nightstand clock—because cruise cabins don't have those, either. (iPhones can automatically convert into big clocks when they're charging.)

Day bag

You'll need something light and easy to carry for when you go to the pool or leave the ship on excursions. Here are some suggested products

Sunscreen

You'd think cruise lines would furnish something so vital for the health of guests who are spending all day in the sun, but think again. Bring your own sunscreen or you're likely to be price-gouged when you buy a new bottle. Some aloe might be good to pack, too, in case of a burn. 

Lanyard

Most cruise lines require guests to conduct all their business using key cards, which have a way of getting misplaced, being accidentally swapped with your cabin mates' keys, or falling out of pockets. A lanyard allows you to keep the card around your neck at all times. 

Portable fan

Not all cabins have responsive AC, and depending on your ship's power supply or its exposure to direct sunlight, there may be hours when your room heats up. Some cheap fans can even do the job with USB power so you won't have to use a precious electrical outlet.

Wrinkle release spray

Irons may be hard to come by on the ship, restricted to the laundry room or even forbidden. Some ships don't have laundry rooms to begin with, or the charge to use them is too high, so you may also want to pack a detergent pen for emergency use.

Over-the-counter medication and pain medication

The ship won't have a great supply, and the shop may not be open when you need over-the-counter meds. Some types of pain medication may not even be available.

Leisure shoes

Flip-flops are a common choice for the pool, but your tastes may be more fashionable. Your cabin is unlikely to offer slippers.

An insulated beverage cup

Many cruisers swear by these and refill them continually at the ship's drinking water stations. If you don't have one, you may have to keep buying water bottles.

Clips

Think: something to fasten your towel to your deck chair on breezy days, something you can use to pin clothing up to dry (many cabin staterooms have built-in clotheslines), and something to pin cabin curtains closed to keep out morning light. (Some people use magnets to hold the curtains instead, but magnets may not play nice with the other things in your bag.)

Magnetic hooks

Many cruise cabin walls are made with a metal base, and you can use these to hang hats, robes (also generally not provided in your cabin), lanyards, and other things.

A ring light

People who wear makeup or use contact lenses often complain that the hue and strength of the bathroom light isn't great, especially if you have an inside cabin. A ring light can also double as a night light for nocturnal trips to use the head.

Laundry bag/wet bag

Say you go swimming on an island beach one day when you're in port. Where will you put your wet things? Think ahead for days like that and bring an extra bag. You can also use it to stash your dirty laundry.

Air freshener

Even if your traveling companion is tidy and fresh, the ship's septic system may not be. A little potpourri may not go amiss.

Special outfits

Many cruises have one or two themed nights for fancy dress costume parties. Check your cruise's schedule well before leaving home so that you won't feel like you need to hide in your cabin while everyone else is out wearing fun outfits. Some ships require formal wear on certain nights—learn the dress code before it's too late. 

Cash, especially small bills

Although gratuities are often automatically tacked onto your bill, that money is routed through the cruise line. There may be times when you want to reward great service in a personal manner, to make sure your money goes to the right people. However, you'll be unlikely to find an ATM on board. Tipping your cabin steward at the start of your cruise may also yield dividends in careful attention later on.

What don't you need to bring? Towels, a hair dryer (your cabin will probably have one, but it may not be deluxe), soap, pillows, or washcloths.

You may also like: 11 Tips for First-time Cruisers
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