Traveling on a cruise can be a fun and exciting experience, but it is different from many other types of travel. The nature of being at sea for extended periods of time can mean that you don't necessarily always have access to a store if you need to pick up something you've forgotten. Much of what you decide to bring on a cruise will be determined by where you're going, but in almost all cases, certain items are commonly forgotten and others are overlooked.
Begin with personal items. Things that often miss the suitcase include nighttime items like pajamas, a robe, and slippers. Depending on the season, you might need a jacket or sweater, or even gloves. Don't forget bathing suits, hats, and a belt. If you love your hair dryer, you'd better bring it; the one on the ship probably won't be as powerful.
When selecting clothes for cruise trips, take a few minutes to consider the ports of call you'll be visiting and imagine the activities. If it will be buggy at any of those ports, don't forget to throw DEET in with your toiletries. Pack a small medical kit of adhesive bandages, antacid, and aspirin too. You can get these onboard, but if you need them, you'll appreciate having them at your fingertips.
Bring along some handy items. A plastic picnic kit is a very useful thing to pack, not just for having an actual picnic but for snacking in the cabin. A small reading light is nice at night, and cabins tend to be dark during the day, so a bright digital alarm clock will let you know quickly if you've overslept. To plug those in, you might want to bring a power bar and extension cord; there may only be one outlet in the cabin and one in the bathroom.
A highlighter will allow you to accent items on the daily events calendar that you don't want to miss, and tape will ensure it stays on the door where it can't get buried by clothes and towels. A spray bottle will keep you cool, along with your sunblock, and a backpack is great to throw stuff in on the go. You also might want to bring an extra duffel bag for items purchased.
Your favorite insulated drinking cup is good for cocktails and coffee alike, and a small coffeemaker with your own brand of coffee will not only be convenient but will probably taste better than the ship's brew. Soda and alcohol are expensive on cruise trips, so if either is important to you, you might bring some of your own. Check with your cruise line ahead of time to find out their policies on bringing liquids — especially alcohol — onboard.
While you're sipping your drink on deck, you'll want binoculars to watch the dolphins. They'll also allow you to watch the people at the other end of the ship. If you are taking a flight to the departure dock, bring a carry-on bag with a change of clothes in case your luggage arrives to the boat late.
Don't forget your gadgets — cruise trips are made for cameras. Disposable underwater cameras are available on land for a fraction of the price they're sold for aboard ship. While you're preparing, you can pick up a cheap pocket-sized solar-powered calculator, handy for figuring exchange rates while collecting souvenirs.
If you want your PDA, laptop, or MP3 player, don't forget extra batteries and the headphones. Remove any pictures from your digital camera so the flash memory is clear, and bring any extra memory cards and the charger. Your cell phone and its charger also need to make the trip.
Remember to pack your necessities. If you are traveling out of the country, don't forget your passport, identification card, and your reservation and tickets. Maps and a book of phrases can also be invaluable as well. Traveler's checks are much safer than cash, but small bills are good for tipping.
If you're allergic to foods or medications, make sure someone with you knows about it, though wearing a medical necklace or bracelet is safer. Don't forget vitamins, medications, or other oral regimens and make sure you have enough of them to last through the trip. Carry something in your wallet that lists the medications you're taking, if any, and refill prescriptions in advance.
Bring emergency phone numbers that may not be in the address book of your cell phone, especially your physician's. Prescription glasses, contact lenses and spares, solutions, and sunglasses are other items often forgotten. An emergency flashlight is a good idea, too. If the electricity should be interrupted for any reason, you'll still be able to make your way around the ship.
Working from a categorized checklist is the best way to ensure nothing of importance is left behind. If you start the list early, even weeks ahead of time, you can add to it as you think of things. This will make packing that much easier when the time comes, and you can start your trip stress-free.
The one thing people always claim they over pack on cruise trips is clothes. Think about what you'll actually wear, and pack light. You'll need to remove some to make room for the coffeemaker anyway.