You may think you have everything you could ever need for a cruise, but there may be a couple cruise accessories that could easily prevent any major headache coming your way. Every cruiser is different, so the must have cruise accessories will be tailored for each and every unique traveler.
You might wonder if you need all items this listed in this post. The short answer is ‘no’; you will want to pick and choose and there may even be a few items unique to your travel that may not be listed. However, the items that are included are some of the most popular and well reviewed cruise essentials sold on Amazon. This post has been updated to include some new cruising essentials for 2022.
Wearable Cruise Accessories
The number one item that many cruisers regret forgetting is a lanyard to hold their cruise access card. Nearly every cruise line at sea keeps track of its passengers through key cards.
You may think that you could just put your cruise key card in your wallet but, you will be surprised by how many times you head over to the cruise buffet from your stateroom, locking yourself out in the process. Plus, who wants to fumble around looking for their cruise card while getting on and off the ship. A cruise lanyard is one of the must have cruise accessories.
Cruise Key Holder
If you purchase a lanyard with a key holder included, you can ignore this essential, but if you are planning on packing a lanyard you already own, you will want to purchase a clear cruise key holder.
Because the access card you receive when boarding your ship will most likely not have a pre-punched hole to clip your lanyard onto. These clear cruise keycard holders will allow you to safely attach your lanyard, while allowing all functionality (except when you need to swipe your card).
I bringing my trusty fanny pack with me on cruises and, let me tell you, it makes cruising so much easier.
A fanny pack is a safe and convenient way to carry around your phone and cash secured to your waist and always within eyesight. Before switching to a fanny pack, I would bring a light-weight backpack, but that became impractical on most of our shore excursions.
Avoid low quality sunglasses from the local convenience store, what I call, ‘Five & Dime’. These tend to be very low quality and can break easily, leaving you with either no sunglasses or having to search for a far more expensive pair at sea.
On a cruise, you can expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, whether laying out on the pool deck, or spending time exploring in port. So, you need to pack a durable and quality pair of sunglasses (maybe two if you’re anything like me). If you need prescription lenses you will want to decide on prescription sun glasses (which means carrying two pair of glasses if you also spend time indoors) or transition lenses. I am lucky and am able to wear contacts with my Revo sunglasses (yes, a little pricey but I’ve had them for 20 years).
Light Windbreaker Jacket
Another one of the must have cruise accessories is a lightweight jacket, preferably one with wind and rain resistance. Whether you are heading out on your Alaskan cruise or sailing through the warm seas of the Mediterranean, you will not regret packing this simple piece of clothing.
Whether you need to stroll outside at night on a cruise ship, heading over to the buffet during a light drizzle, or outdoor excursions, a light jacket will come in handy. Plus, this cruise necessity will not take up much room in your luggage. Do not underestimate the wind and weather on your future cruise and come prepared with a windbreaker jacket.
Another item you may already own is a hat to protect you from the sun and the elements. So, you will definitely want to include a protective sun hat with your cruise accessories. You will more than likely be spending a bunch of time in the sun, so make sure to purchase or pack your hat before you leave.
This is an especially important cruise accessory if you are cruising where UV rays are intense, such as Australia or the Caribbean, a mountainous environment, or around the equator.
Let me be clear, it’s not about the fashion, it’s about the protection. My wife and I purchased the exact one shown here for our Alaska cruise in 2017, and it work perfectly for that cruise, our Viking Cruise on the Rhine in 2018, and our New Zealand cruise in 2019. This handy boonie hat protected our pumpkins during intense sun exposure and rain. Plus, I can fold this hat up when indoors and stuff it in a pocket or fanny pack!
If you think the noises of the ship may keep you awake, you may want to pack a quality pair of earplugs along with the rest of your cruise accessories. You have no control over who will be in the staterooms to the left and right to you, or, even worse, may end up staying in a room adjacent to a crew area.
The easiest way to organize your stateroom when you first arrive on your cruise ship is by using magnetic hooks. You can put them on the magnetic walls and ceiling of your stateroom. Yes, you read that right. Most cruise ship stateroom walls are magnetic, allowing you to optimize your storage by hanging any items on the wall.
I can’t think of a better way to improve your stateroom storage than by hanging up items that would have otherwise ended up on the floor. We use this exact set pictured at right. They hold over 60 pounds at a time. Make sure to pick up a set capable of holding all of the items you plan to hang in your stateroom.
Cruise Toiletry Bag
One cruise accessory you are not going to want to forget is a cruise toiletry bag. One of the top cruise accessories, this storage device can store all of your bathroom and get-ready essentials for your cruise adventure.
Keep your eye out for one similar to the one shown here. With this one, you hang this cruise accessory on your magnetic hooks. I’ve had this toiletry bag for all of my travel, including cruises, and filled it will all my daily essentials and it has held up nicely for many years. I am able to place the bag on one of my magnetic hooks right next to my stateroom’s desk, which is a convenient spot not taking much if any room in our cabin.
Cruise Luggage Tag Holders
When you arrive at your cruise terminal, you will be handing over your luggage to the onboard cruise line team to bring through security, and eventually drop off at your stateroom. You will likely be required to place your cruise line’s specific luggage tags on your suitcases.
To prevent these paper cruise line luggage tags from falling off, leading to your luggage delivery being delayed, I recommend packing these quality luggage tag holders. The ones showed at right are large enough to hold most cruise line luggage tags. These tags are not only reasonably priced, but they can be reused again and again. I even use these tags when flying – they hold up much better than other tags.
Another one of the top cruise accessories is packing cubes. Okay, it took awhile but my wife finally convinced me to try packing cubes; now I’m a packing cube convert. In fact, I’ve now found even more packing hacks and ways to use packing cubes to keep organized on my cruise or any other trip. I recommend getting at least 2 packs of these packing cubes. They come in various colors, sizes, and configurations. Personally like the set with the packing cube for shoes.
Cruise staterooms are typically smaller than hotels. Nothing is worse than having to dig through your luggage everyday to find what you want to wear. So, make sure to grab a set of packing cubes to keep your clothes organized during your cruising vacation.
Luggage Set with Spinner Wheels
If you are going to be shopping for some new luggage, make sure it is lightweight and has 4 spinner wheels. The 4 casters make it so much easier to board and disembark from your cruise ship. Not to mention navigating through airports, into hotels, etc. As the debate still rages on soft-side versus clam-shell luggage, I consider the choice to be personal in nature. I have a preference for soft-side luggage and am a fan of American Tourister which has served me well over many years to travel. I currently have luggage similar to this one (sold on Amazon); it is a very good quality soft-sided luggage set, that’s also very reasonably priced.
I rarely hear about folks using a cruise planner to organize everything before and during a trip. I like having all of my thoughts and plans in one place while traveling; it really allows me to relax. It is one of the must have cruise accessories that can help you put your mind at ease during your cruise.
This cruise planner is filled with helpful guides that make sure you are prepared for your cruise. Whether it’s setting up your budget, planning shore excursions, tracking your cruise packages, creating daily itineraries, or starting your packing list, this cruise planning is a great way to prepare for your perfect cruise.
This cruise necessity is very frequently overlooked. If you are like me, you are obsessed with having all your documents organized, and in one place. One of the top ways to get and stay organized during your cruise is by using sticky notes.
You will be surprised by often these will come in handy during your vacation – whether bookmarking the next day’s shore excursion or leaving a note for your kids on your door when you leave to grab a snack. Make sure you add sticky notes to your list of the top must have cruise accessories.
Most cruise lines will give passengers a list of the daily activities through some sort of newsletter. Your cruise stateroom steward will usually drop off the next day’s list of activities in your room the night before. This is where your highlighters will come in handy.
As one of the top cruise accessories, highlighters are one of the best ways to keep track of all the things you want to do during your limited time onboard. Plus, you can highlight any important information in your other documents to reference during your sailing.
Cruise lines have some of the worst organized communication between their corporate offices and the onboard team. To prevent any issues, you should make sure to print out and have ALL documents ready to go before you board. Also, make sure to use an organizer that is waterproof in case of any unforeseen accidents.
To ensure you have everything where you need it and when you need it, make sure to grab a document organizer for all of your travel and cruise documents before you leave. A document organizer can easily save you from several massive headaches on your cruising adventure.
Collapsible Tote Bag / Folding Backpack
If you have more things to carry with you into port than what a simple fanny pack can carry, you may want to consider bringing along a collapsible tote bag or foldable backpack. As a must have cruise accessory, I prefer a foldable backpack to a tote bag so I can keep my hands free. The backpack at right provides ample room to carry snacks, towels, souvenirs, and more – and can be collapsed when not in use or at the end of the day.
Cruise Approved Power Bar
A lot of cruise ship cabins have only 1 or 2 electric plugs. If you’re bringing electronic items more than your phones, such as tablets, speakers, go-pros or anything else, you’ll really want more plugs, and even USB’s.
I highly suggest looking into purchasing a cruise-approved power strip. Don’t bring a regular power strip, cruise lines are pretty strict on their regulations in regards to what passengers can bring onboard, which means that any power strip brought on my passengers can not have surge protection.
Waterproof Phone Case
One of the top cruise accessories is a waterproof phone case or protector. Especially if you plan on enjoying any shore excursions on the water. Plenty of cruisers enjoy snorkeling and boating experiences, all leading to a higher risk of phone water damage.
This simple device can save you hundreds of dollars and prevent you from loosing are the precious and priceless photos you took on your cruising vacation. I highly suggest picking up a waterproof phone case.
If you are planning on spending a lot of time in your cruise ports, you may want to invest in a quality portable charger. This also helps if you love taking pictures on your phone and do not want to spend your time by an outlet constantly recharging your phone.
Plus, if you would like to use your phone as your alarm clock like I do, you should definitely pack a portable charger so your phone is beside you. Most cruise staterooms have very few outlets and more than likely you may not have an outlet near your bed. Make sure to bring a portable charger for your next cruise.
Although not essential, a waterproof camera can allow you to capture some of the best photos of your cruise. If you have any water-related shore excursions planned during your cruise, a waterproof camera is a worthwhile investment.
Whether snorkeling at Key West or Hawaii, a waterproof camera will capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments to carry with you forever.
One of my must have cruise accessories is a pair of quality, compact binoculars. This cruise necessity is especially important if you are cruising to any more scenic destinations like Alaska or New Zealand. You will be surprised by how many opportunities you will have for the whales or a pod of dolphins in the distance. A compact set of binoculars does not take up much room in your luggage, and will likely come in handy during your cruise adventure.
Please note that, at full magnification, 60 power binoculars may be difficult for some folks to hold steady – you may wish to shop for lower power binoculars.
This may seem like a no-brainer, don’t forget to pack sunscreen when going on vacation. If you leave your sunscreen at home, cruise lines will be happy to charge you an exorbitant price for you memory lapse.
So, stop at a convenience store or order some sunscreen on Amazon before you leave on your cruise vacation. I use nothing less than SPF 85 sunscreen; I would much rather being enjoying myself than suffering from a sunburn.
Reusable Water Bottle
While water is completely free onboard cruise ships, free water does not always include bottled water. Because, whether onboard or on excursion, you will want to take water with you, I highly recommend packing a reliable and insulated reusable water bottle.
You may not be able to fill your water bottle directly from the buffet water fountain for hygiene reasons, you can easily transfer water from one of the provided cups or ask a bartender to kindly fill up your water bottle onboard. This way, you can stay hydrated and happy during your fantastic cruise with one of the must have cruise accessories.
If you are looking to go the more traditional backpack route while in port, you should make sure to bring one with ample storage, solid construction, and made from a waterproof material. Depending on the port I am visiting, I will sometimes bring my North Face backpack, equipped with everything I could ever need.
A lightweight day backpack is one of the must have cruise accessories. A backpack can provide security and comfort during your cruise vacation. If you already have one at home, I highly suggest bringing it along on your cruising adventure.
I like to remember and cherish every second of my cruise. Unfortunately, I tend to forget many of the amazing memories I make and people I meet on cruise ships practically every time. For that reason, I write about my daily experiences using a Moleskine journal. I consider this one of my number one must have cruise accessories.
I personally use the 7.5″ x 9.5″ soft cover Moleskine journal; other folks prefer the 5″ x 8.25″ hardcover journal. By making notes of my experiences and even collecting postcards (I can’t even dream of getting photos of that quality), I am able to go back in time and dream of the days of sailing through the Fiordland National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, or the Rhine River, having the time of our lives meeting fascinating and unique people from around the world; all thanks to the journal entries I created.