You boarded your cruise, spent a few days at sea relaxing and partaking in all that your ship has to offer and now your first port day is fast approaching – hooray!
Before you disembark for a day of adventure, you’ll want to be sure you’ve packed the essentials in your day bag or backpack. While you can return to the ship at any time while in port, it’s not always that easy, especially if you’re on an excursion.
It’s important to plan ahead and gather the items you will need for the day. I’ve been on several cruises and here’s a list of my recommendations on what to include. Of course, you can personalize as needed but consider this a checklist to help get you started.
Essentials To Bring Ashore on your Next Cruise
Cruise ID Card / Room Key
Known as a Sail & Sign card on Carnival and a SeaPass on Royal Caribbean, your cruise card (also known as a band or medallion on other cruise lines) acts as your room key and provides you with access to your cashless onboard account. This little item is what lets the ship know when you’re on board or not and as such you’ll be required to scan your card each time you leave or return from the ship, including your final disembarkation. For these reasons, it’s important to carry with you but equally important not to lose.
While your cruise card serves as a form of ID, it’s always a good idea to bring additional forms of ID such as your driver’s license, copy of your passport or birth certificate. We typically bring our driver’s license and copy of our passport but leave the originals locked the safe on the ship. This has never been an issue for us and wouldn’t really be an issue unless you miss the call-time and the ship leaves port without you.
Be sure to carry a watch to keep time and set it to the ship’s time. The ship’s time can vary from the local time and you may be traveling into a different time zone each day. As you venture out to explore your port of call, you’ll want to be sure you return on time.
This is usually less of a concern if you’re booked on a ship sponsored excursion as they are responsible for getting you back on time and should you run late, the ship will wait for you. Keeping up with the time is especially important and more of a concern if you’re planning to venture out on your own. You don’t want to be late getting back to port and risk missing your ship.
Cash or Credit Card
While the environment on-board your ship may operate as a cashless, you certainly don’t want to forget money when you go ashore. Having some cash (most of the Caribbean islands accept U.S. dollars) or a credit card allows to you pay for any in port activities, purchase souvenirs, or just enjoy a local cold beer. It’s also good to have in case of an emergency.
Speaking of emergencies – having a phone that allows you to call for help. Even if your phone isn’t set up with an international plan, you can still technically make a call. It will just cost a bit more but in a true emergency, you’ll be glad you had your phone. If you have an international plan, you may want to use your phone to arrange a taxi or call a local site.
And don’t forget a waterproof case to keep your phone dry and protected.
They say a photo is worth a thousand words, so don’t forget to pack your camera! You’ll certainly want to capture those white sandy beaches, tranquil aqua waters and any other landmarks or sites you see during your time in port.
We use our iPhones and GoPro most often, especially when our travels include water. We can easily protect both with waterproof cases. Purchasing a GoPro was one of the best things we’ve done to date. The thing I love about the GoPro is you have the ability to take photos and videos with one device. It also comes with different housings (cases), one of which is waterproof and perfect for use at the beach, lake, pool or even underwater.
If your cruise includes a Caribbean destination than you definitely don’t want to forget the sunblock. Check and double-check that this item makes it into your bag. The sun is especially intense in the islands so you don’t want to forget your sunblock. Apply and re-apply often because a bad sunburn can easily ruin a great vacation or at least make you miserable for a few days and no one wants to play that game.
I’m a big fan of Sun Bum sunscreen – it’s a high-quality sunblock that’s vegan and reef friendly. It’s oil-free and packed with vitamin e to help moisturize and protect your skin. Plus it has a delightful banana coconut smell that I think is just delicious.
The sun is hot and the humidity can be high so staying hydrated is key as you explore your port destination. Even if you just plan to spend the day at the beach, having access to clean water from a known source (like your ship) is a must.
I always pack one of my RTIC water bottles – in my opinion, the 36 oz is my go-to for a day in port and worth every penny because it keeps my water cold all day. However, depending on how much room you have in your bag and how much water you drink, these bottles do come in various sizes.
Walking shoes/ Flip Flops / Water Shoes
Depending on your planned activities, a good pair of walking shoes, some comfortable flip flops or even water shoes if your snorkeling is all must-haves in my book. Considering an ATV tour or the like – closed-toe shoes will likely be required. Having the right shoes will save your feet and your day.
My go-to flip flops are the Crocs Capri V – these look nothing like the traditional clog-like Crocs. I found these several years ago and now it’s pretty much the only flip flop I wear. They are super comfortable and offer arch support.
Most cruise ships offer beach/pool towels for you to use while on the ship or in port. Public beaches and excursions usually don’t provide towels for your use but that’s an easy fix. Just toss the ones from the ship in your bag – just be sure to bring them back or else you might find a charge on your credit card at the end of the cruise.
Not only do you want to be prepared with items to take in port, it’s also important to review items for the whole cruise. Check out my post on 12 Must Pack Essentials For Your Next Cruise.
PIN THIS FOR LATER: