18 Cruise Hacks

Published on: September 8, 2015 | Last Updated on April 21, 2018
Cartoon credit: Carnival Cruise Lines
Cartoon credit: Carnival Cruise Lines

Cartoon credit: Carnival Cruise Lines

Here are 18 cruise hacks (tricks) to make your next cruise easier and more enjoyable…

Each time you cruise, you’re likely to become a better cruiser. You figure things out and pick up a few tricks from other cruisers that make a voyage easier and more enjoyable. After returning from our most recent Mediterranean cruise, I created a short list of my favorite cruise hacks, organized in three categories: At Home, On The Ship and On Shore.



Always pack a shawl or pashmina. Most restaurants and theaters on ships are air-conditioned and those venues can get chilly in the evenings. Shawls take up minimal space or weight in your suitcase and add a touch of elegance and color to evening outfits.


Bring a small bottle of your favorite scent. It’s always nice to have a touch of home when you travel and a spritz of fragrance fits the bill. It also doubles as an air freshener in the bathroom.


Buy your husband a nice black collared polo shirt. No matter where he dines on board, a black polo shirt is comfortable and easily makes the transition into evening once he’s run out of dress shirts.


Pack a pair of inexpensive flip-flops. You can wear these when you go to the pool or spa and they double for comfortable slippers in your cabin. (The terry ones provided on ships can have slippery soles.) After a lengthy shore excursion with lots of walking, it’s great to be able to slip on a pair of non-binding flip-flops.


Book specialty restaurants before you board. Most cruisers enjoy intimate dinners at specialty restaurants that, depending on the ship and line, can be complimentary or at a reasonable additional cost. Because spaces fill up quickly, book them in advance or on your first day onboard. Try to coordinate your reservations so they don’t inadvertently overlap with long excursions.


Bring a power strip (or two). It’s unusual to find all the outlets you need for your electronic and electrical gadgets in most staterooms. Bringing an electrical strip can allow you to charge all your gear, and use a hair blower and curling iron simultaneously. Just be sure the strip matches the voltage and plug format (may need an adapter) available on the ship as well as your appliance requirements. Most computers, smartphones and camera battery chargers will work on 110-240V but cosmetic appliances vary.


Bring along a small purse or wristlet to take to meals on the ship. After you get your ship identification card and place your valuables in the safe, you’re likely to only need a keycard, cellphone and tissue. A small purse can take a great deal of weight off your shoulders.


Invest in a medium-size cross-body bag. You’re likely to have a large tote that you’ve brought on the plane but you don’t want to be weighed down with a large purse when you’re doing lots of walking or transferring to a tender. A cross-body bag is easy to carry and also can be placed right in front of you, away from pickpockets who prey on tourists.


Don’t forget to bring along some dryer sheets. These are light as a feather, add a fresh fragrance to your suitcase, are great for removing static and are invaluable if you use the ship’s self-service laundry.



Carry a small suitcase with essentials with you when you board. It’s tempting to let porters deliver all the baggage to your room but depending on the size of your ship and when you board, it may take some time for your suitcase to reach you. If you strategically pack a small carryon with your valuables and essentials, you can feel secure and freshen up as soon as you get to your cabin.


Unpack fully. One of the joys of cruising is having to only pack and unpack once. Do the job as soon as possible so you aren’t living out of a suitcase. Most cabins are so well designed that they offer a place for everything.


Ask for hangers. There are never enough hangers in cabins (or hotel rooms for that matter). Since you’re likely to be staying for at least a week, ask your cabin steward for additional hangers at the beginning of the voyage so you don’t have to hang layers of clothes on the same hangers.


Weigh yourself when you board and whenever else you feel the need. If you are worrying about gaining weight, don’t bury your head in the sand. Most onboard gyms have a scale so you can keep tabs of any potential weight gain. Weight loss while cruising seems to be less a less common problem.


Make use of the laundry/dry cleaning service onboard. If you find a stain on something you absolutely love, get it dry-cleaned as soon as possible. Most dry cleaning services are only slightly more costly than waiting until you get home.


Play hooky from shore excursions once in awhile. Especially on port-intensive cruises, there may be little time to enjoy all the onboard amenities. Allow yourself some time to relax at the pool, spa or even on your balcony.



Make it a point to eat a few meals off the ship. Yes, meals are included but no cruise can replicate the ambiance and authenticity of eating with locals. If you are a food lover, do some research on Yelp or Chowhound before you go; if a restaurant is very popular, you may need to make reservations in advance.


Get away from the port. If you have the time and opportunity, try to explore the more off-the-beaten-path places, either independently or on excursions offered by your cruise line. Ports are notorious for their crowds and ticky-tacky souvenirs. This is another time when research can help you make good choices.


Avoid the bus seats with window stickers. Before you choose your seat on the bus, look up and see if seatbelt and no-smoking reminder stickers will interfere with your views (and your photography).

Have you discovered any cruise hacks to add to the list? 

[This article by Irene S. Levine was also published in the Huffington Post on 8/14/15.]

Cruise Hacks: 8 Tips to help you pack for a river cruise

  • Reply
    Paula McInerney
    September 14, 2015 at 5:15 am

    We haven’t been on a cruise yet, but when we do, and we will, I will be buying Gordon a black polo shirt and following all of your suggestions. I fully intend to play hooky where I can get a chance, but who knows until we do one.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 14, 2015 at 10:06 am

      Hope you have the opportunity. It’s a great way to travel–only packing and unpacking once!

  • Reply
    September 14, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Some day I’ll convince my husband to take a cruise, and then your cruise hacks will come in very handy! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 14, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Funny, but I had to twist my husband’s arm the first time and now he is a devotee!

      • Reply
        Arline Zatz
        November 1, 2015 at 3:07 pm

        Great trips, Irene. Thank you. I’m still trying to get my husband to agree to a cruise. The only one we ever went on together was one along the Nile. Great fun, but wished that our leader on one of the off ship tours spoke better English. We missed a lot because we couldn’t understand him.

        Best, Arline

        • Reply
          Irene S. Levine
          November 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm

          It is such a shame when you can’t hear or understand a tour guide…very frustrating, too! We ran into that several times in China where tourism is still “under development.” I hope it won’t keep you from cruising, which is a great way to travel!

          Warm regards, Irene

  • Reply
    Denis Gagnon
    September 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks for a great article. I beg to differ about the weighing comment. As I always gain weight on every cruise we take, the last thing I want to do (or recommend other people do) is to weigh myself during the cruise. It would only be moments of disappointment which have no place while we are onboard. I much prefer to simply enjoy myself and take care of “detoxing” and losing weight when I get back home. Works well for me!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 15, 2015 at 12:34 am

      Glad you enjoyed it, Denis. I like your philosophy! I should have couched the suggestion by saying that the scale is recommended only if a cruiser will be more anxious than if he/she hadn’t gone on one. Clearly, you are anxiety-free!

  • Reply
    Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel)
    September 14, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Some great travel tips here Irene. Asking for extra hangers is a super idea ( didn’t know that was possible) and as for Travel Hack #13 let’s just say I’m still carrying the extra pounds I collected during our cruise in Italy so that is a good one to keep in mind.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 15, 2015 at 12:36 am

      I probably have to improve my packing skills but I never seem to have enough hangers whether I’m on land or sea!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Stavert
    September 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    What fantastic tips for cruising! We have never been on a cruise, but I know we will eventually. Your tips can be applicable to everyday travel as well. The cross body bag is the greatest!

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    September 14, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Great tips! Especially agree with # 16. No better way to get a feel for a destination than to eat the local food.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 15, 2015 at 12:49 am

      I don’t need too much encouragement to sample local food:-)

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    September 14, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    These are all marvelous tips, and when we do ever go on a cruise I will use them all, except one. Weighing myself? Uh, no. There are certain sweet mysteries in life that should remain mysterious. 😉

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 15, 2015 at 12:52 am

      I’m totally shocked by the number of very frequent travelers, like you, who haven’t experienced cruising! You do need to try it!

  • Reply
    Charles McCool
    September 14, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I thought 18 tips would be overkill but these are all great hacks.

  • Reply
    Kay Dougherty
    September 14, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    All excellent points – the wrist purse is one I learned early on but I have to add my reading glasses to mine. The only point I take (minor) exception to is wearing scents. I travel with my sister who has an extreme sensitivity to smells (because of a medical problem) and when people wear even a little perfume it can make her cough for literally hours. I advocate a perfume free world – although I don’t expect to prevail!

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    September 15, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Great tips! The cross body bag and the window seat on the bus, sans stickers are two that I will use on our next cruise. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Vicki Winters
    September 15, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    The dreaded scale! Please don’t make me get on a scale on vacation!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    These are great tips and apply to travel in general, not just cruises! I agree about the black polos. They are a great look and work with a jacket. Regarding the scale, I’ll take a pass. Travel can affect weight for a variety of reasons. I’d rather deal with it when I get home.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 19, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      Those black shirts are also slimming:-)

      • Reply
        September 19, 2015 at 5:31 pm

        Maybe I should get one too:)? Saying I have a lot of black would be an understatement.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Lisa and I cruise fans for sure and you certainly list some great cruise hacks! While we do love cruising, we completely agree with the “on Shore” tips.. Yes, included meals are great and the food delicious, but when traveling you should always try to experience the real food of a location. Independent excursion are also a big hit for us, similar offerings at a much better price. Great article!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 19, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      Glad you both liked the cruise tips I accumulated~
      Best, Irene

  • Reply
    September 20, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Have not been on a cruise yet, but these tips will certainly come in handy. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    December 10, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Lots of great tips here! The one about the carry-on is particularly useful if you’re boarding a large ship. It can sometimes take a few hours for the suitcases to get delivered to your cabin, and as you say, it’s nice to freshen up before going to get something to eat or explore the ship after you’ve just boarded. That power bar/strip tip is good too – we’ve not done that, but probably will now :-). Then we won’t have to wait to charge gizmos; we can do them all at once!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      December 10, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      The power strip will change your life:-) We use one with about six outlets for more trip and the we have a smaller one for weekends!

  • Reply
    Cathleen Huckaby
    April 3, 2016 at 10:54 am

    BRAVO Irene! My sistah forwarded this article as I have a cruise ship charity (check us out at )…I’m subscribing to your awesome blog and LEARNED from these tips..espec. re the Stickers on windows obstructing the view, and a ‘wrist’ purse.
    Do you like Peter Greenburg “The Travel Detective?” I absolutely love his hard-earned tips!
    Another tip:Bring small BALLOONs and the end of a roll of scotch tape, on a cruise Blow it up, tape to your stateroom door and your kids, friends etc can spot YOUR door down those long ship hallways.
    I also bring THANK you notes and wee gifts to leave those awesome stewards & waiters who work such long dedicated hours for us all. I know we tip them, but a personal touch/gift means so much to them.
    You write so well, easy to read and I appreciate you!


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