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Working in a Shore excursions department onboard beautiful ocean cruise liners has allowed me to learn a lot about cruise ports, destinations, guests’ inquires and things that cruise passengers can experience on a cruise! In this blog post, I’ve decided to share with you a list of 25 things to pack for your shore excursion.
Of course, it’s not the same when you go on an Alaska shore excursion or a Caribbean one. Different cultures, port facilities, weather conditions, destinations, and other things can make you decide what to bring on your cruise excursion. I made a list of some universal items to bring no matter where you go, and those that vary on the location.
1. Ship ID Card (SeaPass Card) + Tour Ticket
No matter if you are joining a shore excursion or going outside in port on your own, you must bring your ship card in case you want to exit the ship! I’ve seen dozens of times cruise passengers missing their shore excursions because they forgot their ship cards and couldn’t leave the ship.
It takes time to return back to the stateroom, look for the cards, and not to mention facing the long line in front of the Guest Services desk when you need to get a new one (in case you lost it). You can get in trouble if you lose it during your stay in port because the security procedure on the way back can be exhausting and complicated. Make sure you keep it in a safe place. I suggest wearing a lanyard or a waist belt.
If you are joining a shore excursion, make sure you bring your tour ticket or printed confirmation of a tour booked. The tickets normally indicate the tour’s meeting time and place.
2. Cruise Compass/Daily Planner
As all cruisers may know, the time in port can be quite short and is usually limited to half-day. When going out in port, it’s essential that you keep an eye on the time as you need to be back on board by All aboard time, which is usually 30 minutes before the ship departure time.
If you are joining the cruise line-sponsored shore excursions, the tours normally end by All aboard time and you’ll be escorted straight back to the ship by the tour operator. However, if you explore the port on your own, or join a non-ship-sponsored tour, you need to be responsible for your own time-management.
When you are going outside, I strongly suggest you bring a Cruise Compass or any cruise daily planner that your stateroom attendant delivers to your stateroom every day. They normally deliver it in the evening, so you can bring your daily planner outside in port the next day. In the planner, you’ll find information regarding your All aboard time, and useful port info, and event schedule for that day. In case you want to avoid bringing the planner with you, take a photo of it with your phone!
3. Cash/Credit Cards
I would always suggest bringing both anywhere you go. It’s always practical to have some cash on you to tip the driver and tour guides (although it’s not mandatory), or for some small purchases. Many countries have their own currency, but in most places, the US dollars (in the Caribbean) or euros (Europe) are widely accepted.
As for credit cards, I think it’s wise to have them because you never know what you might need them for. It might be for an emergency (God forbid) or to make bigger purchases in jewelry stores or duty-free shops. I wouldn’t recommend paying by credit card in local stores and “suspicious” places.
Make sure you bring a waterproof wallet, to avoid your money, tour tickets, and credit cards getting wet.
4. Bottled Water
Wherever you go, make sure you keep hydrated. There is normally a water station on the pier or at the shore excursions’ meeting place. You can buy it in any onboard bar as well if it’s open. An alternative option is to buy it in a terminal building (if there is a kiosk), or outside in port (in that case, make sure you bring some cash on you).
Sometimes, bottled water is included in your tour, and you don’t need to worry about it.
I suggest you bring a recyclable, plastic water bottle that you can throw afterward to save some space in your bag, but if you prefer reusable bottles, make sure they are light and don’t take up much space in your bag.
In case you use medications, an asthma inhaler, or take insulin, don’t forget to bring these on your shore excursion, as you never know when you’ll need them! Boat and ferry rides can often be rough due to the strong currents and winds, and if you are sensitive to the movement, don’t forget to pack seasickness pills that you can normally get on the ship too.
To keep all your vitamins and pills organized, I suggest you take a look at this super practical pill box case, ideal for travelers and people who prefer to keep their things in order.
AUVON iMedassist Weekly Pill Organizer Arthritis Friendly, BPA Free Travel 7 Day Pill Box Case with Spring Open Design and Large Compartment to Hold Vitamins, Cod Liver Oil, Supplements, and Medication
If you travel with kids or elderly people, the travel first-aid kit with bandages, alcohol pads and other first-aid items is an extremely useful item to have!
6. Travel Umbrella
I absolutely love travel umbrellas! As the umbrellas can take up a lot of space in your bag, I suggest you always bring light, compact ones. Make sure they are windproof (those who went on a Caribbean cruise know why I’m saying this) and small, so they can perfectly fit in your bag.
I’ve sailed across Europe, the Caribbean, and been to Asia, Africa, and the USA… Trust me, the weather can go crazy in the places you least expect it! I warmly recommend you always have one of these cute light umbrellas on you.
7. Travel Waist Belt
I strongly suggest you get a travel waist belt when joining shore excursions! You never know whether you’ll get robbed or you’ll drop your credit card somewhere! It’s extremely useful in ports of call where you need to bring your passport outside with you. Upon purchasing a waist belt, make sure it has multiple compartments for your money, tour tickets, credit cards, a passport, travel documents, and that it can safely protect your belongings from potential thefts!
I like this one – it’s universal and fits discreetly underneath your clothes:
Lewis N. Clark RFID Blocking Money Belt Travel Pouch Waist Stash + Credit Card, Id, Passport Holder for Women & Men, Black, One Size
8. Light Backpack
When I explore the port, I like to have my hands free! I love backpacks, and I suggest you bring one on your shore excursion. If you are traveling with family or friends, one backpack is enough to fit all your stuff. Upon choosing one, make sure it’s light, not too large, waterproof, and easy to fold up. If you go hiking or any other outdoor activity, make sure your bag has several compartments and pockets to fit water, a camera, and other stuff you bring!
However, keep in mind that large backpacks are sometimes not allowed to bring in museums, churches, and other historic landmarks! In such places, there are normally lockers where you can leave your belongings.
9. Power Bank Portable Charger
If you like taking pictures on your trip like I do, you’ll need this handy piece of electronic equipment! I used to be bad luck and ran out of my phone batteries several times in fabulous places such as Alcazar Palace (Seville, Spain), Cinque Terre (Italy), and a few others. I needed to beg people to take photos of me, and send them to me via e-mail or social networks afterward.
After learning my lesson, I bought a small Power Bank Portable Charger that literally saved my memories! I always have it on me, especially when I have some free time in port and I use wi-fi to call my friends and family back home.
You realize how important it is to have photo/video memories once you experience what the whole world has experienced with the Covid-19 pandemic: the inability to cruise, travel, make memories, see the loved ones on the other side of the globe. It’s only then that you learn to appreciate little things, such as posing in front of the Margaritaville sign in Cozumel cruise port with your family or the photos you took on a helicopter ride over glaciers in Alaska.
I can’t exactly tell you how many times I went through all my photos from previous cruise ship contracts during the pandemic… countless! It literally kept me alive, remembering so many unique and precious moments that I experienced as a Shore Excursion staff onboard a cruise ship. Thousands of once-in-a-lifetime memories captured by my Samsung Note 8.
I think every cruiser should invest in a good camera! It can be a high-quality smartphone camera, a professional camera, or a full photography gear that includes a travel tripod and additional equipment.
11. Waterproof Phone Case
If you are joining a shore excursion with water activities involved, I suggest you buy yourself a waterproof phone case where you can store your phone, money, or ship card, and keep it away from getting wet!
The lanyard is the most convenient and best way to safely store your ship ID card when moving around the ship and exploring the port. This one below is specially designed for cruise passengers, I love it!
13. Wet Wipes
Wet wipes come in handy not only when you are on a shore excursion, but whenever you move around the ship. Make sure you keep your hands sanitized and clean every time you go out in port and walk around the ship!
I prefer small packs that I can easily put in a bag without taking up a lot of space.
If you are going on a whale-watching shore excursion or taking a trip to the Canary Islands‘ volcanoes, binoculars are the best way to admire the fascinating wilderness of the world’s most beautiful places up-close. If you are on the Alaskan cruise, do not leave the ship without a pair of these small, compact binoculars – ideal for wildlife spotting!
Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision, Large Eyepiece Waterproof Binocular for Adults Kids, High Power Easy Focus Binoculars for Bird Watching, Outdoor Hunting, Travel, Sightseeing
15. Snorkel Gear
If you feel passionate about snorkeling, there are many cruise destinations where you can experience amazing snorkeling and world-class diving! If you book a snorkeling or diving shore excursion, the snorkel/scuba diving equipment is usually included in a tour price and you don’t need to bring your own.
However, the gear is not always included, so it’s handy to have a pair of basic snorkel gear (mask and snorkel). Buy it beforehand, as the gear can be quite expensive in ports (either you buy it or rent it).
If you want detailed insight into snorkel gear and diving equipment, check my article: Snorkel Gear and Scuba Diving Equipment – Tips by a Pro!
16. Beach Bag
If your shore excursion includes a beach break, a light, spacious beach bag is an ideal way to store all your stuff, especially if you travel with kids! I personally prefer big bags with a zipper and several pockets where I can put my sunglasses, a phone case for my phone, some cash, and a lanyard with my ship ID.
This one has a separate cooler for drinks as well!
17. Beach Towel
If you are joining a shore excursion that includes some beach time or you are heading to the beach on your own, don’t forget to pack your beach towel provided by your cruise ship! There is normally a towel station by the gangway where you can get some clean towels – the cruise staff scans your card, and you can use as many towels as you want for free as long as you return them by the end of your cruise. In case you lose your towels, you need to pay a fee for each.
However, ship towels can be too heavy from my experience. An alternative option is to bring your own – I would go for a light, microfiber towel as they dry fast and are easy to clean.
Wherever you go, you’ll always need a pair of sunglasses. Some people prefer to have a high-quality pair of sunglasses and are willing to spend money on them, while some consider it as money wasting.
A few years ago, I had Lasik eye surgery, and ever since I’ve had my vision back, I always tend to buy quality sunglasses with UV protection, no matter the cost.
Ray-Ban is definitely my number one! Make sure you have a solid case where you can store it to avoid damages.
19. Digital Watch
I find digital watches very useful when you cruise, either as a guest or a crew member. Guests who join shore excursions need to stick to their schedule and it comes in handy to have a digital watch so you can keep track of your time.
I have the exact same Baby-G digital watch as the one in the picture, and I find it perfect for women. It’s so sophisticated and I even wear it with my formal uniform onboard.
Smart digital watches are an alternative option that I’ve seen many guests and crew wearing.
20. Comfortable Walking Shoes
When you go on a shore excursion, it’s essential that you wear comfortable walking shoes or sandals, depending on the location.
If you go hiking, biking, ziplining, or any other outdoor activities, I highly recommend the ASICS shoes as I’ve been using them for a long time and they fit me perfectly: ASICS Women’s Gel-Venture 7 Running Shoes, 8.5M, Black/Silver
For tours that involve hiking over slippery surfaces, make sure you bring lightweight waterproof hiking boots that are slip-resistant!
If the weather is nice and you go on a sightseeing trip or any tour that doesn’t involve strenuous physical activity, I suggest Sketchers sandals, a value for money is guaranteed!
21. Rain Poncho
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the weather is quite unpredictable anywhere you go! Besides the compact travel umbrella, I warmly suggest you bring a light rain poncho/waterproof jacket on your shore excursion, as you never know whether the weather will change last-minute.
Some cruise ships sell the rain ponchos on board, but they don’t have it always, so make sure you get yours beforehand. They are light, easy to wear, and don’t take up a lot of space in your bag!
When it comes to hats, I would always go for small, packable hats that can easily fold and fit in your bag.
23. Biodegradable Sunscreen
One of the most important things to pack for your shore excursion is sun protection. No matter where you go, it’s always smart to have one on you. Don’t wait until you get to the port to buy it, because most probably you’ll overpay it, and the selection of sunscreens will be limited. If you plan to take an eco-friendly shore excursion, in many eco-parks and beaches, you’ll be required to use a biodegradable sunscreen that doesn’t affect the environment.
24. Insect Repellent
Insect repellents can be life-savers in many ports of call, especially in the summertime. I had so many guests coming to the Shore Excursions desk after tours to provide me feedback on a bad experience with mosquito bites. If you want to explore the Mayan ruins in Cozumel or go to the jungle, an insect repellent is a must!
25. Portable Lock Box Safe
If you travel with kids, family, or a group of friends and get distracted during your beach time, the portable lockbox safe is the perfect solution you should invest in! It’s light, water-resistant, durable and what’s most important – it takes your mind off thinking about your belongings when you are having fun at the pool or beach!
Are there any other items you would add to my list? Feel free to do so in the comments below!