Cruises are one of America’s favorite ways to take a vacation or travel to nearby tourist destinations. And in recent years, luxury cruise lines have upped their game on just about every level.
Apart from on-deck pools and jacuzzis, many ships now also have rock climbing walls, billiards rooms, full-scale floor shows, and high-end saunas.
But cruises can also sometimes feel like one very long road trip. And every road trip has those moments of boredom and monotony.
So apart from the many things you don’t have to bring with you on a cruise (food, amenities, linens) we’ve put together a list of a few fun things to bring with you that can make for some high-energy activities to share with your family members and travel buddies.
Contemporary Card Games
While a classic deck of cards can offer hours of fun from dozens of different card games, there are some great new cars games that can make for a great time while taking up very little space in your luggage.
Cards Against Humanity is a creative word-association card game with a love for the irreverent, the weird, and the unexpected.
CAH has gained a huge cult following, and options to include your own custom cards let you really make this game your own with inside jokes and personal references.
If you’re looking for a more family-friendly version of this same basic concept, we would recommend Apples to Apples.
Lastly, it’s not technically a card game but it fits well into the category of small-profile games: LCR. The whole game fits in a small tube, and if you play with pennies instead of plastic chips, all you have to pack is the dice.
Each player rolls a die, then based on the roll being an L, a C, or an R, you pass a chip left, across, or to the right, respectively. Rolling a dot means you keep all your chips for that roll.
The rules can get more complicated from there, but ultimately it’s about tailoring the simple rules to make sure everyone is having a fun, frantic time.
You probably shouldn’t buy a smart tablet just to take on a cruise, but if you happen to already have one lying around your house, then we strongly recommend bringing it along for your cruise adventure.
Apps mean that you can use your tablet for just about everything, from inventive games to musical instruments.
A tablet could also be the most convenient way to watch streaming content while you’re traveling.
The screen is big enough for poolside watching or late-night movie screenings in your cabin. You can even hook it up to your headphones of choice or a Bluetooth speaker to make your own little mobile theater.
It may seem like a relatively obvious suggestion, but you’ll be sorry if you get on the boat and realize you forgot to pack it.
Compact Video Game Console
A certain brand of dedicated gamer would make sure to bring their full gaming rig on a cruise with them.
But for most of us, that would be way too much effort, and taking a cruise is about just the opposite.
As an alternative, go for a handheld video game console like a Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, or Nintendo Switch.
Some of these consoles also offer basic multiplayer options that can make for some fun get-togethers with your family or some new friends you’ve made on the ship. With downloadable games, each tiny video game system can offer a world of gaming options for your downtime enjoyment.
Believe me, if pirates had the option to bring binoculars instead of a spyglass, they would have.
And no, you won’t have to worry much about hostile ships approaching off the port bow, but having a pair of compact binoculars stuffed in your luggage can be a great way to fully appreciate your surroundings.
Take them out on the deck and keep an eye out for the coast of Martinique. Or hike to an upper deck and play a real-life game of Where’s Waldo with a friend on the deck below, hiding among the pool crowds (preferably wearing a red and white striped hat and shirt, but that part’s optional).
We like this pair from Nikon. They’re waterproof, affordable, and they offer an impressive zoom and superior lenses. More importantly, they won’t take up precious cargo space once they’re packed.
A Comfortable Set of Workout Clothes
With all the opportunities for physical activities on modern cruise ships, you don’t want to get caught with a suitcase full of jeans and formal wear.
In addition to a couple different swimsuits, be sure to pack athletic shorts, sweatpants, and lightweight T-shirts that you’ll only use for the sweatier pastimes.
Oh, and you might want to pack a nice bathrobe to enjoy the sauna after your many workout sessions. You won’t have to worry about your towel falling down— just another way to cut down on vacation stress.
Combo Board Games
One of the great things about classic board games is that they don’t all require custom boards and their pieces don’t take up too much space.
For example, you might want to check out this combo board game set that includes chess, checkers, cribbage, backgammon, and dominoes. It’s a handsome package that folds away neatly to save you as much space as possible.
The big upside with these classic games is that most people have played them at least once before. In other words, playing these games in public areas offers other passengers a great chance to join in and introduce themselves.
Before you know it, you’ve made some good cruise friends who are going to be your brunch buddies for the rest of the trip.
Hopefully, I won’t have to say too much about this one. After all, the benefits of cozy blankets should go without saying.
Blankets are great for sitting out on the deck late at night or snuggling up inside your cabin. Our recommendation is the Wicked Cozy Blanket from L.L.Bean. When all is said and done, this blanket will last a lot longer than just one cruise.
We encourage you to think of some knick-knacks of your own that could be versatile and fun on a long cruise or even just a regular road trip. Most importantly, remember to enjoy the trip and put plenty of time aside for not doing anything at all.