Well Before the Cruise

Before the Cruise

  • Consider travel insurance
  • Download offline maps in Apple Maps or Google Maps for port cities
  • Download music/audiobooks/podcasts/etc
  • Notify banks/cards of travel (usually in the app, or call)
  • Set up phone data/internet for international travel (see end of article)


Packing for a cruise is a fairly individual thing, but here are a few major points.

Forbidden Items

Items on this list will probably be confiscated, or simply left on the dock. Refer to cruise line policy for specifics, but these items are nearly universal.

  • Surge protectors (see below)
  • Drones/Quadcopters
  • Alcohol (in substantial quantities, see HAL rules)
  • Pretty much any drinks, especially in plastic bottles
  • Surge protectors are typically forbidden due to a quirk of shipboard power, as they can physically damage the ship. Power strips without surge protection are fine, but you probably don’t have one (think an extension cord with multiple plugs). See below for multi-plug USB chargers, which solve this issue.

Holland America prohibited list

Must Pack Items

You will be a very sad panda if you don’t bring at least a few things:

  • Passport or other qualifying ID
  • Boarding documents
  • Travel insurance (if you need it)
  • Copy of passport/ID
  • Prescription medication (and paper copies of Prescriptions)

Day & Checked Bags

Always bring a day bag (a backpack works well) with everything you need for the first day or so. Checked baggage will be delivered to your cabin… eventually. It could take quite a while, and occasionally things are misplaced.

Your day bag should have the following:

  • Passport or other qualifying ID
  • All paperwork discussed above
  • Medication for 48 hours (or all of it, in case your luggage is lost)
  • Phone charger
  • Battery pack(s)
  • Sunglasses
  • Anything you may want for the first few hours onboard (swimwear, book, etc.)

These are some things you may want to bring specifically for JoCo cruises:

  • Pajamas – Pajama day is for wearing these all day long!
  • Cards/tokens with name, social handle, and/or email for after-cruise followup
  • Post-its or whiteboard for door
  • Other decorations for the door
    • The doors and walls of cruise ships are often metal, and adhesives are not usually allowed. So if you want to decoratre your cabin or door, magnetic attachment is a good idea.

Since you will meet many people, and hopefully make new friends, bringing some cards along with your name/email/handle are very useful for catching up after the cruise. You can easily make your own with a printer and some cardstock 🙂

Suggested Items

  • Formal clothing, if you want to dress up for optional formal night/day
  • Sunscreen
  • Light Jacket or windbreaker (the deck can be very chilly/windy while underway)
  • Board/Card games
  • Basic pain/travel medications
  • Earplugs (for concerts, near-elevator rooms, noisy neighbors, snoring roommates)
  • USB power strip
  • Rash Guard – sun blocking swim shirt (I will be trying this shirt from Kanu, but I hear that black shirts are better. YMMV)
  • Toiletries in travel bottles


A few collected bits of knowledge. Some will be specific to Holland America or JoCo, but only the JoCo items will be marked (haven’t cruised with any other carrier yet).

  • Tips are included in room charges
  • Room service really is free, but generally the same food as the Lido Buffet
  • Ship laundry is really useful (free for suite guests, otherwise charged to room) (a whole-cruise flat rate is available, see card in your room)
  • Holland America has a “Know Before You Go” guide, which is mostly filler, but worth skimming.