Port Day Essentials: nine things you should not leave your cruise ship without

Cruise Port Day Essentials. Don’t Leave The Ship Without These 9 Things

Port day essentials 

When we head out in port on an excursion or self-exploring, we don’t assume that things are going to go wrong – we always assume that we’re going to have a great time. However, that’s not always the case, and there are probably four key things that I’ve seen go wrong, either to myself or to other people in port.

I’m going to give you nine ways of making sure that you ease your way through those and make them stress-free with a list of port day essentials to take ashore with you.

Potential port day issues

The first of those is that you might get separated from your excursion or your travelling party. I was on a cruise recently and while on an excursion, a lady with a young child had become separated from the group and was then stranded in a country where she didn’t speak the language. She was completely lost and in a massive panic.

Running late

The second thing that could happen, is that you could be running late and be in danger of missing the ship. Again, on another cruise recently I know some people who had gone off exploring, and they’d lost track of time. They suddenly realised they were lost, and they needed to get back to the ship before the sail away time, and didn’t know what to do.

The third thing is that you might suffer some sort of injury. I was on a cruise a couple of years ago where I fell really badly and broke my ankle. I’ve also been on a cruise recently in Honolulu, and one of the passengers headed off self-exploring and actually got knocked over and broke their leg.

The last one is that you could fall prey to some sort of crime. We’ve all been on excursions, I’m sure, where you’ve found people have been pickpocketed or mugged, or something like that. These tips will help you deal with any eventuality or problem you might have when you’re out and about.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral

So, what are the nine things that you should be watching out for?

The obvious ones

The first port day essential is to take all the obvious things – the things that the cruise line tells you to take. Firstly, you need to take your cruise card because that’s the thing that gets you on and off the ship. Secondly, you need to take the tickets if you’re heading out on a tour of some kind. And, of course, you need any tour-specific clothing with you. So, if you’re going swimming, then you need beach towels; you might need hiking boots, etc.

The daily program

So, what are the less obvious things? The single most important item that you can take on an excursion, even if you forget all the other ones that I tell you, is to either take the daily programme, or to make sure you’ve taken a photograph of it. Particularly if you’re on an ocean cruise, this will show who the port agent is. If you’re on a river cruise, it’s probably more likely to be the telephone number of the ship. This is absolutely essential for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it reminds you of the time you need to be back on board, but if anything goes wrong – particularly if any of those four things happen to you – you have the cruise agent’s number. These people are connected to the ship all day. They are used to every single kind of thing going wrong, and they will be your absolute saviour, no matter what happens to you.

Take note of the address

Also, on that particular document, there will also be the port address. I know a couple who were in a place where there were actually two different cruise ports, and they had got separated from their group. But at last, they jumped in a taxi miles and miles away to be taken to the port, only to discover that it was the wrong one.

Photo ID

The third thing that I like to take with me is government-issued photo ID. I personally like to take my driving licence rather than my passport. I don’t like to have my passport out with me because if I lose my driving licence, it’s not as catastrophic as losing my passport.

So, government-issued photo ID is really important because that will not only help you if you have any problems, but even if you do miss the ship or have to try and catch up with the ship, having photo ID will get through a lot of those barriers. Also, on some ships, depending on their itinerary, they keep your passport for immigration purposes, so I strongly recommend taking photo ID with you.


I always have a photograph of my passport on my phone and also in a cloud service. So, whether that’s Google Drive or Dropbox, or wherever you like to store it. So, if anything does happen, I can also access my passport, either on my phone, or I can get it downloaded from the cloud.

Money matters

The next thing that I recommend you ensure you take out with you is some form of currency, or some way of paying for something. Firstly, I like to take out a couple of small notes of the local currency, which is useful if you need to pay a couple of dollars to use toilets, or to get a taxi, bus or a metro. If you don’t want to do that, the other thing I recommend you take is a debit card because then you can go to an ATM and withdraw cash if you need it. So, a debit or credit card is really helpful to have out with you.

Currency convertor 

Also, when it comes to money, another thing I like to have is some form of currency converter app on my phone. This is great if you’re not very good at maths or the exchange rate is difficult. If you do want to go and buy something, or you’re in a market and haggling, you can give it a check and make sure you don’t get ripped off. I’ve bought some sunglasses, for example, and thought I had a good deal, but then I’ve got home and realised I’ve paid almost double what they would’ve cost me at the airport because I’ve got the exchange rate wrong.

So, bear in mind, in markets and in shops, especially in big tourist areas, they’re pretty nifty at playing with the exchange rate and confusing you. So, having an app is a great idea just so you can check what things actually cost.

Travel Insurance

I also strongly recommend you have access to copies of your travel insurance details, and particularly, the assistance number. Again, it might be a picture on your phone or in the cloud. Most travel insurance policies will have an assistance company and a number that you can call if you have any problems, you’ve lost something, you’ve been injured or whatever. But particularly if you have to go to a hospital or medical centre, and you need those details. I wouldn’t bother taking it with you, but knowing that you have it on your phone or you can download it, is really important.

Mobile phone

The fifth thing I like to take with me is my mobile phone, for all sorts of reasons. First of all, if I have an emergency, I can contact people. I can also put apps on there, so metro apps, Uber, or the currency converter I was talking about. Sometimes you can get city guides and all sorts of other useful things.

Importantly, I also take a portable battery pack charger because if I have a problem or my battery runs out, then obviously I can use that to keep it charged. So, I like to know that I’ve got my phone with me at all times, and it’s got plenty of battery life.

For many people, a phone also becomes your camera. So, when I’m heading out on excursions, and if I’m not doing videoing for the channel, I’ll just use my mobile phone for photographs.

Safe storage

Of course, because you’ll be taking all these bits and pieces that I’m recommending, the other thing that I always make sure I do is have a safe place to keep all this stuff. Some people like to use a bum bag (or fanny pack, depending on where you’re from), or one of those storage belts that you can hide under your shirt.

I also like to take a small waterproof bag, particularly if I’m heading out to the beach. So, you can either wear it when you go into the sea. Or, if like me, put things like my mobile phone, cash, cards, my cruise card, etc in it and actually bury it in the sand underneath my towel. I do this a lot, particularly when I’m cruising by myself, or even with my partner and we want to go in the sea together.

In the unlikely scenario that someone has seen you bury it and starts trying to dig it up, it’s going to attract a lot of attention. If you are going to take a rucksack with you, make sure it’s one of those rucksacks that are quite hard to get into. Or make sure you’ve put your valuables safely in inside pockets, because pickpockets are very nimble at unzipping easy to access pockets. So, make sure you’ve got somewhere safe to keep your valuables.

First aid essentials

The next thing that I always take with me – and this may seem a little bit fuddy-duddy – are a couple of first aid items. So, in my rucksack, I like to have a couple of headache pills, perhaps some anti-diarrheal. Or, if I’m heading out on a catamaran tour or at sea, maybe some sea-sickness tablets.

But also, one of the things that I would recommend if you are on some sort of prescription medication which you absolutely have to take at a certain time or every single day, is to take one or two doses of that with you. Just in case you do have some kind of issue or you’re delayed, just so you don’t have to struggle to get a copy of your medication.


The other thing that I would recommend is to take a picture of either the prescription or the bottles that you have your medicine in. Have it on your phone or saved on the cloud, just in case of an emergency. Of course, within that first aid area, and depending on where you are, remember to take the obvious things like sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. I was on a cruise recently and got stung and bitten like crazy because I’d forgotten to chuck that into my bag.

Cruise Ship Sydney Harbour


Another important thing that I always like to take out with me is water from the ship. So, either a refillable water bottle, or depending on the cruise line, you might have to buy a bottle of water. It just means that when you do head out, you know it’s safe to drink your water. Plus, it’s really important to keep hydrated. So, always take out some kind of water with you.

Some people, of course, like to take out snacks as well, but certainly, water is important.

Cruise Ship Malta

Camera and batteries

If you’re the sort of person who likes to take a camera out to take pictures, make sure you’ve got spare batteries and SD cards. There’s nothing more frustrating than heading out on an excursion, particularly if it’s one of those scenic or day excursions, only to find that your battery runs flat in your camera. Or you’ve run out of space on your SD card.

It’s happened to all of us and it’s incredibly frustrating because you’re then deleting other good pictures to get different pictures of things around you. So, make sure you’ve got those kinds of backups.

If you’re heading out on a port excursion, don’t just head out easy-breezy and not think about those eventualities that could happen. By taking a few things which soon become habit, if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of having something happen to you, like one of those four things that I mentioned at the beginning, you’ll be able to deal with it really easily.

I have loads of videos packed with cruising advice and tips, so why not watch another one of those right now?

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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