Prior to booking a cruise, it is important that you know that cruise ship cabins are smaller than traditional hotel rooms. While they pack a lot of essentials into a small space, they may fall short of meeting your needs.
Even if you only have two people staying in your stateroom, keeping it organized can be a challenge. To make the most of the space, you will have to be creative and use some smart cruise cabin hacks to help improve your cabin's functionality.
Did you know, for instance, that a lot of older cruise ships only have one or two outlets in the room? What a shock you would be in if you boarded and realized that there were not enough plugs for everyone in your stateroom.
Say goodbye to cluttered desks and cabin floors, pitch-dark rooms, and fights over limited bathroom shelves and hello to your space-maximized standard cabin.
Try these 25 cruise cabin hacks to improve your stateroom's functionality on your next sailing.
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1. Book the right stateroom
No matter how many hacks we suggest, if you book the wrong cabin, you won't feel satisfied with your cruising experience.
In addition to researching cabin categories (i.e., interior, ocean view, balcony, and suite), you should determine where you want your statetroom to be located.
If you have a preference, you should avoid "guarantee" staterooms, which is when the cruise line assigns your exact cabin prior to sailing, rather than you being able to hand select what deck and position it's at.
It might not be worth it to book an interior cabin if you are someone who values sunlight and dreams of waking up to fresh ocean air. In that case, you should continue to save up for your vacation to make it as great and memorable as it can be.
2. Traveling with a large family? Save yourself the frustration and book two cabins
Adding a third and fourth person to a stateroom is usually cheaper than splitting your party up and getting two rooms. If you're considering this, it is crucial that you remember you all will be co-existing in a small space for the entirety of your cruise.
If you are debating one balcony or two interior rooms, think about how nice the extra bathroom would be. You will always be steps away from a view, just head up to the top deck whenever you are needing some fresh air!
3. Use magnets for cruise cabin organization
One cruise cabin fun fact that never ceases to amaze first-timers is that cabin walls are magnetic. Slap that souvenir fridge magnet on the wall of your stateroom and it will stick.
Our favorite cruise cabin hack is to pack a variety of magnets to take the clutter off the desk and couch by tacking papers neatly onto the walls. Bring clip magnets to hold papers, like your your shore excursion tickets and daily cruise schedule. This will help you quickly locate them and make sure that they stay safe.
Pack strong hooks to create hanging spots for hats, jackets, and lanyards. We’ve even heard of people using hook magnets and a shower curtain to create a makeshift room divider, which is useful for kids napping in one half the room.
You can also use magnets for decor to spiff up your at-sea digs. Arrange destination-themed magnets above your bed or use them to secure “happy birthday” signs. Create magnetic poetry on your cabin door or let the kids make fun scenes on the cabin walls while you get dressed for dinner.
4. Find hidden outlets or create a charging station
Older cruise ship cabins offer only a couple of wall outlets by the desk area. The charging options are woefully lacking for today’s cruiser, who travels with a mobile phone, laptop, digital camera, e-reader, smart watch, and other devices that need their batteries charged.
Expand your options by packing an outlet extender, but not one with a surge protector – that’s a cruise ship no-no); look for ones with USB ports as well as 110V outlets.
Or, bring a travel adapter to make use of the European wall outlet, in addition to the American one. Make sure your device can handle the additional voltage or bring a converter.
On new and old ships, make sure you know where all the outlets are. For example, some Royal Caribbean ships have a USB outlet hidden on the bedside phone. Sometimes there’s an extra outlet behind the cabin’s TV.
On a Regent Seven Seas cruise ship, there was an outlet on the wall underneath the bedside table. If you can’t find the outlets, ask your cabin steward to show you where they’re located.
5. Pack a long charging cable
If you are sailing on a newer ship, you will likely find a USB plug beside of the bed. On older ones, though, outlets are usually only found near the vanity, meaning that if you want to charge your phone in bed, you will need a longer cord.
Beware through-- you will want to be careful when navigating the cabin at night. You don't want to trip over the cord when going to the restroom.
6. Keep the lights on with your library card
Newer ships have light switches that require your cruise card to be inserted in a slot before the power and lights come on in your room. While we applaud these ships’ environmental focus, we acknowledge that it is annoying to leave one card by the door.
Hack the system by leaving a different card in the slot. Your library card, business card, and supermarket loyalty card will all do the trick.
With this cruise hack, you will never go crazy hunting for your cruise card only to find it in the light switch or have to trade cards when your cabinmate needs to leave for her spa appointment when you are happily reading on the balcony. It also means you can leave your devices charging while you are out of the cabin-- but please do remember to turn off the lights before you go.
7. Bring your own bathtub
Most cruise ship cabins do not have bathtubs, yet many small children vastly prefer one over a shower. What’s a cruise parent to do?
Pack a small inflatable kiddie pool and blow it up when you arrive. Voila – instant bathtub! You wll be able to keep your toddler clean and give them a place to splash on hot days since kids in diapers are not allowed in cruise ship pools.
8. Pack your own lights to set the mood
Candles are a no-go on cruise ships, but if you want to create a more romantic vibe in your cabin or simply put a little bit of light in the cabin at night, tuck some battery-operated tea lights into your suitcase and arrange them around your cabin. They are light and small, and they flicker nicely without setting off the smoke detector.
Battery-operated lights can also serve as nightlights for kids who do not like to sleep in the dark, or adults who need a little light to see their way to the bathroom at night.
9. Create a virtual window
Cruisers booked into windowless inside cabins suffer from a lack of natural light. It is hard to wake up at the right time in a room that is always pitch dark. There are a couple ways for you to solve this problem.
The first is to turn your in-cabin television to the bow channel, which broadcasts the view from the front of the ship 24/7, and turn the sound off. Use the television screen as a window to determine whether it it morning or not. This tip’s best for travelers who do not mind falling asleep with a TV on.
The alternative cabin hack is to pack a sunrise alarm clock. These have a light that gradually comes on in the half hour leading up to your pre-set wakeup time, simulating a sunrise. It will wake you up more gently than the loud ringing of your cellphone alarm or wakeup call.
10. Upgrade your bathroom with supplies from home
Unlike hotels, standard cruise bathrooms come with minimal amenities. You can, however, bring a few supplies from home to customoze your bathroom to your preference.
For example, if you are not a fan of the ship-provided bar soap, pack liquid hand soap to place in the bathroom for hand washing. You bring your own air freshener or bathroom spray to keep your ensuite smelling sweet, too.
Many cruise fans swear by bringing a clear, plastic over-the-door shoe bag to store extra toiletries, but they are banned on some cruise lines for scraping the door. If you are fighting your family for possession of the tiny glass storage shelves in your cabin bathroom, solve the problem with expandable travel toiletry bags that you can hang from the hooks on the back of the door.
If you are tired of knocking toiletries off the teeny shelf in the shower, a suction cup shower caddy can add shampoo and soap storage, if you can get them to stick. Some ladies even bring suction-on footrests for shaving.
Hate the clingy shower curtains still found on some older ships? Use magnetic shower curtain weights or binder clips to keep the fabric down and off your legs.
11. Reconfigure the stateroom's furniture to your liking
Want to open the cabin up a little bit more? Ask for the bed to be split into two singles. Would you prefer to sleep beside of your loved one and have less space to walk around? That is fine, too!
Once you figure out how you want your beds to be configured, you can ask your stateroom attendant to change it (if necessary). The nightstands can be moved around, too.
If you don't need something, like a coffee table, ask your cabin attendant for it to be removed. There's no need to keep something around that will take up space if it isn't necessary.
12. Get creative to maximize storage space
Every cruise ship cabin comes with a closet and some shelves or drawers, but there’s often more storage space than you think. When you board the ship, ask your cabin attendant to point out any hidden storage options. Is there space inside the ottoman or pull-down shelves in the closet? You might be surprised to find secret storage in your room.
Do not hesitate to ask your attendant to remove unnecessary cabin amenities to clear out shelves and drawers.
Ask them to remove the ice bucket, wine glasses, promotional books, and other items you do not intend to use during your stay onboard; it might gain you a free shelf or drawer. If your cabin comes with a stocked mini-fridge, ask for it to be emptied, so you can fill it with cartons of milk for the kids, water bottles, or the soda you brought from home.
13. Trick out your closet with packable shelves and hampers
Cruise closets can be a disappointment. We have experienced closets that only had hanging space, causing us to unpack underwear into the desk drawers, or had only a few large shelves, so our bathing suits, shorts, and T-shirts ended up in a big jumble. And where is your dirty laundry supposed to go?
Savvy travelers solve this problem with a few key cruise cabin hacks. Bring a hanging closet organizer that lies flat to fit into your suitcase but expands to hang in your closet, creating extra shelf space. Packing cubes are great, too. You essentially do not even need to unpack, as you can just take them out of your suitcase and place them on a shelf or inside of a drawer.
14. Keep your clean clothes smelling fresh by bringing a hamper for your dirty stuff
When it comes to dirty laundry, you can bring a cheap pop-up hamper to keep clothes off of the floor and away from your clean articles. A simple trash bag that you already have would suffice, too. Whatever option you go with, it will also make packing to go home easier!
15. Get extra hangers
When you open your closet, do not freak out if there are not enough hangers. All you have to do is ask your cabin steward for more. They will be happy to bring you extras. You will not have to resort to shoving your nice outfits into a drawer, causing them to wrinkle.
Plus, you can always hang more than one article of clothing on a single hanger.
Space inside of your suitcase is valuable; do not waste it by packing your own hangers!
16. Pack wrinkle release spray instead of a steamer
Did you know that steamers are banned on the majority of cruise lines? This is because they are deemed a fire hazard! They're bulky anyways and would take up a lot of space in your luggage.
Rather than wind up disappointed when you notice that the steamer you brought has been confiscated, pack wrinkle release spray instead. This, along with hanging clothes in the bathroom while you shower, is a way alternative. It will help refresh any item of clothing that you pack.
17. Do not overpack
It can be tempting to pack more than you will actually need for your cruise. Since you do not have unlimited space in your cabin, if you bring too much stuff, you might find that you don't have enough places to put everything, even if you try and maximize your storage with the above hacks.
Plan out your outfits in advance. What do you want to wear on formal night? Do you have outfits for each of the cruise's themes? Take the time to even try on your outfits, so you know what you look and feel good in!
18. Leave your full-sized products at home
When it comes to toiletries, remember that space in the bathroom is even more limited! Most cruise ship showers will only have a single rack or two for everyone's toiletries.
If you bring your large bottles of body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, etc., there's a good chance not everything will fit, or you will be stuck bringing your bottles into the shower when it is your turn.
For that reason, you should refrain from bringing full-size products and pick up some silicone travel bottles for your next cruise vacation. They are also be reused on future trips!
19. Decorate your stateroom's door
Many first-timers cruisers do not know about stateroom door decorations. This is a fun way to add some personality to your cabin and help you locate it with minimal effort.
There are so many different ways that you can decorate your door. Are you cruising for a specific reason, like a graduation, birthday, or anniversay? That makes it easy, but you do not have to be celebrating anything in particular to participate in this tradition.
20. Use the walls for messages
If everyone in your travel party is not purchasing wi-fi, you might struggle with how to communicate when you all go your separate ways. You gotta ditch the technology and go old school.
Sticking post-it notes to cabin mirror is a great way to leave messages about your whereabouts. Magnetic whiteboards will also do the trick. Just know that if you leave them on the outside of your door in the hallway, mischievous shipmates might add their own messages...or alter yours!
This can be a fun way to interact with your fellow passengers, though. On a recent cruise, someone would write a new question each day. It was fun reading everyone's responses.
21. Tuck your suitcases under your bed
Once your luggage is delivered to your cabin, you should take some time to go ahead and unpack, rather than waiting until later that evening. This way, you will get settled into your home away from home as soon as possible.
When everything has been taken out of your suitcases, push them underneath the bed. This will free up floor and closet space, rather than leaving them lying around.
You should also bring stacking suitcases that can fit into one another. Any leftover floor space left underneath the bed can be for other things! Every inch counts.
I went on a short 3-night cruise in January and left my suitcase on my cabin's loveseat. Even though I didn't feel like I needed to unpack since it was so short, I regret not doing so. This meant that only place available to sit in the cabin was either the bed or vanity chair.
22. Download movies, television shows, books, and music ahead of time
Televisions onboard cruise ships do not have endless free content, and you might end up disappointed with the options. Before you board, make sure that you download all of your favorite content, so you can watch it during your downtime.
Have an e-reader? Figure out what your poolside reads are going to be. This is a good alternative to packing books, as they can take up quite a bit of space in your luggage, especially if you plan on reading a lot!
Of course, if you have Wi-Fi, it is not essential that you do this before your cruise begins, although depending on the internet speeds, it might take forever! By crossing this off your "to do" list, it is one less thing that can cause you any sort of frustration during your well-deserved vacation.
23. Place everything important in your cabin's safe ASAP
No matter what stateroom you book, your cabin will have a safe. It won't be the largest thing in the world, but it will be big enough to hold everything important, like your passport, credit cards, cash, etc.
Rather than leave this stuff lying around, go ahead and place it inside of the safe the second you get to your cabin. This will help you avoid any later panic if you cannot find something!
24. Leave all your towels at home
Just like a resort, towels are provided for use by your cruise line. It does not matter if you are sailing with MSC Cruises, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Holland America Line! This means that you can save room in your suitcase and stateroom by leaving all towels at home-- both beach and bath!
Do not take them with you, though. Most cruise lines will charge your onboard account if they are not returned. Royal Caribbean, for instance, will bill you $25 per unreturned towel. Plus, they have been used by many, many people. If you want a towel as a souvenir, you are better off buying your own!
25. You don't have to pack up the night before disembarkation
Are you dreading living out of a small bag for one night? Don't worry. You only have to set your bags outside if you want assistance with your luggage.
While this is a popular option (I know I hate dragging my barely-not-overweight luggage around longer than I have to), if you have a reasonable amount of baggage, you can finish packing everything the morning of disembarkation and carry all your luggage off the ship yourself.
Another advantage to this is that passengers carrying off their own suitcases able to get off the ship first. Those with numbered bag tags will have to wait until their assigned departure time.