So I guess if you're reading this your have signed your contract to work on board or are at least highly considering it. Good for you! You are looking at potentially the best couple of years of your life. Here are some things that will make your life easier while you enjoy yourself too much.
Remember you live in a metal box. The cabins have no character on their own, so the easiest way to make them yours is to hang pictures, flags or other memories on the wall. For this, magnets are the easiest way to do it. You will usually build a collection over the course of your contract (getting one in every port you visit), but it's good to bring some cheap ones from home to get your wall started. Otherwise, your cabin will be bare until you have the time to go out and buy some, which could take a couple of weeks.
2, Small Speakers
It will make you feel good to be able to blast your music once in a while. You can use them for cabin parties, in the crew bar, take them to the beach, or drown out the whole world. Also, it will make you instantly popular with people who don't have speakers, so easy new friends. Your cabinmate or the people living in the cabins next to yours may not be so appreciative, but as long as you don't overdo it, you shouldn't have a problem.
3, A Card Holder
So this depends a little on the ship. However, the company and the ship I was on, we had one card to open our room, buy things, and use to get on and off the vessel. A second card was used to log your hours. We received a thing card, which was a credit card to our new bank account, plus you might have one from your account back home. Also depends on your job, you might have another card to access the Point of Sales system. So that's what, five cards by now? And these are not ones you want to leave in your cabin at any given time. So if you have a cardholder, you will always know where they all are. No getting caught in port without money (you can also put some cash in one of the pockets), or locking your room key into the cabin, or forgetting your access card when you go for your shift. It just makes your life easier.
4, One nice pen
Okay, so pens have this magical ability on board to just disappear. The office will get a box of 100 pens on Saturday, and within one week, they are all gone. Some the guest takes, others end up in your room, but the rest just vanishes. So I suggest you bring one pen of your own that you like. If you have one, you will b more careful about where you put it and who you lend it to. That way you will never be caught without a pen on you. I used to have one in every one of my uniform jackets, one in my excursion pants, and my favorite in my excursion folder or attached to my reception notebook (depending on where I was working). So if you have your own pen, you will never have to hunt down the desk for one if the guests need to sign a bill or a reservation form and you are saving yourself time and energy.
5, A Sweater
Even though you will most likely be working in a warm location (expect if you end up in Alaska or Nothern Europe), the ship will be cold. If you do not know your itinerary, Cruise Mapper is a great place to start and track your ship. Most workplaces these days use air conditioning, but on the ship, they like to take it to the extreme. So while outside it may be 30 or 35 degrees Celcius, inside will be less than 20. This constant change tends to freak out your body, and you will get a cold in the first month, especially if you're going in and out a lot. So the temperature inside will always be cold, you should be prepared for that. Bring a nice cardigan you might be able to sneak under your uniform, and a big fluffy one to wear when your roommate left the air conditioning in your room on all day. Just pack one, you will be thankful later.
Now this one might be a little obvious, but still, so many people forget about it. The first week at sea, I suggest you take motion sickness pills during the night, just to get used to it. Most don't have any problems, but it still takes a little getting used to. If you forget, don't worry. The Reception will give you some for free. Also bring painkillers, coal tablets, and vitamins. you will be eating whatever they give you for six months. Now depending on you, you might eat a lot or nothing at all. Even if you eat a lot, you will probably eat many of the wrong ones. Because why not eat french fries for every meal? So taking vitamins is essential to stay as healthy as possible and not ruin your experience by being medical off all the time. Also if you don't bring them with you, you will either have to ask the medical center or get them on land. Side note on this one: some companies might be more strict about what you are allowed to bring on board regarding medicine, but I didn't have any problems bringing these for the one I worked for.
This may be weird at first but let me explain. There will only be so much space in your cabin, and you will have to be organized and keeping tidiness. So if you have different pouches to keep all the small things in, you are less likely to lose them, and more likely to find them in those 5 seconds you have to find them. I had a separate pouch for all my things for the bathroom, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant, etc. Another one was dedicated to my hair stuff, another for makeup, and yet another for all my stationary. You can organize them according to your need and change them whenever you need. They are also a great way to organize different currencies if your ship is passing through different countries with different currencies. It will also make your closet look cute if you get ones in color or fun prints.
8, A journal
You will have so many adventures throughout your contract that it will be tough to remember them all. So even if you're normally not into journaling, just bring one along. You don't have to write every day or anything, but if you had a particularly good day, you might feel the urge to write it down to remember. It can also help if you had a frustrating day with one of our colleagues or friends. Sometimes you don't want to talk about it with anyone, or the person you want to talk to is not there with you, so writing it down can help calm you down and think through the situation rationally.
9, Somewhere to save your pictures
You are going to be doing all these cool things when you are in port and take hundreds of pictures. Regardless if you take them in your phone or a camera, eventually you will run out of space. It is great to have a backup for that moment. If you are using a camera or a non-iPhone, you can just bring extra memory cards and change them when they become full. If you have an iPhone, I suggest purchasing a USB that has a lightning bolt and a USB end, so you can plug them into your phone and save all the pictures there. You can of course also back them up to your computer if you have it with you. I wouldn't bring my computer with me, especially if it was a newer version. In the cabin I was, we didn't have safes, so the only possibility was locking your belongings in the cupboard and that isn't necessarily the safest thing to do. So if you have one of the other options to back up your photos, that is one less reason to bring your computer.
10, A book
So the last thing on this list is a book. There will be times when you want to escape the ship, but can't because of some reason. Maybe it is a sea day; maybe you have portmaning. Instead of escaping to the real world, with a book you can escape to a fictional one. You can be taken on a journey through someone else's troubles instead of dealing with your own. It may give you a few hours of peace, in a place where that is almost impossible. Also, a good companion to take to the crew pool or a trip to the beach. It will take away the loneliness after your friends disembarked or on your flight home after you disembark. My ship had a whole bookshelf in the crew bar with books which crew and passengers left behind. They were in different languages about many different topics. So once you finished the one you were reading you can take it there and bring back another one. It is a great way to spend some quality alone time in a place where that is almost impossible.
So there you have it. My ten things to pack for your contract, which you may or may not have thought about. I hope this helped you in some shape or form. Check out my experiences during my first contract here. I also have a post the STCW course that you will need. Further, check out this guide to all the things you should before embarking.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask them in the comment section or on Instagram @lettersfromatravelinggirl
Enjoy your contract.