Gadgets and gear: These items make extended cruising much easier

By Tim O’Keefe

Power Strips
(Those of you who normally cruise in a suite can skip this first part, assuming you have a plethora of electrical outlets in such cabins. Not in my budget for such extra amenities.)

The average cruise cabin, regardless of age of the ship, typically is way behind the times when it comes to the electrical needs of the modern traveler. Think of all the items you need to charge every day: iPod, cell phone, iPad and/or Kindle, digital camera, Nintendo DS, you name it.

gadget outlet
That switch on the right controls our cabin lights on the Maasdam

But many cabins have only a two electrical outlets, located just above the desk and under the mirror. One outlet is for 220 volts, the other outlet for 115 volts. If you have an adapter for European travel, many smart phones and digital battery charges will also work off 220v, but you still end up with a grand total of two outlets.

No problem if you carry a power strip with you, right? That certainly will help but maybe not as much as you think.

Take a look at the basic power strip below (not surge protected) and how the outlets are positioned side by side:

gadget strip 1 empty

Now, here it is, full . . . or as full as can be considering all the different style of plugs these days.

gadget strip 1 full

This second type of power strip is surge protected and the outlets are positioned in a row, just as you find them in most homes:

gadget strip 2 empty

Yet even it isn’t perfect:

gadget strip 2 full

Solution: Carry both types, plugging one into the other.  That way you can handle more than one odd plug size at a time and keep everyone fully charged at the end of each day.

gadget both strips

Staying in Touch on Ship
At home, families with children are in the habit of texting each other to see what they’re doing during the day. You can’t do that on a cruise ship unless you’re willing to pay quite a bit in cell phone surcharges when your cell phone has a signal.
On days-at-sea, only satellite phones work. Do you want to give one of those to every member of the family?

Instead, go old fashioned and use walkie-talkies to keep in touch. Get a pair with a good long range, which makes it more likely it will span the length of the ship. If you have an inside cabin you might have to go out on deck to establish contact.

gadget walki talkis


For Digital Photographers

A Powered USB Hub

Buying enough SDSC memory cards to cover a 35-day trip without downloading would be almost as expensive as taking another 7-day Caribbean cruise. It’s been rare but I’ve filled as many as three 8-gig cards in a single day shooting raw and large jpeg on this trip; in San Juan, I think.
So downloading to your computer as well as a portable external memory drive (for backup) is routine for many people. I prefer to download simultaneously to two external hard drives. Many of these high capacity backup units will not work through a normal USB hub plugged into your computer. Instead, they work when only directly attached to it.

My computer has HDMI and what-not but not as many USB ports as I need. My solution is to use a USB hub with its own independent power source. In other words, it has its own electrical plug but all of its other connections are typical of every USB hub.

gadget ext drives, powered usb hub

Memory Card Case
SD cards are scarily small compared to the old compact flash cards which you could dump in a camera bag or pocket and find them easily. My solution is to use a hard memory card case I purchased for compact flash cards but never used because I had so many of them and they didn’t play hide-and-seek every day. The card case keeps my four 8-gig SDHC cards tapped together quite well. They are allowed to come out only when they need to go to work. This card case has me the most organized I’ve ever been since digital cameras entered the market. Because I’m deathly afraid I’ll lose one of them.

gadgets SD card holder

Memory Stick and High Speed Digital Flash Card Reader
Although I brought several memory sticks on the cruise, it was because they carried documents not on my laptop. Surprisingly, they have come in handy almost every day. Linda and I use one to proof each other’s work before posting since we can’t email to each other. I’ve also used them to carry photos to the Digital Workshop and, when docked in cruise ports, download from faster and cheaper Internet services.

Those of you who download photos from your camera directly to the computer risk losing all your material. Did you know that if your camera battery is weak and the camera shuts off while you are making the transfer, you could lose everything on the camera as well as what you were downloading at the time?

No need to take that kind of risk if you use a digital flash card reader. You simply fit the card into one end and the USB end into your computer and that’s all there is to it. You can use whatever program you want to make the transfer, too, not rely on what your camera furnishes.

gadgets memory stick, digital flash card reader

Have some special gear or gadgets of your own that others might be interested in? How about sharing them with the rest of us.

About Cynthia Boal Janssens

Cynthia Boal Janssens is the editor and chief blogger for AllThingsCruise.com. She is a former national president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She has sailed on over 40 cruises all over the world.

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One Response to Gadgets and gear: These items make extended cruising much easier

  1. Terry December 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    We recently took a delightful trip to Australia and New Zealand on the Volendam. The issue I faced with the plug was a bit different than the one you describe and for which you offered a good remedy.

    My problem was that the one plug was so close to the desk that my Netbook adapter style (3-prong) plug could not be plugged in. The power bar you recommend would have addressed that problem. Thankfully, I had carried with me a two-prong (3 extension) plug that I had prepared to handle situations in which I might not find a 3-prong plug, even when the power was 110V

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