The Top 7 “Wow” Gifts To Give On Your Holiday Cruise

I love a holiday cruise. There’s something magical about being at sea, celebrating on beautifully decorated ships, with special cuisine and activities devoted to the occasion. The absolute best part, I must say, is being able to relax and enjoy the holiday with my loved ones without the stress that often goes with being a host.

One thing that can be tricky, however, is gift-giving; you have to put a little extra thought into the gifts for those who accompany you on the voyage. The best gifts will be easy to pack, useful for the trip and something the recipient continues to enjoy when the trip is over.

So here are my suggestions for some fantastic holiday gift giving on a ship this year:

1. Digital Camera – A camera is a must for those who travel to document their experiences and will always be a great option for holiday gift giving. This year’s hot camera is the Go Pro Hero3. It comes in three models: the White Edition ($199), Silver Edition ($299) and Black Edition ($399). This lightweight (2.6 ounces!) camera is built for adventure, with a waterproof housing that’s perfect for inclement weather or diving. It also has built-in Wi-Fi, which means it can be controlled wirelessly by anyone with a compatible device, so a tech-driven Dad will love it! Read more about the features here.

Like the concept of a waterproof camera, but not the Go Pro’s price tag? Coleman offers a waterproof digital camera without all the bells and whistles for $49. This would be a perfect teen gift! More information.

If you’re looking for a child’s gift or stocking stuffer, just go with a single use (not digital) 35 mm waterproof Fuji for $7. More information.

2. GPS for Geocaching – This one’s good for a recipient of any age! Geocaching is a high-tech, real-world treasure hunt – a pastime that has taken off in popularity over the last several years and has gained participants of all backgrounds and ages. The best part? There are caches located all over the world, so it can be done in almost any port you visit. (Learn more about geocaching at

The only thing that’s really necessary to participate is a GPS system. The units typically range from about $100-$300, although most avid cachers agree that upper end of that range is really where the decent units start. Serious geocachers will spend more. (Read up on your options; here’s an excellent buying guide:

Garmin makes a good low-end unit for $97.

If you’re up for some serious geocaching, or if you’re considering making this a family gift, take a look at the Magellan eXplorist 710, with a price tag of $438.

Have a smartphone? You can get a basic mobile app for $10.

If you’re new to the sport, you might also consider purchasing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching.

3. Sunglasses, with a twist – The Oakley Thump, priced at $129, is the first digital audio eyewear – the glasses have an integrated music player and earphones right in the frame. No more wires, no more carrying an additional device to be set down and lost. And in another engineering genius moment, Oakley designed the earphones and lenses with a flip-up mechanism that turns them on and off instantly, so you can answer the phone or stop to chat without a lot of fumbling. Perfect for Moms that always need to be accessible and usually have their hands full of lots of other items.

If you like the idea but not the price tags, check out a more economical (but less high-tech) version on Amazon for $34.

4. Digital Binoculars – Binoculars come in handy on a cruise, especially on ships that cruise close to a scenic coastline. Save someone the trouble of putting down the binoculars and reaching for a camera by purchasing digital binoculars as a gift. This would be a perfect gift for an older relative who prefers the ease of one device to an array of high-tech items.

Like both binoculars and digital cameras, the pricing will vary widely based on the included features, so pick your price point.

Cabela’s offers a nice, functional version by Bushnell for $50.

The price goes up from there, ranging all the way up to this Sony version, which also offers digital recording, for $2000.

5. Harry Potter Book Set – These books are all about wizards, but it’s J.K. Rowling’s writing that is the true magic, bringing the characters and their adventures to life in a way that few writers have ever achieved. Some will say this series is strictly for children, but don’t believe it; this is a great for all ages.

A basic paperback set runs $78.

The hard cover edition costs $120.

For once, a good book series has translated into an equally impressive movie series. If you’ve got a true Harry Potter fan, consider the Harry Potter Wizard’s Edition movie set, priced at $349. (A word of caution – this is a large “chest” of movies and memorabilia, so you’d probably have to pack a bag just for this gift.)

6. Sketching kit – The budding (or accomplished) artist has a perfect venue to hone his or her skills on a cruise ship. Exotic ports, culture and people provide inspiration uncommon in everyday life, and days at sea give uninterrupted time to work.

This simple little set is a great (and affordable) gift for a new artist, or child $15.

A more serious artist will appreciate the versatility of this set $63.

7. A really great excursion – The value of the intangible can sometimes be overlooked; sometimes an experience is the best gift one can give. . In addition to all the opportunities offered right on the ship (spa treatments, lessons and lectures, to name a few) there’s also the option of a shore excursion, which can be a once-in-a-lifetime-type experience if chosen carefully.

Popular children’s excursions include: Swimming with the dolphins, panning for gold or a visit to Altantis.

Teens and adults may enjoy the more extreme experiences: volcanic cave exploration, zip liningor an adventure tour.

Or go for something in a cultural vein: a visit to religious sites, culinary tours or a private art tour.

Check out more fascinating shore excursion options or browse a comprehensive listing for more ideas.

(Pricing for the items in listed above are current as of publication, but are subject to change.)

Lastly, here are some gift packing tips for a cruise holiday:

ÔÇó Make sure gifts are small and relatively lightweight for ease of transport.

ÔÇó While wrapped gifts are not prohibited, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration recommends air travel passengers wrap gifts after their flights or ship them ahead of time to avoid the possibility of having to open them during the screening process. This applies to both carry-ons at security checkpoints and to checked baggage..

ÔÇó Split gifts between luggage; should a piece become lost or delayed during transit, you will still have some gift options.

Enjoy your cruise! The holidays truly are a magical time of year.