Are you going on a cruise and participating in a cruise gift exchange? If you’re on a group cruise or part of a cruise Facebook group, this can be a fun activity!
I’ve collected some amazing gift exchange ideas from cruise reddit forums, message boards and the Life Well Cruised facebook community.
If you haven’t heard of cruise cabin gift exchanges, don’t feel bad. Until recently, this was a surprise for me too. However, this fun cruise activity has been going on for years in many cruise roll calls and facebook groups.
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What Is a Cruise Gift Exchange?
A cruise gift exchange is a social activity on a cruise ship where passengers come together to exchange small, often themed gifts with one another.
Cruise passenger participants may draw names or follow a predetermined order to both give and receive presents during a designated event. The gifts can be fun or practical and often have a connection to the cruise or travel theme.
The cruise gift exchange can be compared to a Secret Santa game or white elephant gift exchange. If you’ve cruised on Disney Cruise Line, this is similar to the Fish Extender exchange.
How Does a Cruise Gift Exchange Work?
Cruise gift exchanges may be organized within cruise Facebook groups for a specific sailing. If you’re on a group cruise, this may be one or the organized activities.
Rules will be established, often by the person who is organizing the gift exchange.
Most cruise gift exchanges set a dollar amount as a limit. The most common gift exchange rule is is to keep items to $5-10 and under.
There may be a theme, which works especially well for specific holidays or Christmas cruises.
Why Do People Participate in Cruise Gift Exchanges?
Gift exchanges among passengers is a fun way to foster sense of community among passengers, have fun and meet new people. Many cruisers say that joining the activity was a memorable experience during their cruise.
How to Distribute the Cruise Gifts to Fellow Passengers
Cruise gift exchanges are usually done in one of two ways, decided by the group organizer in advance of the cruise.
Group Gift Exchange
Participants will gather in one of the ship venues, and gifts will be placed on a table in the center or front of the room. Then, the group leader will call people’s names and each will come up and choose a wrapped gift. Everyone who brings a gift will get a gift.
Many people like this type of gift exchange, as you get to meet your fellow passengers and even make some new friends.
Cabin Drop Off
The cabin drop off is a common way for cruisers to exchange gifts. People will have a list of 5-10 cabins and drop off cruise gifts at the cabin door. Sometimes you’ll find a little mailbox, but often you’ll have to hang the gift on a door handle (so bring ribbon or a twist tie). You can also just leave them by the door.
On Disney cruises, it’s common for people to participate in the fish extender gift exchange. If you’re doing this, be sure to make or purchase a Fish Extender to hang on your cabin door.
Cabin Crawl Gift Exchange
A cabin crawl gift exchange is a cruise activity where participants move from one cabin to another, exchanging small gifts with fellow cruisers.
It adds a social and interactive element to the traditional gift exchange, allowing passengers to explore the ship, meet new people, and share tokens of goodwill in a fun and engaging way.
Best Cruise Gift Exchange Ideas
Mini Gift Bags
It’s always so fun to see a surprise waiting at your cabin door. Depending on the spending limit, you may want to create a mini gift bag filled with a few small items.
You can find cruise and travel items at the dollar store and use these to make little goodie bags.
Goodie bags can also include mints, gum, and candy.
Local treats and snacks is always a winning idea. Some fun ideas include hot sauce if you’re from New Orleans, maple candies if you’re from Canada, We bring Sees Candy.
Hometown Shot Glasses
Shot glass gift exchanges can be fun if the whole group agrees to a theme. Hometown items is a popular theme for several types of gifts.
DIY or Hand Crafted Items
If you’re crafty, there are some fun cruise theme gifts you can make that people will love.
Some ideas include:
- Mini towel animals (made from baby washcloths)
- Personalized cruise magnets
- Cruise themed picture frames
- Shot glasses with the ship name
- Cruise t-shirts
- Reusable cruise theme zippered pouches
A fun sock exchange is a great activity for group cruises, Facebook roll calls or Cruise Critic Meet & Mingles. The funnier & more outrageous the socks, the better.
Ocean Theme Items
Ocean theme items make great gifts on their own or can be used as part of a cruise gift bag. Some ideas include whale or shark keychains, starfish pendants, ocean scented room spray, etc.
A practical cruise essential will be appreciated by many cruise travelers. Lanyards are something first time cruisers may not think of, but cruise lanyards for ship cards so useful on a cruise vacation!
Recommended: Cruise lanyards with a clip (Amazon best-seller)
Cruise Door Magnets
Recommended: Cruise door magnets (set of 5 – split this up)
Lip balm with an SPF is something many people forget to pack for a cruise. This is a great practical item to put in a cruise gift bag or to give on it’s own.
Who couldn’t use a a chapstick holder? These handy lip balm holders are sold in packs of various sizes.
Recommended: Lip balm holders (see 1400+ 4.5* Amazon reviews)
Cruise cabin walls are usually magnetic (made of metal). These small heavy duty magnets are perfect for cruisers who want to add more storage space to their staterooms.
Recommended: Magnet hooks (heavy duty is a must)
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Glow bracelets are super fun for both kids and adults!
Cruise Inspired Coasters
Cruise inspired coasters are a good DIY project or you may be able to find some on Etsy.
Gifts That Represent Your Home State (or where you live)
Consider what items represent your home state or province. This doesn’t have to be limited to candy or treats.
Some state-themed gift ideas include state mugs, state cookie cutters, postcards from your home town and USA travel crew socks.
Color Changing Reusable Plastic Cups
Reusable cups and straws make a great item to include in a cruise gift exchange. These color changing plastic cups are fun & practical.
Reusable straws (from Amazon)
Reusable straws make an awesome addition to any gift exchange for cruise passengers. This 4 pack can be split up to make small goodie bags – great for family, friend and wedding group cruises.
Recommended: Reusable straws (compact)
Cruise Ship Ornaments
Cruise ship ornaments are awesome gifts if you’re cruising during the holiday season.
Recommended: Cruise ship ornament
Waterproof Phone Cases
Waterproof phone cases often sell for about $10 for 2 cases and make a great gift for cruise lovers!
Beach Towel Bands
Towel bands will keep beach towels in place on pool deck lounge chairs, as well as at the beach. A 4 pack of towel bands can be given as a gift or you can split the pack in 2 (2 per recipient).
Recommended: Towel bands (check price & Amazon reviews here)
Cruise koozies are a fun item that many long time cruisers have and use!
Recommended: Koozies (fun cruise theme)
Recommended: Cruise duck set
Cruise gift card
Carnival gift cards (and other cruise lines) make a great gift for fellow passengers.
More Cruise Cabin and Gift Exchange Ideas
- Tea light candles (battery operated)
- Little gift bags of travel items
- Beach towel clips
- Kleenex package
- Travel size sunscreen
- Hand lotion
- Cruise Line mug
- Towel clips
- Travel hand soap
- Bags of Lindt Chocolate
- Gum or candy
- Key chains
- Laminated bookmarks
- Deck of playing cards
- Small Flashlight
- Chocolate or candy
- Hand sanitizers
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Cruise gift exchanges are especially popular with large groups on cruises. However, this fun activity can be organized for cruise roll call groups as well (along with slot pulls and cabin crawls).
Have you ever participated in a gift exchange on a cruise? Please let me know your thoughts as well as gift ideas in the comments below.
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