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The one surprising travel accessory you can't go on a cruise without

Sept. 05, 2022
9 min read
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When I was in junior high, a solid three years before I could legally drive, I asked my parents for a lanyard. They were all the rage among teenagers — particularly high schoolers who used them to corral their car keys. Long gone are the days when my bright orange Adidas neck strap was stylish. That is, of course, unless I'm on a cruise, where passengers often use lanyards to secure their keycards. Keycards serve as both room keys and the only payment card accepted on cashless cruise ships, so wallets aren't necessary.

I've never actually brought my lanyard with me on a sailing, opting instead to carry my card in a pocket or my trusty, tiny Kate Spade crossbody (see below). But cruise lanyards are so popular among at-sea travelers — particularly children who might otherwise lose them and casino regulars, who need quick access for those slot machines — that I'd fit right in if I were to decide to go "vintage" (read: touristy).

Although these accessories don't seem like they'd require too much thought, you might be surprised at the variety available. From simple nylon numbers and flashy ones bedazzled with rhinestones for formal night to options that include protective plastic sleeves, here are some of the best cruise lanyards, along with a few non-lanyard alternatives.

Note: For some of these, you'll need to punch a hole in your keycard. Lines that don't automatically provide punched cards can usually accommodate the request at the front desk, but you might want to pack your own hole puncher, just in case. However, cruisers should be mindful that some keycards contain RFID technology that can be damaged by hole-punching.

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Faux leather lanyards

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For some classy flair, try a leather lanyard, which can be either dressed down for everyday use or dressed up to go with any dinner outfit during your cruise. This option is made of faux leather, which means it's vegan-friendly, and it comes in a variety of colors to boot. Amazon sells this lanyard in a two-pack, complete with a see-through cardholder so you won't have to punch a hole in your keycard, unless you'd rather use only the trigger clip.

Retractable lanyard necklaces

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Necklace lanyards are a dressier way to wear your keycard around your neck. I like this two-pack, which comes with one silver and one rose gold lanyard, plus a removable, retractable clip that allows for extra length so you don't have to bend down to open your cabin door. You can also choose to attach your card with a keychain-style split ring, a lobster clasp or a clear, removable card pocket.

Crossbody phone holder

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Personally, I'm always trying to juggle my phone and my keycard when I cruise; I usually put them in a small crossbody bag that holds both without being too cumbersome. I have a Kate Spade one, and I absolutely love it.

If that's too big or you're not someone who carries their phone around while they're sailing, I recommend a card holder. (I have a similar one, also by Kate Spade. The brand's now-defunct counterpart, Jack Spade, has a few still for sale out there, too. So do brands like Michael Kors, Herschel and Timberland.) The nice thing about a card holder is that it fits easily into a pocket, and both of these products are appropriate for everyday use, even when you aren't at sea.

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Glitter lanyards

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For passengers with the brightest of personalities, these sparkly rhinestone lanyards offer just the right amount of eye-catching glitz and glamour. Plus, they're versatile. You can choose to attach your punched keycard via a keychain-style ring, a standard trigger clip or a trigger clip that's attached to a retractable reel for easier access. This three-pack comes with one black, one silver and one pink lanyard.

Beaded lanyards

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In my opinion, these silicone-beaded types are some of the most stylish lanyards available if you insist on wearing one. They look like necklaces but without the metallic or rhinestone touches. There are two ways to attach a punched card — with a metal trigger clip or a keychain-style split ring, both of which can be detached. They're sold in packs of two or three, each with a different design. They clasp in the back and can be adjusted to the desired length.

Stretchable wrist coils

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If you just can't see yourself buying a lanyard for cruise use, these wrist coils are trendy, stylish and comfortable, as well as durable. They ensure your cruise keycard won't get lost but aren't as obtrusive as a neck lanyard. This pack offers six different colors so you and your travel companions can quickly tell whose is whose if you take them off. Bonus: Use them pre- or post-cruise for your keys, or remove the detachable split rings to use the coils as hair ties.

Basic nautical lanyards

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For those who want a lanyard truly befitting a cruise experience, a nautical print is the way to go. This style is basic, featuring a metal trigger clip and a clear card protector, allowing you to choose whether you'd like to punch a hole in your card or put it in a protective sleeve. The order contains two lanyards in reverse blue-and-white color patterns so you and your travel companion can differentiate whose card is whose at a glance.

Detachable, retractable nautical lanyards

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Similar to the basic nautical style above, this style offers a plastic clip that converts the lanyard to a smaller wristlet size that won't tangle in a purse or pocket. There's also a retractable cord that provides extra length so you can stretch your card to your cabin door card reader or the nearest onboard register without taking the lanyard off. This two-pack includes two identical lanyards, but unlike the ones above, they don't offer a clip or clasp option, making the plastic card sleeve a necessity.

Ridge minimalist slim wallet

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For anyone looking for a cardholder without a strap, this industrial-style slim wallet by Ridge is made from military-grade RFID-blocking materials, fits easily into a pocket and features a lifetime guarantee. With its card slot and money clip, this wallet will not only secure your cruise keycard and small bills for tipping, but also it's great for everyday use when you're at home.

Basic solid lanyards

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Whether you're traveling with a large group or need several lanyard colors to match all the outfits in your cruise wardrobe, this pack of eight basic solid-colored lanyards comes with swivel J hooks to keep your card secure and easily accessible. They're more traditional in that they aren't detachable or retractable, but they do come with plastic card sleeves.

Basic solid wrist strap lanyards

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Want a less noticeable but equally effective way to tote your keycard? These basic solid-colored wrist straps, designed to carry USB drives, double as ideal lanyards for feather-light cruise cards. They have no extra bells or whistles, but they do come in a large pack with a variety of colors. To use them, you'll need to punch holes in your cards to take advantage of the small nylon thread loops.

Retractable belt clip badge holder

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If you're in the market for a quick-draw utilitarian-style way to carry your card, consider a retractable one that clips handily to a belt, belt loop or purse with a carabiner clip. Attach your cruise keycard to it with a split ring by punching a hole in it, or use the provided tab to connect a clear plastic card holder (not included). This product also comes with a one-year warranty.

Woven wrist strap lanyards

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Some of the most rugged and durable lanyards for cruises are these thick woven-style ones, which seem like they'd hold up for many voyages. They're shorter than a standard lanyard, come in lots of colors and patterns, and include a real leather fastener that connects to a round lobster clasp that's perfect for keycards with holes. This wristlet-style card wrangler is great for keeping your card close without wearing it around your neck.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by A cruiser holds out her keycard on Carnival Breeze. (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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BEST FOR DINING AND GROCERY REWARDS
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

    Earn 60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel.
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.