Cruise survival kit: What you need to be totally prepared

cruise survival kitCarnival Inspiration finally docked in Florida at 8:30 p.m. last night after being held out at sea due to weather conditions. A bunch of other Carnival ships are sailing modified itineraries for weather-related issues. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas was tossed around in bad Middle East weather.

News from the cruise industry lately has been all about weather-related delays, modifications of itineraries, disabled ships, braving storms and compensation to passengers for their troubles. With that in mind, cruise packing lists are being updated with a number of items normally found on lists for camping or backpacking. Start with these for your cruise survival kit:

Satellite phone
For as little as $24.95 a week you can rent global Iridium Satellite Phones from Satellite Phone.com. They can provide the lifeline you want when power goes out. Call rates of between $.99 and $1.59 a minute might sound expensive sitting on dry land but that will quickly be a bargain if you are the only one able to communicate with the outside world.

Lots of backup power
When the ship loses power the clock starts ticking on your cell phone or camera battery. What could be a timely call home (if and when you can catch a signal) to let friends and family know you are OK might not happen without plenty of backup power. iPhone users know Mophie.com is the place to go. Brookstone has a universal battery that works for phones and cameras.

Survival food
The passengers aboard Carnival Splendor, the ship by an engine room fire, have a lesson for us: Bring food. When lavish buffets and gourmet dining come to a screeching halt because the power got knocked out or the buffet lines thrown around by angry seas, some high protein snacks will come in handy. Think canned nuts, peanut butter, or other survival food high in calories that won’t take up a lot of space in luggage.

The right luggage
Now, more than ever, its a good idea to have only one piece of luggage that you can keep with you at all times. Cruise lines allow passengers to skip checking luggage if they can carry it on and off the ship without assistance. On Carnival Inspiration, held at sea for so long, guests who held on to their luggage were the winners. Durable Victorinox has some great choices.

The odds are you will have a totally safe and care-free cruise vacation. But savvy travelers know that being prepared for anything that might come your way is a good idea.

Review: Technocel Battery Boost

Technocel Battery Boost

In our neverending quest for the best way to keep your gadgets powered, we came across the Technocel Battery Boost. This compact battery pack can hook on to your key chain, and includes a 600mAh battery pack, a retracting USB plug and a MicroUSB card reader.

The charger cord is MicroUSB – which means it’ll work on almost every recent mobile device with the exception of anything from Apple.

Obviously, 600mAh is not a huge amount of power, but it is enough to provide an hour or two of talk time on most phones, or several hours of music.

The charger plug is on a flexible cable, and stores neatly inside the unit itself. To charge the Battery Boost, you simply plug it into any USB power source or one of the USB ports on your computer. Its card reader slot is the perfect place to store important files, or as a place to keep a backup of photos you made on a trip.

The Technocel Battery Boost is one of the most innovative power products I’ve seen all year – and at just $29.99 it is also one of the cheapest. Better yet, Sprint is currently selling it for just $23.99! At this price, you’ll have a great stocking stuffer for anyone that travels with their smartphone.

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Power your iPhone (and other gadgets) for up to a week – Gadling reviews the ZAGGsparq

Portable backup power gadgets are nothing new. We’ve covered a whole bunch of them here, but today’s battery pack is something really special. Most power packs have the capacity for one or two full charges of your portable gadget, so imagine how cool it would be if you carried something capable of making your iPhone (or other device) last for up to a week.

This review will introduce you to the ZAGGsparq. The ZAGG name probably rings a bell, they are better known for their excellent device protection film, and their recently introduced ZAGGbox multimedia hub.

The ZAGGsparq looks like your everyday power brick. It features folding prongs, 2 USB ports, a button and 4 LED’s. It is what is inside the ZAGGsparq that makes it so handy – an AC charger (suitable for 100V-240V outlets) and a 6000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery pack. If that number doesn’t make any sense, all you need to know is that the battery in the iPhone 3G is 1150mAh. This means you can get up to five full iPhone charges from the ZAGGsparq.
Using the ZAGGsparq

Using the ZAGGsparq is just like using any regular USB charger – you plug your device(s) into the USB port, and plug the unit into the wall. When you need power on the go, you just plug them directly into the unit, and skip the outlet.

Despite its high capacity, the unit weighs just 8.4 ounces. This is obviously heavier than the original iPhone charger (which is tiny), but when you travel a lot, being able to keep your phone going this long is invaluable. Just imagine a powerpack that can keep your iPhone playing video for up to 50 hours non-stop, or even as much as 150 hours of music.

The investment

The price of such a luxury is fairly steep – the ZAGGsparq sells for $99.99 (down from its normal price of $129.99). If you never find yourself with a dead phone, then spending $100 isn’t going to make much sense. But if you have ever been stuck at the airport, or mid-flight with a dead device, you’ll find the investment pretty simple to justify.

Of course, the ZAGGsparq isn’t just for the iPhone – it’ll work with any device that can be charged over USB. This includes all Blackberries, iPods, many digital cameras and game consoles and anything else with a compatible USB charger cord. It will not power your laptop or netbook, for that you’ll need to invest in something like the Tekkeon MyPower All.

Final thoughts

There is very little not to like about a device that promises to keep your gadgets going. The weight is not too bad, it has two USB ports and it works on any international power supply (assuming you carry your own plug adapters). Included with the unit is a European (mainland) plug adapter, but no USB cables.

My only minor issue with the device is that the fourth power status LED never seems to stay on – even when I have not used the device. After a full charge, I have all four lights, but after a couple of hours it always drops to three. Still, it has not impacted its power capacity (at least not that I have noticed) and in my tests, it really does deliver on its promise – my iPhone 3GS has been charged every night on the ZAGGsparq for the past 4 nights, without the need for a wall outlet.

PROS: Huge battery capacity, dual USB ports, worldwide power compatibility
CONS: Possibly unreliable battery indicator

Product page: ZAGGsparq

Product review – JuiceBooster 2.0 – up to 3 weeks of backup power for your phone

At one point every one of us has probably arrived at the airport with a dead phone battery.

If you arrive early enough, you can probably try and locate an outlet, but if you are in a rush, the best solution is to invest in a portable backup power product.

One of those products is the JuiceBooster 2.0. This highly portable power device combines an electronic regulator with a standard lead-acid battery.

The entire thing is easy to carry, and won’t add too much weight to your luggage.

On a recent test, I took the JuiceBooster to the airport with a phone I had deliberately let run out of power – not only did the device get my phone powered back on, I was able to use it for almost 3 weeks of charging cycles for my phone.

The JuiceBooster 2.0 setup – on the left is the compact battery pack, and on the right is the power regulator. In addition to providing standard 12 volts for all your gadgets, you get an integrated lamp and air compressor.

The product retails for about $59.99 (plus an additional $79.99 for the battery pack). The optional rolling cart will add another $49.99 making the entire package a very reasonable $189.97.

You’ll find the JuiceBooster 2.0 at your local auto parts store.

Daily deal – Kensington iPod and iPhone battery pack for $26.24 (after rebate)

My daily deal for today is for a product I reviewed last year. The Kensington Mini battery pack and charger for iPod and iPhone is (as the name implies), a portable backup battery pack for your iPod or iPhone.

The device can charge off any USB charger or USB port, and comes complete with a retractable miniUSB charging cable.

The battery pack can add up to about 30 hours of music playtime, 6 hours of video, or 3 hours of talk time. To start charging your device, you simply plug the battery pack into the dock connector of your iPod.

When I wrote my review, this product retailed for about $47. It has since come down in price, and is on sale at Buy.com for $36.24. The deal gets even sweeter once you apply the Kensington $10 rebate to your purchase.

The rebate form is valid for purchases made till January 11th, so don’t wait too long. Buy.com will ship the unit for free.