Your cruise is paid for, and now you think you’re ready to go. But are you? To make sure you won’t forget any essential items, I’ve put together this cruise packing list.
Efficiently packing for a cruise can make a world of difference in ensuring a stress-free and enjoyable voyage. Are your documents all in order? Did you pack clothes for different occasions and weather conditions?
If it’s your first cruise, or you simply need a cruise checklist and a few cruise packing tips, you’re in luck. This cruise packing list covers all the cruise essentials you need to pack for a seamless and comfortable journey at sea. From clothing and accessories to toiletries and travel documents, I’ve got you covered.
- YouTube Channels For Every Cruise Lover
- Complete Guide to Alaska Cruises
- Cruise Holiday Essentials
- Offbeat Cruises
- List of Cruise Ports in the USA
Cruise Packing List
Over the past several years, cruises have become more casual, attire-wise. For the most part, you can spend your days cruising in T-shirts, shorts, jeans, casual dresses, and light sweaters. Of course, the destination and weather will determine your choice of clothes.
If you’re heading on a tropical Caribbean cruise, take a bikini, sunglasses, and summer dresses. You can also add a few smart casual pieces for a non-beach time.
For Alaska cruises or other cold-weather cruises, pack sweaters or fleece, jeans, comfortable (preferably waterproof) walking shoes, and a light jacket and/or a waterproof jacket.
Many cruise lines still have some traditional formal nights during a 7-night itinerary or a fun-themed night, so add some formal wear as well. For example, Royal Caribbean has signature 80s theme nights or white hot parties where everyone wears white.
If you plan to stay active on board, pack some sportswear too. First and foremost, don’t forget the basics, like undies, socks and pajamas.
A general rule of thumb is to pack one outfit for each day of your cruise vacation. So, if it’s a 7-day cruise, prepare seven outfits. If it’s a 14-day cruise, you might need 14 outfits.
That might seem like a lot. But if you pack clothing pieces that are easy to mix and match, the so-called ‘capsule wardrobe’ will reduce the number of clothes you need quite significantly.
In other words, if you have four tops and four bottoms that can be combined with each other, you could have 16 unique outfits. The good news is most cruises have a laundry service and some dry cleaning, with generally about a 24-hour turnaround time. Some ships also have self-service laundry rooms.
So even if you bring fewer clothes, you can wash them if need be.
CRUISE PACKING TIP: Many cruises have strong AC, so pack a nice shawl to put over your shoulders when it gets chilly.
Every savvy cruise traveler needs a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. During the day, sneakers offer support and good traction.
On the larger ships, a trip from the dining room to the cruise cabin could take ten minutes. Do that twice, and you’ve had your exercise for the day—and that doesn’t include the shore excursions or onboard activities.
For occasions that call for something more high-class than running shoes, you can pack elegant sandals or shoes with medium-sized heels. For tropical cruises, you’ll also need flip-flops.
Most cabins come with basic toiletries, such as soap and shampoo, and sometimes conditioner and lotion, although you still may want to bring your favorite products. On most cruises, you spend a lot of time outdoors. So sunscreen is a must. Adding insect repellent to your luggage can also be a good idea.
Other essential toiletries to take with you are deodorant, shaving products, a toothbrush, toothpaste, plus any makeup, feminine products for women, skincare, and eye care if you wear contact lenses. If you forget something, most cruise ships have a shop on board selling essentials like razor blades, toothbrushes, and sunscreen, usually at inflated prices.
You won’t need a beach towel. Most cruise lines provide them for you to take ashore.
CRUISE PACKING TIP: Some cruise ports, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, and Hawaii, require reef-safe sunscreen to protect marine life and corals, so keep that in mind.
Be sure to pack any electronics you might need on your voyage, whether it’s a phone, laptop, or tablet.
Packing the right electronics for a cruise is essential to ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable experience while staying connected, capturing memories, and staying entertained. Here’s a list of electronics you might consider packing for your cruise:
- Laptop or Tablet: If you need to work, browse the internet, or watch movies, a laptop or tablet can be useful. However, consider whether you really need it, as cruises are a great opportunity to disconnect.
- Camera: While smartphones have increasingly powerful cameras, dedicated digital cameras or DSLRs can offer superior image quality for capturing the stunning views and experiences of your cruise.
- Power Strip or Extension Cord: Cruise cabins usually have limited power outlets, so bringing a power strip or extension cord can help you charge multiple devices simultaneously.
- E-reader: If you’re an avid reader, an e-reader can save space compared to carrying physical books.
- Portable Charger: A portable charger can be a lifesaver when you’re out exploring at ports of call and need to recharge your devices on the go.
- Headphones or Earbuds: Whether you’re listening to music, watching movies, or making calls, a good pair of headphones or earbuds is essential for enjoying audio content without disturbing others.
- Adapter and Converters: Depending on your cruise destination, you might need power adapters and voltage converters to charge your devices.
- Fitness Tracker or Smartwatch: If you’re into fitness, a fitness tracker or smartwatch can help you stay active and keep track of your steps, heart rate, and more.
- Travel Router: Some cruise cabins might have weak or limited Wi-Fi coverage. A travel router can help boost the signal and allow multiple devices to connect.
- GoPro or Action Camera: If you plan to engage in water sports or adventurous activities, a waterproof action camera can capture your experiences in high definition.
- Charging Cables and Adapters: Don’t forget to pack charging cables and any necessary adapters for your devices.
Remember to check with your cruise line about their specific policies on electronics, as some ships might have restrictions on certain devices or their usage. Additionally, consider the type of cruise and your personal preferences when deciding which electronics to bring – it’s an opportunity to strike a balance between staying connected and enjoying a digital detox.
Cruise ships don’t have weight restrictions for luggage. However, if you plan to get to your cruise port by plane, it’s essential to adhere to your airline’s luggage allowance.
Your carry-on bag should contain everything you think you may need for the day in case your checked luggage is delayed. That means a change of clothes, valuables, electronics, important documents, eyeglasses, and medications.
For checked bags, consider how many bags at baggage claim tend to look identical. So, one of the most important aspects of buying luggage for a cruise trip, or any long trip where bags will be checked, is to ensure they are easily identifiable.
One of the easiest things that can be done here is to choose luggage with a distinctive pattern and colors or to mark that luggage with a special tag so that it stands out. It may be ugly, but it will never be lost or stolen by accident.
When it comes to convenience and security during shore excursions or beach trips, nothing beats the practicality of backpacks, crossbody bags, or fanny packs. Unlike handbags that can be cumbersome and easy targets for thieves, these options are more secure and less likely to be snatched.
A backpack can hold everything you need for a day trip, while a fanny pack or crossbody bag is perfect for carrying essential items like your wallet, phone, and room key. These options allow you to keep your hands free while exploring, making your cruise adventures more enjoyable and worry-free.
Finally, make sure to leave space for souvenirs in your luggage.
CRUISE PACKING TIP: Pack an extra bag for shore exploration, such as a backpack, crossbody bag, or money belt.
Read through your documents carefully and verify the info. Check that your airline tickets show the correct flights and arrival times.
And definitely make sure that you’ve got enough time to reach the port of call at least a few hours before the ship is scheduled to depart.
When the big day arrives, keep your printed cruise documents with you in your purse, briefcase, or carry-on. (just in case your phone battery runs out or the wifi doesn’t work to display your e-ticket)
☑️ Your flight tickets (if applicable)
☑️ Cruise boarding documents
☑️ Passports and visas (when necessary) or proof of citizenship
☑️ Vaccination certificate (when required)
☑️ Driver’s license (for shore-side car rentals)
☑️ Copy of prescriptions and current medications
☑️ Travel insurance details
☑️ A cruise planner with all the information describing the shore tours available on your trip, which you may be able to book ahead of time and other frequently asked questions.
Other Things to Consider
☑️ A waterproof phone case can come in handy for protecting your phone or camera if you like water activities, such as kayaking.
☑️ Motion-sickness medication – If you think you may get motion sickness, get Dramamine or Bonine, plus ginger candy or chewing gum if you have problems with plugged ears on takeoff and landing.
☑️ Binoculars – The ocean is big and the horizon far away, so having binoculars can be especially valuable if you spot a whale.
☑️ Umbrella – Yes, I know. Nobody wants to think of rain on their cruise vacation, but if it does rain, you’ll be glad you packed it.
☑️ Medication & first aid kit – Take enough of your prescription medication to last throughout the entire cruise vacation. It’s also a good idea to pack a few over-the-counter medications, such as a painkiller, bandaids, upset stomach medication (I recommend charcoal or S.Boulardii; they work like magic.), eye drops, and motion sickness medication.
☑️ Universal plug adapter – If you plan pre-and-post cruise stays for international destinations, you may require adapters. To make your life easier, buy one of the universal adapters that can fit any electric outlet and come with USB/Type C ports for easy charging.
☑️ Magnetic cabin hooks – Cabin walls are metal, so cabin hooks can be a great addition to your cruise packing list. You can hang your hat, bikini to dry, backpack, and more.
☑️ Reusable water bottle – Water is complimentary on most cruise ships. If you have reusable water bottles, it makes it easy to fill up and stay hydrated onboard or while venturing out.
☑️ Power strip (approved by cruise lines) – New cruise ships have numerous electric sockets and USB ports, but the older ones only have limited ones. That’s why power strips can be useful to keep all your devices easily charged.
Ultimate Cruise Packing Checklist
- Flight tickets (if applicable)
- Cruise boarding documents
- Printed luggage tags
- Travel insurance info (just in case)
- Document holder/Money belt
- T-shirts/tank tops
Formal / Smart Casual Clothes
- Cocktail dresses/Gowns
- Classy overalls
Warm Clothes (If applicable)
- Rain jacket
Beachwear & Activewear
- Bathing suit
- Workout clothes/Activewear
- High heel shoes
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Water shoes
- Eyeglasses/Contact lenses
- Glasses case
- Backpack/Beach bag
- Baseball cap/ Sun hat
- Hair elastics
- Dental floss
- Lip balm
- Hair products
- Contact solution/Case
- Shaving cream/Razor
- Makeup/Makeup remover
- Feminine hygiene products
- Nail file/Clippers
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug spray
- Cell phone
- Camera/Memory card/Lenses
- Hair styling appliances
- Handheld video games
- Plug adapter
- Power strip (approved by cruise lines without surge protection)
First Aid Kit
- Motion sickness medication
- Upset stomach medication
- Pain killer
- Waterproof case for the phone
- Wet bags/Zip-top bags
- Reusable water bottle
- Cash/Credit cards
- Lanyard for cruise tag
- Dirty laundry bag
Cool Things to Bring on a Cruise
- Matching cruise-themed baseball caps
- Magnetic cabin hooks
- Poo-Pourri (air freshener/bathroom spray)
- Thank you cards for cruise staff
- Waterproof GoPro Action Camera
- Waterproof dry bag
- Fun board games or cards
What Not to Pack For a Cruise
Although cruise ships don’t have as strict restrictions as airplanes, there are still a few items that you should keep at home.
Fire is the number one threat on board, so you aren’t allowed to bring any items that generate heat or produce an open flame, such as candles. However, you’re allowed to bring hair straighteners, hair dryers, and curling irons.
Weapons, illegal drugs, or anything that can be considered dangerous are not allowed on the ship.
You should also leave at home any valuable items like expensive jewelry and large sums of cash.
While it may seem convenient to bring your own bottle of liquor onboard, cruise ships have strict policies against bringing any outside alcohol.
Following these simple rules will help ensure that your cruise is both safe and enjoyable for everyone onboard.
You shouldn’t pack for a cruise the following items:
- Coffee Makers
- Clothes Irons
- Travel Steamers
- Hot Plates
- Firearms & Ammunition
- Sharp Objects
- Illegal Drugs & Substances
- CBD Oil / CBD Products
- Hookahs & Water Hookah Pipes
- Alcoholic Beverages
Cruise Packing Hacks
☑️ Print your cruise boarding documents just in case your data or wifi doesn’t cooperate.
☑️ Beach Towel Clips work like magic when it’s windy on a cruise, so pop some in your bag, and you’ll be glad you did! That beach towel on a lounge chair won’t fly anywhere.
☑️ If you buy packing cubes before the cruise, they’ll keep all your personal items nicely organized.
☑️ Flying out the day before the cruise, pack the clothes you need for the night and first thing in the morning at the top of your suitcase for easy access.
☑️ Get a cruise document holder to keep your documents neatly packed.
☑️ A multicurrency credit card will save you money on conversion fees on your international travels. I recommend Wise or Revolut.
☑️ Although cruise ships don’t have any liquid restrictions if you need to fly to get to your cruise port, I have a tip for you. If you can, pack solids instead of liquids. For example, toothpaste tablets instead of toothpaste or solid deodorant instead of liquid. You can also buy reusable travel-size bottles if you want to bring some liquids in your carry-on luggage on the plane.
Cruise Packing List FAQ
How many bags do I need for a 7-day cruise?
As a general rule of thumb, bring one checked bag and one carry-on per person for a 7-day cruise.
What do I need to bring to get on a cruise ship?
Bring your cruise boarding pass, passport, and luggage tags. On embarkation day, you’ll receive a cruise boarding pass to your email that is linked to your reservation, whether you’ve completed check-in or not.
Do you go through TSA for a cruise?
Yes, cruise ship passengers go through a security screening process before boarding in domestic or foreign waters.
Do I have to dress up for dinner on a cruise?
The main dining room might have a dress code on formal nights, in which case jeans are not allowed. On any other night, smart casual is a good choice. Some people like to dress up, but you don’t have to wear formal clothing if it’s not required.
Can I bring snacks on a cruise?
Snacks that are packaged, such as chips, protein bars, or other treats, are permitted on board. Some cruise lines also allow you to bring on board a limited number of single-use bottles. For example, Carnival and Royal Caribbean allow a maximum of 12 cans, cartons, or bottles per person, while Norwegian forbids all outside drinks.
How many pairs of shoes to pack for a cruise?
Most people pack 4 to 6 pairs of shoes for 7 to 14-night cruises. The suitable footwear for a cruise is comfortable sneakers, sandals, flip flops, water shoes, hiking boots for day use, and high-heeled shoes for formal nights. But you could also get by with three pairs of shoes if you want to pack light.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.
You can follow her travel adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.