What to Pack for Your Cruise
Embarking on your first cruise is an exhilarating experience, a voyage filled with scenic views, relaxation, and boundless adventure. But before you set sail, it’s important to ensure you have all the cruise packing essentials that you need for a seamless and enjoyable journey. Packing for a cruise can be a daunting task, especially for first-timers uncertain about what to expect, as there are several things you need to keep in mind, from the weather to onboard dress codes. But fret not, we’ve put together an expert-compiled cruise packing checklist that has got you covered to ensure you’re the savviest passenger at sea. Our goal is to make sure you spend your precious time in port collecting spectacular souvenirs, not frantically searching for forgotten necessities. And remember, the beauty of a cruise holiday is that you only need to unpack once after boarding the ship, saving you valuable time and hassle.
Cruise Wardrobe Essentials
A cruise holiday offers a diverse range of experiences, so it’s important to have a versatile wardrobe. During your trip, you can expect to switch between daywear and smart casual attire in the evening, and you may even need formalwear and themed fancy dress depending on your cruise line and itinerary. We’ve got a full checklist of wardrobe items we recommend packing, but when deciding what comes and what stays, these are our top tips:
⚓ Pack layers and mix-and-match ensembles – this will help you avoid overpacking but still give you variety to wear
⚓ Don’t be afraid to re-wear your favourite outfits – your fellow cruisers won’t notice if you sport the same outfit
⚓ Remember that there is an onboard laundry service available if needed so you don’t need to pack your whole wardrobe
Start with the basics: underwear and sleepwear. You’ll want to make sure that you pack underwear, socks (athletic and dress socks), and bras/undershirts as the foundation for your daily outfits. And for a comfortable night’s sleep after a big day of exploration, pack some cosy pyjamas.
These days, most cruise lines have adopted a “comfort-first” policy when it comes to daywear, although some do still have stricter dress codes and limits on what can be worn, and where (for example, no swimwear in the dining areas). For the most part though, if you’re spending the day strolling around the ship or cruise port, you will be fine wearing something comfortable and casual.
Remember that your cruise destination and the weather will influence what you pack for your cruise. If you’re embarking on a Caribbean cruise, pack plenty of beachwear. For an Alaska cruise, pack rugged clothing suitable for hiking and warm layers to combat the frequent weather changes. In some destinations, such as the Middle East, you will need to have an outfit that covers your shoulders and knees when visiting religious sites. It’s worth noting though, that any destination can have unpredictable weather – see our first tip: packing layers!
Once you’ve considered your cruise ship’s onboard dress code, the destination and the weather, create a practical cruise packing list that includes a variety of suitable clothing, including shorts, jeans or khakis, sundresses or skirts, T-shirts and tops. If you’re planning on staying active on your cruise, you may also want to pack activewear for the onboard gym and fitness classes.
Some cruise lines have a very relaxed attitude when it comes to dinner attire, allowing you to come as you are. However, others – especially the more upscale ones – tend to enforce stricter rules on attire. That’s why it’s important to check the dress code policy of your specific cruise line and perhaps include some smart-casual outfits on your packing list. Eveningwear typically falls into two categories on a cruise ship – resort casual and elegant. On casual nights, think date-night style. Maybe a nice dress and cute shoes for women, and slacks and a button-up shirt for men. For elegant or formal nights, expect to see cocktail dresses, suits, ties and jackets. Maybe even tuxedoes and evening gowns if the onboard dress code requires it. On a seven-night cruise, you’ll usually find one or two formal nights, so you don’t need fancy outfits for every night of your cruise. However, you should check how many formal nights are on your itinerary as this may differ based on your cruise ship and itinerary.
Additionally, don’t forget to pack outfits for cruise ship theme nights. These themed nights, such as white night, Pirate Night, and Hawaiian Night, always bring out the fun in cruisers, who tend to go all out with costumes. To ensure you’re prepared, check with your specific cruise line to find out which parties or theme nights are scheduled during your voyage, and pack accordingly. Remember, dressing appropriately for each occasion – whether it’s a formal night or an 80’s disco party – will allow you to fully embrace the cruise experience. So pack smart, consider the onboard requirements on attire, and get ready to have a fantastic time at sea!
Outwear and Beachwear
We’ve already touched on packing for the climate of the destination you’re heading to, but it’s worth reiterating. If you’re going on an Alaska cruise, you’ll want to make sure you have lots of layers, including waterproof outerwear, a beanie and gloves. But if you’re going on a South Pacific cruise, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed your hats and sunscreen for those sunny days, and maybe even a light sweater in case the evenings are cooler.
If you plan on spending time on the pool deck or at the beach, make sure to pack at least a couple of swimsuits so you can let them dry between uses. Cover-ups not only provide extra protection on sun-kissed days but also make it easy to transition from swimming to grabbing a bite to eat poolside or at the buffet during lunchtime.
Make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes for those days in port. Sneakers or comfy flats are a great choice. For pool and beach days, sandals and thongs are a must, but keep in mind that thongs are generally not allowed in the main dining rooms and speciality restaurants during evening hours. For formal nights and fancier evenings on board, opt for more elegant shoes. When considering what footwear to pack, think about the weather and the activities you plan on doing. If you expect rain, rocky beaches, or hiking in the mountains, be sure to bring appropriate footwear such as rain boots, water shoes, or hiking boots. It can be easy to get carried away and pack different shoes to go with each outfit but try to think about what you can mix and match so you can limit how many pairs of shoes you need to pack.
Pro tip: Lay out all the shoes you think you’ll need for the cruise, then assess which pairs can do double duty and which ones you can leave behind. For instance, a sturdy pair of waterproof athletic sandals can function as travel shoes, beach shoes, and even rugged activity footwear. A comfy pair of flats can be versatile enough to match your casual daywear as well as your fancy evening attire.
From wristwatches and sunglasses, to hats and jewellery you’ll want to bring any accessories you think you will need during your cruise. Jewellery can be a great way to mix up an outfit you’ve already worn once before, while your eyeglasses may be needed to enjoy that new book you plan to read. You may want to leave the expensive family heirlooms at home, just in case.
There are also more practical accessories to consider.
Apart from your main luggage, you might want to pack a few smaller bags for various adventures during your cruise. A day bag and/or beach bag can be handy for exploring while in port, and a clutch bag is perfect for formal evenings onboard. You may even want to pack a collapsible tote bag as this can come in handy when you need to take all your extra shopping back home. Ziplock bags are perfect for waterproof storage and organisation, and a wet bag might be necessary if you’re planning days at the beach. And to make laundry management easier, you might want to bring a bag just for dirty clothes. It will help you keep your stateroom tidy, as well as keep the dirty clothes apart from your clean clothes.
Toiletries and Medicines You Need to Bring
Cruise ship staterooms usually come equipped with basic bath amenities such as soap and shampoo, but it’s always a good idea to bring your preferred products. Here’s a list of products we recommend including in your luggage:
⚓ Your facial cleanser and moisturiser to keep your skin in top condition, as well as your toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and mouthwash to keep up with your oral hygiene
⚓ Deodorant, shaving supplies, lip balm, cotton balls/pads, tweezers and nail files/clippers
⚓ If you wear contact lenses, remember to bring along all the necessary gear, including a case and solution
⚓ Keep your hair tamed and stylish by packing your favourite hairstyling products and accessories, including a brush/comb, shampoo, and conditioner. Each stateroom is equipped with a hairdryer, so you don’t need to pack your own
⚓ Bring your makeup, as well as makeup remover and your perfume or cologne
⚓ Hand sanitiser can be found throughout the ship, but it’s a good idea to bring your own for added convenience
⚓ Sunscreen is vital, especially if you’re planning a summer cruise, but you might also want to include aloe vera in case you miss a spot
⚓ Bug spray is also a good idea if you’re going to a tropical destination where mosquitos abound
⚓ And don’t forget to include a small first aid kit that includes seasickness remedies and any over-the-counter medications you commonly use. If you take any prescription medications, bring enough for your trip and a few extra days, just in case. Also make sure it covers your health and safety basics with items like pain relievers, vitamins, feminine hygiene products, bandaids, and other basic first aid items.
If you’re particular about the brands you use, we recommend packing full-size bottles rather than travel-sized. It may be difficult to find your favourite brands in foreign ports, and while your ship may stock them, they tend to sell necessities at higher prices. The last thing you want is to run out of your shampoo halfway through your cruise.
Cruise Document Checklist
To ensure a seamless cruise experience, it’s important to ensure you have some key travel documents packed in your carry-on for embarkation.
Wallet and/or Money Belt
Money belts may seem unfashionable, but they can help give you added security for your personal belongings. Regardless of whether you pack one or not, don’t forget to bring some cash, including any foreign currency, and your debit and credit cards. Remember to also pack your driver’s license to ensure you have ID on you. And, most importantly, if you’re travelling overseas, make sure to pack your passport (already preloaded with any necessary visas of course). Also, make sure to bring your medical insurance card and have your travel insurance information readily accessible.
Documents and Contact Information
Keep copies of your cruise, flight, and hotel bookings, as well as the designated luggage tags provided by the cruise line, securely stowed away in your carry-on bag. This way, you’re prepared if anything goes missing. To be extra cautious, always pack backups of important documents and information in case of loss or theft. Keep separate photocopies of important documents (including your passport), and for added peace of mind, save scanned copies digitally as well. You never know when you might need these.
You might also want to consider bringing the contact numbers for your credit card companies, travel insurance, and emergency contacts back home. It’s also helpful to have the mailing and email addresses of friends and relatives you might want to keep in touch with while away. In case of any medical incidents, make sure to carry copies of your prescriptions, and have a list of medications and your medical history on hand.
Travel Gear and Technology
It’s important to think about what you’ll need for your entire journey, not just your cruise. If you have a long flight scheduled before your cruise, it’s a good idea to pack accessories for the plane, such as a neck pillow. You might even want to prepare a separate bag with all the necessities for your pre-cruise hotel stay, so you don’t have to go through the hassle of unpacking and repacking your main suitcase.
As for personal comfort and entertainment – both for your pre-cruise journey and the sailing itself, you may want to include the following items in your luggage:
⚓ Neck pillow
⚓ Eye mask
⚓ Noise-cancelling headphones
⚓ Regular headphones or earbuds
⚓ Mobile phone, tablet or laptop; portable video game system; e-reader
⚓ All necessary chargers, and perhaps a non-surge-protected powerstrip with built-in USB ports
⚓ International adapters for your devices
⚓ Books, Playing cards or other small travel games
⚓ Important documents (see above)
⚓ Backpack, tote bag or a small purse to carry small items or a change of clothes around the ship or during a shore excursion
⚓ Travel mug so you can take your morning coffee to go
⚓ A reusable water bottle to refill around the ship, saving you from having to purchase bottled water
⚓ Lanyard for your stateroom keycard
⚓ A waterproof phone case to protect your cell phone
⚓ Binoculars, especially if you’re visiting a destination that has amazing wildlife sightings, such as Alaska or Antarctica
Did you know that there are some amazing hacks to enhance your onboard accommodations during your cruise? Here are our favourite insider tricks to help you make your stateroom more comfortable.
Most cruise cabin walls and doors are magnets, so you might want to bring along a few magnets for decor and organisational purposes. You can use magnetic hooks and clips to keep your paperwork, hats, and bags off the in-room desk and couch, and a magnetic whiteboard can be handy if you want to leave notes for your travel companions (“Find me at the bar”). There are heaps of ways that magnets can come in handy on your cruise, so these are a must-pack.
When it comes to electrical outlets and USB ports, the newer cruise ships tend to have this covered and you’ll find them conveniently located all around your stateroom. However, older cruise ships tend to be lacking in this department. But, you can avoid charging battles with your travel companions by packing a non-surge-protected power strip, a multi-pronged outlet, or a power adapter. Just make sure the power strip doesn’t have a surge protector, as those are not allowed on most cruise ships. Oh, and by the way, extension cords are also banned.
Finding your way to the bathroom in the dark can be a little tricky, so why not bring a small night light that will help you navigate your way without stubbing a toe? And if your cabin is located in a noisy area of the ship, like near the elevator banks, a portable sound machine or earplugs can come to the rescue by blocking out the hallway noise.
Most stateroom bathrooms come equipped with a hidden clothesline in the shower, but if you have a balcony, you might find a portable clothesline handy for drying towels and swimmers. You might also want to bring a pop-up laundry hamper (or a separate bag) for dirty clothes. This will just help you keep your stateroom tidy without dirty clothes all over the floor.
With these fantastic hacks, your cruise cabin will feel like a home away from home in no time!
There are a few other odds and ends that you may want to include for a truly hassle-free holiday. These may include:
⚓ Your favourite snacks – you’ll want these for when you’re at the airport, or exploring ports of call
⚓ Travel-sized antibacterial wipes, ideal for wiping down germ-prone surfaces when necessary
⚓ Your own snorkel and goggles if you’re planning to go snorkelling
⚓ Age-appropriate gear for your children, such as diapers, a stroller, toys, and games
⚓ Alcohol or bottled water – just remember to check what your specific cruise line allows you to bring onboard
With these items in tow, you’ll be fully prepared for a seamless and enjoyable cruise holiday!
What Not to Pack in Your Cruise Luggage
Equally important as what to pack is what NOT to pack. Make sure you check out what items are outright banned by your cruise line and ensure none of these are in your luggage. And then also consider what isn’t necessary. Here’s a list of some of the commonly banned items, as well as some that you won’t need to pack because your ship provides them already:
⚓ Linen and towels
⚓ Hand soap
⚓ High chair and portable crib
⚓ Coffeemakers and other appliances with heating elements, such as an iron
⚓ Weapons, including scissors
⚓ Illegal drugs (including marijuana and CBD products, even if they’re legal in your home state or departure port)
⚓ Extension cords and surge-protected powerboards
⚓ Beverages beyond the allotment of wine and nonalcoholic drinks
⚓ Non-prepackaged food, including meat, cheese and fruit
Cruise Packing Checklist
Many cruisers tend to overpack clothing and shoes but forget about other essentials. That’s why a handy checklist is necessary when it’s time to start packing for your next adventure. It will ensure you have all your bases covered, from fashion to those crucial accessories. With this expert packing guide, you’ll feel like a pro in no time! Happy cruising!