What to Pack for a Cruise

If you’re going on your first cruise, you might be wondering what all you should pack in your suitcase. The truth is, it can vary depending on your cruise destination. If you’re going on a cruise headed to cold climates, your packing list will look much different than what you would take for a cruise to Bora Bora or if you travel to Rio De Janeiro. We’ll be discussing your packing list for popular cruise destinations with tropical climates below. You’re also packing for three different things; your flight to where you will be departing, life on the cruise ship itself, plus your ports of call. That means you could very well need a bit of everything when it comes to outfits, designer swimwear, and accessories. To streamline your preparation, we’ve compiled a cruise packing guide to follow!

Where to Start

You obviously already know your destination, but it’s important to check the weather, both for the route you’ll be taking and where you’ll be docking. It can get cool at sea during nighttime hours even if it’s warm and sunny during the day.

You’ll need to determine how many nights you will be gone as well, and make sure you pack enough clothes to see you through the entire trip. Though some ships might offer a laundry service, it doesn’t mean they all will. Best not to count on it. Plan ahead, take versatile resort wear items, and remember, you can never have too many pairs of underwear! 

Travel Essentials

You’ll need proper documentation when going on a cruise and when flying. Pack:

Your passport
Your airline tickets
Your cruise documents
Vaccination certificate (depending on your destination)
Prescription copies and list of meds
Medical history and insurance card
Your driver’s license or photo I.D.
Your government-issued birth certificate

    Pro tip: Snap a picture of all these documents, just in case. Losing stuff happens more often than you think and you wouldn’t want to get stuck in a port somewhere with no proof of who you are and where you’re from. 

    Your Cruise Packing Checklist

    Once you have your travel essentials together, know the weather situation, and have determined how many nights you’ll be gone, deciding on outfits and things to pack for a cruise becomes a little easier. Start with your travel gear. You won’t need much for your flight, but keep in mind planes can get chilly. You’ll definitely want to take a sweater or light jacket and possibly even wear pants to stay warm. Tuck your valuables into carry-on luggage so you can keep them safely with you and don’t forget boutique swimwear and a change of clothes, in case you end up with an unexpected layover and some downtime. Also, the wise traveler will always remember, don’t forget your favorite snacks.

    Once you’re aboard the ship, it’s a controlled environment until you reach your port of call. So, pack clothes and beach accessories that can work both onboard and off to avoid packing your entire house. Most ships will have some restrictions on luggage and weight, but usually, you can take up to two full-sized suitcases. Also, keep in mind that many ships will have some kind of dress code for formal evenings at the restaurants and clubs, or may have themed nights requiring a costume. Dinners with the captain typically demand formal wear, similar to resort elegant attire


    Dinner Attire 

    When choosing what to pack for dinner attire, remember that the dress code tends to be more upscale in the evening. While it’s fine to lounge around in designer bikinis all day, once dinner rolls around you should plan to dress up a little. Most places would be considered smart casual. The Captain’s dinner requires formal wear which may include:

    A few nice resort dresses that you can wear with different accessories to change it up.
    Pair of dress slacks and a skirt, or loose trousers.
    A few cute tops you can pair with anything and everything.
    A pair of jeans and a light, comfy sweater for some top-deck snuggles at sundown and sunrise.
    A light cardigan or blazer for indoors where it can get chilly, or on deck with the evening sea breeze.
    Heels, sandals, or slides. Think shoes that look nice but can pull off more than one look.
    Accessories you can use with more than one outfit and a small purse to keep your valuables.

      Daytime Attire 

       When you’re on the ship, you may find yourself spending most of your time in your swimsuit, except during dinner and when checking out the clubs. For the most part, though, you’ll be poolside or engaged in outdoor activities on deck.


      Bring a variety of styles to choose from- a one piece swimsuit, bandeau bikini, and triangle bikini top.
      Pack a light swimsuit cover up or sarong to help protect your skin from sun and windburn.
      Shorts and tank tops are great for activities that aren’t poolside or for strolling the deck with friends.
      You probably won’t need a sweater, but a light jacket might be good in case the day becomes overcast.
      Sundresses are among some of the best things to bring for a cruise, as are wrap-around sarongs that can double as a dress.
      Beach sandals or flip flops, of course, maybe more than one pair in case you accidentally lose a shoe. Hey, it happens.
      Sneakers or comfortable walking shoes, for any excursions, once you reach the port.
      Water shoes are also handy, especially if you don’t like walking in the sea barefoot.
      A beach hat or visor to help keep the sun off your face and out of your eyes.
      A backpack, tote bag, or small beach bag to keep your essentials close by.
      Your favorite pair of sunglasses. 

        What About Toiletries?

        Travel-sized everything is the way to go if you’re going on a short cruise. However, longer cruises might require a more robust-sized shampoo and conditioner. Consider taking a hanging organizer or two. They work amazingly well at keeping things neat and tidy in your stateroom. 

        Toiletries to Pack

        Body soap
        Bug spray
        Dental floss
        Shaving cream
        Hair products
        Nail clippers
        Feminine hygiene items

          Antibacterial soap and wipes are also a great option and can help prevent the spread of germs that is common when you get a lot of people in close quarters with each other. Resealable Ziploc bags can also be used for all sorts of things, like keeping your phone dry, your wallet dry, and bagging up wet clothes for the trip home.

          Tech and Electronics

          Pack a camera. DSLRs are good, as are Go Pros. Even better if your camera is waterproof or at least water-resistant.
          Take extra SD cards and batteries, as well as any power adapters.
          A small alarm clock unless you plan on having the ship give you a wakeup call.
          It’s a wonderful idea (especially if you have a lot of gadgets) to invest in a portable charger or take a power strip with you. Life will be infinitely easier. 

            Other Items to Pack

            It’s never a bad idea to include a small first aid kit in your luggage. You never know what mishaps await.
            Snorkeling gear if you plan on doing any snorkeling and goggles if your eyes are sensitive
            A travel laundry bag is amazing for keeping your dirty laundry separate from clean.
            A reusable water bottle is great to stay hydrated, or to mix a cocktail in.
            Your allocated bottles of booze. This depends entirely on your cruise line, but usually, one bottle of booze is the cap. Some only allow wine.

              Make a List and Check it Twice 

              Remember, packing for a cruise isn’t just about packing for the ship. Packing for a cruise vs. resort vacation will be different because you have other variables to consider with a cruise. You’re also packing for your travel to the ship and for when you reach your port of call and explore the surrounding landscapes. Being out at sea makes it difficult to get something you need if you forget to pack it in your suitcase. Though most ships will have some kind of store, there’s no guarantee it will have what you’re looking for. The best thing to do is make a list and check it twice. If you’re feeling anxious for your trip, lay everything out for one final review and check it off as you go.

              Deciding what to pack for a cruise can be challenging if you’ve never done it before, but with these packing tips and the more you travel, the better you’ll get. For now, bon voyage!