The Ultimate Cruise Packing Guide

Subscribe to Receive New Posts by Email

Cruise Packing guide

How to pack for a cruise? The Ultimate Cruise Packing Guide!

It’s been a long time since I packed for my first cruise.  You’d think I packed for an around-the-world cruise rather than a 7-night Caribbean cruise.  I didn’t have a packing list for a cruise. Now I can stow everything I need into one 22” spinner suitcase, plus my carry-on bag.

There are four basic tenets to pack for a cruise.  

  • The first seems obvious but frequently overlooked; the weather where you’ll cruise.  
  • Second, essential items you’ll need no matter where the destination.  
  • Third, take half of what you’ve pulled out of your closet and drawers.
  • Fourth, certain items must always stay with you.

I’ve created my time-tested printable packing list for a 7-night cruise but it will also work for a 14-night cruise.  On a weekend getaway cruise to the Bahamas, you’ll still want to pack the same items in your carry-on bag.

Carry-On Bag or Backpack

  • Important paperwork – tickets and travel insurance info
  • List of emergency phone numbers back home
  • Travel ID documents – passport, visas
  • Wallet with cash, credit cards (2 credit cards if possible or 1 debit and 1 credit card), driver’s license
  • Cruise line luggage tags to attach at destination (if you are flying)  
  • All medications in original prescription container
  • Tip money for porters – $1 and $5 dollar bills in US currency
  • Jewelry (leave the good stuff at home)
  • Touch-up makeup and toiletries
  • Spare glasses and/or contact lenses
  • Camera, lenses
  • Phone and equipment chargers
  • Change of clothes to wear until your luggage is delivered
  • Laptop, iPad, e-reader


  • Underwear
  • Dress socks/stockings, athletic socks
  • Sleepwear
  • 1 or 2 Swimsuits – no cut-offs in the pool
  • 1 beach and pool coverup
  • 1 or 2 sets of workout clothes/yoga pants/sports top
  • 2 or 3 pairs of women’s shorts or capris
  • 1-2 casual pants/skirts
  • 1 to 3 casual sundresses
  • 2 or 3 pairs of men’s shorts/casual pants/khakis
  • 4 or 5 T-shirts/blouses/tops for women
  • 5-6 T-shirts/polo shirts/casual shirts for men during the day and casual nights
  • Jeans are acceptable – not torn or ratty looking – and not at dinner in the main dining room.
  • Formal night attire:
    • Women:  One or two dressy outfits – dressy pants and blouse, cocktail dress.  Some women still wear long formal dresses but not as often.
    • Men:  One sport coat or dark jacket, 2 ties, collared shirt.  
  • Shoes – 3-5 pairs:  Sandal, sneakers, dress shoe, comfortable walking shoe. Optional – sturdy closed-toe shoes for horseback riding or hiking, flip-flops for pool, beach and inside your stateroom.
  • Lightweight sweater, cardigan or pashmina for air conditioned public rooms.
  • Crushable sun hat/cap.visor
  • Belt
  • Packable rain gear/poncho or folding umbrella
  • Bring “layer-able” clothes and a jacket if cooler weather is predicted, say for a winter cruise that include the Bahamas.

Packing Tip:  Choose one major color and mix ‘n’ match your wardrobe around it.  Bring 2 or 3 lightweight scarves to dress up or change the appearance of the same outfit.  


Your ship will provide the basics: shampoo, conditioner, body lotion. Sometimes the shampoo doubles as body wash.  You may want to bring your own:

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair spray or styling spray/get
  • Bar soap/body wash
  • Body lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Emery board and nail clipper
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush – toothpaste – floss
  • Travel size mouthwash
  • Contact lens solution (spare lenses are in your carry-on)
  • Eye makeup remover
  • Insect repellent
  • Lip balm with an SPF and for the dry air in the stateroom
  • After-sun lotion with aloe
  • Flat or curling iron
  • Folding hair dryer.  Some older ships still have wall-mounted, short cord, low-watt dryers.
  • Styling brushes and comb

Makeup and Skin Care

  • If you tend to use a full array of makeup every day, try to bring only the bare necessities.
  • Mascara
  • Liner
  • Eye shadow base
  • Neutral eye shadow color palate
  • Foundation
  • Blusher
  • Makeup brushes
  • Concealer – If you plan to tan, bring concealer one shade darker, too
  • Eyebrow pencil and/or powder filler
  • Day treatment products
  • Night treatment products
  • Hand lotion

Travel Tip:  I’ve stopped using those pretty makeup bags.  Instead, I use clear plastic zip-top freezer bags in various sizes.  

I put all my makeup brushes into one bag, eye makeup and face products into another, hair brushes and combs (yes I travel with two types of hair brushes, one wide-tooth comb and a rat-tail comb) in a large freezer bag, toiletry liquids (non-aerosol hair spray and styling spray, mouthwash) in yet another.  I can see where every item is without having to rummage.  

And finally, I put ALL my eye pencils, mascara, and brushes into a bathroom cup or glass.  Easy to find and put away.  Another advantage of using little bags – I stuff each one inside my shoes.


  • All daily meds go in your carry-on bag in the original container.
  • Get your prescriptions refilled so you don’t run out
  • Ask your physician about a “care” package – cough meds, antibiotics, imodium, Benadryl-type antihistamine – anti-itch med, anti-nausea etc.
  • First aid supplies – assorted bandages, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, aspirin or whatever you take for pain relief, kid scissors
  • Seasick pills like Bonine (doesn’t make you drowsy) or Dramamine (makes you drowsy) or naturopathic remedies like candied ginger and ginger chewables.

Travel Tip:  If you are bringing kids, be sure to check with their pediatrician for any other items they might suggest.

Convenience Items

  • Night light for your stateroom
  • Travel-size flashlight
  • Traveling alarm clock
  • Foam ear plugs
  • Magnets to hang up notes and such – most walls are metal.
  • Clothes pins to use for hanging hand washables on the shower clothes line
  • Highlighter pens for your daily cruise planner/newsletter
  • Dirty clothes bag
  • Lightweight beach bag or tote bag
  • Extra zip top freezer bags
  • A few sheet of bubble wrap for souvenirs



  • Mobile phone
  • Phone charger including plug and cord (bring a spare if you have one)
  • Laptop or iPad/Kindle (goes in your carry-on) and chargers
  • Camera, lenses and filters (also in your carry-on)
  • Camera battery charger and camera case
  • Underwater camera
  • Tiny tripod or monopod (leave those selfie sticks at home)
  • Any instruction books that you might need to brush up on devices’ features
  • Travel size bluetooth speaker and charger
  • Flash drive and/or external hard drive – to download your wonderful photos each night
  • Extra memory cards – so you don’t have to buy a non-name brand card in port
  • Lightweight binoculars – especially if you don’t have a telephoto camera lens
  • IMPORTANT: Download all your podcasts, music, movies and TV shows before you leave home.  Don’t waste your expensive onboard internet minutes trying to download anything…it’s nearly impossible.  

Travel Tip:  Spread out all of your electronics on your bed before you pack them.  Pair each device with its charger and accessories.

Wine, Beer and Alcohol

  • Each cruise line has its own and varying policy for BYOB.
  • You may be able to hand-carry one or two bottles of wine onboard your ship.  
  • Check your cruise line’s website for details or READ HERE for a list of what is allowed on every cruise line.

Download my printable packing list HERE.  Have a wonderful cruise!




  1. Sherry Kennedy
    February 7, 2018 / 10:03 am

    Hi Karen,
    I’m so jealous…I loved my recent Panama Canal cruise and would go again in a minute! I’m glad my crazy-long packing list is helpful for you. Have a fabulous cruise!

  2. Karen
    February 5, 2018 / 9:46 am

    This looks like a perfect list….been looking for a while, Everything covered. About to try it out, 30 days until my departure ….first cruise …. going through panama canal. Thanks

  3. Sherry Kennedy
    July 16, 2017 / 5:59 pm

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks for sharing your idea! I especially like the convertible cocktail cup concept! Bon Voyage to you, too!

    July 15, 2017 / 6:41 pm

    My husband and I NEVER go on a cruise without our TRAVEL COFFEE (COCKTAIL) MUGS. The coffee cups are so small on ships, we load up on the coffee and walk the ship/shore with it. Then it turns into our cocktail class. The insulated mug keeps our drinks cooler much longer. BON VOYAGE!

  5. Sherry Kennedy
    July 11, 2017 / 5:46 pm

    Hi Marlene,
    All good ideas! Thank you for contributing to the list.

  6. Marlene
    July 9, 2017 / 6:01 pm

    Extra zip lock bags of various sizes. Travel alarm.

  7. Sherry Kennedy
    July 8, 2017 / 4:22 pm

    Hi Marcia,
    Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard from others that also bring a battery candle. And I totally agree about bringing more than one credit card…I have a fear of getting it trapped in an ATM! I hope your summer is off to a good start.

  8. Marcia Truitt
    July 8, 2017 / 4:08 pm

    Nice list Sherry. Instead of a nightlight I bring a battery tea candle light(s), I don’t have to worry about a plug and I place it where it works for me. Also, never travel with one credit card. I had one get trapped in an ATM.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cruise Maven Newsletter

Join other savvy cruisers and travelers and get travel tips, news and more!

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.