What You Should Pack for a Cruise – Plus Checklist

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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 guide or a checklist for my cruise.

Me with my two Delsey suitcases.

Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned what I pack so I can always maneuver my way through any concourse, corridor or cobblestone street.

My goal is to pack everything I need into a 25” spinner suitcase, plus a carry-on bag.

On longer cruises, for my iPad, laptop, camera and accessories, I have a Delsey small computer spinner suitcase.  I’ve dragged both with me on a nearly two dozen transatlantic crossings, river cruises, Caribbean cruises…everywhere.

Here’s the Delsey 25″ spinner that I use:

And the expandable 21″ computer case:

Four Basic Packing Tenets to Follow

  • 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.

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 – in addition to my iPhone camera, this Nikon camera goes everywhere with me.
  • 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
  • Swimsuits: 1 or 2 and cut-offs are not allowed 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 and Wearable Accessories

  • 3-5 pairs:  Sandal, sneakers, dress shoes, 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 poncho (disposable) or folding umbrella
  • Bring “layer-able” clothes and a jacket if cooler weather is predicted, say for a winter cruise that includes the Bahamas.

Cruise Maven Packing Tip:

Seems obvious but easy to overlook.  Choose one major color and mix ‘n’ match your wardrobe around it.  Bring 1 or 2 lightweight scarves to dress up or change the appearance of the same outfit.


Your cruise ship will provide the basics: shampoo, conditioner, body lotion. Sometimes their shampoo doubles as body wash. Unless you’re going on a luxury cruise, you may want to bring your own.

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair spray or styling spray/gel
  • Bar soap/body wash
  • Body lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Emery board and nail clipper
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush – toothpaste – floss
  • Travel size mouthwash
  • Contact lens solution (spare lenses go 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. Ask the cruise line – 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
  • 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/body lotion

Download my printable cruise packing checklist.

You’ll know what to pack 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.

Cruise Maven Packing Tip for Cosmetics:

I’ve stopped using those pretty makeup bags.  Instead, I use clear plastic zip-top freezer bags in various sizes.  I put all makeup brushes into one bag.  Then eye makeup and face products (blush, concealer, foundation) into another.

Hair brushes and combs (yes I travel with two hair brushes, one wide-tooth comb and a rat-tail comb) go into 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 around to find the right item.

Finally, when I unpack I put ALL my eye pencils, mascara, and brushes into the bathroom cup.  Easy to find, use and put away. Another advantage of using little bags – I can stuff each one inside my shoes and save a ton of space.

Medications & Hygiene

  • All daily meds must go into your carry-on bag and in the original container.
  • Get your prescriptions refilled at home so you don’t run out
  • Sanitary items for women, bathroom wipes, Clorox wipes for stateroom surfaces, handiwipes for shore excursions
  • 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.  Check with your doctor first for the OK.  I’m not a physician.

Cruise Maven Travel Tip:

If you are bringing kids, check with their pediatrician for any other necessary items.

Convenience Items

  • Night light for your stateroom
  • Travel-size flashlight
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Foam ear plugs
  • Magnet hooks to hang up clothes, important 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 sheets of bubble wrap for souvenirs

Read Next:  Little Items and Packing Tips from Fellow Cruisers


  • 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
  • Electric outlet extenders – three outlets – (I never leave it in use and unattended)
  • Camera, lenses and filters (see above – in your carry-on)
  • Camera battery charger and camera case
  • Underwater camera
  • Tiny tripod for iphone or monopod (actually a selfie stick but used unextended)
  • 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 (I have this one) – to download your wonderful photos each night
  • Extra memory cards – so you don’t have to buy a weird, 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.  Unless you buy an unlimited streaming internet package, don’t waste your expensive onboard internet minutes trying to download anything…it’s nearly impossible anyway.

Cruise Maven Packing Tip:

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

Water, 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 ask your travel agent
  • Read my list of every cruise lines’ policy for bringing wine on your cruise ship.

I hope my cruise packing guide helps you to prepare for your cruise.  I still use my printable packing checklist every time I get ready to leave. Have a wonderful cruise!

Download my printable cruise packing checklist

Printable cruise packing checklist Pinterest pin

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13 thoughts on “What You Should Pack for a Cruise – Plus Checklist”

  • This is a great list. I have traveled on over 80 cruises, and this is exactly what I have needed. It is compact and concise.

  • Hi Kathy,

    That’s a very good point. I’ll mention it again. There’s nothing more embarrassing that being in a store in Europe and having your credit card declined simply because the bank didn’t know you were overseas. Thank you for your comment.

  • Hi Sherry, Please remind your readers to call their credit card companies in advance and alert them to your travel plans. Fraud protection these days will often put a hold on a card if it’s used outside your geographic region.

  • Hi Liz,
    Perfect timing! I’ve been working on an Alaska packing list for this week. After my trip to Alaska last summer and staying for 6 weeks, I learned a lot about what to pack (it was 80 and sunny in September!)and how to prepare for weather variations. I hope to have it published later today or tomorrow. Please check back or if you subscribe to my newsletter, it will be there either this week or next. Thank you for writing! Happy cruising!

  • HI Sherry,
    This sounds very much how we pack for warm weather cruises. 7 nights in our train luggage. However, do you have an alternative list for Alaska? Especially when there are no launderettes on ship?

  • 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!

  • 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

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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