Me with my two Delsey suitcases.

Complete Guide: What to Pack for a Cruise Plus Printable Checklist

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It’s been decades and hundreds of cruises since I packed for my first cruise. Never one to leave anything behind, you’d think I packed for an around-the-world voyage rather than a seven-night Caribbean cruise.

Back then, I didn’t have a cruise packing list or even a checklist to help me pack for my cruise. That’s why I finally put together a packing list for a Caribbean cruise—or a cruise to just about anywhere!

If you’re wondering what to pack for your cruise, here’s my complete guide to packing for a cruise.

Plus, at the end, there’s a printable packing checklist to get you organized and on your way.

Me at the door all packed for my cruise.
Packed and ready for my cruise.

What Things to Pack for a Cruise

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Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned what I should pack for a cruise. I try to pack light 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 like a backpack or duffle. I check my larger suitcase with the port baggage handler, along with a $5 tip!

Lately, for my iPad, laptop, camera and accessories, I use my Delsey small computer spinner suitcase, too. I’ve dragged both pieces of luggage with me on a two dozen transatlantic crossings, 40+ river cruises and hundreds of Caribbean and other cruises.

Here’s my favorite Delsey 25″ spinner that I use. I bought the dark red Delsey set in 2015 (in photo above) and it’s still rolling!

And the expandable 19″ computer case.

Four Basic Rules for Packing for a Cruise

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

What to Pack in Your 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
  • Compact camera – in addition to my iPhone camera.
  • Phone and equipment chargers
  • Change of clothes to wear until your luggage is delivered
  • Laptop, iPad, Kindle Paperwhite e-reader

Even Teddy loves Packing Cubes. I wouldn’t travel without them. I usually roll my clothes into each packing cube.

When I unpack in my stateroom, the cube is unzipped and placed into drawers or on shelves. So easy.

How I used to pack for a cruise!
I definitely should know what to pack for a cruise! I had to pack and re-pack twice for this trip.

Clothes to Pack for a Cruise

  • 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.

More Cruise Packing Tips:  What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

What to Wear on Formal Night

Much of your decision on what to pack for a formal night should be based on the cruise line you choose. Many passengers on luxury lines like Silversea, Regent, and Cunard tend to dress up on formal nights.

  • 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, 1 or 2 collared shirts.

Shoes and Wearable Accessories

  • 3-5 pairs:  Sandals, sneakers, dress shoes, comfortable walking shoes. 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 or folding umbrella
  • If cooler weather is predicted, bring “layer-able” clothes and a jacket, 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, and body lotion. Sometimes, their shampoo doubles as a body wash—ick. Unless you’re going on a luxury cruise, you may want to bring your own.

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Poo-Pouri
  • 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 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

Here’s My Printable Cruise Packing List

What to pack for a 7-night cruise also works for a 14-night cruise. On a weekend getaway cruise to the Bahamas, obviously, you won’t need as much clothing, but you’ll still pack the same items in your carry-on bag.

Cruise 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 the 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.

I have hair products (travel-size hair spray, mousse, and conditioner) in yet another freezer bag. I can see where every item is without having to rummage around to find the right one.

Finally, when I unpack, I put all my eye pencils, mascara, and brushes into one or two of the bathroom glasses. They are easy to find, use, and put away.

Another advantage of using little bags is that I can roll them up and stuff each one inside my shoes save a ton of space.

Medications & Hygiene

  • All daily meds must go into your carry-on bag. Bring the original containers.
  • Get your prescriptions refilled at home so you don’t run out.
  • Sanitary items for women, bathroom wipes, Clorox wipes for stateroom surfaces, handi wipes for shore excursions
  • Ask your physician about a “care” package that includes cough meds, antibiotics, Imodium, a Benadryl-type antihistamine, an anti-itch medication, and anti-nausea.
  • 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), Dramamine (makes you drowsy), or naturopathic remedies like candied ginger and ginger chewables can help. Check with your doctor first. I’m not a physician.

Cruise Maven Travel Tip

If you are bringing kids, check with their pediatrician for any other necessary items or suggestions on what you should pack for your cruise with kids.

Convenient Cruise Items

  • Night light for your stateroom
  • Travel-size flashlight
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Foam earplugs
  • 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 clothesline
  • Highlighter pens to use for your daily cruise planner
  • Dirty clothes bag
  • Lightweight beach bag or tote bag that folds into itself for packing
  • Extra zip-top freezer bags
  • A few sheets of bubble wrap for souvenirs

Read Next:  10 Essential Little Items to Pack for a Cruise


  • 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
  • Non-Surge Power Strip with USB
  • Camera, lenses, and filters (see above – in your carry-on)
  • Camera battery charger and camera case
  • Underwater camera
  • iPhone Tripod Selfie Stick with remote
  • Any instruction books that you might need to brush up on devices’ features
  • Travel-size Bluetooth speaker and charger
  • External hard drive (I have this one) or flash drive 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

ALWAYS 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.

Then, pack each device with its own gear. It will be a lot easier to find everything later.

How Do I Bring Alcohol on My Cruise

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 its alcohol policy details, or ask your travel agent
  • Read my list of every cruise line’s policy for bringing wine on your cruise ship.

I hope my cruise packing list helps you to know what to pack 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

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Printable cruise packing checklist Pinterest pin

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  1. Hi Fran,
    Ooooh, that’s a great idea! I “collect” those little emergency sewing kits from hotels or cruise ships that are pre-threaded. I have one of those old Buttoneer gizmos, so that’s probably why I didn’t think of a sewing kit. I’m sure they are also available on Amazon. Thanks for the terrific suggestion and taking the time to add your suggestion. Happy travels!
    P.S. For a major repair, you can ask your room attendant to see if someone in the laundry area can do any alterations. I did that once with a dress that I didn’t have time to fix before a Holland America cruise. But maybe that isn’t an option anymore.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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?

  7. 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!

  8. 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

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

  10. 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!

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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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