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
- Dress socks/stockings, athletic socks
- 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
- 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
- Emery board and nail clipper
- 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.
- Eye shadow base
- Neutral eye shadow color palate
- 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.
- 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
READ MORE 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
- 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!