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What & HOW to Pack for a Cruise + Packing Checklist

Last updated on November 3rd, 2021 at 09:23 pm

Traveling to foreign lands, eating amazing food, lounging by pools, watching live entertainment, and even shopping. Life doesn’t get much better than that. 

And that’s what life on a cruise ship looks like. 

Depending on the destination, you might enjoy warm sunsets on the balcony, or breathtaking scenery cruising Alaska or the Mediterranean, but regardless before your journey starts, you need to pack. 

Packing for a cruise is similar to packing for any other trip, but there are a few things to take into consideration. 

Here we’ll give you 10 practical tips to help any cruiser be fully prepared to have the best trip possible.

  1. The Roll Method Saves Space

The roll method is a great way to not only keep your clothes wrinkle-free but also helps save space in your suitcase. If you still can’t decide what outfit to wear, then pack a few options with the space you’ve saved!

Roll all your clothes and when you get to your stateroom you can unpack and unroll your clothing and place them in the drawers or closet in your room. 

  1. Basic Medication

Many cruise ships have a place to buy basic medication, but it is always better to come prepared. Bringing basic medications when you travel anywhere is always a good idea! 

Medicines like Advil, Tylenol, and Pepto-Bismol are handy to have when the nearest pharmacy might be hundreds of miles away on land. 

Remember to leave them in their original packaging so you don’t have to explain to ship security or airport security, what the random bag of pills is. 

Just because you know what they are, don’t expect someone else to know. 

Medicine for seasickness is something that’s rather unique to cruises. If you know you are prone to seasickness be sure to take preemptive cautions. 

Medicines like Gravol or Dramamine can be effective in keeping seasickness at bay. There are also patches that can be worn on the skin that provides around-the-clock suppression of nausea so you can enjoy your trip. 

Even if you’ve never been seasick, It’s still a good idea to bring some medication just in case. You never know how your stomach might react if the seas get a little rough. 

Chances are you will be just fine, but having medication on hand is much better than trying to find it when you’re sick.

  1. On-Board Entertainment

During days out at sea, cruises offer everything from elaborate shows to casinos to keep passengers entertained. However, it is never a bad idea to pack a few simple things to keep yourself entertained as well. 

Here are a few suggestions on the best entertainment to pack for a cruise:

Books or Magazines

A cruise is a great excuse to spend some time reading all those books you’ve been meaning to read!

And ships are usually equipped with a library if you forget to bring your own.

Kindle or Tablet

Whether you’re laying by the pool, or lounging in the spa, books are a great way to relax and keep yourself amused. 

Tablets are another great device to pack that is fun but doesn’t take up too much space. 

Watching a movie or two, while ordering FREE room service, is a great way to spend a late night. However, phone service and WIFI can be a little iffy at times, not to mention expensive since you’ll have to buy a WIFI package while on the ship. Try using a VPN to access WIFI or Netflix on your tablet. 

Downloading movies before the cruise is also a great idea (that may also save you money).

Playing Cards

You can never go wrong with bringing a small pack of playing cards. The options of entertainment with a pack of cards is limitless. 

But, don’t worry if you forgot to pack them. Most cruises have a few stores that will most likely sell them.

  1. Don’t Forget the Wine

Alcohol can be one of the most expensive additional costs on a cruise. You can eat all the food you want, but unfortunately, you will not find refillable margaritas (probably a good thing though). 

Many cruise lines let you bring a bottle of wine or two for free. Be sure to check your cruise line’s policy on bringing alcohol on board. You don’t want to be the one that forgets!

  1. Know How to Dress for Your Destination

When packing for your cruise be sure to think of everything you may need. If you are going on an adventurous excursion you may need to pack comfy sneakers, or if you’re going to a tropical destination you will not want to forget a bathing suit or two. 

One thing that is very important to think of when it comes to cruises is that you will be out at sea quite often. The temperatures out at sea may vary. Even if you are going to a tropical destination it is always a good idea to bring a good jacket or two for those chillier evenings out at sea.

Think about layers that can be mixed and matched depending on the day. This will make it look like you’re wearing a new outfit every day, but you’re just recycling your wardrobe. And you’ll be prepared for warmer or cooler weather just by removing a layer. 

  1. Don’t Forget the Chargers & Adapters

Let’s talk about all those devices you like to bring on board. Smartphone, smartwatch, electric shaver, e-book reader, laptop, tablet, camera and so on.

Make sure to bring chargers and any adapters needed to make sure you stay powered up while on the ship. Get in the habit of charging these items in your stateroom while you sleep so they’re ready to go when you are!

  1. A Formal Affair

Check your cruise documents to see if there’s a formal night on your cruise. Formal night, where you dress up to go to dinner in the main dining room, can vary from cruise line to cruise line. On upper-scale ships like Cunard, Oceania, Azamara, Regency, and Crystal, a formal night is likely to mean suits or tuxedos for men and formal gowns for the ladies.

On the more mainstream cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Norwegian, and Holland America, formal nights are a bit less fancy. 

Still, many will dress in suits and dresses, so remember those if you want to attend the formal nights on your cruise. 

The nice thing is that if you don’t want to attend the formal night(s), you can eat in other restaurants throughout the ship on those nights. 

  1. Important Documents

When embarking on a cruise, you will need a few different documents – and if you’re traveling by air or across a border, you may need others.

Generally speaking, you should ALWAYS travel with a passport. Even if your specific cruise doesn’t require you to have a passport, think about the ramifications of something going wrong on a cruise. 

For example, Americans aren’t required to have a passport to embark on a round-trip cruise that departs from the U.S., but, if you have a medical emergency and have to disembark in a foreign port, having a passport is going to make your life so much easier! 

Behind a passport, photo ID like a drivers license is good to have.

Your cruise documents may be sent to you electronically, but taking paper copies is a good idea just in case something goes wrong with your phone. 

And don’t forget a credit card. You don’t “need” a credit card to travel with certain cruise lines, but it makes your checkout process faster rather than settling a cruise account the night before you disembark. 

And speaking of medical emergencies, it’s important to have a good travel insurance policy that includes trip cancellation. Always read the fine print to see what’s included in the policy, especially these days as cruises are restarting. 

During the cruise, store all your important documents and ID in the stateroom safe so you don’t risk losing them while you’re out and about.

On the ship, you will be using your shipboard card/bracelet or sea pass for all purchases so you don’t need much in the way of cash, debit, or credit cards while onboard. 

  1. Forget the Camo Clothing

Just as a precaution, if you are an avid hunter or love wearing camouflage clothing, you will want to refrain from packing it for a cruise. Some countries have banned camouflage because it closely resembles military wear or militant clothing and you will not be allowed to wear it while away from the cruise ship. 

It’s best to leave it at home so you don’t forget and accidentally wear it off the ship where you may be sent back to change or could possibly even be detained by a foreign police department.

  1. Know What’s NOT Allowed

Not to spoil your fun, but there are a number of things that are NOT allowed on a cruise ship.

Obviously, items like firearms, illegal drugs, and fireworks are prohibited, but things like irons, kettles, and other small appliances are just a few of the items that you can’t bring on a cruise as they could be a fire hazard. For a full list of items that are prohibited on a cruise ship, click here. 

Now that you know how to pack for your cruise, get ready to have the time of your life. Cruises truly are one of the most unique, relaxing, and enjoyable traveling experiences on the planet. Wherever your travels take you, you are sure to make memories that will last you a lifetime.

 Cruise Packing List

The best thing to remember when packing for a cruise is to think through all types of weather and mixing and matching outfits. There’s no baggage limit when cruising, but storage space can be limited in some cabins.

Also, there’s no need to pack towels as the cruise line will have towels you can sign out to take on your beach excursion.

  Here’s a list of what you need to bring for comfortable, casual, and sporty clothing.

  • 2-4 swimsuits 
  • 3-5 pair shorts/skirts (denim or cotton are fine)
  • 5-7 casual shirts (This may include tank tops, t-shirts or button shirts)
  • 1-2 Sundresses for outings or dinner 1-2 sweaters/sweatshirts (The evening air can be chilly on the ocean)
  • 1 pair sweatpants 1-2 pair jeans or cotton pants

You will want to avoid cut-off shorts when packing as they are not usually considered appropriate items to wear in public rooms or in a dining room. You can wear blue jeans while on a cruise but if the cruise has a dedicated formal evening, jeans will need to stay in the room and you will want to dress your best as you go to dinner or out for the evening to dance or unwind after a long day.

Underclothing

  • 4-7 pair socks
  • 3-5 bras (Sports bras are a great choice when on a cruise or when planning to walk and explore the areas the ship will stop)
  • 7-14 pair underwear

Shoes

  • 1-2 pair sandals or flip flops for poolside
  • 1 pair tennis shoes or other comfortable walking shoes (Wear your tennis shoes when boarding so you can save space in your luggage)
  • 1 pair evening shoes/dress shoes

Accessories

  • 1-2 pair sunglasses
  • 1-2 hats (athletic hats or large floppy hats to block sun are ideal)
  • 1 belt if you normally wear one

Toiletries

Cruise ships are equipped with hair dryers and very basic toiletries like soap and shampoo, but most people choose to bring the following items:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Shaving cream
  • Makeup
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Shower gel
  • Razor/Shaver
  • Sunscreen
  • OTC medication (Tylenol, Pepto-Bismal etc)
  • Prescription Medication
  • Bandages
  • Tide pen
  • Brush/comb

Formal Night/Evening Wear

Many cruise ships have a dedicated formal evening where it is expected that everyone on board, unless not eating in the main dining room, will dress in formal attire only. For a 7-day cruise, you will want to pack at least 2 formal outfits.

Suggestions for formal attire/evening wear:

Women: Many cruise lines have gone from ball gowns to a “dress your best” formal night concept, where a nice pair of pants and a blouse or a dress is acceptable. Some women, however, still prefer to wear a formal, full-length gown when dining or dancing during the cruise. Check the dress codes laid out on your cruise line’s website for full details. 

Men: A dress shirt and tie and a pair of dress pants are typically appropriate for a formal evening on a mainstream cruise line, however you may still see suits or tuxedos for those who like to dress up. 

Other Items to Pack

Bring a beach bag or large carry bag for times when the ship docks. It will come in handy not only to carry items to shore but can also be great to stash things you purchase and want to bring home with you after the cruise.

Other items to include when packing include:

  • Camera and camera bag
  • Battery charger for phone, tablet, and camera
  • Sunscreen/tanning lotion
  • Non-disposable sports bottle to take water with you as you travel the ship or when you leave the ship to explore.
  • A small first aid kit including bandages, disposable gloves, antibacterial ointment, and tweezers. You never know when you may need this while away from the ship on an outing.
  • Laundry bag
  • Passport/Vaccination Certificate/Visa
  • Extra batteries for a camera, phone, and other electronics

Packing for a cruise can be one of the worst parts of the entire trip. Following these simple guidelines can help ease your packing worries and will help prevent packing items that may be confiscated or considered inappropriate for the trip. 

Wherever your destination may take you, have a wonderful cruise!

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