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Ultimate Cruise Packing List

Before you go on a cruise (especially for first time cruisers), you'll want to have an idea of what to expect before you just take off on a 5+ day vacation... on a boat... in the middle of the ocean.

Even after being on multiple cruises, I still get nervous and stressed out before I go on a cruise because I don't want to forget something, do the wrong thing, or have anything less than a great experience.

Cruises are great vacations for many reasons and I believe everyone should take a cruise at least once in their lifetime. So I hope this list will help prepare you on what to pack, what to do, and other tips for having the experience of a lifetime.

Important Documents

  • Passport or birth certificate
    • Passport must be valid through entire trip.
    • If your last name has changed but you haven't gotten a new passport, you must register under the name that is shown on your passport. 
  • Valid ID / Driver's License
  • Have 2 "copies" of passport and ID
    • You can do this by scanning the items and printing it out, or simply taking a picture on your phone.
  • Print out confirmation emails, parking passes, boarding passes, etc. 

Clothes / Accessories

  • Sunglasses (1-2 pairs)
    • Bring a cheap pair of sunglasses for excursions, in case you lose it in the water.
  • Sun hat / cap
  • Wristwatch for knowing time
    • Your phone will still show time, even without signal on the boat or overseas. But a phone has shorter battery life, you have to carry it around, and it has a larger chance of getting stolen/lost/ruined... so wearing a watch is useful. 
  • Formal night (2 outfits)
  • Girls: Sundresses / maxi dresses / skirts / blouses
    • Keep in mind the cruise will be windy on outside decks and especially at departure, so nothing too flowy unless you’re going for the Marilyn Monroe pose.
    • Spandex / under-shorts for dresses and skirts
  • Guys: Button up / collared shirts, slacks
  • Shorts / slacks / jeans
  • 2 Swimsuits / cover up
    • 1 swimsuit may still be wet the next day when you want to re-wear, so bring 2.
  • Shoes
    • Sandals, water shoes, tennis shoes, and a dressy pair
  • Socks / hose
  • Belt
  • PJ's
  • Undergarments
  • Workout / hiking clothes
  • Dance / nightlife clothes
  • Cardigan / light jacket for cool nights and cruise shows
  • T-shirts / tanks / blouses
  • Jewelry (no valuables)

Toiletries / Beauty

  • Cosmetics
  • Makeup remover, cloths/wipes
  • Face wash, cloths/wipes
  • Optional: Beach towel
    • The cruise will have beach towels available for you to use for the ship and onshore / excursions. But it doesn't hurt to bring your own.
  • Deodorant
  • Shavers / cream
  • Perfume / cologne
  • Bathroom spray 
  • Toothpaste/ toothbrush / toothbrush cover
  • Lotion / tanning lotion
  • Pads / tampons (if you may be on cycle during trip)
  • Pony tails / bobby pins / clips
  • Hairspray / gel
  • Straightener / curling iron / blow dryer
  • Shampoo / conditioner / body wash
    • The ship should have shampoo and body wash in the showers for you to use, but if you want something specific, bring your own.
  • Brush / comb
  • Contact lenses / solution / glasses / glasses case
  • Shower cap
  • Tweezers / nail clips

Electronics / Entertainment

  • Phone / charger
    • There will be no signal during the trip, but it's needed for when your trip is over and you arrive back at the home port. You may also want to use your phone for taking photos.
  • iPod, charger, headphones
    • Great for laying out on the ship, but usually cruises already have music going on all the time both indoors and outdoors.
  • Camera, camera charger / extra batteries, extra memory cards, camera bag
    • Underwater camera if swimming/snorkeling.
  • Small travel alarm clock
    • Phone may not have signal for alarm to work properly
  • Games / playing cards for down-time on the ship
    • The ship should have a Library with games available for you to play, but it doesn't hurt to bring a few of your own favorite games.
  • Small binoculars
    • This is mainly for those who have a stateroom with a balcony. You may want to see the ships passing by, the upcoming island/shoreline, or even sea life!
  • Book / e-reader
    • Many people read while they lay out on the ship's deck.
  • Journal / Pen
    • If it's your first cruise, you may want to jot down your experiences on the trip, things you wish you brought, things you don't want to do next time, etc. This may help you with your future cruise trip planning.
    • A pen will be useful for many occasions during the cruise, especially when you receive your daily itinerary and you want to circle the things you want to do that day. 

Health / Prevention

  • Medicine, vitamins, prescriptions, etc.
    • Tums / Pepto bismol / Gas relief
    • Allergy tablets
    • Small first aid supplies
    • Advil
    • Motion sickness pills/patches, nausea medicine
    • Sleeping pills / ear plugs / eye mask
    • Vitamin C, Emergen-C packets
    • Birth control or other important prescriptions
  • Chap stick
  • Sunscreen / Aloe vera


  • Cash 
    • Cash isn't used on the cruise, except at the casino. But it's important for shopping on the islands/destinations for negotiation purposes. Bring more smaller bills than big ones.
    • Bring quarters for laundry if you think you will need it.
    • Bring one credit card (make sure the provider is aware you will be out of the country).
  • Travelers wallet / purse  (secure and lightweight)
    • A lot of veteran cruisers like to wear lanyards that have a clear card holder for them to put their room keys in (because you will be carrying it around throughout your entire trip).
  • Small tote / backpack 
    • For excursions, exploring the ship, or holding your beach accessories while laying out.
    • Include a waterproof bag for important items when going on excursions. Even if it's just a ziplock bag. 
  • Foldable bag for carrying souvenirs back
    • Especially if your suitcase is full, you will want an extra bag to carry souvenirs on your way home.
  • Gum / mints
  • Beverages
    • Check your cruise line's policies for beverages.
    • For example, Carnival does not allow you to bring water bottles or liquor. But you may bring 1 bottle of wine per adult and cans of soda. 
  • Snacks for excursions
  • Plastic grocery bags for wet or dirty clothes
  • Luggage tag for suitcase
  • Small umbrella, poncho, or rain jacket
    • It is normal for it to rain, especially on cruises going to the Caribbean.


To Do / Tips:

Check your cruise itinerary for events, activities, special nights, and amenities. This will better help you determine what to pack. The cruise's website should have lots of information about what to pack. and what not to pack.

Check temperatures of destinations and for duration of trip a couple days before departure so you know what to pack. However, even if it will be warm, always pack a light jacket because the cruise indoors are usually cool/chilly.

Tell family where you are going, cruise ship name, how long you will be gone, and how to access personal information if needed (passport, ID info, etc).

Consider where your room is located. A.k.a. the middle of the ship and an inside room (no window) will be the least rocky. The front bottom of the ship will be the loudest and rockiest rooms, as the waves crash among the ship (making loud booms and shaking the walls). However, if you are miserable in your room and cannot sleep due to your location, you may ask the Guest Services if there are any other open rooms available. If so, ask if there is an upgrade you can consider. It may be worth the extra cost to get a good nights sleep for the duration of your trip, but you may get lucky and not have to pay extra for an upgrade.

Keep your valuables and fine jewelry at home, especially if you cruise to another country. This includes wedding rings, diamond earrings, designer accessories, etc. If you don’t need it on the ship, don’t bring it.

Conceal it. If you are bringing a wad of cash to your excursion, hide it in something unusual. (i.e. empty case of deck of cards, inside book, etc.). You also want to hide or secure your passports / ID's and stateroom keys that get you back on the ship. If you know you will be swimming a lot and leaving your beach bag without supervision, wear a waterproof case that you can store these things in it while you are away from your bag.

Pack light. Rooms are small, especially if you have more than 2 to a room. The easiest way to do this is by learning to accessorize or mix-and-match your garments. If you are traveling with family or friends, consider collaborating toiletries / hair appliances / beauty supplies / etc. so you can pack ligher (i.e. only one person bring a big bottle of sunscreen). Packing light also allows you the option of "self assist" instead of checking your bags in. "Self assist" allows you to get off the ship faster when the cruise arrives back to the home port, and you won't have to worry about your bags being left outside of your stateroom (increasing chances of stolen items or misplaced luggage). 

Leave extra room in your suitcase for souvenirs and items purchased during your trip.

Learn about the area you are traveling to, as well as what excursions you can do within the time you are there (check cruise schedule for time of stay)

Make sure you have all of your required documents, tickets, and boarding passes before leaving home. Double check! Triple check! Leave a sticky note reminder on your car rearview mirror if you need to. Put all of your documents and confirmation emails printed inside of a folder to keep them together. 

You don’t need to bring pillow. They have clean, fluffy pillows there. If you want to bring your own, you will have to hold onto it until you get to your room (which could be a couple hours).

Be prompt! If the embarkation times are 12:30 - 2:30pm, get there by 12:30pm. The longer you wait to get there, the longer the lines will be, the longer it will take for you to get on the ship and start your vacation, and the more stressful it will be. If the ship is leaving a destination port and tells you to be on the ship by 3:30pm, be ON the ship by no later than 3:30pm.

Call bank about travel plans if you plan on using credit card / account info.

Watch your expenses. Cruises may offer an all-you-can-eat menu (all the time), but they'll get their money back from beverages. A $10 bottle of wine at the grocery store may be $30 on the ship, and most of their alcoholic beverages range from $8 - $12 per drink. If you want to drink cheaply, bring the allowed limit of alcohol in your packed bags, and drink on the islands (which usually have cheaper prices). If you like to gamble, don't expect a Vegas turnout. The first day may be the best to gamble (on machines) but there is a reason why cruise lines give away "free" trips to the gamblers who spend thousands at their casino.... because gamblers spend so much money at their casinos and don't see the return! Cruises tighten their machines heavily on specific days and times of the day, so it's best to say if you do gamble, gamble for fun and don't expect actual winnings from it.


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