Are you getting ready for a cruise? If so, you’re not alone. Each year more than 20 million passengers embark on a cruise, and that number continues to rise.

Whether you’re touring the Mediterranean or sunbathing in the Caribbean, packing for a cruise is always daunting. This applies whether it’s your first cruise – or your twentieth.

Don’t worry. With our essential cruise packing list, we’ll make sure you have everything you need. Read on for the ultimate cruise packing list and other helpful tips to make your cruise a success.

The Essential Cruise Packing List

1. Clothes for Days at Sea

The first and most obvious items on your checklist are your clothes to wear onboard. No matter where you’re heading, this will likely include swimwear, flip flops, and plenty of casual clothing. Depending on which company you’re cruising with, you may also need to pack some dressier attire.

Does your cruise feature formal nights? If so, do you want to go all-out in tuxedos and evening gowns? Or would a regular suit and little black dress be sufficient?

2. Clothes for Ports of Call

This part is a little trickier. Packing for an Alaskan cruise will require different attire than island-hopping in the Caribbean. And if you’re headed for the Mediterranean, you could encounter heat, cold, and rain in the same week.

To successfully pack for your ports of call, you need to consider not only the climate but also the activities you’ll be doing.

Will you be trekking through the jungle or climbing glaciers? Don’t forget a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. If you’re touring port cities, sneakers may be all you need.

You should also consider how casual or conservative your destinations are. Shorts and flip-flops may be fine in Hawaii, but you’ll want more resort-casual wear in Bermuda.

If your itinerary includes the Middle East or any religious sites, make sure to pack modest clothing that covers your knees and shoulders.

3. Passport and/or Birth Certificate

Before you depart, make sure you have the proper identification required for your itinerary. If your cruise begins and ends at the same port of call, it’s known as a “closed loop” cruise. An example would be a cruise that leaves from Miami, visits a few Caribbean islands, and returns to Miami.

In this instance, your driver’s license and birth certificate are sufficient. On the other hand, let’s say your cruise departs from Miami, sails through the Panama Canal, and finishes in Los Angeles. Since this itinerary is not “closed loop,” you’ll need a valid passport.

If you have any questions about what identification you need, you can always consult the CBP Information Center.

4. Power Strip and Adapters

Once upon a time, cruises were a great way to unplug and get away from it all. These days, though, cruise ships come equipped with WiFi or another type of internet connectivity.

To keep your cameras, phones, and other gadgets charged, be sure to bring a power strip and the appropriate adapters for your destination.

Packing Tips
Photo By: Yasmina Haryono (Creative Commons)

5. Your “Cruise Carry-On”

It’s always a good idea to pack essential items in your carry-on, just in case your checked luggage doesn’t arrive at the same time you do.

Even if you do arrive at port with all your baggage, it could be hours before your suitcases arrive at your room. Rather than waste that time sitting in your cabin, pack what you’ll need for the day in your cruise carry-on.

8 Essential Items for Your Cruise Packing List
Pin This On Pinterest

This might include:

  • Your swimsuit and cover-up
  • Sunscreen
  • Basic toiletries
  • Clothes for dinner

This way you can go out and explore the ship instead of waiting for your luggage to show up.

6. Small Items

There are a lot of little items you’ll want to pack that may not readily come to mind.

Some examples are:

  • Portable alarm clock
  • Earplugs/eye mask
  • Batteries
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Sunscreen
  • Memory cards
  • Highlighter for cruise schedule
  • Small bills for gratuities

While you may be able to buy some of these things onboard, you’ll pay a premium for them. It’s much better to come prepared.

7. Wrinkle Release Spray

First-time passengers are often surprised to discover that irons aren’t allowed in staterooms. Irons are one of many heat-producing items banned on cruise ships, along with candles, coffee makers, and hot plates.

To keep your clothes looking fresh all week, pack a small bottle of wrinkle release spray. Bonus tip: You can also hang your lightweight clothing in the bathroom while you shower and let the steam release those wrinkles for you!

8. Binoculars

Binoculars are another item that may not initially come to mind, but consider the advantage of having them.

Your cruise ship is going to pass some awe-inspiring sights. How else will you get a close-up view of a Hawaiian lava flow or Santorini’s beautiful coastline?

Cruise Luggage
Photo By: Russell Otway

More Cruise Packing Tips

Here are a few more handy tips to go along with your cruise packing list.

Know the Dress Code

Are formal nights optional or required on your ship? How many formal nights are there in total? If you’re under-dressed, you could find yourself denied access to certain parts of the ship.

Laundry Service

Many ships offer laundry and dry-cleaning services, although these will be expensive. Some also offer self-serve machines. Find out what’s available on your ship, as it may reduce the amount of clothing you need to pack.

Cruising with Kids

Are daycare facilities available on your ship? You may want to book their services in advance, even if you don’t end up using it every day. Two-way radios are a terrific way to keep in touch with older kids.

Save Room in Your Luggage

You’re going to want some souvenirs from your vacation. Don’t overstuff your suitcase when you leave for your cruise, or you won’t have room for all the goodies you’re going to buy.

Final Thoughts

Getting ready for a cruise can feel overwhelming. Now that you have this handy cruise packing list, your task just got a whole lot easier.

Looking for more great packing tips? Check out our recent blog posts for more suggestions on what to bring on your upcoming cruise.