Wondering what to pack for your cruise? We’ll assume you know to bring your swimsuit, socks, and underwear for your next cruise.
But what else should you bring? There are a lot of things many people wouldn’t think to pack that can be extremely useful. That’s because cruising is different from any other vacation. Most other places you aren’t on a moving vessel for a week at a time — miles away from the nearest store.
Cruising requires you to plan ahead and bring everything you might need. While we typically tell people to pack light, there’s no shame in being prepared for anything on your trip.
Having been on literally dozens of cruises across every major line, we know what’s important to bring… and what you can leave at home. To help you out, we’ve rounded up a list of nearly 40 useful items that you need to take on your cruise.
In This Article...
What to Pack for a Cruise
Note: The links to Amazon used below are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase, we receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
A Small, Portable Cabin Fan
While you can certainly get by without it, many people bring along a fan for the cabin. Not only does it help to have some air circulating in the room (there are no ceiling fans in a cruise cabin), but it is also nice to have white noise to drown out any sounds while you sleep. For about $25 on Amazon, this model has two speed settings and will fit on a nightstand.
One important tip — no matter which sort of fan you bring, you want something compact. Remember that you’re going to have to lug it to the ship and back home.
Have an iPhone? What about a tablet or a laptop? A small fan? A nightlight, curling iron or straightener? You can see that outlet space can be at a premium in a small cruise cabin.
That’s why we recommend packing an adapter or two that will expand the number of plugs. You can pick one up for just around $5. Just be sure it doesn’t have a surge protector, which isn’t allowed on the ship.
4-Wheel Spinner Suitcase
You likely already have a suitcase or a duffel bag to pack your clothes in, but it’s a good idea to switch over to a 4-wheel spinner suitcase if you don’t have one. The walkway from the cruise terminal to your cabin can be pretty long. There are often stairs, inclined walkways, and thresholds to pass.
Having a traditional rolling bag gets caught up in your feet and takes up a lot of space when dragging it behind you. A 4-wheeled suitcase like this one can be right at your side and is also much easier to navigate down narrow cruise ship hallways.
There’s no glossing over the health issues that have hit the world and the cruise industry. While cruise lines go to major lengths to keep people healthy on their trip, it’s a good idea to take matters into your own hands… literally.
There are hand sanitizer dispensers all over ships, but it’s smart to bring your own so that you don’t have to hunt. Use it regularly throughout the cruise. The good news is that it’s not expensive. Just be sure to get smaller containers that can fit easily in a pocket or a purse. You can find hand sanitizer for relatively little.
Nothing beats sitting out on the balcony of the ship, watching the sunset and sipping a glass of your favorite vino. The good news is that most cruise lines allow you to bring a bottle of wine or champagne along with you (sorry, beer and booze aren’t allowed).
Considering the prices on the ship, passengers should take advantage and bring as much as their cruise line allows. It can save you considerable money and trips to the bar.
We’ve all done the dance when you want to open a bottle of wine and search frantically for a corkscrew. If you can’t find one, it usually ends up with you cutting out the cork… and spitting out bits of cork every time you take a sip of your drink. So be sure to pack a corkscrew with your wine. A $5 purchase can save you a lot of headache.
Leakproof Wine Bottle Protector
If you bring a bottle of wine, then you should always pack it in your carry-on. This way you don’t have to worry about it breaking, leaking through your clothes for the week, and possibly getting on other people’s luggage.
Still, it’s a good idea to protect those fragile bottles, even in your carry-on. A leakproof bottle protector offers some protection so you don’t have to worry about accidental breaking.
The cabins on a ship can get dark — especially if you’ve booked an interior room that doesn’t have windows. So what happens if you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night while trying to navigate a small, unfamiliar cabin with furniture? Your shins pay the price.
We like to pack a glowing nightlight like the ones above to give us a little something to see by. The lights shown here cost about $10 for two on Amazon.
Don’t want a nightlight? You can also keep the bathroom light on and close the door. That provides some light as well.
It’s been said that the key to a happy marriage is a good bathroom fan (ok, we just made that up). Unfortunately, cruise ships don’t offer fanned vents and the cabin is pretty small. If you have a balcony then you have a source of fresh air. Otherwise, you might want some Poo-Pourri to help mask bathroom odors.
This stuff doesn’t go in the air. You spray the toilet water before you go and it creates a seal on the surface that keeps odors away. People who use it swear by it.
Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer (NOT for Shoes)
Hang it over the bathroom door and you have a perfect place to put small items like deodorant, shampoo bottles, sunscreen bottles, and anything else. This way you don’t have to take up valuable counter space in the small ship bathrooms. You can find them for less than $10. They also fold up flat so they don’t take up much room in your luggage.
In a cruise cabin, efficiency of space is extremely important. After all, a cabin can be only about 160 square feet, meaning you can’t waste a lot of space. That’s why bringing magnetic hooks can be helpful.
The walls and ceiling of the cabin are actually made of metal. So you can place these hooks just about anywhere and have a place to hang hats, lanyards, clothes, and anything else. Best of all, they only cost a few bucks meaning you don’t have to spend a lot to keep the cabin organized.
Wet Wipes (Do NOT Flush)
Ok, let’s be real for a moment. Your cabin bathroom will have plenty of toilet paper, but it is the one-ply stuff that is practically see-through. In other words, it doesn’t feel that great to use and doesn’t leave you feeling clean.
That’s why we’d suggest packing some wipes that offer a better clean and feeling than only using the toilet paper.
One important thing — even if you pack wipes that say they are flushable, do NOT flush them. Place them in the trash can in the bathroom. Flushing anything but toilet paper can cause issues in the ship’s waste systems.
Bringing resealable Ziploc bags is one of the smartest things you can do. From keeping your phone/wallet dry while you swim to keeping wet clothes separate from your dry luggage, Ziplocs are worth their weight in gold. Bring a handful and know that you’re covered for anything you might encounter.
Ok, most people know to pack a pair of flip-flops on their trip. They are a beach and pool essential. But are you packing sandals that actually have tread? Those cheap flip-flops can have a sole that’s rubbed smooth. With wet decks on the ship, it can be like walking on ice when you have no tread.
Instead, look for a pair with actual tread on the sole. These Reef sandals fit the bill, plus they look like they would be the most comfortable flip-flops ever. Best of all, the reviews for them are outstanding.
Mask and Snorkel
Want to get a look under the water? We don’t blame you. It’s a completely different world under there, and the beauty of snorkeling in tropical waters shouldn’t be missed (especially if you have kids or teens!). And while you can rent gear from most places you’ll visit on your cruise, we’d actually recommend bringing your own equipment.
First, paying to rent a mask and snorkel can be expensive — $10 to $15 on the cheap end. But as well, you are using something that others have used before, which is a little weird given that the mask and snorkel go right on your face and mouth. This set is around $30 on Amazon and comes in several colors.
Just a friendly reminder. You should go ahead and put the charger in your suitcase now. It’s too easy to forget. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of the ocean and realize that your phone battery is flashing red.
Think you won’t use your phone on a cruise? Many lines have apps for your phone with things like maps and schedules that are extremely helpful. As well, many people hop on the wi-fi to stay in touch back home.
Phone/Passport Dry Pouch
If you are planning to go to the beach, you’ll want somewhere to keep your passport, credit cards, room key, and cash dry. This bag is a best-seller and is less than $10 on Amazon. You can also use it for your phone if you want to bring it with you to the beach. (You can read our full review and test of this case here.)
The sun in the tropics is no joke. The more direct rays mean you burn more quickly. There is no better way to avoid sunburn than to keep the sun off you to begin with. Big hats are always in fashion on a cruise because they protect your face, shoulders and neck from getting sunburned.
This lightweight version won’t break the bank (just around $20 online) and will help keep you cool. We highly recommend something not made of heavy cloth and nothing that’s dark, which can leave your head sweltering.
Walking Shoes for Port
Everyone knows to bring some sandals if you’re headed to the beach, but if you’re going on a cruise then you should also bring some comfy walking shoes. Excursions (or just exploring the port) involves a lot of walking. You don’t want your feet to be uncomfortable while you are on vacation.
Already have a pair of shoes? You might want to invest in some insoles to make them like new again.
Land ho! Or is it? Believe it or not, there’s a lot to see when you’re out at sea. Many passengers love having a pair of binoculars to people watch from afar or simply look at other ships out on the open ocean. An affordable pair won’t set you back that much and you won’t be heartbroken if you accidently drop them on the deck. This pair costs about $30 on Amazon.
Jacket or a Hoodie for the Ship
Think it’s all sun and warm weather if you’re sailing to the Caribbean? Think again. With the ship moving, the wind onboard can be chilly, especially at night. And if it rains? Things cool off dramatically. This is to say nothing of the air-conditioned places on the ship — like the theater — can be downright cold.
Pack a jacket or a hoodie just in case. You can find them for about $30 online just in case you don’t have one already.
Netflix (Or Other Services) for Binging
How do you pack Netflix? To be sure, not all wi-fi connections on a cruise allow streaming, and even if they do, internet is expensive on the ship. Netflix (and other streaming apps) allows you to download many episodes to your computer or tablet beforehand so you can watch without an internet connection.
Having a few episodes to binge on a cruise is one of our guilty pleasures. It’s also a great way to keep kids entertained if you feel like taking it easy in the cabin.
A Passport (Though a Birth Certificate Is Usually OK)
Sure, you may know its ideal to bring a passport to cruise (though you can sail with a birth certificate in many cases). But do you know why?
First, passports are smart in case something comes up and you have to leave the cruise early to return home. It simply makes things easier. To be honest, however, the vast majority of cruises go off without a hitch.
Where a passport is truly handy is getting off the ship at the end of the cruise. These days most ports have facial recognition to process passengers. If you have a passport, you simply walk off, take a quick photo, and then walk out of the terminal. Those with birth certificates usually have to wait in line to meet an agent.
Lanyard for Your Room Key
Lanyards come in handy for putting your cruise keycard at easy reach. Considering that you use this card for everything — opening your room, playing in the casino, ordering drinks — you’re always having to fish it out of your pocket or purse. With a lanyard like this one, it’s right around your neck, making it easy to reach. You’ll also see them for sale around the ship if you forget to pack your own from home.
We like to call the day after the first day at sea “Lobster Day.” That’s because many people spent the first day getting too much sun and look like a bunch of lobsters walking around the ship.
You may not realize how powerful the Caribbean sun is until it’s too late. That’s why you should pack plenty of sunscreen. Amazon offers up inexpensive sunscreen, but you can also find deals at your local supermarket.
Aloe Gel (In Case Sunscreen Isn’t Enough)
Everyone knows it’s a good idea to bring sunscreen, but many people never think to bring aloe in case you get burned anyway. The lower latitudes of the Caribbean mean the sun is much stronger than your skin is likely used to.
Being able to prevent and treat sunburn is important to enjoying your cruise. Grab a bottle of aloe gel to bring on your vacation.
These days, almost all of us check our phones for the time. But when you are in port, it’s often easier just to carry a cheap wristwatch. That way you can be sure you get back before the ship leaves port, as well as keep track of when any scheduled activities onboard are about to happen. This one is only around $15 and is water resistant (a must on a cruise).
Swimsuit Cover Up
After time at the beach or the pool, you don’t want to walk indoors flaunting what your mother gave you in a swimsuit. Be sure to bring along a cover up that you can slip over your outfit to add a little modesty.
Best of all, you don’t have to worry about big wet spots on your clothes if you use a cover instead of putting shorts and a tank top over your outfit. You can find them for about $10-$15.
There’s always a conundrum when you head out in the water. What do you do with your valuables? That’s why we suggest having a drybag. Put your items in the bag, seal, and roll it up and you have a splash-proof container that you can take into the water with you.
No more having to worry and keep an eye on your valuables on shore. They also come in practically any color you’d want and with a waterproof phone case.
We reviewed three different bags, and this one by Freegrace was the clear winner while costing only about $20 on Amazon.
No one goes on a cruise thinking about getting sick, but it does happen. And whether it’s just a headache from a little too much sun (or too much to drink!), or you have an upset stomach, the last thing you want to do is have to tough it out without any sort of remedy.
On the ship you will have a small shop selling medicines, alongside other sundries like toothbrushes and deodorant. However, the prices are expensive and they aren’t open 24 hours. It’s much cheaper and more convenient just to pack a little of everything with you so you’ll have it at the moment you need it.
Most cruises will have some seasickness medication out for passengers to take when the waves get rough. You will still likely want to bring your own. It’s only a few bucks and can keep you from feeling bad if the ocean picks up.
Don’t like taking pills? There are also patches you can wear.
Like a cellphone charger, you know to bring your shades on a cruise. The only problem is that it’s so easy to forget them at home or in the car. With the reflection of the sun off the ship and the water, having sunglasses is a must.
Get you an extra pair for your trip and put them in your luggage immediately so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting them later. Worst case, you’ll have a backup pair on your cruise.
If you want something to carry a change of clothes and some towels — without the bulk of a regular backpack — check out this lightweight bag. Because of the polyester material, it’s no big deal if it gets wet because it will dry quickly. If you don’t need it, the bag also folds down into a small pouch that takes up hardly any space in your luggage.
This is perfect for port days when you only need a small bag that you don’t mind getting wet. The one shown here costs about $20 on Amazon.
Waterproof Valuables Case
Whether you are hanging by the pool or don’t want to leave your valuables on the beach while taking a dip, a waterproof case is a must-have. Use it to keep your phone, wallet, keys, and anything else dry as a bone so you don’t have to worry just because you want to go swimming. You can get two bags for about $12.
One of our pastimes on the ship is to watch people struggle with laying their towel on their beach chair. With the ship constantly in motion, there is almost always a breeze on deck. So while you’re trying to relax, the corners of the towel are whipping up and down.
Bringing a few clips like these can help keep your towel secure to your lounge chair and save you some stress. These cost less than $10 for a pack of 8.
Cabin Alarm Clock
Cabins don’t have clocks. And while most people want to leave the alarm clock at home, we suggest bringing one. It’s nice to be able to see the time at a glance. Not only will it make sure you don’t miss any onboard activities, it’s also nice to know what time it is if you wake up in the middle of the night.
And if you’re the sort of person who likes getting up early to be the first off the ship, then this $20 alarm clock is worth its weight in gold.
Wrinkle-Release Spray (TSA Compliant)
If you’re worried about wrinkles when you unpack your clothes, then this spray is just the thing. Irons aren’t allowed in cabins for fire safety reasons. If you want something pressed, you have to send it down to laundry services. Or, you could pack this, spray the wrinkled item, hang it in the closet, and let the spray do the work.
Just make sure the one you get comes in a small bottle so you can pack it with you even if you have to fly to your cruise port. We like that the one shown here only costs around $7 for a bottle.
Want the convenience of a fanny pack without the bulk? This belt comes in a ton of colors and sits flat against your body with your shirt over it. Put in your passport, cash, cell phone and more, so they are always at an arm’s reach, but safe from pick pocketers. In other words, an investment of less than $10 can give you peace of mind.
We don’t usually carry cash with us on a day-to-day basis. Credit cards are accepted everywhere here at home. However, on a cruise we make sure to pack enough cash to get us through the trip.
Using cash is more secure than using your credit card in foreign ports, plus credit cards aren’t accepted everywhere like they are back home. And if you need more cash on the ship, the ATMs onboard are pricey (expect fees of $6-7 per transaction). You can read our article here to figure out how much cash to bring with you.
Whether you are hanging out around the ship or heading into a port of call, it’s always nice to have a refillable bottle with you. This way you can always have some water nearby instead of having to find a restaurant to get a drink. We have used this one from Hydro Flask and loved it for our cruise as it kept things cool for a long time (though it is a bit pricey).
TSA-Compliant Luggage Locks
For just a few bucks you can keep your bag locked closed with these locks and keep any fast hands from getting your valuables. One lock is about $8 on Amazon, but you can get a better deal buying multiples.
Cruise Packing Checklist (What Else You Should Bring)
Packing for a cruise is a little different than any other vacation due to the simple reason that in the middle of the ocean it’s not that easy to run out and grab something you forgot. That’s why in addition to what we have above, here are a few more basic items you’ll want to bring:
- Walking shoes
- Nice clothes for formal night
- Books/magazines for poolside reading
- Travel documents
To help passengers out, we’ve put together a complete 85-item printable PDF checklist that makes it easy to make sure you have everything you need. You can see (and print) our full cruise packing checklist here.
What You Don’t Need to Pack
We’ve focused on what you need to pack for a cruise… but there are many things you don’t need to bring. They simply take up space and are already provided.
Hair dryer: No, you don’t need to pack a hair dryer for the cruise. All cabins come with one built in. It’s a small, hotel-style hair dryer, but it will get the job done. If you want, you can bring your own from home.
Soap & shampoo: If you have soap or shampoo that you just have to have, then go ahead and bring in on the trip. That said, every cabin bathroom comes with a soap and shampoo dispenser in the shower. So if you forget your soap, then you are covered. And if you don’t care about what type of product you use, then it’s something you don’t have to pack.
Beach Towels: Just like a hotel, cruise ships provide you with towels in the cabin to use. That’s to be expected. But a nice perk is that ships also provide beach towels. These towels are often in your cabin when you arrive or you can grab them from the pool deck.
You can take these beach towels down to the pool and even bring them with you off the ship. Just be sure to bring them back because you are charged for missing towels at the end of the cruise.
Prohibited Items on a Cruise (Do Not Bring)
The great thing about cruising is that the cruise lines are pretty lenient on what and how much you can bring. If you’re used to flying, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are no real baggage limits (within reason) and things like liquids don’t have to be contained to three ounces.
That said, there are some things you can’t bring on the ship:
Alcohol and beer: Yes, cruise ships will let you bring on a bottle of champagne or wine with your carry-on. Things like liquor, beer, and other spirits are strictly against the rules. If caught trying to sneak these on through security, they will be removed and likely discarded.
Weapons that might harm other passengers: Guns, pepper spray, tasers, and other things of this nature aren’t allowed for obvious reasons. Plus, you also don’t want to be caught with these in a foreign port. It pays to use common sense here; if you aren’t able to bring it onto a plane because it’s considered a weapon, then you shouldn’t try to bring it on a cruise ship (though things like nail clippers are just fine).
Anything that can start a fire: Hair products like curlers, hair dryers, and straighteners are allowed. As well, cigarette lighters are ok to pack too. But things like candles, hot plates, electric blankets, heaters, and other items that heat up are prohibited.
What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise
The items we’ve covered above are about packing with a Caribbean cruise in mind, as this is the most popular cruise destination in the world.
If you are headed to Alaska, your packing list has many similarities, but will be a little different. Specifically, it includes more cool weather gear, including warm socks, hat, and gloves.
We’ve covered what to pack for an Alaskan cruise here.
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