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Packing Secrets for Cruise by a pro traveler - Don't Stress out

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Now your cruise date is coming up!! I know it's exciting! Now your faced with what to pack and what not to pack. Stressed!!! I have compiled a list of items that through the years of cruising I have felt its important and useful.

I have included some links to buy the item to make it easier for you.

Safety First

First Aid Kit

No one wants to think about getting sick or hurt on a cruise, but few vacations end without someone getting a cut or having a little indigestion. Buying Band-Aids or Pepto onboard isn't cheap, and all the over-the-counter meds you have at home might not be readily available on a cruise ship or in a foreign port. We recommend packing a small first-aid kit stocked with items like Band-Aids, alcohol swabs, antibiotic ointment, cold pills, cough drops, painkillers, seasickness remedies and meds for heartburn and upset stomachs.

Disinfecting Wipes

It’s a good idea to bring disinfecting wipes for your travels – in the airplane or even for the car ride if you’re driving to the cruise ship. Once on the ship, you may find having these healthy cruise essentials useful as well. We’ve occasionally used some at the washrooms if we need to stop on the way and prefer to wipe the door handle and so on.

Safety comes first when cruising!

Hand Sanitizer

There’s no glossing over the recent 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.

Keep these on hand for shore excursions or when you won’t be able to wash your hands with soap and water. We like to keep some already packed in our shore excursion bag. Either the little bottles or the travel size Purell wipes packages will do the job.

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. I like the wipes for convenience, especially since a pack can be kept in your carry-on bag for the plane or car, then for the cabin and so on.

Sea Sickness

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. There's no doubt that the patch is highly effective for many people.

There are also Wristband you can wear. My wife and I personally like the Wristband.

Hangover Relief

Alcohol and sun are not a good combo and when you’re cruising you may find yourself getting a lot of both. Some folks loose count of the drinks they take mainly with the dinks package. Blowfish is the morning hangover remedy that actually works. The formula is backed by science, FDA-recognized and guaranteed to make you feel better in about 15 minutes.

Clothing Next

Before you begin packing for your cruise, take a look at the itinerary on the cruise line’s website. Where are you going? What shore excursions have you booked? Do you plan on dining in the formal dining room, or only hitting the casual buffet each night?

Formal Attire

For most cruises, you’ll want to bring at least one formal outfit for “formal night.” For women, this can mean anything from a nice dress to a ball gown. Men will want to wear a collared, button up shirt and tie with trousers and dress shoes. Many cruises, ties aren’t required, but many men choose to wear them, as well as sport coats, on Cruise Elegant Dining nights. While men can wear a suit or tuxedo, it is not a requirement on most cruise lines.

Bathing Suits and Cover Ups

Most people take a cruise vacation in the Caribbean because they want to spend time at the pool and on the beach during their shore excursions. Make sure to bring at least two bathing suits, as it can take a while for them to dry out! While you are allowed to wander around in your bathing suit, clothes and shoes are required when entering the restaurants and casinos, so bring along at least a few bathing suit cover-ups, sundresses, or shorts and tee shirts.

I recommend that women wear a bathing suit cover up that looks like a sundress, or actually is a sundress, when going on shore excursions. You may be going to the beach, but there may be other stops along the way and you’ll want to look like your dressed.

It’s my go to whenever cruising. I just throw it over my swimsuit and feel totally comfortable traveling through the boat to the beach or on an excursion. It’s sexy but modest and comfortable enough to wear while walking around the cruise ports or walking around the boat. The lightweight material makes it dry super quick and it’s breathable – plus it’ll take up no room in your suitcase.

Sweater or Jacket

While you’re cruising to a Caribbean Island, you might not think you will get chilly, but it can get downright cold on the open water at night. Restaurants and the casino can also be a bit chilly, and you’ll want a lightweight sweater or pashmina to keep you warm.

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 wear flip flops or casual shoes in the casual restaurants, but keep in mind the shorts, tank tops and flip flops are NOT allowed in most dining rooms. You’ll also need a pair of close-toed shoes if you plan on doing certain shore excursions. Activities like zip lining and horseback riding require close-toed shoes – and you won’t receive a refund if you aren’t dressed appropriately!

Slip-Resistant Flip Flops

Ok, most people know to pack a pair of flip-flops on their trip. But are you packing sandals that 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 sandals fit the bill, plus they look like they would be the most comfortable flip-flops ever.

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 Shoes?

Get some insoles to make your walks more comfortable and easier on your knees.

Water Shoes

Water shoes will be useful if you’re going to a rocky beach or an excursion where water shoes are recommended.

Other things to pack

Beach Bag

A day pack, a bag for dirty laundry, a plastic bag for wet bathing suits. you really can't have too many extra bags with you on a cruise. Take a look at your itinerary to see what type of bags you might need. Heading to the beach? Make sure you have a roomy beach bag

Over the Sholder bag

Bring an over the Sholder bag with a zipper for keeping your wallet, phone and camera secure.

Empty Expandable Duffle

Pack an empty, expandable duffle that you can fill up when your suitcase is bulging with all the souvenirs you picked up on your trip.

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.

Over the door hanging organizer

Cruisers are masters at using small cruise cabin space efficiently. An over the door organizer is very practical to store items you and your family will use often. You can hang this on your bathroom door or even use magnet hooks to hang on a cabin wall.

Pro tip: Pack your over the door organizer at home and place it in your suitcase, ready to hang. It will save so much time on your embarkation day.

Handing Toiletry Bags

These hanging toiletry bags are so practical to keep you organized in a tight cruise cabin bathroom, so it makes sense that this is quickly becoming one of the popular items to bring on a cruise.

Laundry Bags

When you need to put dirty clothes away, a Mesh Laundry Bag is helpful. Just fill it up and throw the laundry bag into your suitcase.

Pro tip: Place your suitcases under your bed, so you have more space in your stateroom.

Packing Cubes

Organization is key when packing for a cruise because unless you can afford a penthouse your stateroom will be tiny! These storage “cubes” are flexible and zippered so that you can pack them full and place them neatly into your luggage and then into the tiny drawers and compartments in your room. They compact your items down and keep them contained so that you never have to rummage around for what you need. They also free up space for that duty-free merchandise you may be bringing home!

Ziplock Bags

Bringing resealable Ziploc bags is one of the smartest things you can do. From keeping your phone/wallet dry while your 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.

Power Strip

With the exception of only the newest cruise ships, cruise ship cabins are notorious for not having enough outlet space for all the gadgets and gizmos most cruisers carry with them.The most obvious quick fix is to bring a power strip onboard, but first-time cruise passengers need to be aware that cruise lines are incredibly wary about overloading shipboard circuits and have strict rules about what types of power strips may be brought onboard.

First rule of thumb, no power surge protected strips may be carried on. Second, keep your power strip small; you don't want it to take up your entire vanity. You might also consider bringing a portable, external charger. You can charge it at the same time you charge your laptop via a USB cable and can then use the external charger later, if needed, for your cell phone or iPod.

While you are out at sea, I recommend turning your cell phone on airplane mode to avoid incurring roaming charges. I usually use my phone to take a lot of photos while cruising, and my battery tends to die fairly quickly. Most staterooms only have one US electrical outlet and one European outlet, and taking turns charging your electronic devices means that you won’t always have a full charge. Bring along a portable back up battery charger so that you have a back-up plan when that low battery light starts flashing!

Underwater Camera

If you are going on a cruise and plan to go snorkeling, scuba diving, or to a water park, I suggest bringing a waterproof camera.You can also purchase a waterproof phone case or a waterproof camera bag, which will cost you less than a camera.


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. This is also quite easy to some dolphin's swim in the sea.


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.

Night Light

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 along a glowing nightlight like the ones above to give us a little something to see by.

Beach Blanket

If you want to spend any time on the beach, then you have to get this beach blanket. It’s nylon, which means that it packs up small and light — saving valuable space. What we like most is the size. It’s so much larger than simply laying down a couple of pool towels to keep you off the sand.

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. You can also use it for your phone if you want to bring it with you to the beach.

Lanyards for room keys

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 always have 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.

Luggage Tag Holders

Plastic reusable luggage tags holders are so practical. If you get nothing else, buy luggage tag holders! Not only are they reasonably priced, but they can be reused again and again. The printed paper luggage tabs will get ripped off and sometimes bags get missed and you have to spend time to track this down.

TSA Compliant Luggage Locks

luggage locks won’t keep your things safe if a thief really wants into your bag. But they do make it tougher to get in, taking away crimes of opportunity.

Refillable Water Bottle

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 loved it for our cruise. I love these space-saving roll-able and collapsible water bottles. While obviously convenient on the cruise ship, more than that I love how they don’t take room in my luggage or beach bag when not being used.

Towel Clips

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 always a breeze on deck. Bringing a few clips like these can help keep your towel secure to your lounge chair and save you some stress.

Wrinkle Release Spray

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.


I recommend bringing at least one bottle of sunscreen/sunblock per person in your party. Whether you’re spending the day at the pool or laying on the beach during a shore excursion, you’ll go through more sunscreen than you can imagine! Remember to apply sunscreen liberally and often – especially if you are cruising somewhere sun-soaked like the Caribbean, where the heat and humidity cause you to sweat more often that you would elsewhere.

I always bring a bottle of after-sun soothing aloe gel, just in case we get sunburned. If you burn easily, this is a must to help you heal quickly. You don’t want to waste your vacation stuck indoors because you’re in too much pain to go have fun!


You might also want to bring along a sun hat or a visor, especially for children who will spend all day in the sun! It’s much easier to prevent a sunburn than it is to deal with one.

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 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.

Don’t Forget to Cash for Tipping

If you plan on doing shore excursions, it is customary to tip your tour guides, bus drivers, etc. Bring cash so that you aren’t left feeling awkward when it’s time to go back to the port and the tour guide makes a speech about how much they appreciate tips!

Don’t Forget your travel documents

Sure, you know to bring your passport. But it’s a good idea to bring a photocopy of the front page of your passport as well. Then, when you head into port you can lock your passport in your cabin safe and keep the copy with you. You’ll have proof of your passport without risking it being stolen or lost while in port.

What you don't need to bring

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.

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 as you get 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.

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.

For more on luggage and baggage rules for your cruise, see our article here.

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