43+ Helpful Things to Pack for a Cruise Vacation in 2023
Last Updated on March 13, 2023 by Dana Berez
What to Pack for a Cruise Vacation
Table of Contents
- 1 What to Pack for a Cruise Vacation
- 1.1 Where and When is Your Cruise
- 1.2 How long is your cruise?
- 1.3 What to wear on a Formal Night on a Cruise
- 1.4 Are you going on any Shore Excursions?
- 1.5 Carry-On Bag
- 1.6 Packing Cubes
- 1.7 Door Shoe Organizer
- 1.8 Cruise Magnetic Hooks
- 1.9 Non-Surge Protector Power Strip
- 1.10 Travel Jewelry Organizer
- 1.11 Mini Light-Up Alarm Clock
- 1.12 Portable Phone Charger
- 1.13 Converters
- 1.14 Beach Towel Chair Clips
- 1.15 Reusable Water Bottle
- 1.16 Poo Pourri
- 1.17 Hanging Toiletry Bag
- 1.18 LED Makeup Mirror
- 1.19 Shower caps
- 1.20 Hair mask
- 1.21 Waterproof Bag
- 1.22 Travel size umbrella
- 1.23 Day Pack for Shore Excursions
- 1.24 Foldable Jacket
- 1.25 Sunscreen
- 1.26 Sunglasses + This Organizer
- 1.27 Flip Flops / Water resistant shoes
- 1.28 Water Shoes
- 1.29 Pair of Comfortable Shoes / Sneakers
- 1.30 Packable Sun Hat
- 1.31 Hat Clip
- 1.32 Bathing Suit
- 1.33 Swim cover-up
- 1.34 Room Key Lanyard
- 1.35 Waterproof Phone Case
- 1.36 Snorkel Mask
- 1.37 E-reader or tablet
- 1.38 Athletic Clothing
- 1.39 Formal wear
- 1.40 Disinfectant Wipes
- 1.41 Insect repellant
- 1.42 Sea Sickness Medication
- 1.43 Small Camera or Go Pro
- 1.44 Binoculars
- 1.45 Travel Journal
- 1.46 Post-It Notes
- 1.47 Liquid IV
- 1.48 Other Things You should bring on a cruise
- 1.49 What not to pack on a cruise
You did it! You booked a cruise vacation and you finally used that PTO for a relaxing vacation with your loved ones.
A cruise vacation can be the perfect way to relax, reconnect, unwind, and also have some adventure, and create new experiences and memories.
There is something so relaxing about getting on the cruise, unpacking all of your belongings and just waking up in a new destination every day that no other form of travel will do.
Now, I’ve been on a number of cruises including Caribbean cruises and Mediterranean cruises spanning from 4 days to 10 days. And what I can tell you from those cruises is that I’ve perfected the cruise packing list!
What you pack for a cruise will make a difference in your experience, so I’ve put together helpful things & what to pack for a cruise vacation.
Before you start packing, ask yourself these key questions that will help you in your cruise packing process.
- Where & when is your cruise?
- How long is your cruise?
- Who are you traveling with?
- Is there a formal night?
- Are you going on any Shore Excursions?
This post contains affiliate links as an amazon associate.
Where and When is Your Cruise
Packing for a Caribbean cruise vs packing for an Alaskan or Mediterranean cruise will alter what types of clothing to bring.
I find that Caribbean cruises are all about days in the sun on the pool deck with beach & water excursions. So packing plenty of swimsuits, cover-ups, and loose-fit clothing is best.
Whereas Alaskan or Mediterranean cruises focus on sightseeing excursions (many with not as many sea days) so packing comfortable shoes, and day trip clothing is more important rather than all swimwear, etc.
Also, keep in mind when your cruise is taking place. Weather can be surprising so I always like to bring a foldable jacket for just-in-case scenarios.
How long is your cruise?
Packing for a 4-day cruise vs a 10-day cruise will differ in what you bring and how much clothing you’ll have to pack.
For each day on a cruise, I like to pack a day outfit (beach cover-up & swimsuit, or a shore excursion outfit) and for nighttime an evening dress.
Of course, you can wear some items more than once to make room for other cruise essentials listed in this post.
What to wear on a Formal Night on a Cruise
Some cruise lines still enlist a formal night where you dress to the nines. There will be photographers waiting to take your picture, and it’s a great memory for your cruise.
What to wear: for women, a long formal dress, cocktail dress, or a dressy pantsuit is appropriate. For men, a jacket, collared shirts, slacks, and dress shirts are all appropriate.
However, I’ve seen more “chic” dress codes in place of formal nights where a cocktail dress is appropriate for women and dress shirts and slacks are appropriate for men.
Check to see if your cruise is having a formal night so you can properly pack for a dressy outfit.
Are you going on any Shore Excursions?
Some shore excursions require certain items like closed-toe shoes for adventure excursions or a swimsuit for a beachy excursion.
Read the details of your shore excursions, if taking any, to properly pack for them.
Additionally, if you’re skipping the excursions and exploring on your own, be sure to bring a day pack with all your necessary items!
Now that you’ve asked yourself those key questions, now let’s go in on the most helpful things you need to pack for a cruise no matter when or where you’re going!
There is no limit on how much luggage you can bring on a cruise, but cruise companies “suggest” 1 or 2 bags per person.
I like to keep my bags with me as I embark on a cruise so I can unpack all my things immediately.
So, I like to pack everything in this Carry-on Suitcase & this carry-on duffle bag which works great for 4-5 day cruises. If you have a larger checked-size bag, some cruises will require that you check it.
Pro Tip: use packing cubes to keep things even more organized while you pack. I like to separate my clothing into categories like tops, swimsuits, underwear/socks, etc.
So when I unpack on the cruise, I simply place the packing cubes into the dresser and the process is seamless.
Door Shoe Organizer
This over-the-door organizer keeps you organized in those small cruise cabins. While designed for shoes, you can really put anything in these cubbies to stay organized and find things easier.
It has a breathable mesh material so that you can see everything and if things are wet they will be able to dry easily.
Simply place it over the bathroom door. It’s such a game-changer for saving space in your cabin!
Cruise Magnetic Hooks
This is one of the first items that I bought when I went on my first cruise a few years ago.
When I tell you these are so helpful, you have no idea.
These magnetic hooks are perfect for small items like towels, bags, hats, and clothing items that you want to hang- which is so helpful to keep your cabin organized.
They are small and compact and take no room in your luggage but just maximize the storage and functionality within your already too-small cabin.
You don’t need to worry about these getting rust either. They are made with a corrosion-resistant coating so you can hang things that are still wet with no issues.
Just note you can hang more weight if hung from the ceiling.
Non-Surge Protector Power Strip
On the last cruise I went on, there were only TWO outlets in the entire cabin… so if you have a few devices you want to charge, then you are going to need one of these non-surge protector power strips.
This non-surge protector has 3 outlets and 4 USB ports so you can charge multiple devices like your smartphone, tablet/e-reader, and any other devices all in one place.
Note: Cruises allow only non-surge protector power strips
Travel Jewelry Organizer
I’ve been raving about this jewelry organizer, and it’s a MUST for your cruise if you like to bring different kinds of jewelry.
This travel Jewelry organizer features multiple zippered compartments and folds nearly flat, even with every compartment full.
You also avoid things getting tangled and messy because the piece can be stored individually or grouped by like items i.e earrings with earrings
However, if you bring valuable jewelry, of course, it is best to store in the cruise safe or leave it at home altogether.
Mini Light-Up Alarm Clock
Most of the time, there are no clocks in your cruise cabin.
So, this mini digital alarm clock is perfect for travelers who need a reliable clock to wake up during their travels, or just like to see the time so they can schedule their cruise activities better without relying on a cell phone.
The display is large and easy to read and shows the time, date, and temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
The super compact size and ease of use make it the perfect travel clock for a cruise vacation as well as any other trip.
Portable Phone Charger
Having a portable charger always comes in handy when you are outside of your cruise cabin, or on any shore excursions at the port. You won’t want to miss any photo-taking opportunities from a low battery!
Your phones will be charged throughout the day and ready to go for your dinner plans on the ship that evening.
Cruise packing travel hack: Did you know that cruise cabins have both US outlets and European outlets?
You can utilize another charging port in your cabin if you bring a European converter. This converter type works in cruise cabins and most European countries & I bring them on all my trips!
Plus it has 2 USB ports, 2 USB-C ports, and two American outlets.
Beach Towel Chair Clips
Chair clips are used to clip your towel down on your sunchair, and they may seem unnecessary, but I can’t stand it when the wind blows my towel everywhere (is it just me?)
These chair clips will help ensure that your towel stays put and doesn’t ride down while you are relaxing. It can also be used to clip your shirt, small bag, and other items as well.
They are made from a sturdy plastic that is lightweight and compact so you will have no issues fitting a few of these in your carry-on.
Reusable Water Bottle
Packing a refillable water bottle is so helpful on a cruise! When I forget mine, I realize how purposeful they are.
Not only can you use it for getting water at water refill stations, usually located in the buffet. You can also use it to get coffee or hot water and bring it back to your room to enjoy. Plus you can use it to keep cocktails cold on the pool deck!
I like a refillable bottle that has a wide mouth opening for easy cleaning and for drinks with ice!
“This is a marriage saver” was a review I saw on Amazon, and I couldn’t agree more!
If you don’t know, cruise bathrooms are notoriously tiny. Let’s just say very intimate, so when you or your partner do your business this Poo Pouri can be really helpful to keep things fresh.
The essential oils create a barrier on the water’s surface to stop the smell from spreading and escaping into the air. The scent from the oils is released into the air upon flushing.
Try this travel-size version, which is compact for your bag!
Hanging Toiletry Bag
I’m all about space-saving and using a hanging toiletry bag keeps the tiny counter space free. I love this hanging bag from Amazon, it is large enough to bring all your essentials and useful items even for a longer cruise!
LED Makeup Mirror
This has become a travel must-have for me! This LED Makeup mirror lets you apply your makeup or get ready anywhere in the cruise cabin with perfect lighting.
It’s compact and portable, and the light provides a bright and even light with 3 temperature settings which are ideal for applying makeup.
The battery is rechargeable with the USB cable that it comes with so you don’t have to worry about replacing the battery while traveling and it surprisingly lasts a long time in between charges.
If you like to extend your hairstyle between washes, then packing a shower cap is extremely helpful. Some cruises have rainfall shower heads which will get your hair wet even if you’re just washing your body.
I like this 4-pack of shower caps from Amazon because the exterior is a pretty satin-like material the water rolls off of, but the inside is lined with heavy-duty plastic. So much better than the free ones they offer (if they even offer them at all!)
If you’re going on a longer cruise, I would highly suggest packing a hair mask.
After a few days of chlorine, salt water, and sun, my hair gets extremely dry and brittle. You can find travel-sized hair mask packets that are perfect for fitting in your toiletry bag.
A hair mask is basically a deep condition for your hair. After shampooing, leave the hair mask on for a few minutes on and rinse it off. Soft hair awaits!
Or you could de-pot your favorite mask at home into a small container. Your hair will thank you- men included!
If you love doing shore excursions, particularly tours that involve water, packing a waterproof bag will ensure that your belongings stay dry, and even in the event that they are submerged or make contact with water, they will be protected.
Travel size umbrella
It’s always helpful to pack a travel-size umbrella, especially if rain is in your forecast and you want to do shore excursions. This travel-size umbrella fits nicely in your suitcase and will get you through a rainstorm.
Day Pack for Shore Excursions
Bringing a day pack for shore excursions is extremely helpful. It’s something that packs easily and doesn’t take up much room in your luggage especially if you get one that is lightweight, packable, and foldable.
This day bag folds up and is extremely lightweight, and comes in different colors.
But it provides handy pockets and places to put your essentials like cash, credit cards, I.D., cellphone, camera, and change of clothes if necessary for your shore excursion.
A foldable water-resistant jacket comes in handy depending on the time of year that you go on a cruise.
For example, on a Caribbean cruise during the winter season, some nights you may find to be chilly, and these jackets will keep you warm but don’t take up much room in your suitcase as they fold flat.
This stylish style from Amazon is available for men and women.
This is one of those items that you’ll want to bring on board rather than buy at the overpriced gift shop on the ship.
I like to bring a specific face sunscreen that won’t break me out (been loving this sunscreen), and another sunscreen for my body.
Sunglasses + This Organizer
Don’t forget your favorite sunglasses on a cruise, you’ll definitely need them for sunny sea days and excursions.
And if you’re a sunglass lover, you’ll LOVE this sunglass organizer that folds up in your bag. Plus there is a handy hook, so you’ll see all your favorite pairs in one place.
Flip Flops / Water resistant shoes
You’ll want to pack your favorite flip/flops or water-resistant shoes for the pool deck or any water excursion. These shoes dry quickly, and you won’t worry about them getting wet.
I like these from Amazon because they have the look and feel of the Birkenstock Arizona, but are completely water-resistant.
I’ve been using these exact water shoes for years now. I bought them for a trip to Europe for a trip that had rocky beaches, and now, I almost always pack them even for Caribbean beaches.
You would expect the beaches in the Caribbean to be sandy and fine. However, many beaches can also have rocks in them and which can be uncomfortable and deter you from getting in the stunning water.
Pair of Comfortable Shoes / Sneakers
Comfort is of utmost importance when on a cruise vacation. You will be walking a lot especially if you are on a larger cruise, plus walking shore excursions that can be up to 8 hours long.
I like to pack a pair of white sneakers that go with every outfit and are comfortable to wear all-day wear. My favorites are the Adidas Advantage sneaker that is under $60 on Amazon.
Packable Sun Hat
For the ultimate sun protection in addition to your sunscreen, you’re going to want a packable sun hat.
This will keep your scalp from burning, and p.s. there is not much shade or umbrellas when you are on a cruise ship. Plus, you can also bring this with you on an excursion!
This is how I keep my hands free without wearing a hat on travel days or walking to the pool deck.
This hat clip travels great and the magnet is super strong to secure one hat on your getaway. Plus the hook can attach to many kinds of bags. I always get a ton of compliments (even from flight attendants) asking where I got it!
The pool is the star of the show when you are on a cruise- especially on Caribbean cruises.
So for those sea days when you are lounging by the pool, you are going to want a swimsuit. I personally like to pack two bikinis and a one-piece swimsuit.
See my favorite swimsuits from Amazon that are perfect for any cruise.
You’re also going to want to pack at least one swim cover-up. I always pack a white or cream-colored one because it goes with any swimsuit that I pack.
This cream linen-like skirt goes well with neutral-colored swimsuits.
Some cover-ups also come in the style of a dress or can be worn as a dress on a beach or at the pool and even throughout the ship.
Another great option is a white long sleeve shirt. This is so versatile and can be worn as a cover-up or as an excursion outfit.
Room Key Lanyard
Most cruise lines will give you a room card which is super important to have on you at all times. This will be used to get on and off the ship, order drinks, and purchase items on board.
Finding the key card can be a challenge sometimes and they easily get lost.
Packing a room key lanyard makes the keys easy to find in your bag and cabin, and you won’t have to make the trip to guest services over a lost card (I’ve been guilty of that).
Waterproof Phone Case
On a cruise, you are surrounded by water… literally. And you’re going to want to keep your cell phone protected and dry. One slip and your phone could end up in the pool, or off in the water on a boat excursion.
This waterproof phone case is great because you can use your phone while it is in the case itself and take photos in the water (quality is not going to be perfect). However, it’s better than damaging your phone in the water.
If you love snorkeling and don’t like borrowing other snorkel masks- you might want to pack your own snorkel mask.
This is optional because if you’re on an excursion with snorkeling, they will provide you with masks and equipment.
But if you decide to explore on your own and are planning to snorkel it’s great to have!
E-reader or tablet
There is something about getting lost in a book while on vacation. It’s the best way to catch up on those books that you have been meaning to read as well as unplug and get lost in a story.
Carrying a few books can be bulky. However, an e-reader is a perfect solution to having your books in one place. Whether you are reading one title or a few it packs easily and is waterproof and has an anti-glare feature.
Packing athletic clothing goes beyond just the gym.
You want to make sure that you are comfortable and dressed appropriately for any activities that you may be doing on or off the ship like workouts, adventurous excursions, hikes, etc.
Opt for moisture-wicking, breathable materials that will keep you dry and comfortable during your vacation.
Some athletic clothing to bring is a sports top, shorts or leggings, and a sports bra for ladies.
As I previously mentioned, some cruises still have formal dinners with a formal dress code on specific nights depending on the cruise line.
Double-check if your cruise has a formal night to pack the right evening wear.
For ladies, you are going to want to pack a cocktail dress, a long dress, or a dressy pantsuit.
For gentlemen, you are going to want to pack a collared shirt, jacket (some cruise lines make this optional), and slacks.
However, many cruisers get a bit dressed up anyway even if it’s a regular dining night. So for women a dress or dressy pantsuit is fine, and for men dark jeans and a collared shirt is acceptable.
Note: shorts, even dressy ones, for men are usually not allowed in the dinner dining room.
Cruise vacations are one of the most popular kinds of vacations. And when you embark in your cabin, it’s usually flipped over the same day as the previous cruisers got off.
The room attendant may or may not have had enough time to sanitize the entire cabin to your liking.
So I highly recommend packing some of these disinfectant wipes to make sure that the most common touch points in your cabin are sanitized like the door handle, remote, phone, and balcony door if you have one.
Thankfully, mosquitoes don’t like me… but I understand it’s an annoyance for others.
If you are visiting a tropical island or if your itinerary is heavy on destinations that are known for mosquitoes some packable insect repellant is a great item to pack!
Sea Sickness Medication
If it’s your first cruise, or if you do suffer from motion sickness, it’s a good idea to pack some medication.
Sea Sickness medication comes in tablets or 100% natural herb patches that you wear on your body to prevent or relieve any sickness.
Be sure to get a non-drowsy version. You don’t want to be sleepy and dozing off when you should be enjoying your vacation.
Small Camera or Go Pro
If you want to take your vacation photos to the next level, pack a camera. One of my favorites is the Cannon G7X mark 3. It’s enough small to fit in your day pack, and is beginner friendly.
Yes, most smartphones have high-quality cameras now. However, if you are into photography or want to capture some more unique photos of yourself and your loved ones then I recommend packing a camera or a GoPro action camera.
The GoPro can be used underwater and you can get some really fun photos they are waterproof and can be submerged in water.
For the adventurers out there, packing a pair of travel binoculars makes seeing ports of call from your room that much more interesting.
Plus you can bring them on your shore excursions to see things far away that much better!
There is something special about documenting your trip on paper. You can always refer back to it and remember details that you may forget.
It is also a great way to reflect and remember the funny moments that happened, what you enjoyed, and what you didn’t enjoy.
You can use any notebook or this travel journal from Amazon with different prompts. Perfect for the writer who wants to take it all in and remember it.
I bring a few post-it notes just in case I need to ask for something from my stateroom attendant. Post-its are usually brightly colored and won’t be missed!
On out last cruise we needed our mini bar to be unlocked, and we left a post in on the mirror asking for it to be unlocked, and it was once we got back to the room.
If you like to hit up the bars on board, packing some Liquid IV is essential to relieve any morning hangovers or relieve dehydration. Just mix one packet into a water bottle and the cure is on the way.
I love the passion fruit flavor and it really helps you get through the day!
Other Things You should bring on a cruise
- Toiletries including shampoo & conditioner
- Hair styling tools like curling iron or flat-iron
- Extra Prescription Meications
- Travel Documents & Copy of Passport
- Cash: bring some small bills for tipping
What not to pack on a cruise
- Hair Dryer
- Too many valuables
- Hard Liquor ( some cruises allow a bottle of wine- double check your cruise line)
Now you have all of the cruise packing essentials that will help you stay organized and prepared for your next cruise vacation. I hope you found this list helpful for packing!
I’d love to know in the comments where your next cruise vacation is going!
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