When it comes to packing for a cruise, some items are no-brainers: sunscreen, swimsuits, and comfortable shoes, to name a few. However, some things might not immediately come to mind when packing. These items can make a big difference in the quality of your trip, so it's essential to add them to your cruise packing lists before setting sail.
Things To Know Before Packing for a Cruise
When planning a cruise, you must consider the cruise line's policies. Nothing is standard across the industry. For example, some cruise lines let you bring your own soda, but most don't, and some cruises have formal nights.
Some standard policies to be aware of include the following:
- Alcohol policies: Most cruise lines have restrictions on bringing alcohol onboard, and some prohibit it entirely. Be sure to check your specific cruise line's policy before packing any alcohol.
- Dress codes: Many cruise lines have dress codes for specific areas of the ship, such as formal nights in the dining room. Pack appropriate attire to avoid being turned away from these areas.
- Smoking policies: Smoking is prohibited in most areas of the ship, and many cruise lines have designated smoking areas. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the policy before lighting up.
- Excursion policies: If you plan to book shore excursions through the cruise line, be aware of the cancellation policy and any refund restrictions.
- Bottled water and soda: Many cruise lines will let you carry a determined amount of bottled water or soda. However, most cruise lines are moving away from this. Check before you go.
When packing for a cruise, clothing is one of the most important things to consider. This section will cover the essentials for daytime attire, evening attire, and footwear.
During the day, comfortable and casual clothing is the way to go. Here are some items to consider packing:
- Lightweight, breathable tops
- Shorts or skirts
- Sun hat
- Light jacket or sweater
Some cruise lines offer laundry services, but it may be expensive. Pack things you can wear multiple ways or pack one outfit for each day of your cruise.
Evenings on a cruise can be more formal, depending on the ship and the dining options. Here are some items to consider packing:
- A cocktail dress or dressy pantsuit
- Suit or dress pants with a dress shirt
- Formalwear for any formal nights on the ship
- Dress shoes
Be sure to check with the cruise line for any dress code requirements for the dining rooms or other evening events. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines does not have a formal night; you may see ladies in ballgowns and others in jeans and a T-shirt in the dining rooms.
When it comes to footwear, consider both comfort and style. Here are some options to consider:
- Comfortable walking shoes for shore excursions or exploring the ship
- Sandals or flip-flops for the pool or beach
- Dress shoes for formal evenings
- Sneakers for the gym or other active pursuits
Packing socks and any necessary foot care items, such as blister pads or inserts, is also a good idea.
You might check the weather before the cruise and think you are all set. But like the Boy Scouts motto says, “Be Prepared.” While it may be tempting to pack for warm weather only, it's important to remember that temperatures can vary depending on the location and time of year. Some weather considerations to keep in mind include the following:
- Layering: Packing layers is key for any weather. Even if you are cruising to a warm destination, it's a good idea to pack a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings.
- Rain gear: Depending on your destination, you may encounter rain during your cruise. Pack a rain jacket or umbrella to stay dry.
- Sun protection: Even if the weather is cool, pack sun protection such as sunscreen and a hat. UV rays can still be strong, especially on the water.
Make sure that you pack prescription medication and any vitamins you take daily. It's a good idea to bring enough medication to last the entire trip, plus a few extra days in case of any unexpected delays.
If you aren't sure if you get seasick, you will want to bring along some:
- Sea bands
- Or other seasickness remedies
You might want to pack some other basic first aid meds, such as pain relievers, cold medication, and antacids. These can be helpful in case of unexpected illness, and it's much cheaper than buying them on a cruise ship.
Personal Hygiene Products
While most cruise ships provide basic toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and soap, bringing your own is a good idea, especially if you are picky about what you use.
Some essential personal hygiene products to pack include:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body wash or soap
- Razor and shaving cream
- Feminine hygiene products
- Insect repellent
Bringing your own hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes is a good idea to help prevent the spread of germs. Cruise ships can be a breeding ground for illness, so taking extra precautions with personal hygiene can help keep you healthy during your trip.
Whether you plan to take photos, stay connected with loved ones, or relax with music or a movie, you must bring some electronic devices. Consider packing a:
- Smartphone with a camera
- Tablet or e-reader for reading, watching movies, or playing games
- Camera for capturing memories
If you aren't planning on purchasing an online internet package, you should download some of your favorite movies or shows beforehand. That way, you have lots of entertainment options.
Chargers and Adapters
One thing that many people forget to pack is chargers and adapters for their electronic devices. (We have done this on more vacations than I can count!)
Bring these tech gear essentials to stay connected and entertained during your cruise without any hassle:
- A multi-port USB charger so that you can charge all of your devices at once
- A power strip, as most cruise cabins have one or two outlets; if you bring a power strip, you can charge anything and everything without a fight for the outlets
- Remember to pack the charging cables for each of your devices
- If you're traveling internationally, you may need a power adapter to use your chargers in foreign outlets
Bringing all the necessary travel documents is essential when packing for a cruise. Including your:
- Visa (if required)
- Cruise ticket or cruise documents
- Driver's license
Consider bringing a lanyard that allows you to attach your cabin card. You will need your cabin card for everything on a cruise.
A cruise is an excellent opportunity to relax and unwind, but it's also a chance to have some fun. You will probably stay very busy in port, but you may need a little more entertainment during sea days on the cruise. Bring some entertainment options, such as:
- A tablet loaded with movies and TV shows
- Games, such as cards or a travel-sized board game
If you are cruising with kids, these are even more crucial, as most kids need some of the things they love from home to help enjoy themselves.
What Else Do I Need To Pack?
These items are often overlooked and can be the difference between a good cruise and a great one:
- A power strip can be handy as the cabins often have limited electrical outlets but some cruises do not permit them so check with your cruise line before packing one
- Packing a laundry bag can help keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones and make it easier to do laundry
- Packing a small fan can help keep the cabin cool, comfortable, and noise-free, especially during the hot summer months
- Waterproof phone case
- A nightlight
- Towel clips to keep your towel on the lounge chair
- Over-the-door storage holder to keep electronics and toiletries organized
- Refillable water bottle
Preparing for a cruise can feel overwhelming and downright scary if it is your first one. Make a checklist for packing, or download a free cruise packing list to ensure you have everything you need.
By keeping these items in mind, travelers can be sure they are fully prepared for their cruise and can enjoy a stress-free and comfortable trip.
Alicia Richards is the founder of Travels With The Crew. This family travel site is loaded with itineraries, tips for traveling with kids, and travel inspiration. Alicia helps busy moms plan vacations that the entire family will love.