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Cruise holidays have become one of my new favorite things after my Comedy Cruise in Oz and Scandinavia and Russia cruise just a couple of month ago. I love the idea of packing for a cruise once yet visiting several different destinations – and having a huge choice of amazing restaurants all within walking distance of my beautifully appointed balcony cabin; not to mention swimming pools, theaters, spas and sail away parties! Add in the shore excursions and port days that give you a taste of different parts of the world and you’re onto a winner. The biggest question is what exactly do you pack for a cruise? Well, wonder no more as we’ve put together the perfect cruise packing list to help you pack all the cruise essentials so you have everything you need, can take out the stuff you don’t and avoid paying hefty ‘tourist’ charges for the stuff you may not have though of! Read on for the ultimate cruise packing checklist, perfect as a first time cruise packing list.
Disclaimer: This very helpful post contains affiliate links, which means that should you click any of the links and make a purchase I may get a small commission at absolutely no cost to you. If you are thinking about buying some cruise essentials before your trip – which if you are here I presume you are – please consider using the links below. And you can read the legal stuff about it all in my Disclosure.
The Only Cruise Packing List You’ll Ever Need
Cruise Packing List Essentials
- Sun cream – If you’re going somewhere hot then you do NOT want to leave home without bottles of this, because who wants to come back from holiday red and peeling?! Even if you’re going to a colder destination (Alaska/Antarctica) – sun screen is still needed as the sun’s reflection off the water/ice (or even the deck) can still burn you.
- Sunglasses – Obvious. We want to keep our eyesight. And oversized black sunglasses add a touch of glamour to any outfit.
- A jacket – If you’re going somewhere hot you’ll still want a light jacket or cardigan to keep the night breeze at bay, or for when you’re spending time on the upper decks watching the stars (It’s one of my favorite cruise ship activities and it’s totally free!) Alternatively, if it’s cold then its common sense that you’ll have to wrap up warm and snug.
- Comfortable shoes – Even though you’ll be relaxing on the boat, when on a shore excursion in a port of call you’ll be heading ashore to explore and see some sights, with a lot of cruise ports perfect for a walking tour. This will require some comfy walking shoes so that you can explore for hours should you want to!
- Your toiletry bag – Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, medications, sea sickness tablets (just in case) and anything else you use in your daily routine. Surprisingly these are the things that usually overpriced on a cruise ship, so don’t forget them! Toiletries are definitely cruise packing essentials – and if the come in a hanging toiletry bag (which saves space and keep your stuff off the shower floor) – even better!
What to Take on a Cruise: Your Main Bag
What to pack for a cruise (and what clothing to wear) depends on how many days you’re going for – and to what destinations, but there’s always a launderette on board so you can wash and re-wear clothes if you need to! (and cruise ship laundry can be an experience in itself!)
- T-shirts or Tank Tops – Around 6/7 tops is good, the best thing about cruises is that you don’t have to carry your luggage anywhere! Once you’re on the ship, you’re settled for the holiday. So you can worry less about bag weight.
- Shorts – A good collection of shorts is required, probably 2/3 that you can change and swap over depending on what you’re feeling that day.
- Dresses, jumpsuits or loose trousers – Super loose dresses and trousers are amazing for hot weather and I highly recommend them if you’re going somewhere like the med. Also, I’m a sucker for a good jumpsuit, they can be dressed up and down so easily.
- Bikinis – One thing that you’re sure to be doing a lot of on a cruise is swimming and sunbathing, so I recommend taking a few options to switch up (If you switch up each day it also helps to get an even tan… vain but true (and something I mentioned in my Maldives Packing list. Hey, at least I’m consistent!)
- A one piece swimsuit – For all those more active times like surf simulators, wake boarding and going to the aqua parks because nobody wants an embarrassing slip – a full coverage bathing suit is definitely a good idea!
- Flip Flops – perfect for wandering round the ship in (although not permitted in some of the luxury cruise dining rooms!)
- Tote Bag / Beach bag: a lightweight bag is perfect for wandering to and from the lido deck and sitting round the swimming pool(s) – and is a MUCH better option than a plastic bag!
- Two formal outfits – Whether it is a floor length dress, a suit or a smart mid-length dress there’ll definitely be an occasion for you to done your best cruise outfit, dress up and own it.
Packing for a Cruise – Extra Tips & Tricks
- When Packing a CarryOn Bag: Pack an extra change of clothes in case and your swimming costume in case you’re bag gets waylayed if there are lots of people boarding at the same time. It’s not ideal, but it does happen.
- Bring something to make it feel like home – You’re going to be staying in this room for at least a week, bring something you love to make the room more relaxing for you.
- Pack a reusable water bottle (pick from our top recommendations here)- OK so this one isn’t exactly kosher, but it’s one of my favorite packing tips. Whilst you’re not supposed to refill your water bottle from the dispensers directly, if you fill half the bottle with ice and then top it up with glasses of water tipped in, you’ll save a fortune on bottled water on board, and help save the planet by using less plastic. And if you’re in an ‘eco’ frame of mind, I recommend purchasing your own metal straw so you don’t have to use the plastic ones (although we are starting to see a shift in plastic straws becoming something that you have to ask for and are not given out automatically. It’s still not great, but it is a start).
- Use a collapsible bag – You have to find somewhere in your room for your bag to stay, so a duffel bag is a really good choice as it can fold away neatly in a small area.
- Disposable camera – Still bring your mustpack items – your GoPro (or alternative underwater cameras – although really, is there any alternative to a GoPro these days?!), cell phones, digital camera (or whatever you use!) but a disposable camera is always fun, you can get the film developed after the cruise and see what you captured as an end of holiday surprise.
- Use Compressible Packing Cubes – yes they are a thing, and they are a packing hack everyone should know about and are perfect for every vacation, holiday or jaunt you can think of. Essentially they are exactly what they say on the tin – packing cubes that you can compress meaning you can organize all your clothes and compress them at the same time. (Not convinced? Take a look at our recommendations for the best Packing Cubes on the market)
- Pre-Print & Attach your Luggage Tags: These will make sure that once you board the ship, your main bag (equivalent of a checked luggage) gets to your cruise ship cabin as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
- Sewing Kit and Small Cruise First Aid Kit – little nick in your clothes, a travel sewing kit can solve that; and a travel first aid kit with a few essentials like plasters are perfect for if you get an unexpected blister for all the walking you did exploring on a shore excursion!
- Traveling with lots of tech? Take a power strip or power cube so that you only need 1 travel adapter for multiple appliances.
- Pack a Travel Laundry Bag – perfect for taking your dirty cloths to the on-board launderette, or keeping them separate from your clean stuff when packing to go home!
- Check the cruise lines dress codes: We mentioned it above, but more often than not, whether you’re on a luxury cruise, amazing cruise – or any other types of cruises to be honest – odds are their is at least one formal night on board and it’s much cheaper to take your own (nice dress / smart pants / dress shoes) than hire them onboard!
- Only take the permitted booze allocation: this is usually one bottle of wine per person, but check with your cruise line before packing anything to avoid having it taken off you!
- An alarm clock – if you are not a fan of ship wake up calls, and don’t trust your cell phone to wake you up!
- Your Credit Card – to settle up at the end, and reduce the need to carry cash.
What NOT to Pack for Your Cruise
This next section may give you a bit of a chuckle as it features some things you would never dream of taking on vacation, let alone on a cruise – but cruise ships have in recent years had to add these items to the ‘no’ list. Let me present what not to bring on a cruise:
- More than 1 book. Even for the bookworms amongst us, most cruise ships have a well stocked library, contributed to by many a cruise passenger. It won’t be difficult to find a book you like and in only taking one book you’ll save space and weight on you packing.
- Toys and Tech that might get you in trouble – so that’s drones, mobility aids (unless you have a medical need) – ie. no segways, roller skates or hoverboards! These can absolutely not be considered to be cruise essentials.
- Household appliances: irons, rice cookers, coffeemakers. Just leave them at home. Every cruise line has absolutely everything you need, and most have rules about the use of such items on board. There are launderettes, coffee shops and not forgetting the (often 24 hour) buffet.
- Weapons: I’d like to think this one goes without saying, but any form of weapon – knife, gun, pepper spray – area big no no. You’re fellow cruise passengers are all there for the same reason as you – to have a good time. Self protection aids are NOT necessary.
What you Need to Pack for a Themed Cruise
So I’ve covered normal cruises, the ones where its general holiday gear, however in my research I found some really useful info about ‘theme cruises’!
- FASHION – if sailing to all the major fashion capitals of the world before arriving in New York for their fashion week sounds good to you, then a cruise is what you want to find. Who knew this even existed! There may even be a few famous fashion related people aboard…
- WINE – Why not combine two of my favorite things: wine and cruising! If you’re a regular on the site you’ll know me and wine are the best of friends, and Victoria’s Yarra Valley used to be in my backyard! Wine cruises are often river cruises and held throughout Europe.
- SPORTS – even I didn’t know this was a thing, but you can definitely go on cruises that are geared up for sports fans!
- DANCE/FESTIVALS – Cruise ship festivals are some of the most fun cruises on the market, What could be better than pool parties by day and dancing under the stars by night with amazing ports of call to help you see the world at the same time as you party!
- YOGA & WELLNESS – Cruise lines are also the perfect place to relax and unwind. With the nature of cruise ship wifi (typically less than adequate!) meaning you can actually unplug from the world whilst you’re at sea and really concentrate on relaxing and looking after yourself without the pressures of the outside world.
- STAR WARS! – that’s right folks, the Disney Cruise Line have come up with the goods and now offer a Star Wars themed cruise! If you’re attending one of these amazing cruises, you might want to pack a full themed costume. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Princess Leia wandering around the decks?!
Frequently Asked Questions when Packing for a Cruise (FAQ)
- When is the cheapest time to cruise?
This question is particularly weather dependent but on the whole the cheapest times to cruise are typically in the late summer and fall because of hurricane season, but you can often find patches of bargain sailings, especially during the early weeks of December and in the spring.
- What on-board activities are available on your cruise?
This will vary from ship to ship, and cruise line to cruise line. But on board activities can includes swimming pools, hot tubs, spas, running/walking tracks, theaters, cinemas, gyms, kids areas, mini-golf and so much more. Check directly with your chosen ship for the full run down.
- Is there a Day Trip available (to get off the ship) on a cruise?
This will depend on your itinerary and ports of call, but on the whole yes, there will be multiple day trip options that allow you to get off the ship.
- Do cruise ships have luggage limitations?
Unlike airlines, cruises don’t charge for the amount of luggage you bring. There are also no (reasonable) limit on how much you can bring. Most cruise lines “encourage” each passenger to limit luggage to two suitcases, each one less than 22.5kg or 50 pounds, although unless you are onboard for a couple months, this would be waayy to much in the first place. Be sure to check with your cruise line directly (whether its Carnival Cruise Line, an Alaskan Cruise line or any of the Caribbean cruise lines) as each will have their own set of requirements.
- Do I need to pack insect repellent?
This again, entirely depends on where you are going, and how many shore days you have. Check your ships schedule and be on the look out for tropical islands where beasty bugs may need a little nudge to stay away.
- What cruise cabins are best for me?
Selecting your cruise cabin could make or break your cruise vacation. Head on over to our Essential cruise tips for firsttimers for a full run down on what cruise cabin you should choose.
So there you have it! The Ultimate Cruise Packing List: Choc full of cruise travel essentials, packing hacks, travel tips and a full packing guide to make sure you have everything you could possibly need in your bag for the perfect cruise. And if I’m missed anything or you have any top tips for packing for a cruise, trip planning or some vital things to bring on a cruise that I haven’t mentioned, please let me know in the comments below!
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And if you liked this packing list, take a look at the other packing lists & travel gear posts in this series:
- The Ultimate Travel Packing List – everything you need for a long term adventure trip.
- The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List – packed full of ski essentials to help you have the best time on the piste
- How to Pack your Carry On Like A Pro – full of travel tips to make the most of those pesky weight and space restrictions!
- The Best Travel Backpacks for Women – because us ladies need a bag that’s built for us and is going to stand up with us for every adventure.
- The Only Road Trip Packing List You’ll Ever Need Packed with Road Trip Travel Essentials
- Destination/Inspiration! North America, The Middle East+Travel Quotes & Adventure Quotes
Hi There! Thanks for reading this my Ultimate Cruise Packing List (A complete cruise essentials list + What NOT to Pack for a Cruise! – along with other cruise packing tips – it’s the ultimate guide to packing for a cruise) I just wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something after clicking a link, I may get a small commission – which is at absolutely no cost to you. If you enjoyed this article and are going to be searching for some of the things I mention anyway, I would love it if you could click through from the links above & thank you in advance! Read my full Disclosure here.
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Vicki is the Lawyer turned Content Creator, Editor-in-Chief and all round Boss Lady at MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld.
She has lived and worked in 7 different countries and started the site to show everyone that it is possible to travel whilst holding down a full time job (because not everyone can – or wants to – quit and walk away from it all).
Her style of travel has always been to get the best out of a destination as a time poor traveler making the most of limited vacation days and all without breaking the bank; BUT she does know where to save and where to splurge to have the most incredible travel experiences – such as luxury hotels and over-water bungalows, safaris, spas and more(!) – where the situation calls for it.
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