Packing List for a Cruise

Packing List for a Cruise

I am by no means a cruise expert.  Yes, I have been on 5 cruises…but we met people who have been on 30+! But, I do some experience packing for cruises.  And I’ve learned some important lessons.  Now, do I usually overpack? Yes. But, I make sure to take everything I need….including the stuff in this packing list for cruise success.

A friend of mine is about to leave on a cruise, so I thought I would make this post to give to friends who are setting sail.  Hope it helps!  You may not have a cruise booked, but you might want to to pin it to your travel board for later!

Let’s understand this: Packing for a cruise is a little different from packing for a normal vacation. For starters, there isn’t a Walmart on board to pick up random stuff.  There are some gift shops, but if you forget something important – you will pay big bucks for it onboard.  Here are some of my packing tips for a cruise.

For starters, let’s talk clothes.  How long will you be gone?  We recently took a 7 day cruise.  That was 3 days at port, and 3 days at sea, and disembarkation day (the day you get off the boat and leave).  Let’s break it down:
What to pack for a cruise for days at port:
What will you be doing?  We like to get in the water, so for us swimsuits and cover-ups are essential, along with shoes that are water-friendly (like flip-flops, Chacos, or water shoes).  However, we also do a lot of walking around the ports, so we take tennis shoes as well (especially my husband who can’t walk all day in flip-flops).  A day at port looks like this for us:
-Wear swimsuit and coverup with comfy shoes off the boat. Do our excursions. Come back to the boat and change/eat lunch.
-Change into comfy clothes (shorts/t-shirt or sundress) with comfy shoes and go back into the town for shopping/exploring.  
For our 3 days at port I took: 2 swimsuits that I could be active in (read: not a string bikini…I took a one-piece and a sturdy tankini), a couple cover ups, Chaco sandals, tennis shoes, 2 pairs of shorts (one Nike shorts, one khaki shorts), and a few T-shirts.

What to pack for a cruise for the days at sea
These days are pretty casual.  I wore capris and a long-sleeve T (if you are inside at the game shows/casino/music performances…it can get chilly) one day, and yoga pants and tank the other days.  I wore workout clothes one morning, a swimsuit one day when lounging on the Lido Deck…but you won’t need really dressy stuff.  I would take a few mix-and-match items to make your wardrobe stretch. 

For the days on board: take a couple pairs of bottoms, and shirts for each day. I would also bring one or two long-sleeve shirts if you are cold-natured. And maybe a sweater or jacket. Honestly, one pair of capris with a few tops would be fine. (Note: for men, tank tops are not allowed in the dining room during the day….so be sure to pack T-shirts for your husbands for breakfast/lunches in the dining room.  Or you could do room service or the buffets without worrying about that.)


What to pack for a cruise for dinner time
For dinners, if you plan on eating in the dining room each night, you will need to find out how many formal nights there are on board, along with the dress code.  With Carnival, these are called “cruise elegant” and they just require men to wear a collered shirt and dress pants (no jeans).  The other nights, it is just no sleeveless shirts and hats for men.  Women are pretty much anything goes on casual nights….but “cruise elegant” is a chance to dress up.  I saw dress pants and shirts (like work attire) to formal gowns.  I wore some sequin dresses because I like to dress up.  Be sure you pack the clothing you need.  You can go to casual dinners in what you wore that day (although I usually change into a sundress), but you have to dress a little nicer for the formal nights.
Late in the evenings, most nights I would put on yoga pants, a sweatshirt, and be comfy after dinner.  We would see comedy shows or performances, but I like to be comfy.
What to pack for a cruise: Other Stuff
Besides your regular toiletries, here are some tips for packing extra stuff for the cruise.
  • Take a watch.  Every activity from meal times to shows is scheduled.  There really aren’t clocks around the boat, so keep time on your watch.  Your cell phone will be off (because you don’t want to pay crazy international roaming charges), so pack a watch to keep time.
  • Take a lanyard. You will get an on-board card that you keep with you at all times (it works like your room key and credit card in one).  If you aren’t wearing pants with a pocket, you can keep it on a lanyard.  The guest services desk can punch a hole in your card.
  • Bring a hairdryer. Most on the boat are really low wattage, so take your own. Trust me.
  • Take a mini-medicine cabinet. You can get medicine on-board, but it is pricey.  If you buy OTC stuff from the gift shop, or get it from the infirmary, you will pay much more than it is worth.  I paid $12 for a bottle of Visine! Woah!  So pack lots of meds.  We took sinus meds, pain reliever, antibiotic cream and bandaids, Immodium, Pepto, Gas-X, sleep meds, and LOTS of Dramamine.  We pop the Dramamine the whole time.  Like every 12 hours on the clock.  And we never feel motion sick.  We take the drowsy kind at night, and the non-drowsy during the day.  Even with my well-stocked medicine bag, I still had to buy Visine and hydrocortisone cream…so pack your bag well!
  • Bring cameras, cards, and chargers.  Carnival cruises (and I’m sure other cruise lines) have a camera shop…but you’ll pay an arm and a leg for these things.  Pack them.
  • Water bottle. You get free tea, water, and lemonade on the Lido Deck.  But the cups are really tiny. If you have a water bottle, you can fill it up and carry it with you.
  • Umbrella/rain jacket. I hope it doesn’t rain on your cruise…but just in case. 🙂
  • Check your cruise line for water and wine allowances.  We could take 12 bottles/cans of soda or water per person, and one bottle of wine per person. This is FREE.  We brought water with us, which is handy for excursion days and taking medicine in your room.  The wine is free if you uncork/open it yourself.  We just brought bottles that had twist-off lids. There will be glasses in your room to drink the wine from. If you take the bottle to dinner, you will have to pay an uncorking fee.  But we just opened it in our room, poured a glass, and then went to dinner.  Easy fix!  
  • Take small bills.  You may want to tip the room service guy (and you should).  When you get to port and want to haggle with merchants, have small bills.  I got most of my money in $1, $5, and $10.  It made for a thick wallet, but we weren’t stuck getting Bahamian change we didn’t need.
  • Alarm clock. There are no clocks anywhere on board (guess they want you on vacation time) but you will need an alarm clock. Your phone can go wonky sailing through different times zones, so it isn’t reliable as an alarm clock.  Bring your own.

I know that is a lot of info on (what you thought was) a simple packing list for cruise travel. But if you plan and pack well, you will save yourself a hassle on board. I hope this info helps!


  1. Great tips! I couldn’t agree more with the watch! We didn’t pack our watches on our first cruise and I made sure it was the first thing we packed on our second. 🙂
    My husband and I try to go to a convenience store before we embark in order to buy a 12 pack of soda for each of us. That way we save money and don’t have to buy the soda card.
    Where is your favorite place that you have cruised to?

  2. leslie gonzalez :

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. leslie gonzalez :

    Hi! I just came back from a 7 day carnival cruise and 99% of what is on this list you WILL need. I usually don’t take an alarm clock i just use their wake up call option. Its free and it makes me get up to answer the phone instead of pressing the snooze button lol. I also did think i would need tampons/panty liners etc since i had just finished with Aunt Flo BUT i want as lucky and it surprised me.. Spent $25 on Tampax pearl and cortex panty liners… so from now on i will not leave without those!

    • Yeah, I don’t use it as much for an alarm clock, but just for a clock in the room. It’s hard to see your watch when you wake up in the middle of the night!

      GREAT tip about the feminine products!

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