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What to Pack for a Cruise

Knowing what to pack for your cruse vacation will help ensure you have a more seamless and comfortable cruise experience. The key to successful packing is by planning what to pack based on your itinerary, shore excursions, and the destinations you plan to visit.  In this way, you’ll have everything you need for your various onboard and in port activities.

The most important items to pack for your cruise vacation can be broken down into five main categories including your must-haves, important items, carry-on, clothing and other/miscellaneous items. The typical cruise is seven nights long, so checking in a bag or two may be expected. Along with a checked bag, bringing a carry-on will be necessary to hold all your important and must-have items for your cruise.

Must-Have

  • Travel documents – passport, boarding pass, cruise tickets
  • Wallet with ID, credit cards, and cash
  • Phone and charger
  • Camera (such as a DSLR if you are an avid photographer)
  • Over-the-counter medication in a small toiletries bag
  • Prescription medication

Important Items

Pack your important items in your carry-on for quick-access when certain situations arise.

  • Glasses or contacts (and contact solution)
  • Toiletries
  • Travel jewelry case for your accessories
  • Cross body bag (for going onshore or spending time around the cruise ship)
  • Layering pieces, such as a cardigan or a sweater
  • Swimsuit or gym wear
  • Change of clothes (as a proactive measure in case your luggage gets lost)
  • Sleepwear

Carry-on

Bringing a carry-on bag is necessary for your cruise vacation, especially one that is lightweight and can serve multiple purposes such as a day bag for excursions, or to take with you to the pool. A carry-on bag will allow you to have your must-haves and important items readily on hand. In addition, luggage may take up to a few hours to arrive to your stateroom from the time you check in, so having a carry-on bag will allow you to enjoy the onboard activities immediately.

Clothing

Cruise vacations are casual by day, whether you're on the ship or on shore. In the evening, ships vary as to dress. Much like on shore, attire is dictated by occasion. There are a variety of activities to enjoy on and off the ship, including formal dinners, shore excursions, and sea days. Keep in mind that what you pack will also be dependent on the time of year that you travel, the number of days you’ll be at sea, the number of ports of call, and the type of cruise it is (i.e. an Alaska cruise or a Caribbean cruise).

On some cruises, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun. But you don't need to rent a tuxedo just for the trip. At the Captain's Gala, for example, you'll want to wear something more formal. For most cruise lines with a 7-day cruise, there will be at least two formal or “cruise elegant” evenings, so don’t forget to pack your dressy attire as well!

  • Dark suit
  • Dinner jacket and dress pants
  • Cocktail dress or a gown
  • Dress shoes

Most cruise lines have an informal dress code and atmosphere on board, so packing smart casual apparel will do, especially for shore excursions, and sea days.

  • Long-sleeve shirts, trousers, khakis and a jacket for men
  • Casual dresses, pants, skirts and tops for women
  • Jeans
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Lightweight rain coat

Other/Miscellaneous Items

Depending on the type of cruise or the season you will be travelling in, you may want to consider packing items to help make your vacation as enjoyable as possible. This is especially important when packing for the excursions you have planned.

  • Sunscreen and after-sun lotion (for hot or sunny destinations)
  • Re-sealable plastic bags (for storing wet bathing suits or carrying food onshore)
  • Small, foldable umbrella
  • Translation books for visiting foreign-speaking ports (an alternative to save space and eliminate extra weight in your carry-on or bad would be to download a translation app)
  • AC extension cord or adapter (if you plan on packing a hair dryer, hair straightener or your laptop)
  • Binoculars (for viewing wildlife, especially great if you are on an Alaska cruise)

Reference this ultimate cruise-packing guide for your next vacation so that you are ready for any situation onboard, and ashore. You will enjoy your next cruise vacation with a peace of mind, no matter where you plan to travel to!

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