Packing for a cruise can be daunting. Not only do you have to pack for the ship, but for beach days, city strolls, jungle treks, and airports as well. How do you pack for it all without bringing everything you own?
This list will make packing for a cruise as easy and stress-free as possible!
What to Pack for a Cruise?
There are three main considerations to think about when packing for a cruise.
The first is the destination. Are you cruising in a tropical climate? On an expedition through the Arctic? Where you’re going and the weather in that area of the world will greatly influence what you need to pack for your trip.
The second thing to consider is your trip’s itinerary. Are you taking an adventure cruise with lots of hikes and water activities? If so, be sure to load up on athletic clothes and reliable shoes.
Alternatively, are you opting for a more relaxing trip full of beaches, tanning, and casual city strolls? Bring on the bathing suits and flowy dresses. Whatever trip you choose, be sure to carefully read through the itinerary to make sure that you’ll be properly prepared for all that the cruise has to offer.
The last thing to take into account when packing is the length of your trip. Cruises range from three nights to three weeks so be sure you’re properly prepared for the amount of time you’ll be gone. That being said, most cruises have a laundry service available so be sure to look into this at the time of booking.
Keeping all of that in mind, here is the ultimate cruise packing list, complete with everything you may need for a fun-filled trip on the wide open ocean.
Choosing Your Travel Bag
Choosing the best travel bag is a top priority when it comes to packing for any kind of trip. Not only do you need to fit all of your belongings inside, but you’ll probably be spending a fair amount of time lugging it around, so it’s important to pick one that’s best for you.
When I travel, I prefer a backpack because they’re easy to carry around, no matter the terrain, and often fit everything I need, with the bonus of tons of pockets and hidden compartments for valuables.
Top Backpack and Suitcase Picks
This is one of my top choices because it looks like a backpack but packs like a suitcase. It completely unzips and opens up to show you everything inside without having to spend time digging around from the top.
The Fairview comes in different sizes and colors, so you can choose one that fits your needs and personality.
The Farpoint 55 is another solid backpack option. It’s slightly bigger than the Fairview, and has a detachable daypack on the front. This is super convenient because you’ll need a trusty backpack along the way for day trips off the boat and for stashing anything you’d like to have close at hand.
If you don’t love the idea of carrying everything around on your back, you may choose to go the traditional suitcase route.
This is a great suitcase if you’re looking for something with wheels and don’t need too much space. Hard shell suitcases are a good option because it ensures the contents are protected against outside forces.
This suitcase is also great because it’s expandable, has spinner wheels for easy navigation, and has a laptop pocket and built-in TSA approved lock. You can’t go wrong here!
Carry-on / Daypack
Besides your main bag, you’re going to want to have a solid carry-on bag with anything you may need for 24 hours.
Sometimes loading luggage onto a ship can take a while, especially if there are lots of passengers. That’s why it’s important to have a carry-on bag with a change of clothes, any valuables, and whatever else you may need before having access to your main luggage.
A carry-on can be a smaller suitcase, but I recommend using a day pack as your carry-on to cut down on the amount of luggage you bring and kill two birds with one stone.
Here are some daypacks I really like.
If you’re someone who carries a lot of gear (cameras, chargers, iPads), the Nomatic Bag is for you. Hands down, one of the best bags we’ve ever owned, this day pack makes it so convenient to pack and unpack. With a gazillion different compartments, it makes sure you have a home for everything in your bag, completely saving you from having to rummage through your bag again.
If you prefer to keep your daypack stowed away until you need it, a great option is a collapsible backpack. This one is lightweight, folds up to be super small and compact, and fits into luggage easily.
When you’re ready to use it, it has plenty of compartments and even side pockets for your water bottle! It’s also water-resistant and comes in tons of different colors.
The last bit of advice for general packing is to use packing cubes! These bad boys are super useful for keeping yourself (and your luggage) organized.
Not only that, but they compress what you pack, making more room for anything else you may need to bring along. Packing cubes completely changed my life and the way I pack. I guarantee they’ll change yours too.
Now that you have your luggage picked out, it’s time to fill it up with everything you may need for a cruise.
Cruise Clothes Packing List
What clothes you pack seriously depends on your destination. Cruises run all over the world in various climates so it’s necessary to check on the weather where you’re headed so that you can pack accordingly.
Most cruises run year-round in warm climates or during warmer months in certain places, so the clothing on this packing list is geared towards warm and sunny destinations.
However, there are some cruises that take you to colder places like Antarctica, Alaska, and the Arctic. Be sure to pack lots of layers if you’re headed to one of these destinations!
Regardless of where you’re going, dri-fit clothing (shirts, shorts, underwear, etc) is especially handy on a cruise because it’s lightweight and dries quickly.
Dri-fit clothing is perfect for hikes, water activities, or pesky seaspray.
Tops and Bottoms
If you’re off on a tropical cruise, you’re going to want to have lightweight, comfortable clothing to wear throughout the trip. Consider choosing materials like linen and chiffon that are breathable and keep you cool.
On the other hand, if you’re going on an adventure cruise to Antarctica or another cold destination, you’re going to want to have a lot of layers to stay warm. Choose cottons or even dri-fit to layer under your heavier clothes.
Regardless of where you’re going, it’s nice to have a long sleeve shirt to throw on for cooler evenings or air conditioning.
Pack some comfy shorts for all the warm weather exploring you’re going to do!
It’s a good idea to bring along a pair of athletic shorts for treks and hikes in warm climates. Also, some cruises have a gym on board, so if you plan to workout, come prepared with the necessary clothing.
Jeans are great for any kind of cruise. Perfect for ounging on the deck in the evenings or a night out on shore, jeans will definitely come in handy along the way.Leggings
If you’re like me, leggings are in your bag no matter where you’re headed. Leggings are especially important to pack if you’re headed to a colder climate because they’re perfect as a base layer under your heavier clothes.
No tropical cruise is complete without a sundress. Throw this on for meals on board, city tours, or even a day at the beach.
On the last night of many cruises, there’s a special or Captain’s dinner, where guests and crew get dressed up and enjoy one last meal together.
While you’ll be in casual wear for most of the cruise, it’s recommended to have one nice outfit to wear on special occasions like this, or on outing out on the town while docked.
If you’re in a colder climate, a sweatshirt is a must. But even if you’re cruising in a warmer area of the world, a sweatshirt is good for heavy air conditioning on board or even at the airport before and after your trip.
Sweatshirts also make great makeshift pillows for quick naps along the way. Definitely consider bringing one with you.
Lounge pants are absolutely necessary for a cruise. Whether you’re hanging out on deck, sitting in your cabin, or are running quick errands on the ship, it’s nice to have a pair of comfy pants to throw on.
In warmer climates, I recommend taking a pair of hippie pants or other flowy pants made of a light material. However if you’re cruising in a colder climate, definitely opt for a pair of trusty sweatpants to keep you warm and comfortable.
No matter where you’re going, raincoat is a must! Be prepared for anything, especially in the unpredictable tropics.
Even if it doesn’t rain, a raincoat makes a nice lightweight jacket or windbreaker when you’re standing in the cool sea breeze.
Undergarments and Beachwear
For most cruises, a bathing suit is an essential item. Even if you’re not in a beachy destination, many vessels have hot tubs, jacuzzis, or even mini swimming pools on board! Are you a bikini or one piece kind of gal?Bathing Suit Cover-up
Another good idea is to have something to throw on over your bathing suit. Grab a flowy cover-up to wear on your way to the beach or to put on when you’ve finished tanning on the sundeck.
If you’ve planning on being active during your cruise, a sports bra will come in handy during activities like hiking, kayaking, and more!
Be sure to bring enough underwear to last the entire trip, especially if there’s no laundry service on your cruise.
Footwear and Accessories
For a warm weather cruise, definitely bring along a pair of sturdy sandals to wear onboard the ship or on casual day trips. Make sure they’re comfortable to walk in and beach friendly!
I always bring my Rainbows with me no matter where I’m traveling. They’re dependable, super long-lasting, and offer great foot support.
If you’re taking a more active cruise where you’re going to be walking a lot, pack a pair of sneakers so you’re comfortable on your feet for a long period of time. Plus, if you want to hit the onboard gym, you’re going to want to have a pair of shoes for working out!
Depending on the type of cruise you’re taking and your trip’s itinerary, it might be a good idea to bring a pair of hiking boots. Be sure your feet are properly protected through treks and hikes through unfamiliar territory.
Plus, if you’re in a colder climate, hiking boots tend to be insulated, making sure you’re warm no matter the weather.
If you’re taking a tropical cruise with lots of treks and hiking adventures, pack lightweight, breathable socks to keep your feet cool.
Alternatively, if you’re taking a cold weather adventure cruise, carefully consider the type of socks you pack. Make sure they’re thick and warm enough to keep your toes cozy no matter how cold it is outside.
A travel scarf is a great accessory if you don’t have pockets or want to keep your valuables extra safe. With a hidden pocket, a travel scarf gives you a secure place to store anything you want to keep close to you for easy access. Think passport, cellphone, money, maybe even headphones!
Plus, it’s a great addition to any outfit.
As mentioned above, the kind of clothing you should pack greatly depends on the type of cruise you’re taking and the general destination.
Remember to pack lots of comfy clothes to hang out in, outfits to wear while touring cities, and athletic clothes to wear on treks during land excursions.
Tops and Bottoms
Tropical destinations are warm, so pack shorts that are comfortable, breathable and look good. There will be photos, after all!
Have a pair of comfortable shorts to wear for activities like hiking or exercising. Who knows, your ship may even have a gym on board.
There will be at least one night on your trip where you’ll need to look extra presentable. Be sure to bring along your Sunday’s best for a nice dinner, a night out on the town, or any other fancy occasion that may occur along the way.
Easy to slip on during one of the cooler nights, jeans are sure to keep you comfortable throughout your trip.
Weather can be unpredictable, especially in the tropics. Be prepared for anything with your raincoat! This is a must for any kind of cruise.
Whether you need it for heavy air conditioning, a cooler night, or as a layer on a colder trip, a hoodie is a must on a cruise. Plus, it makes a good pillow when you need a little extra cushioning!
Undergarments and Beachwear
Footwear and Accessories
For beach wear, wandering around the ship, or casual strolls, it’s always a good idea to bring along a pair of flip-flops for easy and comfortable footwear.
Definitely pack a pair of reliable closed-toe shoes on any cruise you take. Be sure to bring along sneakers for longer walks, gym trips, or even for a run along the shore.
If you’re taking a cruise with lots of physical activities like trekking or hiking, you’ll want to pack a pair of sturdy hiking boots. Bonus points if you break them in before the trip!
If you’re headed to a tropical destination, be sure to bring breathable socks to avoid having sweaty feet. But if you’re going somewhere cold, opt for thick socks to keep your feet toasty.
Cruise Packing List: Essential Items
Now that you’ve got your clothes for the cruise sorted out, here are some essential items that should be packed into your bag.
Keep yourself protected against harmful UV rays with some strong sunscreen. A high SPF is recommended, especially because sun reflects off of the water, leading to potential for some nasty burns.
A good pair of sunglasses is key for any adventure at sea. Go for a pair with polarized lenses to help tone down the glare from the water.
No matter where we’re going, we always travel with our SunGod sunglasses. They’re fully customizable, reasonably priced, and ship anywhere in the world!
Keep the sun out of your eyes and your head protected! If you’re taking a cold weather cruise, be sure to bring a warm hat to keep all the body heat in.
Many cruises in tropical climates come with a side of pesky mosquitoes. Keep yourself from scratching the entire trip with a few sprays throughout your land excursions.
Cut down on plastic this trip and bring along a reusable water bottle. It’ll make it easy to keep hydrated on the ship and take on treks, to the beach, or on city walks throughout your cruise.
Some cruises may provide you with complimentary toiletries. However, this isn’t the case on all ships so be sure to check your package to see what’s included.
At any rate, it’s nice to have your own products with you when far away from home. Here’s a list of toiletries I recommend bringing along with you.
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Lip balm
- Feminine hygiene products
- Nail file / clippers
- Wet wipes
If you don’t have all of these items on hand, grab one of these super handy toiletry kits that have all you’ll need to stay fresh and clean on your trip.
Stay plugged in on your trip with the necessary electronics. It’s important to note that some places you may be traveling to will have low cellphone reception, making staying in touch a bit challenging.
If you’re going to be cruising for a long time, I’d recommend picking up a local sim card at the airport or convenience store before boarding the ship so that you can stay in touch when necessary.
Planning to work on your cruise? It’s a good idea to check the WiFi situation when booking.
Some ships come with WiFi as part of the package, some may have it as an add-on, but some ships may not have it at all. If WiFi is a must for you, be sure to read the fine print so you aren’t surprised when onboard the ship.
Depending on where you are, the plugs may not be the same as in your home country. Be sure to bring a universal adapter so you’re prepared for any kind of outlet.
Even if your cruise has standard outlets, it’s still useful to have an adapter for hotel stays before and after the trip.
Save space in your bag by packing a Kindle instead of books. That way you’ll have thousands of titles at your fingertips for reading along the way.
You’re definitely going to want some music on the plane ride over or while relaxing while on the boat.
Keep your electronics fully juiced when not near an outlet with a powerbank. Just don’t forget to charge it!
Incredible sights on your cruise are guaranteed. Bring along your camera to document sunsets, cityscapes, and wildlife encounters along the way.
Be sure to take extra SD cards, batteries and all necessary chargers!
When booking your cruise, remember to check the WiFi situation. While on some boats it may be complimentary, on others it may only be available at an additional cost.
There’s nothing worse than a dead battery and not being able to recharge it. Be sure to bring chargers for all your electronics so that you can use them throughout the cruise!
Other Optional Items
Most boats that offer snorkeling as an activity will have gear available for you to rent (it may even be included as part of your package!).
However, you never know whose mouth was on that mouthpiece before yours… so if you plan on snorkeling, I’d recommend investing in your own gear not only for sanitary reasons but for comfort and a better fit.
There’s tons of snorkel gear on the market that’s reasonably priced. If you don’t know where to start, check out our article on the best snorkel gear to help you find what you’re looking for!
You’re bound to see tons of wild and marine life along your cruise. Some cruises even specialize in bird watching as they travel through densely populated areas. See details from far away and don’t miss a thing by bringing along a pair of binoculars.
Keep track of what you’re doing and the amazing things you’ve seen by writing them down in a journal. You’ll be happy to look back on your notes many years down the road!
Keep yourself entertained during downtime with a deck of cards or a fun travel game. Plus, it’s a great way to bring fellow cruise goers together and make new friends!
If you plan on kayaking, snorkeling or even just sitting on the beach during your cruise, it’s a good idea to invest in a dry bagto keep your valuables safe and free from water. A dry bag comes in handy no matter what water activity you’re doing and is sure to keep your things nice and dry.
Besides any prescriptions you may take on a regular basis and over the counter painkillers like Tylenol or Advil, I strongly recommend bringing along motion sickness pills to keep any impending sea sickness at bay.
Even if you have a stomach of steel on land, stormy seas may make you feel queasy. My personal pick is Dramamine, but be sure to grab the non-drowsy kind!
Packing for a Cruise: More Tips and Tricks
Bring Cash for Tipping
While onboard a cruise ship, you’ll have a hard-working crew that’s attentive to your every need. Most crew members rely on tips as a large part of their income, so it’s important that their service is acknowledged appropriately.
Carry cash in the local currency with you to show your appreciation for crew members throughout your trip.
Leave Valuables at Home
While it may be necessary to bring along things like laptops, tablets and cameras, try to avoid bringing tons of valuables with you on a cruise. Save yourself the stress and leave the expensive jewelry at home for this trip.
A Note on Tech
Be mindful of what kind of tech and appliances you’re packing to take with you on your cruise.
While it may be tempting, it’s better to leave your drone at home as they’re unapproved or disruptive in most areas you’ll be visiting. You should also leave home appliances like a kettle, rice cooker, and anything else you may want to bring with you for a long journey at sea.
Cruises will have everything you need – even hairdryers! So save the space in your luggage and don’t risk having your appliances confiscated. Trust that the ship will have everything you need for a stress-free, comfortable trip.
Hopefully, this packing list has helped you decide what to bring for any kind of cruising adventure.
If you’re looking for great last-minute cruise deals, be sure to check out liveaboard.com, which offers hundreds of small ship, adventure, and diving cruises with destinations all around the world.
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