Guide to What to Pack for a Cruise

Ultimate Guide to What to Pack for a Cruise

by Christian Petzold - updated September 7, 2023

Going on a cruise is an exhilarating experience, offering the chance to explore various destinations while enjoying the amenities of a floating resort. But before you set sail, packing right is crucial to ensure a smooth and memorable voyage. If you’re unsure about what to bring, this guide will walk you through the must-haves, so you’re well-prepared for your cruise adventure.

What to Pack for a Cruise

Documentation & Paperwork

When it comes to packing for a cruise, one of the most important things to remember is to bring all the necessary documentation and paperwork. Here are some sub-sections to consider when organizing your documents.

Documentation Paperwork

1. Passport

For most cruises, you will need a passport book that’s valid for at least six months from the day your sailing ends. Make sure to check with your cruise line to see if there are any specific passport requirements for your itinerary.

2. Visa (If Required)

If you are traveling to a foreign country, you may need a visa. Check with the embassy or consulate of the countries you will be visiting to see if a visa is required for your trip.

3. Cruise Tickets/Boarding Passes

Make sure to print out your cruise tickets and boarding passes before you leave for your trip. You may also want to bring a digital copy on your phone or tablet as a backup.

4. Travel Insurance Details

Consider purchasing travel insurance before your trip. Make sure to bring all the necessary details with you, including your policy number and contact information for your insurance provider.

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5. Driver’s License or Other Photo ID

Bring a driver’s license or other photo ID with you on your trip. You may need it for identification purposes when boarding the ship or when participating in onshore activities.

6. Emergency Contact List

Make a list of emergency contacts, including phone numbers and email addresses. Keep a copy with you at all times in case of an emergency.

7. Medical Records or a List of Medications

If you have any medical conditions or are taking any medications, make sure to bring a list with you. You may also want to bring copies of your medical records in case of an emergency.

8. Reservation Confirmations for Onshore Activities

If you have booked any onshore activities, make sure to bring your reservation confirmations with you. This will help ensure that you don’t miss any of the activities you have planned.

Remember to pack all necessary travel documents in your carry-on luggage so you have them on hand when needed. By following these guidelines, you’ll be fully prepared for your cruise and won’t have to worry about any documentation issues along the way.


When it comes to what to pack for a cruise, clothing is one of the most important items to consider. You want to make sure you have the right clothes for all occasions, from casual daywear to formal evening wear. Here are some sub-sections to help you pack appropriately:

Clothes to Pack

1. Casual Daywear (T-Shirts, Shorts, Tank Tops)

During the day, you’ll likely be spending time on the pool deck or exploring ports of call. For these activities, pack comfortable, casual clothing such as T-shirts, shorts, and tank tops. Breathable fabrics like cotton and linen are a good choice for warmer climates. Don’t forget to pack a hat or cap for sun protection.

2. Beachwear/Swimsuits

If you plan on spending time at the beach or pool, make sure to pack appropriate swimwear. Bring at least two swimsuits so you can alternate between them while one dries. If you plan on participating in water sports, pack a rash guard or wetsuit.

BeachwearSwimsuits to Pack

3. Beach Cover-Ups

When you’re not in the water, you’ll want to cover up to protect your skin from the sun and to comply with dress codes. A lightweight, breathable cover-up is a great option. You can also wear it to and from the pool or beach.

4. Formal Evening Wear (Gowns for Women, Suits for Men)

Most cruises have at least one formal night where passengers are expected to dress up. For women, this usually means a gown or cocktail dress. For men, a suit or tuxedo is appropriate. Check with your cruise line for specific dress codes.

5. Semi-Formal Outfits for Dinners

On non-formal nights, you’ll want to dress up a bit for dinner. For women, this could mean a nice dress or skirt and blouse. For men, dress pants and a dress shirt are appropriate.

6. Sleepwear

Pack comfortable sleepwear such as pajamas or a nightgown. If you’re sharing a cabin, consider bringing earplugs or a sleep mask to help you get a good night’s sleep.

7. Workout Gear

If you plan on working out during your cruise, pack appropriate workout gear such as athletic shorts and a T-shirt. Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes or sneakers for the gym or jogging track.

8. Waterproof Jacket or Windbreaker

Even if you’re cruising to a warm climate, it’s always a good idea to pack a waterproof jacket or windbreaker. This will come in handy if you encounter rain or wind.9.

9. Sweaters or Jackets for Cooler Weather

If you’re cruising to a cooler climate or during the winter months, pack sweaters or jackets to keep warm. Layering is key, so pack items that can be easily layered.

10. Hats/Caps for Sun Protection

Sun protection is important, so make sure to pack a hat or cap to shield your face from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat is a good choice.

11. Undergarments

Pack enough underwear and socks for the duration of your cruise. Consider packing a few extra pairs in case of emergencies.

12. Walking Shoes/Sneakers

Comfortable walking shoes or sneakers are a must for shore excursions and exploring ports of call. Make sure to break them in before your cruise to avoid blisters.

13. Dress Shoes

Pack at least one pair of dress shoes for formal nights and semi-formal dinners. Make sure they’re comfortable enough to wear for a few hours.

14. Sandals/Flip-Flops

Sandals or flip-flops are great for wearing around the pool or on the beach. Make sure to pack a pair that’s comfortable and sturdy.

15. Scarves or Shawls

A scarf or shawl is a versatile accessory that can be worn to dress up an outfit or to keep warm in cooler weather. Pack one in a neutral color that can be worn with multiple outfits.

Overall, when it comes to what to pack for a cruise, it’s important to consider the dress codes on board and at ports of call, as well as the activities you plan on participating in. Pack comfortable, breathable clothing that can be easily layered, and don’t forget to bring sun protection and appropriate footwear.

Toiletries & Personal Items

When packing for a cruise, it’s important to consider the toiletries and personal items you’ll need to have a comfortable and enjoyable trip. Here are some essential items to pack:

Toiletries Personal Items to Pack

1. Toothbrush & Toothpaste

Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste. Many cruise lines provide these items, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own.

2. Shampoo & Conditioner

Most cruise lines provide shampoo and conditioner, but you may want to bring your own if you have specific hair care needs.

3. Body Wash or Soap

Body wash or soap is another essential item to pack. Some cruise lines provide these items, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own.

4. Deodorant

Don’t forget to pack deodorant to stay fresh throughout your trip.

5. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a must-have item for any cruise. Make sure to pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

6. Moisturizer and After-Sun Lotion

The sun and saltwater can be harsh on your skin. Pack a moisturizer and after-sun lotion to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.

7. Personal Medications

Be sure to pack any personal medications you need to take during your trip.

8. Basic First Aid Kit (Band-Aids, Antiseptic Wipes, Pain Relievers)

Pack a basic first aid kit with items such as band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.

9. Insect Repellent

Depending on your itinerary, you may encounter mosquitoes or other insects. Pack insect repellent to avoid bites.

10. Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is a must-have item for any trip, especially during flu season.

11. Feminine Hygiene Products

Pack feminine hygiene products if needed.

12. Shaving Supplies

Don’t forget to pack shaving supplies if needed.

13. Glasses/Contact Lenses with Solution

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, be sure to pack them along with any necessary solution.

14. Makeup and Makeup Remover

Pack makeup and makeup remover if you plan on wearing makeup during your trip.

15. Hairdryer/Straightener (If Not Provided)

If you require a hairdryer or straightener, be sure to pack them as they may not be provided by the cruise line.

16. Nail Clippers and File

Pack nail clippers and a file to keep your nails looking neat and tidy.

Remember to pack only what you need and try to keep your toiletries and personal items to a minimum to save space in your luggage. With these essentials, you’ll be prepared for any situation and ready to enjoy your cruise.

Gadgets & Electronics

When it comes to what to pack for a cruise, gadgets and electronics are a must-have. From capturing stunning photos to staying connected with loved ones at home, these items will make your cruise experience even better. Here are some essential gadgets and electronics to pack for your next cruise:

Gadgets Electronics to Pack

1. Camera with Extra Batteries/Memory Cards

A high-quality camera is a must-have for any cruise. Whether you’re capturing breathtaking views from the ship or taking photos during your shore excursions, a good camera will help you capture those memories to last a lifetime. Make sure to bring extra batteries and memory cards to ensure you don’t miss out on any photo opportunities.

2. Smartphone with Charger

Your smartphone is an essential item to bring on your cruise for staying connected with loved ones back home and for capturing photos and videos. Don’t forget to bring a charger to keep your phone powered up throughout your trip.

3. Power Bank

A power bank is a handy gadget to have on your cruise. It allows you to charge your electronic devices on the go, so you don’t have to worry about running out of battery life. Make sure to pack a power bank with enough charging capacity to keep your devices powered up throughout your trip.

4. Headphones or Earbuds

Whether you’re listening to music or watching movies on your smartphone or tablet, headphones or earbuds are a must-have item to pack for a cruise. They’re also great for blocking out noise and distractions while you’re relaxing on the ship.

5. Converters/Adapters for International Outlets

If you’re traveling from another country, make sure to bring converters or adapters for international outlets. This will ensure that you can charge your electronic devices without any issues.

6. Waterproof Phone/Camera Case

If you plan on taking your smartphone or camera near water during your cruise, a waterproof case is a must-have item to pack. This will protect your device from water damage and allow you to capture amazing photos and videos while snorkeling or swimming.

7. Tablet or E-Reader

A tablet or e-reader is a great gadget to pack for a cruise. You can use it to read books, watch movies, or play games during your downtime on the ship.

8. USB or Multi-Charging Cable

A USB or multi-charging cable is a handy gadget to have on your cruise. It allows you to charge multiple devices at once, so you don’t have to worry about bringing multiple charging cables.

In summary, packing the right gadgets and electronics can enhance your cruise experience. From capturing stunning photos to staying connected with loved ones at home, these items will make your trip more enjoyable. Don’t forget to pack these essential items on your next cruise.

Entertainment & Leisure

When you’re not exploring the cruise ship or participating in onboard activities, you’ll want to have some entertainment and leisure items on hand to keep you occupied during downtime. Here are a few things to consider packing:

1. Books or E-Books

Whether you prefer a physical book or an e-book, bringing along some reading material is a great way to relax and unwind on your cruise. If you’re an avid reader, consider bringing a few books or a tablet loaded with e-books to ensure you have enough reading material to last your entire trip.

2. Travel Journal & Pen

A travel journal is the perfect way to capture your memories and experiences during your cruise. Use it to jot down notes about your shore excursions, document your favorite meals, or record your thoughts and feelings throughout the trip. Don’t forget to pack a pen or two!

3. Playing Cards or Travel Games

Playing cards or travel games are a great way to pass the time and have fun with your travel companions. Bring along a deck of cards or a compact travel game to enjoy during downtime or while waiting for shore excursions.

4. Downloaded Movies or Music

If you’re looking for some solo entertainment, consider downloading movies or music onto your phone or tablet before your trip. This is a great way to unwind in your cabin or on the deck, and can be especially useful during long flights or layovers on your way to the cruise port.

5. Sketchbook or Coloring Book with Pencils

If you’re feeling creative, consider packing a sketchbook or coloring book with pencils to help you unwind and relax. This can be a great way to pass the time while on the cruise ship or during shore excursions, and can be a fun way to document your experiences in a unique way.

Remember, what to pack for a cruise depends on your personal preferences and interests. Consider bringing along items that will help you relax, stay entertained, and make the most of your trip.

Food & Beverages

When packing for a cruise, it’s important to consider what food and beverages you can bring onboard with you. Here are some key items to consider:

1. Reusable Water Bottle

Bringing a reusable water bottle is an excellent way to stay hydrated on your cruise without having to constantly purchase bottled water. Most cruise lines have water stations throughout the ship where you can refill your bottle, so you can save money and reduce waste at the same time. Just make sure to pack a bottle that is lightweight and easy to carry around with you.

2. Snacks (Granola Bars, Nuts)

While most cruise ships offer plenty of food options throughout the day, it’s always excellent idea to carrywith you some snacks in case you get hungry between meals. Granola bars and nuts are great options because they are easy to pack and don’t take up much space in your luggage. Plus, they are a healthier alternative to some of the other snack options onboard.

3. Gum or Mints

If you’re prone to motion sickness, bringing gum or mints can help alleviate symptoms. Chewing gum can help reduce nausea and dizziness, while mints can help freshen your breath after a long day of eating and drinking.

4. Specialty Dietary Items (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Etc.)

If you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, it’s important to pack any specialty items that you may need. Some cruise lines offer gluten-free and vegan options, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own snacks and food items just in case. Make sure to check with your cruise line ahead of time to see what options are available and what you can bring onboard.

Overall, packing food and beverages for your cruise can help you save money and ensure that you have the items you need to stay comfortable and healthy. Just make sure to follow any guidelines set by your cruise line and pack items that are easy to transport and won’t take up too much space in your luggage.

Discover Nutritious Travel Snack Bar Recipes. Elevate your adventures with these easy, wholesome snacks that provide energy and taste, wherever your travels take you.

Specialty Items

When packing for a cruise, there are some specialty items that you might want to consider bringing along. These items can enhance your experience and make your trip more enjoyable. Here are some of the specialty items you might want to pack:

1. Snorkeling Gear (Mask, Snorkel, Fins)

If you’re going to a destination with clear waters and beautiful marine life, consider bringing your own snorkeling gear. This includes a mask, snorkel, and fins. While some cruise lines offer snorkeling gear for rent or purchase, bringing your own can save you money and ensure a better fit. Plus, you’ll be able to explore the underwater world at your own pace.

snorkeling gears

2. Binoculars

Binoculars can be useful for spotting wildlife, taking in scenic views, and even for stargazing at night. If you’re going to a destination with a lot of natural beauty, consider packing a pair of binoculars. They can also come in handy when watching dolphins or whales from the ship’s deck.

3. Themed Outfits (For Special Cruise Nights/Events)

Many cruises have themed nights or events, such as a formal night or a pirate night. To fully participate in these events, consider packing themed outfits. For example, you might want to bring a formal dress or suit for formal night, or a pirate costume for pirate night. Check with your cruise line ahead of time to see what themed events are planned.

4. Beach Bag or Tote

A beach bag or tote is useful for carrying your essentials to and from the beach or pool. Opt for that bag that is lightweight, durable, and has plenty of pockets so you can easily organize your things. You can also go for the ones waterproof to protect your things for water.

5. Beach Towel (If Not Provided)

While many cruise lines provide beach towels, some do not. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to bring your own beach towel just in case. Look for a towel that is lightweight, absorbent, and dries quickly. You might also want to consider a microfiber towel, which takes up less space in your luggage.

6. Umbrella or Poncho

While no one wants to think about rain on their cruise, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Consider packing an umbrella or poncho to protect yourself from the elements. This can also come in handy when exploring ports of call on foot.

When considering what to pack for a cruise, don’t forget about these specialty items. Snorkeling gear, binoculars, themed outfits, a beach bag or tote, beach towel, and umbrella or poncho can all enhance your experience and make your trip more enjoyable.

Author’s Note

Preparing for a cruise means making sure you’ve got everything you need in your suitcase. This guide covers all the essentials, from important papers to the right clothes and handy gadgets. With everything packed, you can relax and enjoy your trip without any worries. So, double-check your list, pack up, and get ready for a great time on the water. Happy cruising!

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