Wondering what to pack for your cruise? If you’re old enough to go on the trip, then we’ll assume you know to bring your swimsuit, socks, and underwear for your next cruise.
We won’t rehash that you should pack obvious items like t-shirts and shorts for a trip to the Caribbean.
But what else should you bring? There are a lot of things that most people wouldn’t think to pack that can be extremely useful on your cruise.
That’s because cruising is a little different from any other vacation. Most other places you aren’t on a moving vessel for a week at a time — miles away from the nearest store.
Cruising requires you to plan ahead and bring everything you might need. While we typically tell people to pack light, there’s no shame in being prepared for anything on your trip.
To help you out, we’ve rounded up a list of nearly 40 useful items that answer what you need to take on your cruise. Many of these you’d never think about packing.
(Need more packing ideas? See our complete 85-item printable cruise packing checklist.)
In This Article…
What to Pack for a Cruise
Note: The links to Amazon used below are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase, we receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
A Small, Portable Cabin Fan
Many people bring along a fan for the cabin. Not only does it help to have some air circulating in the room (there are no ceiling fans in a cruise cabin), but it is also nice to have white noise to drown out any sounds while you sleep. For about $20 on Amazon, this model has two speed settings and will fit on a nightstand.
One important tip — no matter which sort of fan you bring, you want something compact. Remember that you’re going to have to lug it to the ship and back home.
This handy adapter gives you three plugs in one spot.
Have an iPhone? What about a tablet or a laptop? A small fan? A nightlight, curling iron or straightener? You can see that outlet space can be at a premium in a small cruise cabin.
That’s why we recommend packing an adapter or two that will expand the number of plugs. You can pick one up for just around $5 on Amazon. Just be sure it doesn’t have a surge protector, which isn’t allowed on the ship. You can read our full review of the plug shown above here.
4-Wheel Spinner Suitcase
You likely already have a suitcase or a duffel bag to pack your clothes in, but it’s a good idea to switch over to a 4-wheel spinner suitcase if you don’t have one. The walkway from the cruise terminal to your cabin can be pretty long. There are often stairs, inclined walkways, and thresholds to pass.
Having a traditional rolling bag gets caught up in your feet and takes up a lot of space when dragging it behind you. A 4-wheeled suitcase like this one can be right at your side and is also much easier to navigate down narrow cruise ship hallways.
(Read: 12 Luggage Pieces Perfect For Your Next Cruise)
There’s no glossing over the recent health issues that have hit the world and the cruise industry. While cruise lines go to major lengths to keep people healthy on their trip, it’s a good idea to take matters into your own hands.
There are hand sanitizer dispensers all over ships, but it’s smart to bring your own so that you don’t have to hunt. Use it regularly throughout the cruise. The good news is that it’s not expensive. Just be sure to get smaller containers that can fit easily in a pocket or a purse. You can find hand sanitizer for relatively little on Amazon.
Nothing beats sitting out on the balcony of the ship, watching the stars and sipping a glass of your favorite vino. The good news is that most cruise lines allow you to bring a bottle of wine or champagne along with you (sorry, beer and booze aren’t allowed).
Considering the prices on the ship, passengers should take advantage and bring as much as their cruise line allows. It can save you considerable money and trips to the bar.
We’ve all done the dance when we want to open a bottle of wine and search frantically for a corkscrew. If you can’t find one, it usually ends up with you cutting out the cork… and spitting out bits of cork every time you take a sip of your drink. So be sure to pack a corkscrew with your wine. A $4 purchase can save you a lot of headache.
Leakproof Wine Bottle Protector
If you bring a bottle of wine, then you should always pack it in your carry-on. This way you don’t have to worry about it breaking, leaking through your clothes for the week, and possibly getting on other people’s luggage.
Still, it’s a good idea to protect those fragile bottles, even in your carry-on. A leakproof bottle protector offers some protection so you don’t have to worry about accidental breaking.
The cabins on a ship can get dark — especially if you’ve booked an interior room that doesn’t have windows. So what happens if you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night while trying to navigate a small, unfamiliar cabin with furniture? Your shins pay the price.
We like to pack along a glowing nightlight like the ones above to give us a little something to see by. The lights shown here cost about $10 for two on Amazon.
It’s been said that the key to a happy marriage is a good bathroom fan. Unfortunately cruise ships don’t offer fan vents and the cabin is pretty small. If you have a balcony then you have a source of fresh air. Otherwise, you might want some Poo-Pourri to help mask bathroom odors.
This stuff doesn’t go in the air. You spray the toilet water before you go and it creates a seal on the surface that keeps odors away. People who use it swear by it.
Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer (NOT for Shoes)
Let’s be clear. You shouldn’t bring enough shoes to fill up an entire shoe organizer. However, they serve more than one purpose.
Hang it over the bathroom door and you have a perfect place to put small items like deodorant, shampoo bottles, sunscreen bottles, and anything else. This way you don’t have to take up valuable counter space in the small ship bathrooms. You can find them for less than $10 on Amazon.
If you want to spend any time on the beach, then you have to get this beach blanket. It’s nylon, which means that it packs up small and light — saving valuable space. What we like most is the size. It’s so much larger than simply laying down a couple of pool towels to keep you off the sand. It also only costs about $35 on Amazon.
(Read: 11 Beach Essentials You’ll Want For Your Next Cruise)
Sticky notes? On a cruise? Don’t laugh. They are awesome for leaving little notes in the cabin for your family to let them know where you are. You can also use them to write notes to the cabin steward should something need attention while cleaning the room.
No need to bring hundreds, but a dozen sticky notes come in handy every cruise.
Bringing resealable Ziploc bags is one of the smartest things you can do. From keeping your phone/wallet dry while your swim to keeping wet clothes separate from your dry luggage, Ziplocs are worth their weight in gold. Bring a handful and know that you’re covered for anything you might encounter.
Slip-Resistant Flip Flops
Ok, most people know to pack a pair of flip-flops on their trip. But are you packing sandals that have tread? Those cheap flip-flops can have a sole that’s rubbed smooth. With wet decks on the ship, it can be like walking on ice when you have no tread.
Instead, look for a pair with actual tread on the sole. These Reef sandals fit the bill, plus they look like they would be the most comfortable flip-flops ever. Best of all, the reviews for them are outstanding.
Mask and Snorkel
Want to get a look under the water? We don’t blame you. It’s a completely different world under there and the beauty of snorkeling in tropical waters shouldn’t be missed. And while you can rent gear from most places you’ll visit on your cruise, we’d actually recommend bringing your own equipment.
First, paying to rent a mask and snorkel can be expensive — $10 to $15 on the cheap end. But as well, you are using something that others have used before, which is a little weird given that the mask and snorkel go right on your face and mouth. This set is around $20 on Amazon and comes in several colors.
Just a friendly reminder. You should go ahead and put the charger in your suitcase now. It’s too easy to forget. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of the ocean and realize that your phone battery is flashing red.
Think you won’t use your phone on a cruise? Many lines now have apps for your phone with things like maps and schedules that are extremely helpful. As well, many people hop on the wi-fi to stay in touch back home.
Phone/Passport Dry Pouch
If you are planning to go to the beach, you’ll want somewhere to keep your passport, credit cards, room key, and cash dry. This bag is a best-seller and is less than $10 on Amazon. You can also use it for your phone if you want to bring it with you to the beach. (You can read our full review and test of this case here.)
The sun in the tropics is no joke. The more direct rays mean you burn more quickly. There is no better way to avoid sunburn than to keep the sun off you to begin with. Big hats are always in fashion on a cruise because they protect your face, shoulders and neck from getting sunburned.
This lightweight version won’t break the bank (just around $15 on Amazon) and will help keep you cool. We highly recommend something not made of heavy cloth and nothing that’s dark, which can leave your head sweltering.
Walking Shoes for Port
Everyone knows to bring some sandals if you’re headed to the beach, but if you’re going on a cruise then you should also bring some comfy walking shoes. Excursions (or just exploring the port) involves a lot of walking. You don’t want your feet to be uncomfortable while you are on vacation.
Already have a pair of shoes? You might want to invest in some insoles to make them like new again.
Land ho! Or is it? Believe it or not, there’s a lot to see when you’re out at sea. Many passengers love having a pair of binoculars to people watch from afar or simply look at other ships out on the open ocean. An affordable pair won’t set you back that much and you won’t be heartbroken if you accidently drop them on the deck. This pair costs about $30 on Amazon.
Jacket or a Hoodie for the Ship
Think it’s all sun and warm weather if you’re sailing to the Caribbean? Think again. With the ship moving, the wind onboard can be chilly, especially at night. And if it rains? Things cool off dramatically. This is to say nothing of the air-conditioned places on the ship — like the theater — can can be downright cold.
Pack a jacket or a hoodie just in case. The one shown above is about $20 on Amazon and is plenty to keep you warm while sailing at night. Plus it comes in several colors.
Netflix for Binging
How do you pack Netflix? To be sure, some cruise lines don’t allow streaming services, and even if they do, Internet is expensive on the ship. But Netflix allows you to download many episodes to your computer or tablet beforehand so you can watch without an Internet connection.
Having a few episodes to binge on a cruise is one of our guilty pleasures. It’s also a great way to keep kids entertained if you feel like taking it easy in the cabin.
A Copy of Your Passport
Sure, you know to bring your passport. But it’s a good idea to bring a photocopy of the front page of your passport as well. Then, when you head into port you can lock your passport in your cabin safe and keep the copy with you. You’ll have proof of your passport without risking it being stolen or lost while in port.
Lanyard for Your Room Key
Lanyards come in handy for putting your cruise keycard at easy reach. Considering that you use this card for everything — opening your room, playing in the casino, ordering drinks — you always have to fish it out of your pocket or purse. With a lanyard like this one, it’s right around your neck, making it easy to reach.
Sunscreen (Lots of it)
You may not realize how powerful the Caribbean sun is until it’s too late. That’s why you should pack plenty of sunscreen. Amazon offers up inexpensive sunscreen, but you can also find deals at your local supermarket.
Aloe Gel (In Case Sunscreen Isn’t Enough)
Everyone knows it’s a good to bring sunscreen (unless you like looking like a lobster), but many people never think to bring aloe in case you get burned anyway. The lower latitudes of the Caribbean mean the sun is much stronger than you’re likely used to.
Being able to prevent and treat sunburn is important to enjoying your cruise. Grab a bottle of aloe gel to bring on your vacation.
These days, almost all of us check our phones for the time. But when you are on the ship or in port, it’s often easier just to carry a cheap wristwatch. That way you can be sure you get back before the ship leaves port, as well as keep track of when any scheduled activities onboard are about to happen. This one is only around $15 and is water resistant (a must on a cruise).
Swimsuit Cover Up
After time at the beach or the pool, you don’t want to walk indoors flaunting what your mother gave you in a swimsuit. Be sure to bring along a cover up that you can slip over your outfit to add a little modesty.
Best of all, you don’t have to worry about big wet spots on your clothes if you use a cover instead of putting shorts and a tank top over your outfit. You can find them for about $10-15 on Amazon.
Even after a real-world test in Mexico, the bag kept all our belongings dry.
There’s always a conundrum when you head out in the water. What do you do with your valuables? That’s why we suggest having a drybag. Put your items in the bag, seal, and roll it up and you have a splash-proof container that you can take into the water with you.
No more having to worry and keep an eye on your valuables on shore. They also come in practically any color you’d want and with a waterproof phone case.
We recently reviewed three different bags and this one by Freegrace was the clear winner while costing only about $20 on Amazon.
You should definitely take the precaution to bring mosquito repellent. You won’t need it while the ship is sailing (there aren’t mosquitoes in the middle of the ocean), but when you are in port, be sure to apply it as often as sunscreen to keep from getting bitten.
The good stuff is a bit pricey. You can usually find it for about $8 a bottle on Amazon.
Most cruises will have some seasickness medication out for passengers to take when the waves get rough. You will still likely want to bring your own. It’s only a few bucks and can keep you from feeling bad if the ocean picks up.
Don’t like taking pills? There are also patches you can wear.
Like a cellphone charger, you know to bring your shades on a cruise. The only problem is that it’s so easy to forget them at home or in the car. With the reflection of the sun off the ship and the water, having sunglasses is a must.
Get you an extra pair for your trip and put them in your luggage immediately so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting them later. Worst case, you’ll have a backup pair on your cruise.
If you want something to carry a change of clothes and some towels — without the bulk of a regular backpack — check out this lightweight bag. Because of the polyester material, it’s no big deal if it gets wet because it will dry quickly. If you don’t need it, the bag also folds down into a small pouch that takes up hardly any space in your luggage.
This is perfect for port days when you only need a small bag that you don’t mind getting wet. The one shown here costs less than $20 on Amazon.
Waterproof Valuables Case
Whether you are hanging by the pool or don’t want to leave your valuables on the beach while taking a dip, a waterproof case is a must-have. Use it to keep your phone, wallet, keys, and anything else dry as a bone so you don’t have to worry just because you want to go swimming. You can get two bags for about $10 on Amazon.
One of our pastimes on the ship is to watch people struggle with laying their towel on their beach chair. With the ship constantly in motion, there is always a breeze on deck. Bringing a few clips like these can help keep your towel secure to your lounge chair and save you some stress. These cost less than $10 for a pack of 8.
Cabin Alarm Clock
Cabins don’t have clocks. And while most people want to leave the alarm clock at home, we suggest bringing one. Not only will it make sure you don’t miss any onboard activities, but it can also help you pack in the most into your days in port. It’s also nice to know what time it is if you wake up in the middle of the night.
If you’re the sort of person who likes getting up early to be the first off the ship, then this $25 alarm clock is worth its weight in gold.
Wrinkle-Release Spray (TSA Compliant)
If you’re worried about wrinkles when you unpack your clothes, then this spray is just the thing. Irons aren’t allowed in cabins for fire safety reasons. If you want something pressed, you have to send it down to laundry services. Or, you could pack this, spray the wrinkled item, hang it in the closet, and let the spray do the work.
Just make sure the one you get comes in a small bottle so you can pack it with you even if you have to fly to your cruise port. We like that the one shown here only costs around $10 for a 3-pack on Amazon.
Want the convenience of a fanny pack without the bulk? This stylish belt comes in a ton of colors and sits flat against your body. Put in your passport, cash, cell phone and more, so they are always at an arm’s reach, but safe from pick pocketers. In other words, an investment of less than $10 on Amazon can give you peace of mind.
We don’t usually carry cash with us on a day-to-day basis. Credit cards are accepted everywhere here at home. However, on a cruise we make sure to pack enough cash to get us through the trip.
Using cash is more secure than using your credit card in questionable stores, plus credit cards aren’t accepted everywhere like they are back home. You can read our article here to figure out how much cash to bring with you.
Whether you are hanging out around the ship or heading into a port of call, it’s always nice to have a refillable bottle with you. This way you can always have some water nearby instead of having to find a restaurant to get a drink. We have used this one from Hydro Flask and loved it for our cruise. You can read our full review here.
TSA-Compliant Luggage Locks
No, luggage locks won’t keep your things safe if a thief really wants into your bag. But they do make it tougher to get in, taking away crimes of opportunity.
For just a few bucks you can keep your bag locked closed with these locks and keep any fast hands from getting your valuables. One lock is about $8 on Amazon, but you can get a better deal buying multiples.
Cruise Packing Checklist (What Else You Should Bring)
Packing for a cruise is a little different than any other vacation, due to the simple reason that in the middle of the ocean it’s not that easy to run out and grab something you forgot. That’s why in addition to what we have above, here are a few more basic items you’ll want to bring:
Medicines (ibuprofen, prescriptions, etc.)
Nice clothes for formal night
Books/magazines for poolside reading
To help passengers out, we’ve put together a complete 85-item printable PDF checklist that makes it easy to make sure you have everything you need. You can see (and print) our full cruise packing checklist here.
What You Don’t Need to Pack
We’ve focused on what you need to pack for a cruise… but there are many things you don’t need to bring. They simply take up space and are already provided.
Hair dryer: No, you don’t need to pack a hair dryer for the cruise. All cabins come with one built in. It’s a small, hotel-style hair dryer, but it will get the job done. If you want, you can bring your own from home.
Soap & shampoo: If you have soap or shampoo that you just have to have, then go ahead and bring in on the trip. That said, every cabin bathroom comes with a soap and shampoo dispenser in the shower. So if you forget your soap, then you are covered. And if you don’t care about what type of product you use, then it’s something you don’t have to pack.
Towels: Just like a hotel, cruise ships provide you with towels in the cabin to use. That’s to be expected. But a nice perk is that ships also provide beach towels. These towels are often in your cabin when you arrive or you can grab them from the pool deck.
You can take these beach towels down to the pool and even bring them with you as you get off the ship. Just be sure to bring them back because you are charged for missing towels at the end of the cruise.
Prohibited Items on a Cruise (Do Not Bring)
The great thing about cruising is that the cruise lines are pretty lenient on what and how much you can bring. If you’re used to flying, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are no real baggage limits (within reason) and things like liquids don’t have to be contained to three ounces.
That said, there are some things you can’t bring on the ship:
Alcohol and beer: Yes, cruise ships will let you bring on a bottle of champagne or wine with your carry-on. Things like liquor, beer, and other spirits are strictly against the rules. If caught trying to sneak these on through security, they will be removed and likely discarded.
Weapons that might harm other passengers: Guns, pepper spray, tasers, and other things of this nature aren’t allowed for obvious reasons. Plus, you also don’t want to be caught with these in a foreign port. It pays to use common sense here; if you aren’t able to bring it onto a plane because it’s considered a weapon, then you shouldn’t try to bring it on a cruise ship.
Anything that can start a fire: Hair products like curlers, hair dryers, and straighteners are allowed. As well, cigarette lighters are ok to pack too. But things like candles, hot plates, electric blankets, heaters, and other items that heat up are prohibited.
For more on luggage and baggage rules for your cruise, see our article here.
What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise
The items we’ve covered above are about packing with a Caribbean cruise in mind, as this is the most popular cruise destination in the world.
If you are headed to Alaska, your packing list has many similarities, but will be a little different. Specifically, it includes more cool weather gear, including warm socks, hat, and gloves.
We’ve covered what to pack for an Alaskan cruise here.
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