Embarking on a cruise is an exciting adventure, filled with incredible destinations, relaxation, and memorable experiences. To make the most of your cruise vacation, it’s essential to be prepared and pack the must-have cruise essentials. Having the right items on hand ensures your comfort, convenience, and peace of mind throughout the journey. From practical necessities to personal comforts, being prepared sets the stage for a smooth and enjoyable cruise experience.
In this article, we will explore the essential items to pack for your next cruise and discuss why it’s important to be well-prepared before setting sail. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or embarking on your first voyage, these tips will help you sail away with confidence and make the most of your time onboard and ashore.
Table of Contents
Why is Proper Packing and Preparation Essential?
Cruise Cabin Essentials
Beach Days and Pool Deck Essentials
Frequently Asked Questions
Proper Packing and Your Cruise Essentials List
Proper preparation and packing before a cruise are crucial for a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are the key reasons why it’s important to be well-prepared:
- Ensuring Comfort: By packing the right clothing, footwear, toiletries, and personal items, you can ensure your comfort throughout the cruise. Being prepared with the appropriate attire for different weather conditions and activities onboard and ashore allows you to fully enjoy your vacation without discomfort. Unless paying for a suite, you will notice that cruise cabins including your cruise cabin bathroom has hardly any space. Most cruise lines want you to maximize the provided storage space by using cruise packing hacks for efficiency.
- Convenience and Efficiency: Proper preparation helps you avoid unnecessary stress and inconvenience during the cruise. Having essential documents, such as passports, tickets, and identification, readily accessible ensures a smooth embarkation process. Additionally, packing necessary electronics, adapters, medications, and travel accessories saves you from the hassle of searching for or purchasing them onboard at potentially higher prices. You can always get the cruise line to wash your dirty clothes, however it comes at a cost. Many cruisers take along a laundry bag for their dirty laundry and pack it accordingly to do at home after the cruise.
- Safety and Security: Being prepared with safety essentials like first aid kits, motion sickness medication (sea bands), sunscreen, insect repellent, and any necessary medications ensures your well-being during the cruise. Additionally, keeping important contact information, emergency numbers, and copies of travel documents provides peace of mind in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
- Adapting to Onboard Activities: Researching and planning your cruise activities in advance allows you to pack appropriately. Whether it’s formal attire for elegant evenings, swimwear for poolside relaxation, or sports gear for active adventures, being prepared ensures you can participate fully in onboard activities and make the most of the amenities and entertainment options available.
- Budgeting and Cost Savings: Packing essential items and knowing what is included in the cruise fare helps you manage your budget effectively. By packing items like reusable water bottles, snacks, and beach towels, you can save on onboard expenses. Additionally, having a clear idea of what is already provided by the cruise line helps you avoid unnecessary purchases.
- Meeting Cruise Line Requirements: Different cruise lines may have specific regulations or dress codes, and being prepared with the right clothing and accessories ensures compliance. Familiarize yourself with the cruise line’s guidelines to avoid any inconvenience or issues during your trip.
- Enjoying Shore Excursions: Proper preparation extends to planning and packing for your shore excursions. Researching the destinations, understanding the activities available, and packing appropriate clothing, footwear, and accessories allows you to fully enjoy and make the most of your time ashore.
Our Cruise Essentials Packing List
Pre – Cruise Essentials
A Cruise Accessory Checklist
Start things off the right way with organization and efficiency. Check out a free cruise packing checklist to help you stay on target for your upcoming cruise itinerary.
A Good Quality Luggage Set
Depending on your prefernce for hardside or softside, a good quality luggage set will hold up well to the rigors of cruise travel. From the arrival to the cruise terminal and handling to get it to your cruise cabin, a quality set will keep your cruise essential belongings safe, secure, and undamaged.
Cruise Lanyards to Hold Your Cruise Key Card & Cruise Luggage Tags
Many cruise lines like Royal Caribbean often provide cruise items like lanyards or luggage tags for free. Ask the service desk when you first board. Most major cruise lines will like charge you for having to replace multiple lost room key cards. If you book through a travel agent or online whether your first cruise or tenth, see if you can get luggage tags mailed to you. If not, no big deal, they are relatively inexpensive.
Packing cubes can be a game-changer for anyone going on a cruise. This cruise essentials item is small, lightweight, and as a compartmentalized organizer, can greatly aid in keeping your belongings seperataed and easily accessible throughout your cruise vacation.
Efficient Use of Space: Packing cubes allow you to maximize the space in your suitcase or luggage. By neatly folding and compressing your clothes into separate cubes, you can fit more items into your bags, ensuring you have everything you need for the duration of your cruise without excessive bulk.
Organization and Easy Access: With packing cubes, you can categorize your clothing items, accessories, and toiletries into separate cubes. This organization makes it easy to find what you need without rummaging through your entire suitcase. You can dedicate specific cubes for different types of clothing, such as tops, bottoms, undergarments, or swimwear, making it convenient to locate and access specific items as required.
Simplified Packing and Unpacking: Packing cubes streamline the packing and unpacking process. Rather than unpacking your entire suitcase, you can simply take out the relevant cubes and place them in drawers or shelves in your cabin. This saves time and keeps your belongings neat and tidy throughout your cruise.
Compression and Wrinkle Reduction: Some packing cubes come with compression features that allow you to squeeze out excess air, reducing the volume of your clothes and minimizing wrinkles. This is particularly useful for formal wear or delicate fabrics that require extra care.
Easy Transfer to Storage: If you plan to store your luggage during the cruise, packing cubes make the process effortless. Simply remove the cubes from your suitcase and place them in storage containers or drawers. It keeps your items organized, protected, and ready to be unpacked upon your return.
Quick Security Checks: When going through security checkpoints during embarkation or disembarkation, packing cubes make it easy to access and present your belongings for inspection. Instead of having loose items scattered in your suitcase, you can simply remove the relevant cube, allowing for a faster and more efficient security process.
An Organizer or Travel Documents Holder
An organizer or travel document holder is a necessity for someone going on a cruise due to the following reasons:
Easy Access and Organization: A travel document holder keeps all your important documents like passports, cruise tickets, boarding passes, credit cards, and identification in one secure place. This ensures quick and easy access during check-in, boarding, and disembarkation processes.
Protection and Security: A travel document holder provides a protective barrier for your sensitive documents, keeping them safe from damage, loss, or theft during your cruise. It typically has secure compartments and zippered pockets to safeguard your valuables.
Convenience and Efficiency: With a document organizer, you can keep all your travel essentials neatly organized and readily available. Instead of fumbling through multiple pockets or bags to find your documents, everything is in one place, saving time and reducing stress.
Extra Storage: Many travel document holders have additional pockets and compartments to store other essentials such as cash, travel itineraries, travel insurance documents, and emergency contact information. This eliminates the need for carrying separate wallets or purses, making it more convenient and efficient.
Peace of Mind: Having a dedicated travel document holder provides peace of mind, knowing that your important documents are secure and easily accessible. It eliminates the worry of misplacing or forgetting essential items, allowing you to fully enjoy your cruise without unnecessary stress.
Travel insurance is a must-have for someone going on a cruise for several reasons. Major cruise lines offer cruise essentials like cancellation insurance when you go to purchase. You can however shop around if you believe you can find a better deal elsewhere. We believe travel insurance should be a standard part of your cruise packing list for the below situations.
- Trip Cancellation or Interruption Coverage: Travel insurance provides financial protection in case you have to cancel or interrupt your cruise due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, injury, or a family emergency. It can reimburse you for non-refundable expenses, including cruise fares, flights, and hotel bookings.
- Medical Emergencies: Travel insurance covers medical expenses if you fall ill or get injured during your cruise. It includes medical treatment, hospitalization, and emergency medical evacuation, ensuring you receive proper care without incurring exorbitant costs.
- Lost or Delayed Baggage: If your luggage gets lost, stolen, or delayed during your journey, travel insurance can provide reimbursement for essential items and cover the cost of replacing your belongings. This offers peace of mind and helps you continue enjoying your cruise without disruption.
- Travel Delays and Missed Connections: In case of unexpected travel delays or missed connections, travel insurance can provide compensation for additional accommodation, meals, and transportation expenses. It ensures you have support in managing unforeseen disruptions and can continue your cruise without excessive financial burden.
- Emergency Assistance Services: Travel insurance often includes 24/7 emergency assistance services, providing access to a helpline for guidance and support in case of emergencies, such as medical referrals, legal assistance, or travel information. This adds an extra layer of security and assistance during your cruise.
- Peace of Mind: By having travel insurance, you have the assurance that you are financially protected against unforeseen events that may disrupt or impact your cruise experience. It allows you to relax and enjoy your trip, knowing that you have coverage and support in case of emergencies.
Cruise Cabin Essentials
One unique cruise essential that sets it apart from other types of travel is magnetic wall clips. Here’s an interesting fact: cruise cabin walls are metal. So, why should you bring magnet clips? Well, during your cruise, you’ll likely accumulate paper cruise planners, shore excursion tickets, and event invitations that can clutter up your desk and counter space. By using magnetic clips on your cruise ship cabin walls, you can conveniently hang these items on the cabin wall, keeping them organized and easily visible. It’s a fun and practical way to make the most of the metal walls on a cruise ship.
Cruise Approved Power Bar
It may come as a surprise, but the majority of cruise ship cabins are equipped with only 1 or 2 electric plugs. Considering the number of electronic devices we carry, such as phones, tablets, speakers, GoPros, and more, having additional plugs and USB ports becomes essential.
However, it’s crucial to note that cruise lines prohibit the use of regular surge-protected power bars brought from home. To ensure compliance and avoid confiscation, it’s highly important to have a non-surge protected power strip that is specifically designated as “cruise approved.” This way, you can safely and conveniently expand the number of available outlets in your cabin without violating any regulations. Being prepared with a cruise-approved power strip will allow you to charge all your devices simultaneously and make the most of your onboard experience.
Portable Luggage Scale
Don’t forget to pack a portable digital luggage scale when you’re traveling to and from your cruise. It’s a simple carry on item that you can attach to your cruise bathroom door with a metal clip to remind you to weigh your luggage at the end of your cruise.
This customer-favorite handheld device comes with batteries included. It’s incredibly useful for determining the weight of your suitcase before returning to the airport after your cruise. With potential additions like shopping or souvenirs, it’s important to stay within your airline’s maximum weight limit. Having a digital luggage scale handy ensures that you can make any necessary adjustments and avoid any unexpected fees or hassles at the airport.
Cabin Alarm Clock
For those who prefer to have a reliable timekeeping option during the night or wish to reduce reliance on their cell phones, a simple travel battery-operated clock is worth considering. It has become a beloved cruise accessory among many cruisers. While cruise ship cabins resemble mini hotel rooms, not all of them are equipped with alarm clocks or easily accessible time indicators, unless the TV is on. Having a travel clock ensures you can stay on schedule and keep track of time without any hassle or inconvenience, making it a valuable addition to your cruise essentials.
Motion Sensor Night Light
Cruisers highly recommend this portable night light, making it one of the top-selling cruise accessories on Amazon. Inside cabins, in particular, can be completely dark, and having a gentle source of light becomes invaluable when someone needs to navigate to the bathroom during the night. This nightlight provides a convenient touch of illumination, ensuring safety and convenience in those moments. With excellent reviews from fellow cruisers, it’s a must-have item to enhance your cruise experience and make nighttime movements easier and more comfortable.
For those who tend to feel uncomfortable in small, stuffy spaces, packing a small fan can significantly enhance the comfort of your cabin. This particular fan is a personal favorite as it operates on batteries and is rechargeable, ensuring convenience and efficiency. What’s more, it operates quietly, allowing for a peaceful environment. If you are cruising with children who rely on white noise for sleep, this fan can serve as a soothing companion, keeping them at ease throughout the night. Beat the heat and create a more pleasant atmosphere in your cabin with this portable and functional fan. Your next cruise will certainly be more enjoyable then the last cruise if you found yourself without this item on your cruise essentials list.
Portable Lock Box
Ensure the safety of your ID, phones, cash, and other valuable items while on excursions with this portable lock box safe. It offers a secure solution for keeping your belongings protected, eliminating the risk of losing or having items stolen from unsecured pockets or backpacks. With this lock box safe, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your valuables are safeguarded, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in your activities without worry. It’s a must-have accessory for travelers seeking convenience and enhanced security for their personal belongings while on the go.
Portable Power Bank
A portable power bank is an essential tool to have during excursions, ensuring that you never have to worry about your phone or tablet running out of battery. Capture every precious travel memory without the fear of missing out due to power depletion. By bringing along a compact and portable power bank, you can conveniently recharge your devices on the go, providing a reliable backup power source. Don’t let low battery levels hinder your ability to document and enjoy your travel experiences. Stay powered up and ready for all the memorable moments with the help of a portable power bank.
While a cruise ship operates as a cashless society, the situation changes once you reach shore. Bargaining for lower prices on souvenirs becomes easier when paying with cash. Unlike credit cards, cash offers the advantage of quick and straightforward transactions, making it an ideal payment method for small souvenir purchases. Cash allows for more flexibility when negotiating prices, as some vendors may be more inclined to offer discounts for immediate payment. So, when venturing off the ship, having cash on hand can enhance your bargaining power and potentially save you money on those memorable souvenirs.
A Good Quality Sun Hat
Ensuring protection from the sun’s harmful rays should always be your utmost priority. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a fun excursion, wearing a good sun hat adds an extra layer of defense, shielding your head, neck, and shoulders from potential burns. By investing in a reliable sun hat, you can enjoy your entire vacation without the discomfort and risks associated with sun exposure. Embrace the sun responsibly and make the most of your vacation by prioritizing sun protection through the simple act of wearing a suitable sun hat.
A Good Quality Daypack Backpack
A daypack backpack is a must-have for cruise ship excursions due to its convenience and functionality. It allows you to carry essential items like water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, cameras, extra layers of clothing, and other personal belongings comfortably and securely. With a daypack backpack, you have easy access to your belongings while keeping your hands free for exploring and enjoying the shore excursions. It provides convenience, organization, and peace of mind, making it an essential accessory for a smooth and enjoyable cruise excursion experience.
Beach and Cruise Ship Pool Essentials
Refillable (and collapsible) Water Bottles
Roll-able and collapsible water bottles that save so much space should without be on your cruise packing list. Not only are they incredibly convenient on a cruise ship, but what I truly appreciate is how they don’t occupy unnecessary room in my luggage or beach bag when not in use. They are perfect for a relaxing beach day or lounging by the pool deck, allowing me to stay hydrated without the bulk of traditional water bottles. Their compact design is a real game-changer for maximizing space while enjoying the cruise experience. A reusable water bottle is also environmentally friendly.
Adjustable Towel Bands for Beach Chairs
Towel bands are a preferred choice among many cruisers as they are easier to pack and take up minimal space compared to towel clips. These handy bands are ideal for keeping your towel securely in place on your deck chair, especially on breezy beach or cruise ship pool days. They provide a reliable way to hold your towel in position and prevent it from getting blown away. Additionally, they serve as a clever solution to mark your territory and save your beach or deck chair spot, ensuring you can relax and enjoy the sun without worrying about your belongings. We have even seen people use these bands on newer cruise ships to wrap wet or damp bathing suits together to place in luggage for the return journey.
A reliable beach bag is an essential item for your shore excursions. On any given Caribbean cruise, you will most likely being involved in snorkeling excursions or multiple beach days. A beach bag is also great to bring on a cruise for leisurely afternoons by the cruise ship pool. It serves as a perfect solution to keep all your belongings neatly organized in one convenient place. From sunscreen, sunglasses, and water, to books, electronics, and beach towels, a good beach bag ensures you have easy access to all your essentials. With its spacious design and practical compartments, it simplifies your beach or poolside experience by providing a central hub for all your belongings. Stay prepared and enjoy your time in the sun with the help of a trusty beach bag.
A good quality pair of sunglasses are a must have for shore excursions off of cruise ships. Caribbean islands are known for powerful sunshine most of the year. While its great to catch some much needed rays, too much sun is not healthy.
Protection from harmful UV rays: When you’re out exploring the destinations during shore excursions, you’ll likely be exposed to intense sunlight. UV rays from the sun can cause significant damage to your eyes, leading to conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration, and photo-keratitis. Wearing sunglasses with proper UV protection shields your eyes from these harmful rays and reduces the risk of long-term eye damage.
Glare reduction: Sunlight reflecting off water, sand, or other surfaces can create intense glare, which can strain your eyes and affect your vision. UV-protecting sunglasses with polarized lenses effectively reduce glare, allowing you to see more clearly and comfortably. This is particularly beneficial when engaging in activities like water sports, beach outings, or sightseeing in bright, sunny environments.
Eye comfort and reduced fatigue: Bright sunlight can cause eye discomfort and fatigue, leading to headaches and decreased enjoyment during your shore excursions. Wearing sunglasses helps to block excessive light, providing comfort and reducing eye strain. It allows you to focus on the sights and activities without squinting or constantly shielding your eyes.
Flip Flops or Water Shoes
Flip flops or water shoes are essential for the beach on shore excursion days or around the cruise pool decks due to the following reasons:
Protection: Flip flops or water shoes provide protection for your feet against hot sand, sharp rocks, shells, or other objects that may be present on the beach. They act as a barrier between your feet and the ground, reducing the risk of cuts, abrasions, or burns.
Slip resistance: Beaches and pool decks can be slippery due to water, sand, or spilled liquids. Flip flops or water shoes with proper traction help to prevent slips and falls, ensuring your safety while walking on wet or uneven surfaces.
Hygiene: Public beach areas and pool decks can be shared by many people, and it’s important to maintain good hygiene. Wearing flip flops or water shoes helps to prevent direct contact between your feet and potentially unclean or contaminated surfaces.
Comfort: Flip flops or water shoes are designed to provide comfort and breathability, allowing your feet to stay cool and free from excess moisture. They are lightweight and easy to slip on and off, providing convenience during beach activities or when transitioning between wet and dry areas.
Versatility: Flip flops or water shoes are versatile footwear options that can be worn both in and out of the water. They are suitable for various beach activities like swimming, snorkeling, beach volleyball, or simply walking along the shore. You can also wear them around the cruise ship’s pool decks, ensuring comfort and protection while enjoying recreational facilities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does an Air Tag work on a cruise ship?
AirTags, Apple’s item tracking device, can technically work on a cruise ship as long as they are within the range of a compatible device, such as an iPhone or iPad, that can detect and communicate with the AirTag. However, there are a few factors to consider:
Availability of Bluetooth connectivity: AirTags rely on Bluetooth technology to connect with nearby devices. While most cruise ships offer onboard Wi-Fi, the availability and range of Bluetooth connectivity may vary. Some cruise ships may restrict or disable Bluetooth functionality for security or operational reasons.
Proximity to other devices: AirTags rely on other Apple devices in close proximity to detect and transmit location information. If you are on a crowded cruise ship with many passengers carrying iPhones or other compatible devices, the chances of your AirTag being detected and tracked increase. However, if there are fewer compatible devices nearby, the effectiveness of the AirTag may be limited.
Privacy and tracking limitations: It’s important to be aware of the privacy concerns associated with using tracking devices. While AirTags are primarily designed for personal item tracking, they may raise privacy concerns if used to track individuals without their consent. Additionally, the effectiveness of AirTags may be limited in certain areas of the ship or during port visits, where signal interference or limited connectivity may impact their tracking capabilities.
Before using an AirTag on a cruise ship, it’s advisable to check with the cruise line’s policies regarding Bluetooth devices and tracking devices. It’s also essential to respect the privacy of other passengers and ensure that the use of AirTags complies with applicable laws and regulations.
How much money should I take on a cruise?
The amount of money you should take on a cruise depends on several factors, including your personal spending habits, the cruise itinerary, the duration of the cruise, and the inclusions and exclusions of your cruise fare. Here are some considerations to help you determine how much money to take:
Cruise Fare: Consider what is included in your cruise fare. Some cruises include meals, onboard activities, and entertainment, while others may have additional charges for specialty dining, certain activities, or cruise gratuities. Review your cruise package to understand what is covered and what requires additional payment.
Excursions and Activities: If you plan to participate in shore excursions or special activities at ports of call, budget for these expenses. Excursions can vary in cost, so research the options available and plan accordingly. It’s advisable to book excursions in advance to secure your spot and have a clear understanding of the cost.
Onboard Expenses: Allocate a budget for onboard expenses such as drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), spa services, specialty dining, shopping, casino activities, gratuities (can often be prepaid which helps with budgeting), and any additional services or experiences you plan to enjoy on the ship. Take note of any daily limits or spending caps set by the cruise line. You can most certainly purchase a cruise essential item like a bathing suit, snorkel gear, waterproof phone case or a small bottle for water while on board, however you will most likely pay a premium. It’s best to pack for a cruise destination accordingly and not have to rely on inflated cruise items onboard.
Transportation and Transfers: Consider any additional expenses related to transportation to and from the cruise port, airport transfers, and parking fees if applicable.
Souvenirs and Personal Expenses: Plan for personal expenses such as souvenirs, shopping, laundry services, internet access, and any other discretionary spending you anticipate during the cruise.
It’s important to note that many cruise ships offer the convenience of using a key card or wearable device linked to your onboard account for purchases, and you can settle the final bill at the end of the cruise. This allows you to reduce the amount of cash you carry and opt for electronic payment methods onboard.
To determine a specific amount, review your planned expenses, consider your personal spending habits, and set a budget that aligns with your comfort level. It’s always a good idea to have some extra funds available for unexpected expenses or emergencies.
What important documents do you need to bring on a cruise?
When going on a cruise, it’s essential to bring the following important documents:
Passport/Identification: A valid passport is typically required for international cruises. Even for domestic cruises, it’s advisable to carry a government-issued photo identification (such as a driver’s license) for identification purposes.
Cruise Boarding Pass/Ticket: This document serves as proof of your reservation and is necessary for checking in and boarding the cruise ship. It is usually provided by the cruise line after you have completed the necessary booking and registration process.
Visa or Travel Documentation: Depending on your destination(s), you may need a visa or other travel documentation. Ensure you have the necessary visas well in advance of your cruise, especially if you are visiting multiple countries.
Travel Insurance Information: If you have purchased travel insurance, bring a copy of your insurance policy or any necessary contact information in case of emergencies or claims.
Medical Information: It’s advisable to carry a list of any necessary medications, along with their prescription information, in case of medical emergencies. Also, bring any relevant medical insurance cards or documentation. Label your over the counter medications just to make sure there is no confusing mix ups.
Credit Cards and Cash: Carry your credit cards and some cash for onboard expenses, such as drinks, shopping, and gratuities. Check with your cruise line about their accepted payment methods.
Emergency Contacts: Have a list of emergency contact numbers, including family members, friends, and the cruise line’s emergency contact information.
Itinerary and Confirmations: Print out your cruise itinerary, including details of ports of call, excursion bookings, and any other confirmations related to your cruise activities.
It’s recommended to make copies of these important documents and store them separately from the originals. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have digital copies stored securely on your phone or other devices for easy access.
Remember to check the specific requirements and recommendations of your cruise line and destination(s) regarding necessary documents, as they may vary.
Is a waterproof phone case worth it?
As a waterproof cell phone case is generally inexpensive, it is a great item to pack for a cruise if you plan on spending time on a beach, in the water or a a water based shore excursion. Most cruise lines sell them onboard, but it’s one of those cruise items you only need to pay off once for you to be worth it. It should be part of anyone’s cruise planner to save yourself from the damages of water or sand and make it one of those repeat cruise accessories that you continually pack for a cruise.
Properly packing for a cruise and ensuring you have all the essential items can greatly enhance your cruise vacation experience. By taking the time to plan and organize your luggage, you’ll be prepared for various activities, destinations, and situations that arise during your journey. A well-packed suitcase not only ensures convenience and comfort but also helps you make the most of every moment on board and at port. From essential items like sunscreen, travel documents, and comfortable clothing to cruise-specific accessories like power strips, sun hats, and water shoes, each item plays a crucial role in enhancing your enjoyment and convenience.
By packing smartly, you can minimize stress, save time, and have peace of mind knowing that you have everything you need to fully immerse yourself in the cruise experience. So, before setting sail, take the time to prepare, pack thoughtfully, and embark on your cruise adventure fully equipped for an unforgettable vacation.