Embarking on a cruise can be an exciting and memorable experience. But knowing what to pack for a cruise and making sure you have the right essentials can make all the difference, as it gives you a smooth and stress-free holiday. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned traveller, packing the right items can help you feel comfortable, organized, and prepared for any adventure that comes your way.
Below we’ll be sharing a comprehensive list of cruise essentials, as well as helpful tips for packing efficiently and avoiding common packing mistakes. We won’t go through the basics such as clothes, shoes, and underwear, because you’ll already know what you need to bring in that regard. But these extra items will make a huge difference to your holiday, making it comfortable and fun.
We’ll also cover prohibited items that are typically not allowed on cruise ships, to avoid any potential headaches. So, whether you’re setting sail for a tropical paradise or a historic European city, read on for our expert advice on things to take on your next cruise adventure.
Cruise Packing Tips
Packing for a cruise can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. However, with a little planning and preparation, it can be a breeze. These tips and tricks for packing efficiently and effectively, can help you make the most of your holiday without the hassle of over packing or forgetting essential items. From considering your destination and activities, to space management, our tips will help you pack like a pro and set you up for a stress-free journey.
Check With Your Cruise Line
Before you start packing for your cruise, it’s important to check with the cruise line for specific packing guidelines. Each cruise line may have their own rules and regulations when it comes to luggage size and weight, as well as prohibited items that are not allowed on board.
For example, some cruise lines may prohibit certain electronic devices or have restrictions on the amount of alcohol you can bring on board. By checking with your cruise line in advance, you can avoid any issues or delays at the port and ensure that you start off on the right foot.
Consider Activities During Your Cruise
When compiling your cruise packing list, it’s important to consider the climate and activities of your destination. Will you be spending most of your time lounging on the beach, exploring historic cities, or hiking through the mountains? Depending on your itinerary, you’ll want to pack clothing and accessories that are appropriate for the climate and activities.
For example, if you’re headed to a tropical destination, you’ll want to pack lightweight, breathable clothing and plenty of sunscreen, while packing for a Norwegian Fjords cruise may require warm layers and waterproof gear.
If you want to know What to Pack for a Norwegian Fjords Cruise, then check out our guide.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when packing for any holiday is to pack light. Many cruise lines have rules and fees when it comes to checked baggage, so it’s important to be mindful of the size and weight of your luggage. Although cruise lines can be relaxed about the weight of your luggage, if you have a fly cruise, the airline will be far stricter about it.
In addition, some cabins on cruise ships can be quite compact, so packing light can help you maximize your storage space and make your cabin feel more comfortable. Consider packing versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched and avoid bringing unnecessary items or duplicates.
Use Packing Cubes
Using packing cubes or compression bags can be a game changer when it comes to packing for a cruise. These handy tools can help you organize your belongings and maximize your storage space, making it easier to find what you need and keep your cabin tidy. Packing cubes can be used to separate items by category, such as underwear, tops, and trousers/dresses, while compression bags can help you save space by compressing bulky items such as coats or jumpers.
Leave Room for Souvenirs
As tempting as it can be to cram your suitcase, it’s important to leave room in your luggage for souvenirs and purchases made on the trip. Whether you’re picking up a few trinkets at a local market or splurging on a special souvenir, you don’t want to be stuck with an overflowing suitcase or forced to pay for extra baggage at the airport if you’re flying home. Consider packing a foldable tote or duffle bag that can be easily stowed in your luggage and used to carry any additional items on the journey home.
What to Pack for a Cruise – List of Essentials
Choosing the right cruise essentials is crucial to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable holiday experience. From practical items to fun accessories, packing these items can make all the difference.
So below, you will find our definitive cruise packing list of essential items. This list has been cultivated over years of cruising in various climates, with the input of seasoned cruisers with decades of experience. You may have additional personal items which we haven’t considered but hopefully this will be a great starter guide for you.
Reusable Luggage Tags
These tags were one of our first cruise specific purchases, and now we use them every time we sail. Stapling or taping paper labels to your luggage can result in them being accidentally ripped off during transit. Reusable tags are much sturdier and allow you to fold and insert your luggage label into the plastic sleeve. You can also use them for non-cruise holidays to easily identify your luggage at the airport.
Collapsible Laundry Basket
A collapsible laundry basket is a useful addition to your cruise packing list. It takes up minimal space in your luggage when empty and can be used to keep dirty clothes separate from clean clothes while on the ship. This makes packing and unpacking much easier and more organized. We tend to keep it at the bottom of our cabin wardrobe, so it’s easy to throw our dirty laundry in there.
Towel Clips or Shark Bands
We all know that even on glorious days, there can still be a little wind on deck during sea days. These handy little towel clips help keep your towels in place when on the sun deck or if you’re relaxing by the pool and saves you from having to repeatedly put your towel back over your lounger.
Magnetic hooks can be attached to the walls of your cabin, creating extra hanging space for towels, jackets, hats, and other items. They can also be used to hang decorations, making your cabin feel more like home. If you have a heavier piece of clothing like a jacket, simply use two of the hooks together, so that they can take the weight.
Over Door Shoe Holder for Toiletries
An over-door shoe holder is a great way to organize your toiletries and keep them easily accessible. It can be hung on the bathroom door or inside your closet and is especially useful if you are sharing a cabin with others and you have multiple toiletries.
Foldable Coat Hangers
A bug bear of ours when travelling is the lack of coat hangers in the cabin. Foldable coat hangers take up minimal space in your luggage and are strong enough to hang jackets, as well as other clothing items.
Non-Surge Power Strip with USB Ports
A power strip with USB ports is a must-have for charging your electronic devices. This is especially useful when you have multiple devices that need to be powered at the same time such as straighteners, mobiles, and hair dryers. Make sure to choose a non-surge power strip, as some ships do not allow surge protectors. To help you out, we have checked, and this US power strip and UK extension lead has been approved by the cruise lines we have travelled with, including Carnival and P&0.
Many cruise ships offer bingo games, and a dabber is an essential tool for marking your numbers. You can purchase a dabber on board the ship, but bringing your own ensures that you have one ready to go. These dabbers also happen to be cheaper than those on board.
Are you even a cruiser if you don’t have a lanyard? A lanyard can be used to hold your cruise card, making it easily accessible and preventing you from losing it. It can also be used to hold other small items, such as a bank card or ID.
Plastic straws are no longer supplied on most cruise ships due to environmental concerns, but you can still enjoy your drinks with metal or reusable straws. They are easy to clean and can be used again and again, making them a sustainable choice. Just remember to remove them from your drink once you’ve finished and maybe store them in a zip lock bag.
Sea bands are a great solution for motion sickness, which can be a common issue on cruise ships. They work by applying pressure to specific points on your wrist, helping to reduce nausea and dizziness. We always take Sea Bands with us wherever we go, not only for the ship but also if we do any excursions on boats. If you are a first-time cruiser, then we recommend purchasing some sea bands just in case. You don’t want the motion of the ocean putting a dampener on your holiday.
Bringing a reusable water bottle with you is handy for two reasons, firstly it can help keep you hydrated and maintain the recommended 2 litres of water a day. Secondly it can save you a lot of money, as buying bottled water or soft drinks on a cruise can be expensive. Many cruise ships have water refill stations dotted around, especially within the buffet restaurant. We take water bottles and fill up before we go to bed so that we have a drink through the night. To add a little flavour, we take the small concentrated squeezy juices with us, which is ideal if you want a fruity drink through the day.
An insulated cup is great for keeping your drinks hot. Hot drinks machines are located at the buffet and around the lido deck, but carrying a normal cup around the ship can be tricky. So, an insulated cup offers the perfect solution.
Magnetic Night Light
The magnetic night light is a useful addition to your cabin, providing just enough light to navigate your way around without disturbing others. It can be attached to any magnetic surface in your cabin, such as walls or doors, and the light can be adjusted to your desired level of brightness.
Money for Tips
On some cruise lines, gratuities are automatically added to your bill. However, it’s always a good idea to have some change on hand for tipping room attendants, waiters, and other service staff who go above and beyond.
Water shoes are a practical choice for shore excursions that involve water activities, such as snorkelling, kayaking, or paddle boarding. They protect your feet from rocks, coral, and other sharp objects, and provide better traction on wet surfaces. But we have used them around the pool area on the ship to prevent slipping and to protect our feet from any fungal infections.
Door banners are a fun way to decorate your cabin and make it easier to find your room. You can purchase pre-made or create your own personalized banner to hang on your cabin door. We love seeing the creativity of our fellow passengers on the ship with their cabin door art.
Cruise ducks are a popular tradition among cruisers. They are small rubber ducks that can be decorated and left in various locations around the ship for other passengers to find. It’s a fun way to connect with other cruisers and add some whimsy to your trip. If you want to begin a tradition of your own, then why not purchase a few ducks and hide them around the ship and check back later to see if they have been found.
We love to take disposable slippers, as they are a practical choice for walking around your cabin or going to the pool or spa. They can also add a nice, homely feel to your cabin, and you can slip them on and off easily if you nip to the toilet through the night.
Waterproof Book Sleeve
If you enjoy reading by the pool or on the beach, a waterproof book sleeve is a must-have. It protects your book from getting wet or sandy and can be easily wiped clean.
Bottle of Spirits or Wine
Many cruise lines allow passengers to bring a limited amount of wine or spirits on board. This can be a cost-effective way to enjoy your favourite drink without paying the high prices at the bars and restaurants. For the cruise lines we have been on it tends to be 1 litre per person of alcohol, but it’s worth checking with them before packing the bottle into your case.
Travel-size Laundry Detergent
Cruise ships offer a laundry service, but most people don’t realise there are also self-service laundry rooms on board. This is perfect if you are packing light or doing back-to-back cruises. We know people who have cruised and just taken carry-on bags, because they have used the laundry services available. Bringing your own travel-size laundry detergent can save you money and ensure that you have the brand and scent you prefer. So far, we have not come across any requirements that the detergent must be eco-friendly, but before you pack just double check with your cruise line.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
Whether you’re trying to relax on a noisy deck or drown out the sounds of other passengers in the buffet; noise cancelling headphones can be a lifesaver. They work by using advanced technology to block out ambient noise and can provide a more peaceful environment for rest and relaxation.
Portable Charger/Power Bank
With all the photos, videos, and social media updates you’ll be sharing on your cruise, a portable charger can keep your devices powered up and ready to go. They come in a variety of sizes and can charge multiple devices at once. They are small, lightweight, and easy to pack in your bag or pocket.
Depending on the type of cruise you are doing, a sturdy beach bag can hold all your essentials for shore excursions, pool days, and trips to the beach. Look for one with multiple pockets and compartments for organization, and made from durable, water-resistant material.
These products can greatly enhance your cruise experience by making packing and organization easier, keeping you comfortable and prepared, and allowing you to enjoy all the amenities the ship has to offer.
Carry On Cruise Packing List
When packing for a cruise, it’s important to consider what you’ll need in your carry-on luggage. Your checked bags may not be available right away, so having the right cruise essentials in your carry-on can make all the difference. Here are some items to consider bringing in your carry-on:
Your passport or ID, boarding pass, and any necessary travel visas or permits should be in your carry-on, along with any other important travel documents. On some cruises, your room keys aren’t available straight away, so it’s good to keep your boarding pass handy, so that you can charge drinks to your cruise account.
If you have any prescription medications that you need to take with food or at set times of the day, make sure to bring them in your carry-on. It can sometimes be early evening by the time your luggage arrives at your cabin.
Your phone, camera, and other electronics should be in your carry-on, along with any necessary chargers and adapters. That way you have easy access to begin making those important cruise memories.
Swimwear and sunscreen
If you plan on heading straight to the pool, make sure to pack your swimwear and sunscreen in your carry-on, along with a zip locked waterproof bag to store them in afterwards.
Change of clothes
In case your checked bags are delayed, it’s a good idea to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. Most people tend to wear travel clothes to board the ship and then change into shorts etc so that they can enjoy the lido deck.
While food is usually readily available on a cruise ship, it’s always a good idea to pack some snacks in case you get hungry in between meals. This is particularly useful for us as we have food intolerances that can’t always be catered for in the buffet on the first day.
By packing these essentials in your carry-on, you’ll be prepared for any scenario and able to start enjoying your cruise right away. Just make sure to check with your cruise line for any specific carry-on restrictions or guidelines before you pack.
Prohibited Cruise Items
While packing for a cruise, it’s important to consider what to bring, but also what not to bring. Each cruise line has its own list of prohibited cruise items, which are not allowed on board for safety, security, or environmental reasons. Below we’ll go over some common prohibited cruise items and explain why they are not allowed. By understanding what is and is not allowed on board, you can help make sure your cruise is smooth sailing from start to finish.
Weapons and Firearms
Weapons and firearms are strictly prohibited on cruise ships for obvious safety reasons. This includes guns, ammunition, knives, and other sharp objects. Any item that can be used as a weapon or cause harm to others is not allowed on board.
In the rare case that a passenger needs to bring a weapon or firearm for legitimate reasons, they must obtain prior authorization from the cruise line and comply with strict guidelines.
Drugs and Illegal Substances
It goes without saying that illegal drugs and substances are not allowed on board any cruise ship. This includes marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drugs. Even if you live in a state or country where some drugs are legal, they are universally banned on cruise ships.
Passengers found in possession of these substances will be subject to immediate disembarkation and possible legal action.
Most cruise lines have restrictions on the amount of alcohol that passengers are allowed to bring on board. In most cases, passengers are allowed a set amount on embarkation day, but any alcohol found in luggage that exceeds that allowance during security screenings can be confiscated.
Drones are becoming more popular among travellers, but they are not allowed on most cruise ships. Drones pose a safety risk to other passengers and crew members and can interfere with ship operations. In addition, drones are not allowed to be flown in many of the destinations visited by cruise ships, so bringing a drone on board would be useless.
Candles and Incense
Candles and incense are not allowed on most cruise ships due to the risk of fire. Open flames pose a serious risk to the ship and its passengers, and any items that emit smoke or produce a strong odour can be disruptive to other passengers.
Hoverboards and Segways
Hoverboards and Segways are not allowed on most cruise ships due to the risk of fire and other safety concerns. These devices are known to overheat and catch fire, and their use can be disruptive to other passengers.
Electrical Extension Cords
Standard Electrical extension cords are not allowed on most cruise ships due to the risk of fire. These cords can become easily overloaded and cause a fire, and they can also create tripping hazards in the cabin. Make sure you have bought one of our recommended cruise approved extensions to avoid having it confiscated.
Large coolers are not allowed on most cruise ships due to limited storage space and safety concerns.
Scuba diving equipment, including tanks, regulators, and wet suits, are not allowed on most cruise ships due to safety concerns and limited storage space.
It’s important to check with your specific cruise line to see what items are prohibited or restricted before packing. In general, cruise lines prohibit items that pose a safety risk, could cause damage to the ship, or are illegal.
Cruise Essentials Summary
To summarise, packing the right essentials for a cruise is crucial to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience. By considering the climate and activities of your destination, packing light, and using packing cubes or compression bags to organize your belongings, you can make the most of your storage space and avoid having to carry large bags on with you.
Additionally, it is important to check with your cruise line for specific packing guidelines and be aware of the prohibited items list to avoid any inconvenience or safety risks. By following these tips and packing smartly, you can embark on your cruise adventure with peace of mind and create unforgettable memories.
Wherever you may be going on your cruise, please tag us into your Instagram posts, because we love to see what our readers are up to as they tick off their bucket lists. Bon voyage!
If you have any concerns about seasickness, then please check out our guide on ‘How to Prevent Seasickness on a Cruise’. We offer great tips and tricks to banish that unwanted nausea.