How to Pack for a Cruise

Before my first cruise I seriously had no idea what I should pack or what was even necessary for a cruise. Obviously I needed the essentials but what do you really pack for a cruise. Do you pack your entire closet? Do you just pick random things and throw them in a bag? Do you just pack a swim suit and hope for the best? I mean really what do you pack for a cruise was the day in and day out question. My mind went haywire trying to think of what to pack. Yes, that is part of my anxiety that causes me to wonder and worry quite often. I knew that if I could pack for a 13 day trip to my grandparents place in Florida I could pack for a 7 night/8 day cruise. Packing essentials was my first step, so that includes the obvious underwear and pajamas (T-shirt and pants type of girl here).

After packing the essentials what else needs to go into a carry on suitcase for a cruise? I began researching the weather in these places that I was going. I knew they had to be at least warm. I eventually came to the conclusion I needed all summer clothes, but I would bring a jacket just in case I wanted to stand outside at night. That was a smart move on my part because at night on the ship it gets rather chilly outside and very windy. A light jacket is a must if you want to go outside. I began packing the necessary items that I needed for a cruise. I will list all the items I took below.

Necessary Items:

1.) Bathing suit or suits

2.) Beach towel (although they provide one, if you lose it they will charge you)

3.) Summer dresses and fancy dresses, men need dress pants, golf shorts and nice shirts

– Cruises have dining areas where you must come properly dressed. On one of the nights or two nights depending on the length of the cruise you will have fancy dining nights. You cannot wear shorts, T-shirt’s, flip flops and etc. You must have fancy or as fancy as you can get clothes on.

4.) Shorts

5.) Pajamas and essentials (socks and underwear)

6.) Flip flops and walking shoes

7.) Shirts

8.) A light jacket

9.) Essential papers needed to get on a cruise

10.) Passport or birth certificate, plus photo ID and money

11.) Toiletries

– This includes perfume/cologne, deodorant, face soap, lotion, shampoo/conditioner, body wash and all the essentials you need.

12.) Soda/wine

– You can take a 12 pack of soda with you but you must rap it and it cannot be open. Wine needs to be put in a clear plastic bag and you can take it with you.

13.) Charging cables, phone and camera

14.) An extra bag (ie over the shoulder bag)

– Bring this to take essential things with you on excursions.

15.) Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses

– I will be upfront and honest in saying that the Caribbean sun is a lot different than the sun in the US. I do not burn easily but I burnt easily on a cruise and while on the Caribbean.

I pack ahead of time to feel prepared and ready to go when the time comes for my trip. I also do not like to forget things so I make sure to check my bag. Packing early also helps me to not be indecisive as to what to bring, it also helps me to not over pack. That is a true tip for all you over-packers out there. Packing for a cruise is a lot like packing for a normal trip, but it does take some extra planning per cruising rules. You also need to make sure you print off and bring all of the needed paperwork for check in. On some excursions they will need you to bring your passport, just make to secure it the whole time. All of the items listed above are the same for men, but on fancy nights you cannot wear any type of shorts you must wear pants.

I will forever be thankful for meeting our first cruise table mates. My husband did not bring pants and almost could not go to the fancy dining nights, if it were not for the husband of one of the families we met. They loaned him a pair of pants because it is required for men to wear pants on fancy dining nights. Just as a courtesy heads up, you do not under any circumstance have to go to any of the dining meals on cruise ships, as they have other places to eat. I have met tons of wonderful people eating in the dining room.

Cruise ships also offer a gym, a spa, a track and other fitness areas depending upon which ship you are. Make sure to research your ship before you go on a cruise, as it will tell you all of the amenities. For this you can bring the essential gear you need for working out such as tennis shoes and gym clothes. They have bathroom to change and shower to prepare for the workout as well as clean up after the gym. The entrance to the gym is through the bathroom, both men and women’s are separate on two opposite ends of the spa area. Click here for how to plan a cruise if you have not read it yet or need tips on how to plan a cruise.

Have you ever been on a cruise and overpacked for a cruise? Let me know about your first timer cruise story below. My husband way over packed for his first cruise and still did not bring all of the essentials (how does that happen?).

Stay tuned this week to learn about my review of 2017 and how 2018 is going to look through goals, travel and a brand new year! I will also be sharing about Missouri! See you all soon!

Xoxo,

Ariel

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78 comments
  1. believe it or not i’ve never been on a cruise before so these are such great helpful tips for me… thank you!

    1. I hope you get to go on one day, they truly are worth the money to go. I am glad you found this helpful, I really appreciate that as it means a lot to me!

  2. I’ve never been on a cruise but will have to refer to this when I go! Interesting about the dress code requirements! Good thing you got a loaner!

    1. I hope you get to go on one someday, they truly are a wonderful way to travel! I am definitely thankful for the loaner. Thank you so much for your comment, I really appreciate it.

  3. I’m a big cruiser and you definitely hit the nail on the head with this post!

    1. Thank you! I thought I did but I swear I thought I was leaving something out. Nice to meet a fellow cruise lover like myself!

  4. Thanks for these great tips. I find easier to pack for a cruise than a plane. 2 years, we packed everything but a jacket for a July cruise. It was so windy, I had to buy a jacket too expensive on the ship for my younger daughter.

    1. You are welcome for the great tips. I am so thankful I thought to bring my jacket, it definitely does get very windy. Thank you for your wonderful comment, I really appreciate it!

  5. This is such a helpful post! I definitely think that mixing and matching outfits is the way to go when it comes to packing for vacation.

    1. Thank you for your great compliment and feedback! I think so as well, that way you are not second guessing yourself with every outfit you pick out.

  6. Cruising is one of my favorite ways to vacation! It’s so easy because you don’t have to plan much of anything if you don’t want to. My first cruise was a surprise, my sister and I didn’t know where we were going until my parents pulled into the port, so we didn’t have to worry about the packing. And as you mention, sunscreen is a must. I’m a Floridian and know how the sun is, people always vastly underestimate it in Florida and in the Caribbean!

    1. I definitely agree with everything you said! The fact you don’t have to plan much or do much for a cruise is my favorite part. That’s so neat that your first one was a surprise. Sunscreen is definitely a must, I try to tan before hand as well so I do not burn as bad either. I definitely agree people underestimate the sun in both places, I know I did. Thank you for your wonderful comment and feedback, I really appreciate it.

      1. The surprise was fun. I was super excited when we pulled up to the port and my parents just said “get out, we’re going on that boat”! My sister started crying because she said it was going to be like the Titanic and we were all going to die! The Titanic movie had come out that year. The lifeboat drill almost had her in a panic attack!!

        1. Haha! Oh my goodness. I definitely understand being afraid and thinking like that. I’ve done that a time or two. Those drills are not fun, one time a girl passed out because it was so hot outside. I felt so bad for her.

  7. Great checklist! I love cruises and packing for them can be tricky. Love that you even have chargers and things on here.

    1. I tried to think of everything you could possibly ever need on a cruise. I love cruises for their ability to make me take a break from the real world and just relax. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback, I really appreciate it. I am glad you think it was a great checklist!

  8. I have four different packing lists I follow. For different occasions; work, just my husband and I, beach, or cold. A cruise though would be totally different and I love your comment about searching the weather for where you’ll be and then still packing a light coat for nights out. Hope you have a fantastic trip!

    1. I am in the same boat, packing for the cruise definitely threw me off. Once I was packed I now feel very prepared for cruises. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback! I really appreciate it, means a lot to me!

  9. I’ve never been on a cruise but I’m longing to go on one! I didn’t know you could take soda with you! And I usually take a portable charger if I’m going out for the day in case of emergency.

    1. I hope you get to go on a cruise one day! They really are an amazing way to travel. I did not know that either until my second cruise, definitely take it with you as on board it is rather expensive. Or you can buy a soda drink package where you can get unlimited sodas for a particular price. I never thought of a portable charger but that is a wonderful idea. I have actually never used one before but I bet they are very handy.

  10. My mom is going on a cruise in a few months with some of our family, so I will definitely be sharing this with her! She’s never been on a cruise before (neither have I for that matter), so she’ll have no idea what to expect.

    1. That is amazing, I hope she has a wonderful time. Thank you for sharing this with her, I definitely appreciate that. I hope you get to go on a cruise one day, they are an amazing way to travel. Thank you for your wonderful feedback, it really means a lot to me!

  11. Oh dear your poor husband Ariel but we would probably have made the same mistake too 😀 We haven’t been on a cruise for such a long time, maybe we should look at changing that in 2018 and I’ll make sure to save your list so we don’t forget anything

    1. At least we were luckily put with people that had a husband/father the same size as my husband. I will forever be grateful for them. I hope you guys get to go on a cruise soon. I really love them! Thank you for saving my list, that means a lot to me!

  12. I love having a packing list before any trip. It eases my anxiety about forgetting items. I need to be better about not over packing though!

    1. Same here, I love to have a list and make sure everything is there. I don’t know how people pack last minute. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it!

  13. Going on a cruise is something I really want to do. I bet I would be so indecisive about what to bring, so this was very helpful.

    1. I hope you get to go on a cruise one day, they are definitely wonderful and relaxing. I was very indecisive at first but this list definitely helped me. I am glad it will help you as well, that means a lot to me.

  14. Oooh, awesome list that is contributing to me being jealous of you haha! We haven’t been on a cruise yet but we are hoping to soon! By the way, that jean jacket on the dress is adorable! I hope you have an amazing time!

    1. I hope you guys get to go on a cruise sometime soon. They really are amazing and a great way to relax. Thank you for the compliment on the jean jacket, I got it from a store called Maurice’s. I am definitely ready to go in this snowy weather. I miss summer!

  15. You are so spot on with this post. I recently went on a cruise and these are definitely essentials for going on a cruise.

    1. Thank you! I thought I had covered everything. Where did you go for your cruise? I am gearing up for my 3rd in March, so ready for it.

  16. Great advice! My family of 6 is going on a cruise for the first time this spring and the thought of packing everyone is overwhelming! On a regular vacation I am reassured by the fact that we can run to the store if we forget something but that’s not really an option on a cruise ship.

    1. That would definitely be overwhelming to pack for all 6. They do have stores upstairs but do not have everything. I know they sell the essential bath stuff and some shirts/jewelry. Thank you so much for the great feedback, I hope your cruise goes well!

  17. I love cruises and these are great tips! I always underpack for myself and overpack for my little one, I really need to overhaul my packing technique and fine tune this. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you so much! I am sure I would be the same way if I were a mom. I probably would pack their whole wardrobe. I am glad to meet another fellow cruise lover, they are definitely my favorite way to travel. You are welcome, thank you for your great feedback!

  18. This is a nice comprehensive list on what to pack. I loved the story about your first table mates and the pair of pants.

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate that. Haha that was pretty funny and quite amazing that they were the same size. I was definitely thankful for them.

  19. Great tips! It’s been so long since I’ve been on a cruise. My husband and I are trying to go on one this summer and this is very helping in our planning.

    1. Thank you very much. I hope you guys do get to go on one soon! I am glad this was helpful, that means a lot to me.

  20. Nice post. Love travelling but I never organise my things. I will use your tips. Thanks

    1. Thank you very much, I appreciate that. I think organizing helps me to make sure everything is packed correctly. I hope this helps you! You are welcome.

  21. Hahaha, I’m just like you on the packing-ahead-of-time regard 😀 Whenever I have to pack for a trip, I pack two to three days in advance and then I’m always checking to make sure I don’t forget anything!
    also, I’ve never been on a cruise before, so I was actually quite curious to see what exactly one should bring!

    1. People truly laugh at me when I pack in advance. Most people are last minute packers and that makes me so anxious! I hope you get to go on a cruise one day, they are truly wonderful, relaxing and amazing!

  22. this is really a great post, i have been planning to go on cruise this year and you sharing this is really a great way to guide me on how to pack as i always pack too much. thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you so much for your great feedback! I hope you do get to go on a cruise this year, they truly are wonderful. I am glad this was helpful to you, that means a lot to me.

  23. YES babe! I’m terrible at packing so give me all the tips! I actually have been hiring someone to do my packing and it’s been game changing. I’ll be forwarding her your list.

    1. I know plenty of people that are horrible at packing. I am glad I can help you out, I definitely could pack for people. I love packing for some reason. Thank you for finding this so helpful, means a lot to me!

  24. These are such great tips and ideas for packing well! Hubby totally is so much better at packing than I am; he’s the one who will take all our stuff out and repack it all so that it actually fits! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much. I am surprised to hear your hubby packs better, it’s the opposite for us! But that’s so great that he can get it all to where it actually fits! Thank you for your great comment, I really appreciate it!

  25. I’ve never been on a cruise before, but these tips seem very helpful to first timers! If I ever decide to go, I’ll be sure to research the boat first! I had no idea there was so much to it, thank you for the helpful info.

    1. I hope you get to go on a cruise one day, they truly are amazing and a wonderful way to travel. I was surprised to find out each boat offers their own stuff to do. There is a lot to do with cruises but it really is not as overwhelming as it sounds. You are welcome, thank you for the wonderful comment. I really appreciate it.

  26. I’ve never been on a cruise so If I am ever about to book one, I will need to return to your post. Great list of items you need to take with you. This is amazing though how many options you have while onboard. You can even go to the gym, how awesome is that!

    1. I hope you get to go on one day, they are my favorite way to travel! Thank you so much for your kind words. They have a beautiful view from the gym so it definitely motivates you to go.

  27. We ALWAYS overpack on cruises! This is a good reminder of the essentials that are needed. Thanks for sharing this comprehensive list.

    1. I have a friend that always overpacks for everything so I have to send her a comprehensive list to make sure she does not do that. I am glad you found this helpful, that really means a lot to me! Thank you for your wonderful comment!

  28. I’ve never been in a cruise before. and I always wanted to experience cruise trip. This is such a great suggestion and ideas to pack for a cruise.

    1. I hope you get to go on a cruise one day, they really are an amazing way to travel. Thank you for the great feedback, I really appreciate it.

  29. Super helpful! I just took my first cruise (a Nile River Cruise) and was surprised at how cold it got on the river at night! A jacket is definitely an important item to bring, even in a really warm climate.

    1. How was the Nile River cruise? I bet that was beautiful. A light jacket is definitely needed, it gets super windy. Thank you for sharing your story and for the wonderful comment, I really appreciate it.

  30. It’s certainly helpful to get some ideas what you really need on board. I did some short cruises in Egypt and in Scandinavia, but special attire was not requested, it was rather low key. However, I’m not really a cruise person – but it’s always interesting to read about different styles to travel.

    1. That sounds amazing to cruise to those places. At least you can say you have been on a couple. I definitely do agree with enjoying reading about different styles of travel. Thank you for your wonderful comment and sharing your story. I really appreciate it.

  31. The older I get the worse I become at packing, and I always over pack and pack things I don’t need. Thanks for the tips! Very handy!

    1. I definitely understand that. I am glad you found them handy, that means a lot to me. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it!

  32. Great list. It seems that no matter how I often I travel (too much!) I always stress about packing. It’s so helpful to have a list like this to look at!

    1. I definitely understand stressing over packing. I am glad you found this helpful, that means a lot to me. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it.

  33. Have never been on a cruise though I would love to and this is a very useful guide. This really gives an idea of how to pack (for formal events on the cruise ) and also for the spa and wet areas! It is indeed an art to pack perfectly and I am yet to master it 🙂 Most of the times we carry stuff we never use!

    1. I hope you get to go on a cruise one day, they are truly a fantastic way to travel. Thank you for your wonderful comment, I’m glad you found this helpful! I definitely agree with it being an art to pack perfectly. I’ve always used everything I packed but I will admit I have almost forgot undies a couple times. Thankfully I checked over my bag a couple times haha

  34. This is a great list. I always love having someone else do all my work for me, and planning is work. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for the wonderful feedback! I am glad you found this helpful, that means a lot to me. You are welcome, thank you for reading.

  35. I’ve never been on a cruise, but I couldn’t survive packing for myself and three kids without detailed packing lists that make sure I have the essentials covered but do not over pack. My family of five spent 10 days in Iceland this summer with only one checked bag. We each carried most of our clothes in backpacks and actually had more than we needed. The ability to do laundry is essential, and I’ve heard that’s challenging on a cruise.

    1. That is so amazing that you went to Iceland for that long with everyone. I am amazed that you only took one checked bag. I hope you guys get to go on a cruise one day, they truly are a wonderful way to travel. Some ships I have heard are more challenging than others but it can be done. You can also have it sent out like any normal hotel which I think is neat. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it.

  36. It makes real sense to pack specially for a cruise, though there may not be much difference, there are minor points to be noted which if not paid attention can turn into a full fledged gaffe. You have illustrated this very well with the example of the Fancy Dinner Nights requiring formal dressing.

    1. This is definitely true, it is very similar but a little different. I actually would not have known about the formal nights if someone had not told me before hand. Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it!

  37. I enjoyed reading this post. There are a number of items that I had never thought of bringing.

    1. Thank you! Some of these things I did not even know to bring until someone told me, so just sharing the wealth of knowledge. Thank you for your wonderful comment. I really appreciate it.

  38. I am going on my first cruise in two weeks!! Thank you for the Information!!

    1. That’s amazing! I hope you have a wonderful time, you are welcome. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it.

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