Packing for a cruise is like that one glorious cheat day when you’ve been on a strict diet of baggage fees and luggage space. So go ahead. Unleash your overpacking traveler beast.
Four suitcases for a three-day cruise? No problem. In fact, don’t hold yourself back now. Take nine. Why? Because you absolutely can.
Most cruises are generous to a fault about their baggage allowance anyway. Just make sure you brought your electromagnetic shrinking machine with you, because you can’t say the same thing when it comes to the size of their standard cabins.
If you're not sure what to take on a cruise, this ultimate cruise packing list is the best guide on how to maximize space in your suitcase. It also makes sure that you have everything you need to enjoy your cruise without having to use a shrinking machine for your luggage.
Cruise Essentials Packing List
Repeat this mantra, “Cabin space is small.” Repeat it 10 times. Take it in and accept the fact that you have limited room space on a cruise ship.
Proceed to our cruise packing list below but don’t forget our mantra!
We start with the most important bag during your first day on board: The Carry On Bag.
On average, it takes about six hours before you can have access to your checked-in bags, so make sure that you have these items in your carry on with you:
Cruise Carry On Bag Packing List
✓ Passport - Make sure that your passport is up to date.
✓ Visa - If you need a visa for your cruise, make sure that you apply for it 3 to 6 months before your cruise.
✓ Identification Card - Bring at least two official ID card with you at all times.
✓ Driver's License - If you plan on driving in certain destinations when the ship is docked, you may want to get yourself an international driver’s license.
✓ Auto Insurance Card - In case you want to rent a car on days when the ship is docked at the port.
✓ Cash - Always bring cash, especially for the little towns who don't exactly take credit card.
✓ Clear Packing Cubes - This travel hack will keep your luggage organized and categorized. Also, these cubes from EzPacking are clear!
Pro Tip: For safety, always keep a physical (print out) and virtual copy (screenshots on your phone) of your travel documents and identification. You can download any of these apps to scan your documents. You can also send them to yourself as an email attachment.
✓ Tickets - The night before your cruise, make sure that you have your tickets secured inside your carry-on bag.
✓ Travel Insurance - If you're unsure whether you should get travel insurance, check out why you absolutely should.
✓ Medical Insurance - It's important to note that your travel insurance and medical insurance are quite different. Before your cruise, check with your provider what your policy covers.
✓ Medical History - If you have any special or chronic conditions, make sure to let the cruise manager / director know about it prior to your trip. Also, prepare a detailed copy of your medical history, including instructions (e.g. where your medication is located, what medication you take, allergies, etc.) should an emergency occur.
✓ Emergency Contacts - Include phone numbers, emails, and mobile messenger profiles.
Pro Tip: Document organizers can store all your documents including your cards, itinerary and pocket money. You can also make individual travel document kits - especially if you're traveling in a big group - using ziplock bags. Label each one before storing them inside your tote or backpack.
✓ Mobile Phone - Put your mobile phone on airplane mode to avoid racking up international roaming charges. You can also check out this post on how to prep your smartphone for travel.
✓ Kindle - All those books you promised you would read? You can download them and finally finish them while traveling. You don’t even need the latest version, this older generation Kindle works just as well for the fraction of a price. Load it up with some books you’ve been meaning to read before your cruise trip!
✓ Tablet - Before the cruise, download some movies / series from Netflix for offline viewing. Don’t forget to download while still on WiFi!
✓ Chargers - Use velcro cable ties or twist ties to keep your cables organized. You can also label each for quick access.
✓ Universal Adapter - More info for options on travel adapters here.
✓ Headphones - Bring a headphone splitter so you can share one device.
Pro Tip: Keep all your tech devices in one small packing cube for easy access. To avoid your devices from getting scratched, keep all your tech accessories and chargers in a separate extra small packing cube.
✓ Wallet - Keep some pocket money in your wallet for you to use in case of an emergency (meaning if you get hungry and need some snacks, or for a real emergency).
✓ Prescription Medication - Keep them in their original containers. Less questions will be asked when going through security.
✓ First Aid Kit - This is especially helpful when traveling with kids. Check out our post on what to pack.
✓ Toiletries - In an extra small packing cube, pack travel size (and TSA Approved) toiletries like toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturizer, contact lens solution, etc. You might also need sunblock, aloe gel, lip balm and hand sanitizer.
✓ Change of Clothes - You don't have to bring an entire outfit. In a small packing cube, pack clothes made from lighter, wrinkle-free fabrics like jersey or linen. Maybe even throw in a bathing suit and flip flops, if you want to hit the pool before your luggage arrives (or arrives late).
✓ Outerwear - Depending on the season you're traveling, you might want to bring a light cardigan or jacket with you. You can tie bulkier items like outerwear around your waist (or wear on the plane when it gets cold), so it doesn't take up space in you carry-on.
✓ Kids Entertainment Kit - If you're going to be stuck at the airport for a period of time or have nothing on your schedule yet after boarding, pack a small packing cube with books, art materials, puzzles and their favorite toys to keep them entertained.
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Pro Tip: If your kids are big enough, give them each a packing cube and let them pack their own traveling kit. It's a win win situation because they can decide what to take with them on the cruise, with your guidance of course!
Now let’s move on to your checked bag. Remember, you won’t see this bag until later during embarkation day. Pack other items that you won’t need as much (during your first day) here.
Cruise Checked Bag Packing List
✓ Underwear - Have at least 1 to 2 pairs of underwear for each day of your cruise.
✓ Socks - Pack 1 pair of socks for each day of your cruise and maybe one extra. Depending on the time of year, you may only be wearing sandals around the ship. But when it’s time to explore the little towns when docked, you’ll need walking shoes.
✓ Shirts / Casual Tops - If you want to make it easy to coordinate your outfits, choose solid neutral colors like white, beige or gray. To add a bit of playfulness, mix in a few classic striped shirts or shirts with subtle prints. Pack at least 1 shirt per day.
✓ Dress Shirts / Blouses - For men, bring 1 to 2 short sleeves or long sleeves dress shirts. For the ladies, bring a few dressier tops like a wrap shirt or ruffled blouse which you can wear during dinners.
✓ Shorts / Leggings - Khaki or twill shorts are good options for the men - easy to dress up or down and takes up less space in your suitcase. For the ladies, opt for shorts in darker colors like navy blue, olive green or khaki to get more wear out of them. Pack 2 to 3 pairs of leggings, which can be worn casually during the day or used for workout gear.
✓ Jeans / Trousers - Pack 2 to 3 pairs of pants, jeans or trousers. One pair of blue jeans, one pair of black jeans, and one other. Switch off using these throughout the trip.
✓ Formal Attire - Most cruises hold a special formal night for adults. Men can bring their own blazer and slacks. Pair them with a dress shirt and you’re done. A stylish wrap dress in a wrinkle free fabric works great for the ladies!
✓ Workout / Activewear (Optional) - Pack a few outfits if you have planned active excursions or if you want to hit the gym while on the cruise. Don’t forget to bring sports bras and extra socks too!
✓ Swimwear - Bring 1 to 2 swimsuits, depending on how much you plan on swimming.
✓ Rash Guard - A must have if you plan on doing activities on the water like surfing or water skiing. Find one that blocks UV rays so you're protected.
✓ Sarong - A very versatile piece of clothing...use it as swimsuit cover up, beach blanket, shawl or to keep warm during a flight.
✓ Cardigan / Sweater - The nights can be chilly on deck, so always keep a light cardigan or sweater with you.
Pro Tip: Organize and categorize items into different size packing cubes.
Organize a week’s worth of underwear and socks in a small packing cube. Shirts, shorts and leggings can go in a medium packing cube. Keep dress shirts looking sharp and wrinkle free by using our folding boards before packing them in a large packing cube.
✓ Walking Shoes - Always bring a good pair of walking shoes that have ample arch support.
✓ Flip Flops / Sandals / Water Shoes - For walking around the deck or for the pool, bring 1 pair of sandals.
✓ Formal Shoes - To pair with your dressy outfit for formal night! Men can’t go wrong with a classic oxford shoe. Two good options for the ladies: nude heels or brown wedges.
Pro Tip: Always pack your shoes in separate shoe bags to avoid marks and scratches.
✓ Belt - Pack 1 belt you can wear with most outfits.
✓ Floppy Hat - A wide-brimmed, floppy, straw hat (like Samantha wears in Sex and the City) is the perfect cruise statement piece. Also, it gives you an extra layer of protection from the sun.
✓ Sunglasses - Choose sunglasses that block UVB (can cause damage to the eyes from prolonged exposure).
✓ Day Bag - Depending on your style, your day bag can be cute, sporty or eco-friendly. Or how about a Kate Spade fanny pack? Yes. Fanny packs are back. Choose one that works best for you! Items to pack in your day bag can include: water, sunscreen, wipes, a change of clothes, phone charger, wallet, tissues, chapstick and other valuables.
Pro Tip: Use an extra small cube to keep items inside your day bag organized. Color code similar items by cube so you can easily find what you need during days off the boat.
Pro Tip: Use our extra small cube to keep your travel size toiletries organized. This toiletry bag is clear on three sides and is quart size. It’s TSA compliant so you can store all your carry on liquids here and just dump it in the security bin during inspection.
✓ Shampoo / Conditioner - Cruise ships usually provide this but you can bring travel size versions of your fave brands if you can’t leave home without them.
✓ Soap / Body Wash - These are also provided for but you can always bring your own if you have sensitive skin!
✓ Toothbrush / Toothpaste - Some cruise ships don’t provide these items. Bring travel size toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash.
✓ Deodorant - Try this natural deodorant - works well to keep your armpits dry and smelling fresh!
✓ Facial Wash / Wipes - Bring your fave facial wash & facial wipes for removing makeup after a long day.
✓ Moisturizer / Cream - Pack a moisturizing cream can be used for the face or the body.
✓ Sunscreen - These travel size ones are perfect for short cruise trips. Bring larger ones if you’re going to a tropical destination.
✓ Razor - Disposable razors are allowed in your carry on bag, electric ones should be packed in your checked bag.
✓ Cotton Swabs - Ever heard of swimmer’s ear? Pack some cotton swabs to keep your ears dry after swimming!
✓ Aloe Vera - An all around remedy for dry skin, itchy scalp and even sunburned skin.
✓ UV Lip Balm - Your lips also need some TLC when it comes sun protection.
✓ Feminine Hygiene - Pack some pads and tampons in case your monthly visitor arrives unexpectedly. You can buy some onboard too but they’re twice or three times the price!
✓ Hair Comb / Brush - Opt for a small detangler brush.
✓ Hair Tools - When you want to look extra glam for special nights (we get you). Cruise cabins usually have hair dryers on board. But you can bring mini versions of a hair straightener or curling iron. Go for ceramic ones if you don’t want the humidity messing up your hair do!
✓ Hair Ties - It’s windy on deck so to avoid hair getting on your face, bring some hair ties.
✓ Nail Clippers - Bring 1 pair in your toiletry bag (you are allowed to bring this on the plane).
✓ Wipes - These are great for your day bag (for sanitizing dirty hands or refreshing after a long day of sightseeing).
✓ Contact Lens + Solution - Bring a few extra pairs if you have disposable or daily lenses.
✓ Baby Powder - Bring a small travel size one, good for freshening up or removing sand from the feet or body.
First Aid Kit
✓ Motion Sickness Meds - Must have even if you’re not prone to motion sickness. This travel size non-drowsy dramamine is recommended! Remember to drink a capsule an hour before your cruise trip. You can also bring some ginger chews to resolve motion sickness.
✓ Ibuprofen - Great for headaches, backaches, muscle pain or cramps.
✓ Imodium - For resolving stomach upsets that can ruin a good cruise vacation.
✓ Benadryl - Keep allergies at bay with some benadryl on hand!
✓ Prescription Meds - Don’t forget to pack prescription meds as well and keep them in their original packaging.
✓ Fiber Supplement - Can help ease stomach problems (especially when you’ve eaten or drank too much).
✓ Antibiotic Ointment - To prevent wounds from being contaminated by germs.
✓ Bandaids - Bring different size ones so you can cover all sorts of wounds (hopefully there’s no need).
✓ Bug Repellent - Must have if you’re going to forests or insect-laden areas. These insect repellent wipes are convenient and works as well as aerosol based ones.
Pro Tip: Pack all your first aid essentials in an extra small cube. Keep it in your carry on bag or day bag in case an emergency happens!
✓ Camera + Charger - A waterproof camera if you can budget for it is recommended! Don’t forget to pack extra batteries and memory cards.
✓ Smartphone / Tablet - Load your smartphone or tablet with offline maps of your excursions so you don’t have any excuse for not exploring!
✓ Portable Charger - So you can keep charging your devices offboard!
✓ Power Strip - Make sure you bring a power strip without a surge protector, this one fits the bill and even has USB outlets for electronics. Some cruise lines don’t allow power strips though. An alternative is a USB charger (also lessens the adaptors you need to bring on your trip).
✓ Waterproof Watch - Opt for a cheap, waterproof watch and remember to set it on your ship’s time.
Safety / Survival
✓ Small Flashlight - Handy when going in the bathroom during the dark or during evening shore excursions.
✓ Whistle - This brightly colored whistle is a must have, it’s loud and comes with its own lanyard so you can easily hang it on your neck.
✓ Night Light - So you don’t have to worry about stumbling in the dark cabin!
✓ Magnetic Hooks - Extra hanging spaces for clothes, towels and hats. You can easily attach them on your cabin’s metal walls or doors.
✓ Disinfecting Spray - Keep your cabin extra clean with the help of a disinfectant spray. As soon as you reach your cabin, spray on surfaces and items like remote control or AC control.
✓ Door Decor - Cabin doors look alike and decorating yours is an easy way to find your room. Instead of adhesive decors, use magnetic ones to avoid damaging the door.
✓ Clip Magnets - Use them for attaching your itinerary, daily activity letter and other notes so you can keep track of them easily.
✓ Air Freshener - Cabins can sometimes smell musty and feel stuffy after a few days. A solid air freshener can help mask any odors and help keep your room fresh!
✓ Clips / Clothespins - Useful for when you’re hanging towels on the windy pool deck or for when you’re drying clothes on your balcony!
✓ Clear Packing Cubes - Staying organized in your cabin can sometimes be a struggle. Use clear packing cubes to separate and organize your items. Color coding is also a great option to organize a family! The Starter Set includes one of each size and is perfect for a carry on suitcase. When arriving to your cabin, use the cubes as traveling drawers. There’s no need to unpack your clothes during your cruise because of our cubes’ see-through design!
✓ Lanyard - You’ll need your ship card for all onboard amenities. Use a lanyard to keep your ship card close to you all the time.
✓ Waterproof Smartphone Case - If you have planned water activities, keep your smartphone protected with a waterproof case.
✓ Mini Binoculars - Must have for stunning cruise destinations like Alaska or Hawaii.
✓ Float Strap - Just attach this strap to any of your gadgets and it will magically float on water.
✓ Laundry Bag - Keep your clean clothes separated from the dirty! This turquoise drawstring one is perfect for small cruise ship cabins.
✓ Water Bottle - This collapsible water bottle is perfect because it folds into a compact size when not in use. Note: Fill a disposable cup with water or juice before transferring it to your water bottle.
✓ Highlighter Pens - Bring 2 different color highlighters so you can mark those activities that you like and those that you don’t in the cruise daily newsletter.
✓ Wrinkle Releaser Spray - This works wonders for reducing wrinkles in clothes!
✓ Stain Remover Wipes - For removing food, drink or makeup stains on the go, these Shout Wipe and Go Wipes are valuable!
✓ Extra Eyeglasses + Strap - Bring an extra pair of eyeglasses in case your current one gets broken! An eyeglass strap is also nice to secure your eyeglasses around your neck when swimming or sightseeing.
✓ Snacks - Bring some fruit, trail mix and granola bars. Very handy during midnight hunger pangs or when you don’t want to eat out during excursions!
✓ Wet Bag / Plastic Bag - Something to keep your wet clothes like swimsuits or towels in.
Now you know what to pack for your cruise! Let’s move on to what type of bags are best for your cruise vacation.
The Best Bags for Cruise Trips
You’ll need 3 bags for your cruising adventure: a carry on bag, checked bag and day bag. Optional bags you can bring are a fanny pack and an evening purse (for the ladies). Here’s what we recommend:
Ideal Carry On Bags for a Cruise
✓ Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack - We recommend a backpack as a carry on bag for a cruise trip. Why? Because you’ll be exploring the ship during your first day / embarkation. And lots of other guests will be doing the same as you! You can bypass the long elevator lines with a backpack. The Osprey Farpoint 55 is a good one, it’s within carry on standards and even has a detachable day pack you can use for shore excursions.
✓ Samsonite Hardside Spinner 21 - If you want to avoid carrying bags on your back, a spinner suitcase is a good alternative. The Samsonite Hardside Spinner 21 fits within airline carry on luggage restrictions. It is lightweight and compact but has lots of room inside for your cruise essentials!
Ideal Checked Bags for a Cruise
✓ Samsonite Advena Checked Luggage - If you have the tendency to overpack, pick this softside 29 inch luggage by Samsonite. Since the material is soft, it expands when you fill it with excess stuff! If you’re cruising with your husband, this suitcase fits the EzPacking Packing Cubes Complete Bundle set perfectly when stacked vertically.
✓ Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner Luggage (28 Inch) - Pick a hardside luggage that’s roomy but durable. The Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner is a good deal for the price! Choose the premium version so you can lock your luggage for safely.
Ideal Day Bags for a Cruise
✓ Backpacks - We love backpacks because they keep you hands free! Here’s an affordable and waterproof but sturdy unisex backpack that’s great for hiking, beach or even sightseeing shore excursions. The Kipling City Pack is perfect for short city excursions.
✓ Tote Bags - Bring a lightweight tote bag you can pack with your essentials for a day off the boat.
You probably got EVERYTHING covered for your cruise trip by now. But keep reading for more important information about cruising.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you need a passport to go on a cruise? The State Department recommends bringing your passport or passport book regardless of the type of cruise you’re going on. Although if you’re taking a closed loop cruise, you’re not required to bring your passport. Any government issued proof of citizenship like driver’s license and birth certificate will do. However, in case of an emergency (like an illness or accident), you will be required to present your passport when you need to fly back home.
Do you need a visa for a cruise? Specific port of entries might require guests to present a visa. Some visas can be obtained online or onboard. Check out this website and input the necessary information to find out whether you’ll need a visa for your cruise.
Is it better to book a cruise early or late? There are pros and cons to either. Booking early means you can plan your itinerary well and choose your preferred cabin. However, if you have any last minute changes, you might be charged. Booking late means you can find bargains for cabins for lower rates. The downside is you can’t be choosy with the cabin you get and if you live far from the port of entry, booking a last minute flight can be expensive!
Do travel agents help you save money on a cruise? The rates offered by a travel agent are typically the same with booking a cruise directly from the cruise line / website. Agents sometimes have access to group pricing though (bulk buying for cabins). Plus, agents can offer extras or perks like prepaid gratuities, free onboard spending money and complimentary wine or dinner.
When is the best time to go on a cruise? The answer depends on the type of cruise you want to go on. For example, if you’re cruising to Alaska, the best months are June and July especially for wildlife spotting. This is also the peak tourist season (considering the short sailing period from May to September only). Cruising to the Caribbean? It’s a year round destination but it’s best to avoid sailing during hurricane season. Also take into consideration your goals for cruising! If you want to avoid tourists and high rates, go for the off season.
Do cruise ships avoid storms? Cruise ships are equipped with advanced weather monitoring systems. Cruise captains monitor weather changes intensely and can predict the path or intensity of a hurricane. Additionally, cruise ships move faster than hurricanes, staying out of its way and avoiding trouble. If ever a certain port of call is considered a danger area (because of a storm), the cruise ship can reroute and find an alternative port to dock.
What is the average cost of a cruise? A typical 7-day cruise costs around $700 to $1,400 (including taxes and gratuities). This rate doesn’t include extra tips, special meals, shore excursions and airfare.
Is food free on a cruise? Your cruise fare includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. These meals are available on the main dining room and buffet deck area. Other casual dining areas like pizzeria, burger and barbecue areas are also included in the cruise rate. However, you have to pay to eat at specialty dining areas (themed restaurants) as they’re not included in the cruise rate.
What drinks are free on a cruise? Water, flavored water, juices, regular tea or coffee are free on cruises. Sodas aren’t usually free (except on a Disney cruise). The same goes for specialty drinks, beer, wine and cocktails.
Do you have to tip on cruises? Most cruise lines have prepaid gratuities. If you opt not to pay for it before your cruise trip, you may be charged on a per day basis. If you don’t withdraw or reimburse gratuities, then tipping extra isn’t required (though appreciated).
Is alcohol allowed on a cruise? Most cruise lines (except Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises) allow 1 to 2 bottles of champagne or wine onboard. Only a few cruise lines aren’t as strict with alcoholic beverages (including Seabourn Cruises and Silversea Cruises). Note that only those who are of legal drinking age are allowed to bring these beverages onboard.
What items are not allowed on a cruise? Different cruise lines have varying rules on which items are allowed and not allowed on the ship. It’s best to check your cruise line’s website to learn more about their restrictions. Below is a general list of items typically not allowed on a cruise ship:
✘ Firearms, ammunitions and weapons (including realistic replicas)
✘ Sharp objects like knives and scissors with blades more than 4 inches
✘ Any illegal drugs and substances
✘ All explosives and flammable liquids including fireworks and torch lighter
✘ Potentially dangerous sporting equipments (baseball bats, hockey sticks, etc.)
✘ Items that generate heat or produce flame (like coffee maker, clothes iron, electric kettle, etc.), hair straighteners and curling irons are allowed in most cruise lines
✘ Hoverboards, scooters, roller skates, etc.
✘ Extension cords with surge protector
✘ Self defense items including pepper spray
✘ Remote controlled helicopters or drones (some cruise lines allow these but you can only use them off board)
✘ HAM radios, walkie talkies (some cruise lines allow this), satellite phones, etc.
Different cruise lines and their types
There are many different cruise lines around the world with various ships. The most common type is the mainstream cruise ship. This cruise type appeals to the masses because of the numerous activities and amenities onboard. A luxury cruise is more spacious and has upscale cabins or suites. It also has more sophisticated amenities and dining options.
River cruise ships sail on smaller waterways and canals. These types of cruise appeal to couples, not so much families. And finally, there’s the expedition cruise ships which sail to more remote regions of the world. These ships are smaller than the mainstream or luxury cruise ships. This last type of cruise is perfect for explorers and nature lovers.
Here’s a list of the most popular cruise lines around the world:
We hope this guide answered all your questions about cruising!
Stay tuned because we have a lot more cruise blog posts in store for you!