Whether you are headed to the Caribbean or Alaska, there are some useful things to pack for a cruise that you’ll want to bring! If you’re wondering what to pack for a cruise, there are the usual things to pack, like clothes and toiletries. However, there are some small, helpful items that will further ensure, well, smooth sailing.
Of the many things I learned on my first cruise last year, what to pack for a cruise was among them. However, I definitely had a leg up because I listened to my aunts and uncle who are seasoned cruisers. They recommended that I add many of these things to my cruise packing list, and I’m so glad I did!
Many of these useful items can be packed in your cruise carry-on, so you can reach them easily when your cabin is ready for you.
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Cruising ended up being more fun than I anticipated. It’s a great way to see snippets of places and find destinations you may want to return to someday. There’s also something really enjoyable about traveling in a giant, floating hotel!
I went on a cruise to the Caribbean (and definitely want to go back), but this isn’t just a Caribbean cruise packing list! You’ll find many of these items are useful, no matter your destination.
To fully enjoy your time on your cruise, you’ll want to be prepared and make sure your cruise packing list is…ship shape! (Apologies for all the puns; it’s just too easy!)
Things to Pack for a Cruise Cabin
Your cabin is your home away from home while on a cruise. There are a few things you can pack to make it as functional and peaceful as possible!
In doing research on what to pack for a cruise, magnetic hooks were suggested, and they came in extremely useful! The walls of ship cabins are usually metal, so these handy-dandy little hooks can be stuck anywhere in your cabin. We used them for hanging up hats, wet bathing suits, and bags.
You can find a pack of 10 hooks for under $10 on Amazon.
One of the most important things to pack for a cruise cabin is a multi-outlet adapter. Cruise cabins don’t have many outlets, but you’ll probably want to charge your phone, a tablet, or a laptop, while possibly also using a curling iron. Luckily, they make multi-outlet adapters that are cruise-friendly, which will increase your number of available plugs.
I bought one like this on Amazon for $12!
Gentle Laundry Detergent
Among your travel-size liquids, don’t forget to pack a small bottle of a gentle hand-wash detergent, like Woolite. This will come in useful for washing out swimsuits or intimates in your cabin sink. Plus, it’s gentler on clothing than bar soap!
If you don’t want to pack a liquid, these Tide Sink Packs are super handy!
What to Pack for Around the Ship
While exploring your giant floating hotel, there are some things you’ll want to have on hand.
Towel clips are a popular thing to pack for a cruise, and for good reason. Not only do they keep your towel from blowing off your lounge chair, but they are also an indicator of “Hey, I’m sitting here, but I just hopped into the pool for a bit.”
We also found that towel clips were very useful for clipping hangers to the chairs on our cabin balcony. This system served as an excellent drying rack for wet swimsuits and clothing!
Towel clips come in all sorts of shapes and colors, but I was particularly fond of my flamingo-shaped clips.
One of the biggest mistakes I made on my first cruise was not bringing enough long sleeves. Even though our cruise went to the Caribbean and almost every day was sunny and warm, I still wish I had brought more long sleeves and pants! If I had one suggestion for what to pack for a cruise, it would be more sleeves.
For one thing, the ship was air-conditioned in the interior, so having a sweater or sweatshirt was handy just going about the ship.
For another thing, many of the specialty restaurants on board have dress codes during the evening hours, and many do not allow shorts and flip-flops during dinner. (I wish I had brought another pair of pants to wear to help switch up my dinner outfits, as well.)
Having sleeves also helps protect your skin from the sun! Long-sleeved, lightweight UPF shirts and other clothing add an extra layer of protection when adventuring onshore or on one of the ship decks.
When out and about on excursions, I like wearing a UPF one like this from EMS:Columbia Women’s Fork Stream Long-Sleeve Shirt – Size S
Small Purse or Clutch
As a woman, I’m used to (and disgruntled about) not having enough pocket space. Granted, it would be hard to fit pockets on a bikini. Therefore, I found it useful to carry around a small purse when walking around the ship.
When I was going to the pool or dinner, I was able to fit my Seapass, phone, chapstick, sunscreen, and other small essentials in my little purse. For shore excursions I brought a larger bag, of course; but it was useful to just toss my clutch in the bigger bag.
What to Pack for a Cruise Shore Excursion
When you leave the ship for a shore excursion, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need for the day! Whether you’re going on a tour, to the beach, or walking around a city, you will want to add the following things to your day bag.
If your shore excursion includes any kind of water, whether it’s going out on a catamaran or kayaking, you might want to pack a dry bag for your phone. These waterproof pouches will keep your phone safe and dry, should it get submerged or even splashed.
I was definitely glad to have packed a dry bag when I went swimming through a cavern to find a waterfall inside a cave! The photos through the plastic weren’t great, but I was still happy to have my phone with me so I could document the awesome experience!
My sister and I got this two-pack of dry bags on Amazon for under $10.
I think microfiber towels are just useful to have in general but are definitely a good idea to pack for a cruise.
While there are regular towels on the ship to use at the pools and within your cabin, if you’re going on a beach shore excursion, you shouldn’t take one with you. They’re bulky to pack and will be super heavy to carry back when they’re wet!
A microfiber towel is compact to pack and will dry quickly, maybe before you’ve even returned to the ship.
I got this Rainleaf towel on Amazon, and they come in varying sizes!
If you’re going cruising in a warm climate, it’s especially important to stay hydrated while exploring. One of the most basic, but sometimes overlooked, things to pack for a cruise is a water bottle.
While some shore excursion tours provided refreshments (usually rum punch, because, well, it was the Caribbean), it was always a good idea to bring a water bottle.
Pro Tip: If you bring an insulated water bottle, you can even put ice in it before you leave the ship!
Although I don’t endorse being on your phone when on a shore excursion, since you’re there to explore, your phone is also most likely your camera. It would be awful if you were about to get a video of your sister ziplining when your phone dies!
One of the best things to pack for a cruise is an external phone charger. That way you can take as many photos and videos as you want, without worrying about wearing down your battery.
Some external chargers nowadays are even solar-powered! With one of those, you don’t have to use one of your few outlets to recharge.
I personally have this one from Suscell, and I love that it can be a flashlight, too!
One of the things I was told to pack for a cruise was small bills. These came in useful for tipping tour guides when onshore excursions and the bartenders on the ship who went above and beyond!
It’s totally ok (and expected) to tip your tour guide and your driver (if you had one). Every island we went to accepted American currency. Although, we learned in Antigua that paper bills can’t be accepted if they’re torn or damaged.
This is location-dependent, but if you’re going on an excursion in which you’ll be swimming in the ocean, make sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen. The ocean, and its inhabitants, will thank you!
There are chemicals in regular sunscreen that cause permanent damage to coral reefs and the organisms that live amongst them. Plus, reef-safe sunscreen is actually better for your skin, as well!
I found a combo pack of All Good Mineral Sunscreen, which included lip balm and various sizes of containers that were easily packable.
I hope you found this list helpful when packing for a cruise! Is there anything you didn’t pack for a cruise and wish you had? Let me know in the comments below!
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