If you’ve never been on a cruise before then you’ll be glad you come across this post of mine. While I’m not the most experienced cruiser in the world I’ve been on my fair share. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to packing for a cruise. Because of the nature of a cruise, if you forget something you may not be able to replace it on the boat. Or if you can it may cost you a fortune. That’s why it’s super important to know what thing to pack for a cruise.
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One thing to keep in mind as you read below is that most cruises are different in location, weather, type of ship, ports of call and more. It’s always a good idea to check the weather for any cruise to see what it’s going to be like while you’re there. Typically 2 days lead time if you can. This is going to make a big difference when you start to throw all your stuff together.
Things to Pack for a Cruise
The Right Shoes – There’s more to shoes than meets the eye and you don’t want to be caught wearing the wrong ones. For your days at sea a nice pair of comfortable shoes is just fine. You’re not really going anywhere so it’s best to lounge around in comfort. If you’re an exercising person than you’ll want to bring some running shoes so you can hit the gym and track. If your cruise has some formal nights than you’ll want to bring some dress shoes. And lastly, if you’re headed to the beach at anytime than a good pair of sandals will be important. Some people like to do their sea day and sandals as the same and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Formal Wear – Most cruises that are 5-7 days long will have at least one formal night. If you’re not familiar with them this is where you dress in your best and go to dinner. I personally think it’s a very strange “tradition” but there are people out there who absolutely love it. The high end of this event sees guests in tuxedos and dresses and at the low end (me) some slacks and a polo shirt. I typically don’t dress up and the great thing is is that you really don’t have to. There will be lots of guests in the same boat as you if you don’t. But packing a nice shirt and some slacks and maybe a skirt is not a bad idea.
Medicine/Seasickness – If you take medicine on a daily basis be sure to pack it because the ship doesn’t have a pharmacy to meet your needs. Mostly though, plan ahead for seasickness. I’d say 90% of first time cruisers overlook this because they think the boats their own won’t have any rocking at all. Let me tell you, I’ve cruised on the biggest ship on the seas and the first 3 days were nothing but rocking. Guests were demanding refunds because they came unprepared and it was “ruining” their cruise. The number one thing to use is a prescribed patch from your doctor for motion sickness. They work like a charm and only need to be changed every 3 days or so. If you don’t get those then look to the non-drowsy Dramamine. Start taking them the second you get one the ship, even if it’s not moving. That way when it does you’ll be ready. I watch a guy on my last cruise run from a restaurant to a trash can and puke on day 2 because he thought he was fine after day 1. Just keep taking it if you’re prone to motion sickness. This is basically number one on my things to pack for a cruise.
Camera and Binoculars – You’re going to take a ton of photos and most of the time your cell phone will be enough. However, there are cruises out there where the scenery around you is too much for your phone to handle. You’ll want a decent SLR camera for these times, especially for zoom. My first Alaskan cruise I didn’t bring a camera or binoculars and regretted it because there was a decent amount of animal and ocean life to see from the ship. Whale watchers, seal gazers, bear enthusiasts etc will want to bring these two items. And be sure to grab a decent pair, not just something from your kids toy box.
Swimsuits – Yes, I have to remind people to pack them because they are an easy thing to overlook when you’re throwing all your stuff into a suitcase. The nice thing about most cruises is that you’re either going to be swimming on the boat or at a beach on one of your port days. The last thing you want to do is show up without one. Make it one of the first things to pack for a cruise!
Cash – It’s a must have. In the USA, Canada, Europe etc. were used to being able to pay for everything with a credit card. However, sometimes this just isn’t possible on smaller islands in the Caribbean or Mexico. If you think you’ll end up buying some trinkets and small gifts from local vendors then cash is a must. Even tipping off the cruise ship will require cash most likely. You’re going to use it at some point so make sure you pack it and bring something solid to pack it in. Don’t just stuff it into your pants, wallet or purchase without it being secured.
Passports/ID – If you’re leaving the United States or your home country at any point during your cruise than a passport, photo identification or birth certificate is going to be required. On my first trip to the Bahamas my entire group had passports so we had no issues. On port days you’ll exit the dock and head into the city and have your fun. When it’s time to return you’re going to have to show the port authority proof of two things: Ship and Yourself. This means that you’ll need to bring your cruise ship ID and a photo ID. Most people can just bring their drivers license and be fine. I brought my border card and some people brought their actual passport. Just be careful not to lose it if you do. For the Caribbean you can get away with a birth certificate as well but a passport is preferred. This is high on the list of things to pack for a cruise.
Door Organizer – We bring one of these with us everywhere we go and it’s a lifesaver! Basically all it does is give you more room to hold all the odds and ends so that your room doesn’t clutter up and you’re not tripping for things. We always hang our’s on the the closet door and pack it with sunscreen, medicine, shoes, snacks, jewelry, hair products, cables and more. The best part about it is that it folds up super small in the suitcase so it’s easy to pack for a cruise.
Cards/Games – On those long days at sea it’s always nice to have something to do and we tend to play cards. We always have people tell us what a great idea it is to have some. Lot’s of times we’ll play outside at a lounge or at a table while we’re waiting for a show to start. It’s a good way to pass the time and enjoy each other’s company and conversation. If you can pack some other games too, maybe some for kids that’s a great idea too.
Sunscreen – Oh man have I seen some cruisers with some serious burns. They look so painful! Because most people like to cruise where it’s warm, there’s a good chance there’s going to be some good sun exposure, so bring your sunscreen! Just because you’re on a cruise ship doesn’t mean the sun is somehow different in the way that it works. Put it on before you swim or before you get off the boat at a port. Reapply every 2 hours or so. The closer you are to the equator the quicker you can burn up. Even in Alaska during the summer there’s potential for it so don’t risk the burn. Be sure to check the UV index each day before you go out. That will give you a really good idea of what to expect and you’ll be glad it was one of the things to pack for a cruise.
Every cruise can be different some be sure to check your ports of call for weather information. Many cruises offer a formal night, trips to the beach or a pool in general so be sure to bring a paid of nicer clothes and your swimsuit. Cash is king at most ports of call so pack some with you. Don’t forget to bring proper ID including passports so you can get back on the ships or enter other countries.
Pack some games, bring sunscreen to avoid some nasty burns and make sure you’re taking some motion sickness pills if you’re prone to it. Even if you’re not it’s not a bad idea to take it.
Be sure to check back on my Top Things to Pack for a Cruise as I’m always updating it with new things and ideas to make your cruise special. You can read more about special cruise discounts and how to save a ton of money on your next cruise with my special guide.