Cruise Packing List and Essentials

Cruise Essentials: Packing Lists, Luggage Shapes and Sizes

basic things to pack

To start packing for a cruise, just like packing for any trip, the bag itself comes first. You need to learn what kind of bag (bags) the cruise company allows and how many pieces you can take per person. Generally, companies emphasize on having a single piece of luggage per person and a handbag or a backpack. The size restrictions of luggage are as follows:

Carnival:  Luggage when lying flat

  • height – 16 inches
  • width – 24 inches
  • length is not relevant
  • weight 50 pounds max
  • no locks

Carnival suggests limiting your luggage to one bag per person for traveling 3-5 days, and for the cruise of 6 days and more grab another piece if needed. Just like with the flying companies the cruising line may charge you for excess weight and dimension. All the bags including carry-on bag must have tags.

There is a porter service available at the terminal of embarking for a limited time. The service is closed at 2 p.m., meaning if you happen to arrive later, you are on your own with the luggage. Also, the company warns to carry documents, medication, and valuables with you.

Princess limits the luggage weight to 40-50 pounds and suggests 17x14x4 inches as perfect dimensions for the carry-on bag.

Royal Caribbean is very succinct about the requirements. The information on their websites states that the amount of the luggage should be “reasonable”. They strongly suggest contacting your airline if you travel by air for specific information about luggage restrictions. The luggage tags are in the Guest Ticket Booklet.

Holland America Line cooperates with two luggage-handling services. They feature transporting the luggage from your home and checking it for the flight while you are onboard of the ship.

Disney Cruise company allows a single piece of luggage per person.

All of the cruising companies suggest checking up the luggage requirements of the flying companies, especially if your trip includes cruising and flying.

Here comes handy the experience of those who travel often. They suggest using plastic bags. When you choose one, opt for a solid but light version as the weight allowance of the luggage includes the weight of the bag itself.

Many travelers say that the locks help to prevent the airport officers rummaging through your bag without your permission. Yet! All the cruise companies require no locks on the luggage and the luggage tags provided by the line you are cruising with is a 100% must. You drop off the bags before embarking the ship and the cruising stuff takes them to your cabin following the information on the tag provided by cruising company. You’d better make sure you stick the tag where it belongs in advance including your carry-on luggage.

So you’ve got:

  • bag of a size that is allowed on board of the plain
  • hand-bag
  • luggage tags

Now you have to remember that is better not to exceed the 50-pound limit or less if your air carrier says so.

Here is the perfect moment to get the packing list out. We’ve got plenty of them to fit the duration of the cruise, destination and your personal needs and preferences.

Why do you need the cruise packing list

things you need to pack

You might be the most meticulous and pedantic person ever and still forget something. It’s not a big deal, we’re all only humans after all. The best way to make sure you’ve got everything covered for the trip is print out the packing checklist that suits your cruise best, check the boxes and forget all about it.

Print separate packing checklists for you and your partner, or if you split responsibilities in a way that the partner packs all the socks for both of you and you pack the coats for both of you, make sure your lists are modified to the way you do it.
Engage your kid or teen in packing their own the luggage. When they are done just take the packing list and make sure that everything is packed and you’re good to go. It is the responsibility that a child over 10 years old can handle easily and it saves some stress for you before the trip.

Cruise lines offer printable packing checklists or what to pack section in FAQ. We strongly recommend attending thereto. The companies offer the basics and essentials packing lists. These lists are good if you want to keep things simple. Or if you are a traveler that knows his/her way around the ship very well and you pack the things you’ll miss in the first place and then go through the offered lists. Yet, if that is not your case then you just have a look at what we have for you here. Run a cross check with the lists for the cruise we offer as we have tried and gathered the tips and from expert travelers.

To begin with the cruising companies and the experienced travelers, both suggest taking as less as possible. Another smart suggestion is to pick the route with the same weather conditions as back at your home at the moment of leaving for a cruise. For example, if you are living in Minnesota, then travel to Alaska in the fall or early spring and to the Caribbean in summer. Otherwise, you will have to carry around your winter coat at 90 degrees before embarking the ship to the Caribbean.

Start packing in advance in order to have enough time to prepare the clothes you are taking with you. Check it and see if something needs washing and straightening.

Packing a luggage for the cruise

what to bring on the cruise

The Essentials

  • Swim suit for the pool and snorkeling and a cover up
  • Flip-flops
  • Underwater mask and a snorkel
  • Underwater camera (optional)
  • Sunscreen and after-sun remedy, bug repellent
  • Day-time outfits
  • Evening outfits for visiting restaurants
  • Long-sleeve shirts and middy-skirts for ladies to visit the religious places
  • Rain coat or small umbrella
  • Flats, walking shoes
  • Light sweater or cardigan (if you already have one packed in the carry-on bag, maybe you won’t need another one for a 5-day trip)
  • Bag for swimming pool, cross body bag for port days
  • Books, magazines, pocket translator
  • Zip bags for wet clothes
  • Swimming pool toys for children

Daytime outfits include:

  • Shorts and jeans
  • T-shirts, polo, tops
  • Summer dresses
  • Light sweater
  • Gym suit
  • Comfortable flat shoes, sandals, flip-flops

Evening outfits and special occasions

No need to worry too much about the evening time outfits. There are places where you can have dinner in daytime clothes, yet remember to keep the body covered. If you like, you can go to a restaurant with a dress code.

Cruisers with the experience of visiting restaurants say that you’d fit in if you wear the outfit that would suit the job interview scene.

Here are the tips offered by the cruising lines. There are the nights with the less formal dress code and the ones with the elegant dress code.

For the less formal night at the dinner, men can wear your casual outfit with a polo shirt and any pants or jeans, but no shorts.

For the ladies, any casual outfit would do except for the combination of really tiny skirt and an open top.

If you want to attend formal nights then take the advice from people with cruising experience and think of the “job interview” dress-code. You can still wear a tie and a tuxedo, an evening gown if you like. In case you don’t have such clothes and don’t feel like buying for the sake of the 2 dinner night on the ship and hoping for the occasions that the purchase pays off then opt for a white shirt and costume pants or slacks. Ladies have more options with the cocktail dresses and smart skirts and blouses.

The cruising companies often plan costume parties, so look up the theme of the party if you like to take a costume with you.

Things you might think are must have on a cruise

Do not forget about the toiletries you need. If you pack everything in your carry-on bag we suggest thinking of putting another tube of sunscreen just in case and an after-sun lotion.

Some extras you might want to take with you:

  • Hair curler, hair iron, hair dryer

Even the electric appliances are not allowed on the ship, these three items above are the exception. Your suit is going to be equipped with a low voltage hair dryer, but you can feel free to grab your own.

  • Bag for laundry

There is a laundry service on the ship so you might want to have some kind of bag for this purpose.

  • Clips

These can be used to clip the towel to the chair by the pool. It’s rather windy on the ship at the poolside, so you might want something to hold your towel down. The clips might be useful for fully closing the shutters in your suit or keeping the bathroom curtain at the place.

  • Corkscrew and wine

What a surprise! Yep, you can pack one of those, but make sure it folds or at least pack it safely so it won’t bore holes in any of your stuff. Some cruising lines allow taking 2 bottles of wine or Champaign (Royal Caribbean) per suite on the day of embarkation. You may take the unfinished bottle of wine from the diner to your suit and use your corkscrew to open it later.

  • Small flashlight

Pack a carry-on bag like a pro

main things to pack

There are several crucial aspects to consider. First is how long and by what means are you getting to the ship. If the trip is durable then you have to consider packing a change of clothes or at least a shirt and underwear. If you have any medical conditions, be sure to pack the medicines you need in advance. Also, pack a medicine to relieve a headache, nausea and stomach cramps. When you first arrive for embarkation in the morning, the traveling companies warn that you have all the necessary things with you in a hand luggage. The luggage might arrive in your suit at dinner time or even later.

Also, cruising companies suggest fetching a book or an iPad to keep you entertained.

If you plan on spending a night in the hotel before embarking your packing list should contain things that would make your night comfortable:

  • Sleeping cloth
  • A change of underwear
  • Spare shirt or outfit
  • Socks
  • Documents, tickets, ID’s, cards and cash
  • Tooth brush
  • Meds
  • Solution and container for contact lenses
  • Glasses
  • Cosmetics and female hygiene products
  • Shaving kit
  • Snacks
  • Book

It would be a good idea to pack liquids and perfume in zip-bag to prevent them from leaking. Check out the travel-size version of your favorite products. Opting for traveling versions saves space, facilitates carrying around and do not get confiscated at the airport. If you need a larger amount of cosmetics than the travel version offers, pack the full versions or another travel-size kit in your luggage.

Be smart about money and cash.  Take as much cash as you need on the way to ship an on the returning trip home. Consider the budget for shopping at the places you’ll visit during the trip on your way to and from the ship.

Your carry-on bag packing list would basically look the same (unlike your luggage items), no matter what’s your destination. When choosing a handbag opt for the one with the special pockets or sections for documents and a laptop or a tablet. If you can also picture taking your handbag to a swimming pool packed with towel, flip-flops and spare clothes, then it’s a keeper.

1. Documents

Start out with getting all of your documents straight. Print out all the information you’ve received to your email. Consider whether you need cancellation and lost luggage insurance. If you do, then take care of those in advance and make sure you have them at hand when you start to pack. You’ll need:

  • Passport
  • ID
  • Visas
  • Cruise documents from the email
  • Forms (if applicable, the e-mail from you cruising company will inform you, or you may contact them to make sure)
  • Insurance (optional)
  • Driver’s license (optional)

Even though your bag might have a special pocket for things like this you might want to get a holder for your documents or some kind of a folder. Especially the waterproof one.

2. Money

On the ship, you’ll get a card that serves two purposes, opens your suit and a card for any expenses you incur on board. The crew will ask you to provide a credit card for creating the account and drafting a bill.

Take cash for tips. Pack an envelope with 1$ bills. The experienced travelers warn from over-tipping. They have noticed that most of the cruise lines now include the service fee or auto-gratuity for the cabin attenders and dinner staff. In addition, tips are included in the bills from bars, restaurants, fitness, and spa.

When considering the amount of cash to take with you draft a budget and set a limit to your expenses.

Think of the ports you are planning to visit. What is your activity of choice? Are you heading for souvenir shopping, local cuisine or fully blown shopping with 3-course meal at the restaurant? Plan wisely.

This leads us to packing:

  • Credit card (set a limit, check the expiry date)
  • Amount of money planned by the budget of your trip
  • Tips envelope with 1$ bills

This small list would probably fit well together with the documents in the folder

3. Electrics

An outlet – you would really wish you had one of those as soon as you see what’s your cabin has to offer. You can either pack it in the luggage or opt for a perfect version of a compact outlet that is available at the local stores like Wal-Mart and Target Center. They are small enough to fit-in your carry-on bag, designed to charge multiple devices and what is crucial they do not have a cord. The ones with the cord are an often subject to confiscation.

You might want to grab your power bank with you. It would keep your phone and tablet entertaining you longer on a long-flight, hotel sleep-over, before embarking on the ship and the first few hours on the ship and on the port days where you might have a chance to find a wi-fi hotspot and connect with the social media world. Yeah, you don’t have the Internet on the ship or it might be really expensive just like the phone calls. So if you ever wondered what’s it going to be like to spend 24 hours disconnected from the outer world – you’ll finally find that out on the cruise.

No connection does not mean you can leave your phone at home altogether. Take it for sake of having to take a trip to the ship, for an emergency, days in ports and pictures if you trust your phone with a task like this.

Take a camera if pictures on the phone and tablet do not meet your quality requirements. If you take plenty of pictures, think of grabbing an SD card that would suit your camera and tablet.

Take a tablet and book or magazines – something to keep you entertained while traveling and waiting periods and maybe reading by the pool or if you like quiet evenings on the deck.

You might want to upload a season of your favorite TV-show or the cartoons for the kids and take sets of headphones for each member of the family. There’s the adapter for family movie night too.

Ok, this section goes with:

  • Outlet (optional, but necessary)
  • Power bank (optional)
  • Cell phone, tablet, laptop
  • Camera
  • E-book, book, magazines (optional)
  • Headphones, adaptor for headphones (optional)
  • Trimmer, hear—dryer (optional, if they are valuable or if you’ll need them on the way to the ship. Otherwise, pack them in the luggage)

All the electronics, except for the phone would fit nice in a light-fabric bag, so the headphones won’t tangle between every item in your bag. Keep your cell phone close in a place you are used to carrying it around so it would be at hand when needed. Keep the information send by the cruise company to your email available on your phone or downloaded on your tablet.

4. Valuables

Keep the jewelry and the watches carefully packed in suitable containers. Do not put anything of value into the luggage.

  • Jewelry
  • Watches
  • Anything of value that you’ll need for the cruise
  • Any fragile items or the ones that require special handling

5. Pharmacy

Before packing the bags make sure to put down all the necessary medications in a mini-first aide packing list. Make time to fetch them at the pharmacy. Consider all the prescribed medicines each member of your family and you have to take and count carefully. You don’t want to run out of the medication in the middle of the ocean. The best option would be getting all the prescribed medication refilled. Run through the list:

  • Prescribed medication
  • Headache and pain medications (Advil, Tylenol, etc.)
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhea reliever
  • Sea-sickness reliever (even if you’re ok with the sea, better take it and stay on the safe side)
  • Ear plugs
  • Band aids
  • Eye drops
  • Allergy medication

Keep all the medicines in their original containers. Otherwise, they will be confiscated.

6. Cosmetics and toiletries

The bigger part to this section goes into the luggage, especially if you always get sunburns and always grab a huge bottle of sunscreen wherever you go. Which is absolutely fine. But since we currently talk about packing a carry-on then we offer getting a travel size options of the toiletries products. But if you are comfortable with carrying around the full-size versions then keep on doing that.

  • Sunscreen
  • Tooth paste and tooth brush
  • Wipes
  • Deodorant (no sprays), perfume
  • Contact lenses, container, and solution
  • Hear bands and hair brush
  • (Dry) Shampoo, body wash (optional, if you really need them to be with you in the way to the ship. Otherwise, put them into luggage)
  • Make up remover, face moisturizer, lip balm

7. Clothes

Take the things that would make you feel comfortable on the plane or in the car on your way, the clothes to sleep in overnight if you’re staying at the hotel before embarking. Also, keep in mind that your luggage might be late to arrive at the ship or in the worst-case scenario, either the flying company or the ship crew might lose your bag. So to feel comfortable pack the following:

  • Underwear
  • Set of change clothes
  • Swim suit
  • Gym suit
  • Light scarf
  • Jacket
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip-flops
  • Socks
  • Pajamas

If you have a long flight or trip before embarking, you might want to take 2 sets of change clothes and 3-4 underwear.

8. Random

Small things that might add to the comfort of your trip:

  • Neck pillow
  • Foldable water bottle (this one is really handy as you can fill it up in the airport to drink water in the flight and then take it with you to pool on the ship)
  • Snacks (packed snack for traveling by plain and sandwiches for the road trip or any type of snack of your choice. Keep in mind that no perishable food allowed on the plain)
  • Any item you need before having access to your luggage 

Check the commonly forbidden items onboard:

  • Weapons
  • Illegal drugs
  • Inflammable liquids and explosives
  • Chemicals
  • Alcohol
  • Sports equipment
  • Domestic electrical appliances
  • Self-defense gear
  • Water-pipes
  • Foods that store in the fridge

For more information on the items prohibited on the ship visit the website of the cruising line or request the information from the cruising company.