Home » What to Bring on a Cruise: The Definitive List

What to Bring on a Cruise: The Definitive List

It can be difficult to know exactly what to bring on a cruise, making packing a challenge for first-timers. When you’re out in the middle of the ocean, you can’t just pop into the next shopping mall to pick up an item you forgot.

What you need is a cruise packing list that takes into account the cruise line’s day and evening dress regulations, the activities you’ll be participating in both at sea and in port, the equipment you’ll need for getting there and making your cabin more comfortable, and the basics you’ll need for everyday life and emergencies.

We’ve compiled a list of the absolute must-haves for any cruise vacation. Get ready for everything on your next cruise by following our comprehensive packing list.


What to Bring on a Cruise

Daytime clothing

Start with the fundamentals, like what you’ll wear each day, while preparing for a cruise.

During the daytime hours on all cruise lines, and especially on the larger ships, casual attire is the norm. Casual daywear on a more affluent or luxury cruise ship tends to be more fashionable and sophisticated, so you may feel out of place in your Target tee.

What you bring on your cruise will depend, in large part, on where you’re going and the weather. You’ll want to pack light and breezy beachwear for a cruise to the Caribbean, but sturdy hiking gear and heavy layers for Alaska’s unpredictable weather. Clothing that covers the shoulders and knees may be required when visiting holy places in the Middle East and Asia.

Pack a jacket for that Bahamas trip or a short-sleeved top for that Arctic sailboat just in case the weather turns out to be abnormally warm, chilly, or damp.


Evening clothing

Norwegian Cruise Line is one cruise line that doesn’t require passengers to dress up for dinner. In contrast, several cruise lines require passengers to adhere to rigorous dress requirements when dining on board. For cruises on those ships, you’ll need to add some finer garments to your cruise packing list.

Resort casual and elegant are the two main categories for evening clothing on cruise ships. Consider a date-night outfit for laid-back Fridays. Some cruise companies do allow jeans in the evening; match them with pretty outfits and stylish shoes.

Cocktail dresses, suits, ties, and jackets are typically worn on formal occasions. If you’d rather not dress up for dinner, you can order room service, dine at the buffet, or head to one of the hotel’s more relaxed eateries. On formal nights, certain cruise companies prohibit guests who are not appropriately attired from entering specific restaurants and shows.

What to Bring on a Cruise


When preparing for a cruise, shoes alone can quickly take up all of the space in your carry-on. For the trip, the ship, and the walking in port, a good pair of travel shoes is an absolute necessity.

Pack your sneakers for the cruise’s sporting events, your flip-flops for the pool and beach, and your formal shoes for the evening. Try to coordinate your clothes, ladies, so you can get away with bringing just one pair of heels. On rocky shores, you could benefit from wearing hiking boots, water shoes, or even casual or sports sandals.

Lay out all the pairs of shoes you anticipate bringing on the trip and evaluate which ones can do double duty. Waterproof athletic sandals (like Keens) are ideal for a Caribbean cruise because they may be worn as travel shoes, beach shoes, and tough activity footwear. A beautiful pair of flats can be worn both throughout the day and at night.


Toiletries and medicine

Soap and shampoo are standard amenities on cruise ship cabins, much like they are in hotels. Conditioner and body lotion are also available from some establishments. It’s difficult to tell if the onboard hair care items will work well with your hair or if you’ll find the aroma offensive.

Bringing your own toiletries is the safest option. It may be difficult to find your preferred brands in unfamiliar locations, and the cruise ship’s onboard store may charge exorbitant costs for basic essentials. (Here are some other items that are not worth purchasing either in port or on the trip.)

You should bring your own hand sanitizer on the trip, even though there will be dispensers available.

If you intend to swim in the ocean, you should use sunscreen; if possible, use a sunscreen that won’t harm coral reefs. Bug spray is also essential, especially in Alaska, where residents joke that the mosquito is the state bird.


Cabin enhancements

First-time cruisers often have no idea how much more comfortable they can make their cabin on a cruise ship. You can get by with just bringing a few essentials from home.

Many cruise cabin walls and doors are magnetic (Did I just blow your mind?), so I prefer to pack magnets both as amusing decor and for organizing purposes. A magnetic whiteboard can be used to leave notes for your traveling companions, while magnetic clips and hooks can be used to keep papers and headwear off the desk and couch.

Electrical outlets and USB connections are strategically placed in all cabins on modern cruise ships. Older cruise ships, however, often lack sufficient power outlets. If you wish to charge numerous devices at once (and use any 220V European outlets in the cabin), you should bring a power strip, multi-prong outlet, or power adapter/current converter.

Make sure your power strip doesn’t have a surge protector, as they are typically not allowed on cruise ships either.


Port day gear

It’s important to bring supplies for your planned port excursions. Make sure to leave some wiggle room on your cruise packing list for items that may need to be swapped out depending on your itinerary.

Wherever your cruise takes you, a sturdy yet lightweight backpack is essential for transporting your belongings on shore. Those that have side mesh pockets are great since you can store a water bottle there.

Binoculars and a good camera (rather than just your phone) are essential in places as beautiful as a small Alaska cruise and Scandinavia. Extra parts like batteries, chargers, and memory cards should also be considered.



When it comes to their wardrobe and footwear, many cruisers have a tendency to bring too much luggage, but they frequently fail to bring other requirements. When you take your luggage out of the closet and start packing for your next trip, go to this list so that you can make sure you have everything you need, not only in terms of clothing but also with regard to those accessories that are so vitally necessary.


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