Are you heading out on a cruise vacation soon? How fun! There are so many fantastic cruise lines to choose from and great itineraries. A cruise vacation is a great way to see multiple cities or locations without having to navigate yourself! I also love being able to unpack one time and yet wake up in different ports.
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As a mom, I also appreciate being able to take advantage of the kids’ clubs with our four kids. They love meeting the counselors and hanging out with kids their age. And, dad and I like spending some time at the adult only pool or catch a dinner and actually have a conversation!
It is always a good idea to have a great packing list, whether you are first time cruisers or experienced sailors. Your specific cruise, whether it is a river cruise, an adventure cruise, a Caribbean cruise or an Alaskan cruise, it is always a great tip to check your cruise ship’s website for the latest updated info on what may be required for your cruise.
Before you sail, there are some essential questions to consider.
What type of cruise will I be sailing on?
Are you going on a river cruise with lots of daily adventures? This will require plenty of comfortable active wear and easy to wear athletic shoes or sandals. You will want an easy to wear port bag for your water bottle, snacks, and easy access.
Is it more of a beach vacation? Will you spend more time lounging the sun? Pack a beach bag that repels sand easily, some baby powder to knock off the sand at the end of the day, and plenty of sunscreen.
Are you going on an Alaskan adventure? Book that verandah room and pack some binoculars to take in all of the amazing scenery! Consider the time of year and check the weather forecast for the most appropriate clothing options.
Which cruise line are you sailing?
There is a difference in cruise lines. Some offer a family friendly cruise, some offer more of a party scene, and some appeal to older adults looking for cultural and educational experiences. Research your cruise wisely and see what makes the most sense for you and your family.
Also, consider using a travel agent. There is no extra fee to book with us, and we can help you navigate which cruise might be best for you, along with the best cabin assignment and excursion ideas.
What do I need for embarkation day on a cruise?
Your first day, embarkation day, is full of excitement! Be sure to make a list to include all that you will need for embarkation day. It is a good idea to pack a small carry-on bag or duffel bag to keep some cruise essentials. Your luggage will be checked at the cruise port, and you may not see it again for a few hours.
In your carry-on bag, remember any essential medications, your cruise paperwork and essential documents, and a fully charged cell phone with your cruise’s app loaded. If you would like to take a dip in the pool while it is less crowded, pack a bathing suit, cover up, flip flops and a change of clothes for the afternoon. I also throw in some plastic bags for wet bathing suits!
One cruise tip is to leave your beach towels behind. Most cruise lines provide pool towels and will offer you towels for the beach upon port arrival. Double check with your cruise line if you are unsure.
I also include a small bottle of hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes in my purse as we move around the ship. Of course, hand washing stations and hand sanitizers will be provided throughout the ship.
Check your cruise line’s website about what alcohol can be brought on board. Many will allow a certain number of bottles of wine or beer to be brought in in your carry-on bag. You may be charged a corking fee for opening a bottle of wine in the restaurants.
What Documents Should I Bring for My Cruise?
Again, check your cruise’s website for the most updated information on what travel documents to bring on board. These are the most important items, so do not skip this step! You may need:
- driver’s license
- Passport (check expiration date – many countries require at least 3-6 months after your cruise for expiration)
- Port Arrival time forms
- travel insurance documents
- vaccination cards
- testing results (if required)
Also, remember that many cruise lines require these documents to be uploaded to their sites before your trip begins. Be sure to double check these requirements in advance of your sailing.
What to Pack to Wear on a Cruise
There are a few general items you will need for any cruise. These will vary, depending on your ports of call, type of cruise, and cruise destination.
As a generic list, here are a few favorites to include:
- short sleeved tops
- comfortable shoes
- formal wear for formal nights and formal dinners
- athletic wear
- tennis shoes
- socks, underwear
- make up
- contacts, solution
- bathing suits
- cover ups
- flip flops
- rain jacket
- small umbrella
- day bag or beach bag for shore excursions
- credit cards
- polo shirt or button down shirts
- tank top or sleeveless shirts
- scarf, if visiting religious sites
- face masks
- curling iron
- flat iron
- light jacket
- formal handbag
- every day purse/sling bag
You will want to pack layers to stay warm in the early mornings and late nights on the ship. The wind can make things quite chilly once the sun goes down.
A great tip, particularly for your first cruise, is to join a Facebook group of your fellow cruisers. Simply search the name of your ship, along with the cruise date, and join the group. Here, you will find tips on the best shore excursions, plans for formal evenings or themed nights, and meet new friends.
Check your cruise line’s dress code for specific dress requirements, especially for the dining room of more formal restaurants. On our last cruise, I used packing cubes to stay organized. I like to choose a different color for each family member to easily unpack our bags. I also like to use a hanging toiletry bag like this one to keep all of our bathroom essential items in one place.
Essentials for Shore Excursions
The best way to prepare for your shore excursions is to take a quick glance at the weather forecast 7-10 days before your trip begins. Pack your day bag with sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, camera, waterproof phone case, charged phone with back up battery, and hand sanitizer. Don’t forget a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated.
If you are traveling with young family members, think about ordering portable food via room service the night before your excursion. I also pack zip bags in my cruise essentials to bring these snacks along in my day bag. No one wants a “hangry” child on a port excursion!
Formal Night Wear
Many cruise lines offer a formal night on board. Consider simple cocktail dresses or a black dress with nice costume jewelry instead of full blown evening wear. This is particularly true if you need to take up little space in your suitcase for evening wear. Men will want a button down shirt, nice trousers, and a sports jacket. Of course, if you want to bring a tux and formal gown, go for it!
What type of shoes are best to bring on a cruise?
Comfortable shoes are your best shoes for a cruise. Consider tennis shoes for port excursions, flip flops for the pool, nice sandals for casual lunches, and a pair of dressier shoes for your evening meals. I also like to throw in a pair of slippers to have while I am in the stateroom.
Can I do laundry on a cruise?
You can do laundry on a cruise! I pack laundry pods and dryer sheets in a zip bag in my suitcase. On our next cruise, I am also packing mesh bags for dirty laundry. I like to keep our cruise ship cabins as clean as possible, since room is limited in tight spaces.
You can also request laundry service from your stateroom hosts, if you prefer to not use the laundry facilities on your own.
Electronics on My Cruise
What electronics do you need to bring on your cruise? Of course, you will want to bring a cell phone with the latest updated cruise app. You will find that many aspects of your cruise can be controlled from your phone. On our last cruise, we were able to order and tip room service, make reservations for the kids clubs, and complete our muster drill with the help of our phones.
Remember to pack a portable charger for your cell phone as well. Keep this charged and in your day bag, just in case your phone starts to lose battery while out on a port excursion.
Remember that many cruise lines will not allow power strips on board, as they can be considered a fire hazard.
Another important thing to remember is any pre and post cruise stays. Will you be adding an additional night in Europe or the United Kingdom? Consider packing a travel converter as well. Remember, that UK and EU have two different types of converters so order carefully.
How can I stay organized on a cruise?
Staying organized on a cruise ship is so important. The cabins are small and tight, so a mess will quickly make you feel claustrophobic. The most important thing is to consider taking some time on your first day to get organized.
I pack collapsible laundry bags or hampers to store in the closet for dirty clothes. Also, pack a door shoe organizer. You can attach it to metal walls with magnetic hooks and use it to sort toiletry items of small sizes. If you have your favorite body wash or shampoo, store them in the organizer.
Pack towel clips from your local dollar store. Use them to attach pool towels to your pool chairs so they don’t blow away. You can also use them on beach day excursions. Pack baby powder to dust sand off at the beach as well. Your cabin host will thank you!
Pack a separate beach bag for your port excursions. Keep items like your sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, hand sanitizer, and water bottles inside to grab and go on port days. Remember, to also grab your ID, key card, cash, and any other essential documents you may need to exit and re-enter the cruise ship. I also keep a copy of a contact number for the ship during port excursions, just in case of emergency.
What are other essential items we need for a cruise?
A few other items you may need for your cruise essentials include:
- ear plugs
- eye mask
- motion sickness medications
- zip bags for snacks
- lanyard for room key
What should I pack for my kids on a cruise?
If you are traveling with kids, you may need a few more items to keep them happy! I let my older kids pack a travel bag with their favorite items to keep them entertained during down time. Of course, they will have loads of activities on the ship, in the kids clubs, and in ports, but it is also good to have some quiet time options.
I load new books on our kids’ Kindles for night time reading to unwind. We download new movies on the iPad to enjoy as a family on the ship. Remember, that WiFi may or may not be available, so items may need to be downloaded to be enjoyed.
For my youngest sailor, I pack crayons, coloring books, stickers, and headphones. Small tubs of play dough are also easy to throw into the bag to play with while sitting out on the verandah. I also don’t feel guilty about throwing them out before our return trip home.
When planning port excursions with young children in tow, remember to be realistic about how much they can handle. Our little one still requires an afternoon nap, so we tend to plan half day adventures when we travel with our children.
A few items to remember with babies and toddlers:
- small utensils
- sippy cups
- change of clothing
- diaper bag
- packable stroller (preferably one that can be stored below the bed)
- baby food, snacks
- coloring books
I hope this list of tips for your cruise packing list helps you as you prepare for your next great adventure! Cruising is such a fun and relaxing way to get out there and see the world around us. Please be sure to sign up my free newsletter with a cruise packing list and keep reading for more travel tips! Happy sailing!