The Ultimate Cruise Packing Checklist (+ Helpful Packing Tips)

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Going on a cruise and not sure what to wear? Unsure about all the packing essentials you need to bring? Then you’re in the right place.

The great dilemma of any woman’s life is how she is going to present herself to the public, especially what to wear on a cruise.

A cruise is the ultimate catwalk. There are opportunities to wear lounge chair wear, swimwear, walking wear, dinner wear, workout wear, formal evening wear and of course, on shore excursion wear.

It can be overwhelming figuring out what to pack for a cruise, so to help you out, we’ve prepared this guide on the ultimate cruise packing list so you can load up the essentials.

Carnival Vista Ship on the ocean in the Grand Caymans
Safe and sound in the Grand Caymans

What to consider when packing for a cruise vacation

caz and daughters' posing on cruise deck
Casual outfits for sun and adventure

To help you start packing, here are a few questions to consider. After all, no two cruises are the same, and what you pack largely depends on your destinations and the cruise liner you’re traveling with.

For example, if you’re embarking on an Alaska cruise, you can expect cold temperatures and more adventurous expeditions, or an Avalon waterways cruise in Europe is a small, intimate cruise with a luxury feel.

By answering these questions, you can adapt your packing and cruise outfits for any destination and length of cruise.

Grab a coffee and a pen and start planning your list for your cruise.

1. What will the weather be like?

The ultimate question when deciding what to wear on a cruise is what will the weather be like. Cruise wear is governed by what the sun, rain and wind are doing!

Of course, you don’t have a crystal ball, but the weather forecasts should help with your cruise planning.

Before our Carnival Vista Western Caribbean Cruise we had our eyes peeled to it thanks to the arrival of Hurricane Irma!

2. How long is the cruise?

There may not be any chance to do laundry on a cruise, so consider the number of days to know how many pairs of undies and change of clothes you need.

Be sure to consider day wear (activities based) and evening attire (casual and more elegant evenings).

3. What type of cruise activities am I doing?

Good planning is essential for a happy cruise.

Research your cruise for the kind of activities they offer and what outfits you’ll need, not just for the boat but your on shore excursions too.

Is it more than likely you’ll be spending most of your time in a swimsuit and flip flops, or in hiking boots and rain gear?

Our simple cruise packing checklist (which you can download a free printable copy of below) will help you.

4. What are my luggage limitations?

The luggage police are out to restrict our wardrobes. Plan carefully, you don’t want to get stuck with excess luggage fees getting to the cruise (if you fly).

Cruise luggage limits are typically 2 x 50 lbs (23kg), although they do recommend you bring only one suitcase. I also recommend that!

5. What’s my transportation to the cruise and back? (Bag drag)

If getting to the cruise departure port involves dragging your bag around, you may want to reconsider how much you pack.

If you are moving from your front door, to the car, to the cruise front door, you might feel okay with packing a little more as you won’t be lugging the luggage.

My packing list will work for any kind of cruise. It’s simplistic so you don’t over pack or over stress.

I’ve not listed quantities so you can use it for any length of cruise. I think you can easily determine how many dresses, shorts, undies and tops you need.

It all depends on the length of your cruise and your activities.

What to wear on a cruise ship

caz on lounge chair in prana swimsuit
Lounging all day in swimwear is great

Okay, let’s dive into a little of the types of cruise clothing you’ll need.

Excursion outfits

What are you going to do when you are in port? This will determine what to wear.

For example, on our recent cruise, here were our three island destinations and what I wore.

  • Ochos Rios, Jamaica – we were zip lining and walking through the water up waterfalls. I wore my board shorts, costumes, and a simple tank top, my Keen shoes and my day pack.
  • Grand Cayman Island – we hired a car to cruise the island. I wore my swimsuits and a summer dress with my flip flops
  • Cozumel, Mexico – we had a lazy beach day swimming in the ocean. I wore my swimsuit, kaftan, beach dress and flip flops. Beach bag had cruise towels, reading book, journal and sunscreen.

If you are exploring the city, you might wear shorts and a tank top.

Whatever your activity, make sure you have comfortable walking shoes as the days can be long and the feet sore.

On board the ship

Your cruise wear will be multi-dimensional on board the cruise. You might put your workout gear on for early morning yoga, walks on the deck, boot camp or gym workouts.

Breakfast can be casual shorts/ skirts and tops. If you eat at the buffet, you can even walk in with your swimwear! Maybe put a kaftan over the top.

If you eat in the restaurant for breakfast or lunch then definitely wear an outfit. It can go over your swimsuit though. And make sure you wear shoes.

There are lots of activities you can do on board the ship like mini-golf, basketball, and high ropes course, which will see you more in your active gear.

Otherwise, you’ll be in your swimsuits in the water or by the pool deck. That’s when your hat, sunglasses and kaftans, and summer dresses come in handy!

It’s very laid back and casual.

woman sitting at a bar
Casual wear – pre-drinks before dinner in the Dining Room

Non-formal dinner wear

As mentioned in this post on how to stay healthy on a cruise ship, we chose to eat in the dining room every evening. I hate buffets and the food and service is far more enjoyable in the restaurant.

After lying around by the pool all day, or adventuring on land, it’s nice to switch into a different mode and dress up a little – well out of your swimwear at least.

Even though the restaurant sounds more elegant and formal, casual dress is acceptable. As long as you look presentable and you aren’t in your swimwear in the main dining rooms, you’ll be fine.

If you plan to attend a show afterwards, or go to the nightclub, you might dress up a little more. But still bear in mind it’s not fancy fancy.

A pair of jeans, or nice pair of pants/trousers/slacks, with a dressy top is perfect. Casual dresses also work fine. You can see in our video some of the dresses I wore to dinner.

Formal Night / Elegant Dinner

It might be a good idea to check for details with your cruising company to see if there will be any other theme night during your cruise.

We didn’t know until the day it was announced that the evening was going to be white theme.

So we didn’t have any white clothes to wear to dinner. You can wear what you like and choose not to participate, but I think it’s fun to join in on the cruise themes and festivities.

We also had a formal night or elegant dinner, which we did know about in advance. In fact, most cruise liners have a formal dinner night. You can see the formal maxi dress I wore here.

cruise formal wear

The cruise formal wear doesn’t have to be anything like your high school formal. I have seen people on cruises wearing tuxedos and super fancy dresses. Whatever you want!

But, something like what you’d wear to a wedding is also okay.

You may even get to meet the Captain, so dress accordingly!

All cruises are different and I’m not sure if you can find out beforehand, but you can definitely plan for one elegant evening. Most cruise lines will have at least one, no matter the length of the cruise.

Cruise Wear Packing List

  • Shorts/ skirts
  • Tank tops / blouses
  • Casual dresses
  • Evening wear / formal cocktail dress
  • Sundress
  • Kaftan/ Kimono
  • Cardigan/jacket
  • Long Sleeved T-shirts
  • Pyjamas
  • Jeans/casual pants
  • Semi-dressy tops
  • Workout gear
  • Swimwear – I’d pack two pairs
  • Rash shirt (sun protective shirt)
  • Underwear – pack enough so you don’t have to worry about washing.
  • Bras
  • Socks – 1-2 pairs should be fine, depending on your activities.

The ship will provide pool towels you can use and you can take them with you when you get off at each port.

What to Pack for a Cruise List

Now you have the main clothing out of the way, let’s look at the other items you will want to bring with you.



  • Scarf
  • Hat
  • Evening purses
  • Beach bag/ day pack
  • Cross body bag – just makes carrying your personal items so easy and it stays secure to your body. I like this kinda style.
  • Jewellery

First Aid

There are medical staff on board the cruise and you can access if needed. But why see them ($$$), or pay for expensive forgotten items at the ship store, when you can remedy a lot of ailments with your own first aid kit.

  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sunscreen or spray
  • Band aids
  • Medications – carry any required medications (+ extra just in case your cruise is made longer due to hurricanes!!)
  • Panadol / Ibuprofen
  • Thermometer – the one item I recommend you don’t forget to pack when traveling with kids.
  • Seasickness prevention
  • Tea tree oil – great natural antibacterial. Good to put on pimples too.
  • Liver tonic – you’ll be indulging for sure on the cruise. This liver tonic will help.
  • Probiotics – the number one best thing you can do for your health, especially when you travel, is to take probiotics.


As with any resort or hotel, you will be given basic toiletries to use in the bathroom. My hair is disgusted with me when I use them so I bring my own.

As I mentioned in the video I was lugging my big shampoo and conditioner which is a no go. I lost my silicone travel bottles, You might want to take an extra one for conditioner.

Keep them in a zip lock bag (pack extras) as well in case of spillage during transportation.

Pouches like this or small makeup bags are good for carrying your face creams, sunscreen, or anything that may squeeze out all over your clothes.

In the packing accessories section, you’ll find some links to good hanging toiletries bag as well as other specific items I love.

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Face Wash
  • Face Cream
  • Soap
  • Make up Remover
  • Make Up
  • Bobby Pins
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Brush
  • Hair bands
  • Hair accessories
  • Hair straightener / curling iron – may come in handy for elegant night, if you want to go all out!
  • Razor – or just shave the night before you go
  • Magnetic hooks or towel clips – not essential, but a nice to have

If you like natural and organic products, I buy mine on Thrive Market and have it delivered to the door. I save an average of $60- $100 every shop on quality organic products with this online shopping site. It’s the best! Click here to get a 25% discount on your first shop.

Other Essential Accessories for Cruise Travel

  • Packing cubes – the perfect way to keep an organized suitcase. Makes it so easy to find what you want and eliminate chaos, especially if you don’t have a closet or drawers in your room. These packing cubes are so pretty and have multiple sizes in the set.
  • Hanging Jewellery organizer – Absolute lifesaver. This is similar to what I have. I love that it hangs and I can easily choose jewellery to match my outfit.
  • Underwear organizer – I don’t know how I packed a suitcase before this Underwear Organizer
  • Laundry bag – Throw your dirties  in a separate bag. I love colourful laundry bags like these.
  • Wet and dry bag – Super useful on a cruise with all the wet gear you’ll have. Go for the color again like these wet and dry bags.
  • Charger and cable bags – I love how organized this keeps my electronics
  • Toiletry bag – I like mine to be a little bigger – I carry too much as you saw in the video!

Entertainment + Electronics

Truly minimize your tech gear as much as you can. Cruising is a great way to unplug and reconnect with your love ones.

I highly, highly recommend you leave the kid’s devices, including their phone, at home. They won’t need it and they won’t miss it. There are so many awesome activities for kids to do on cruises. Our girls were never bored and never once asked for their tablet.

  • Reading  – traveling with kids, there’s possibly not a lot of chance you’ll read your book. I think I got five minutes.
  • Journal
  • Camera – I bought this Panasonic LUMIX mirrorless camera. Can’t wait to try it out. A great mid-range camera for a good price!
  • GoPro – We currently have the GoPro Hero 11 A cheaper alternative is the Akaso action camera
  • Gorilla Pod – A very easy tripod to carry and take any kind of photo with.
  • Selfie sticks – If you want one!
  • Power board or power strip – there will be a lack of power sockets in your cabin so it is a great idea to bring a power board if you have a lot of electrical items. I like this power board with the swivel outlets for those awkward socket positions
  • Power adaptor – essential if you are traveling internationally.
  • USB cable for your phone.
  • Laptop – we travel with ours as work and travel are rarely separate. Leave it at home otherwise. But if you must, we absolutely LOVE our Microsoft Surface Book. The first time I’ve been a cult fan of a lap top.


You might want a pretty travel wallet to carry documents and passport in. This is my next travel gear purchase. I’m tired of having all my important documents scattered everywhere.

  • Passport – Americans don’t need passports on Caribbean cruises. However, many passengers were stuck on the boat and could not leave to avoid Hurricane Irma because they did not have passports and so could not fly out of Mexico. It was a nightmare for them. You just never know what might happen.
  • Government issued ID or drivers licence
  • Cruise documents – itineraries, booking receipts, luggage tags and excursion tickets
  • Credit cards or debit card
  • Travel insurance policies
  • Documents for visas if you need them

Travel Insurance for Your Cruise

Too much can go wrong when you travel. Don’t leave home without a comprehensive travel insurance policy. We used ours thanks to Hurricane Irma.

We’re still waiting for our claim to be processed, fingers crossed it will go through.

If it does it will save us $2,000 which is what we paid in having to get ourselves off the boat early in Cozumel, Mexico and home to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Check out travel insurance policies here. 

Packing Bags and Suitcases For Your Cruise

Now you know what to pack, it’s time to show you some of our favorite bags and suitcases for putting your items in…


We bought the Delsey hard case spinner suitcase for my checked luggage, which I absolutely LOVE.

I’m a frequent traveller and this suitcase suits me for some many reasons. It’s not perfect as no suitcase ever will be but it’s the best I’ve had so far. the things I love most

  • The pink color – easy to pick on the luggage carousel
  • The four wheels – so easy to roll around
  • How it folds open with two sides. On one side is a zipper section and inside I keep my shoes and accessories. I did not have this suitcase for the cruise so you won’t see it in the video.

Day Packs

Day packs, or carry-on bags, are great for when you go on land – depending on your shore excursion.

I recommend a backpack over a shoulder bag – otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of time at the chiropractors on your return home.

Spend a little extra for quality and for women,  get a day pack made for women. It makes a HUGE difference.

I love the look of this day pack from Osprey. The design means you can get away with it looking chic in the city as well as in the forest.

Some of my favorite day packs are:

Beach Bag

I regret not having a large beach bag. They really do make days around the pool or beach easier and are far better at organizing than a day pack.

I love the look of this beach bag because it’s waterproof, has lots of storage space, and packs up small in the suitcase. I have bookmarked it for next summer.

Cruise Packing Tips For You

people looking out at port from cruise deck

I filmed a video sharing my tips for packing for a cruise.

I go through how I lay out everything, my cruise essentials, lifesaving packing organizers, and what I packed for our recent 6 night Western Caribbean Cruise – the one where we were on the run from Hurricane Irma.

One packing hack I forgot to mention in the video is to be sure to pack a tote bag/ day pack for when you first board the ship.

Check in as early as you can so you can have more time on the ship using the activities. Your suitcases will be checked in (just like on the plane) and porters will deliver them to your room, which you often can’t get access to until later in the day.

So pack what you need in your tote bag: i.e. swimwear, reading books, hat, etc. for whatever you want to do on board the ship until you can check into your room.

I recommend when you arrive in your stateroom, to unpack and put your clothes away.

The cupboard space in cruise cabins is limited, especially if you’re sharing with the whole family. They usually have plenty of hangers.

Put your suitcases under the bed when you’re done. You’ll appreciate the organization as your time on the cruise passes.

Cruise Packing Checklist

Free cruise packing checklist

Now this packing list is geared towards women, however, the majority of it can be adapted for men and definitely for kids

My cool freebie for you is my simple Cruise Packing List. Fill in the form below for your copy and then print it off and check off all items when you are done.

Save time with this cruise packing list + personal updates and insider tips! 
Featured Image

As mentioned I am not giving you a quantity of each item. It depends on your activities and the length of your cruise. You decide and plan it out before packing. Mix and match as much as you can.

Remember less is more!

No one will notice if you wear the same outfit twice and a kaftan is more than adequate for each day on board the ship.

I have linked to some of these cruise essentials and lifesaving packing organizers to products on Amazon.

Final Thoughts

Wow! I think that is all you need to know for your upcoming cruise vacation!

Before you leave, be sure to download your easy checklist so you don’t miss anything. It’s free.

Bookmark this page, so you can easily find some of the cruise essentials and specific ideas I had for some of your packing list items.

Thanks for sticking with me to the end and have an amazing cruise.

Please, if you found this useful, and know someone going on a cruise, share this post with them to help save them time!

Have you considered River Cruising?

We recently experienced an 8-Day Danube River Cruise with Avalon Waterways and enjoyed it way more than ocean cruising. Here are reasons we loved it, why we think it’s great for families, and thoughts from our teen and tween on river cruising.

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Where are you going on your cruise? Has this cruise packing list post been helpful? Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments.

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