Packing for any vacation can be a nightmare, the thought of stuffing various belongings into your bags is overwhelming. Fear no more, introducing
We have another cruise booked for later this year — yeah! This time, we will be hitting the sea on the MSC Poesia for seven days with Moni’s sister and the oldies. Having cruised in February with Moni’s sister, the rest of the family want to experience the joy of cruising. With the family being virgin cruisers, I decided to post this packing list for a cruise to help them (and you).
I want to make sure that the folks rock up to the terminal relaxed and stress-free knowing that they haven’t overpacked and better still, not forgot the essential things.
I have seen plenty of people waiting to embark with an ensemble of large suitcases struggling with them over to the baggage handlers, while others rock up with just one decent bag… in most cases you can tell who is new to cruising.
I remember that we were once like that, with far too much stuff for a cruise. I wish back then I’d been better prepared.
Pack, re-pack and then pack again
Now that the cruise deposits have been paid, the questions about ‘what to pack for the cruise’ and ‘what is it like on board the ship’ have started. Hopefully, my Ultimate Cruise Packing Checklist will answer some of the classic cruise packing questions.
Side note: having been roaming around the globe since March 2014, Moni & I don’t have a packing list anymore, as we are always living out of our bags. The positive thing about that is, each time we are going on a cruise or anywhere for that matter, we just pack up all our stuff and off we go knowing we have exactly what we need.
Why listen to us?
With 11 cruises behind us and multiple flights since leaving Australia, it would be fair to say that we have exactly what we need, nothing more nothing less.
This works for us right now, but may not be exactly what you need for your cruise or travel plans. So with that in mind, I have put together this comprehensive cruise packing list that will help any first time or even experienced traveller to pack and not forget anything.
Below is a pin-able .jpg version of the “ultimate packing cheatsheet for a cruise”.
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12 Questions to ask before packing anything for your cruise?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of packing for your cruise, it is important to think about what you want to experience from your cruise. Let me help you out here.
Do you intend to;
- swim every chance you get
- spend hours in the hot tubs
- exercise in the fitness centre
- relax in the sun loungers
- dine in speciality restaurants or the buffet
- dress up for the formal or elegant chic nights
Questions about your cruise;
- how long is the cruise, 3,5,7,14 nights or even more
- has it many sea days or lots of port stops
- what time of year are you cruising, spring, winter, Christmas
- is it an Alaskan, Mediterranean, Caribbean, TA or another cruise
- what sort of cruise line are you booked on
- what is the dress code for the cruise
Asking yourself these questions (and probably a few more which I forgot) before you even consider getting out the suitcase will determine how successful you will be when you actually start to pack.
The Ultimate Packing List for a cruise that I have compiled lists everything for a cruise, whether in summer or winter, whether you intend to go formal or not. As long as you can decide what your cruise day would be like, you will have a well-packed suitcase when boarding for your vacation.
Even though I have listed hats, gloves, and scarves, it is obvious to me that you wouldn’t need them when cruising the Caribbean (well I hope not), so please consider this when checking off your packing list.
Say goodbye to overweight luggage and splitting sides
Another very important point is weight. Even though cruise lines don’t limit you to any weight (very nice of them), just remember that you probably will have to fly to the cruise departure port and all flight carriers have weight restrictions. Any over the limit luggage will be very expensive.
Something else you want to consider as well that is different from most other destination vacations. If you forget something, you can’t just run off to the local Myer, Carrefour, or Wallmart to buy another. Yes, cruise ships do have shops onboard and carry quite a range of products, but you will pay a premium for them and also certainly not have the choice you’re used to. Avoid forgetting things and use a reliable checklist.
My packing list is not a gender specific cruise packing checklist (isn’t that a hot topic today), it covers all items no matter what. Just leave out of your luggage what doesn’t apply to you on the list, it’s that simple.
Savvy packing tip: if traveling with a partner or family members, always pack some of each other’s items into each suitcase.
It would not be fun if your husband has his clean change of clothes for dinner and you’re still waiting for your bag to turn up. Worse still, either of your bags gets lost and you have to fork out for a new set of items to tide you over. With a mixed suitcase, you’ll be both covered if one goes missing.
A quick word on luggage. Luggage bags are thrown around without much regard for contents. Soft-sided luggage and hard-sided luggage seems to perform best especially when not over-stuffed.
The Ultimate cruise packing checklist
In the Ultimate cruise packing checklist, you’ll see that I have broken it up into sections. This is a screen shot of the pdf file that you can print out and check off as you pack.
Let us take a closer look at what those sections entail.
What are the essential cruise items that you must pack?
These items are what I’d class as ‘must have’s’, not just for cruise travel but any travel. Flights, a weekend away, the lifelong dream destination trip to Africa or Europe.
Consider a small over the shoulder travel pouch, or fanny pack for passport, credit cards, tickets, etc as these items should be kept on you at all times.
Essentials for a cruise holiday
- Cruise e-tickets. (These you must print out before arriving at the terminal)
- Passports (Make sure they are valid long enough, usually a minimum of 6 months)
- Visas (depending where you go)
- Driver’s license or other photo ID (Needed when going ashore)
- Student ID for cheap entries
- Copies of these items (keep in separate bag)
- Other travel documentation, such as airline tickets, rental car confirmation, hotel reservation, limo service etc, you book it take the paperwork with you.
- Vaccination certificates (needed for certain cruise destinations)
- Immunisation Records
- Medical insurance cards
- Travel insurance details (Check that you are covered for the area and the type of activities you might get up to)
- Emergency contact information (Keep a note of all your emergency details, just in case)
- Wallet & Credit/ATM Cards
- Details of Financial Company (Inform your financial company of where you will be going so they don’t suddenly put a block on your cards)
- Cash (Small denominations will come in handy)
- Foreign Currency (If needed. Organise this before you go as ship’s only carry a limited amount, if any)
- Reading Glasses & spare pair
- Contact Lenses & cleaner
- Prescription drugs & Medication
- A Copy of Doctors Prescriptions
- Black Marker Pen
- Lanyard (For cruise card)
- Emergency Snack Food
- Zip lock bags (Good for leaky items, wet items etc)
- Duct Tape (You never know what for)
Many of these essentials should be kept on you at all times while travelling. Depending on what your preference is when travelling you might have a fanny bag, handbag, or just use your pockets.
Moni & I both have 35-litre backpacks (carry-on) and a small shoulder bag/fanny-bag (personal item) each. Let’s move on to the next section.
What clothes do you need when cruising?
This is where you will probably have too many items. Here I suggest that you keep in mind the type of cruise, the length of cruise, the destination weather and what you intend to experience.
With that in mind, you might not need cold weather clothes or many nice evening shirts, you might not need swimwear, you might not need formal evening attire, dress shoes etc.
Pack, re-pack and then pack again is quite a good way to go about packing for your vacation.
Bellow is a list of clothing items that covers pretty much everything. I hope you don’t pack everything, lol. Saying that, Moni & I have items for all weather occasions and we keep that at 20kg and a 35-litre backpack as carry-on. And we do that while living on the road as we do moving from place to place.
Savvy packing tip: using packing cubes can help keep your suitcase tidy and reduce space. Always remember to fill every cavity, for example, push socks into your shoes or put your spare reading glasses in them. Be creative when packing.
Clothing for a cruise vacation
- Day Socks (comfortable ones for when you are doing lots of walking)
- Ankle Socks
- Black Dress Socks
- Tights (plus spare)
- Casual Trouser (jeans)
- Casual Trouser for dinner
- Casual shirts or Polo
- Blouses (smart tops)
- Dress Shirts
- Ties & Bow Tie
- Suit or Tuxedo (for formal nights)
- Exercise tops (fitness center)
- Evening Jacket or Sports Jacket
- Dress or Dresses or maybe a…
- Outfit for informal nights on ship
- Outfit for formal nights on ship
- Outfit for casual nights on ship
- Evening Gown (formal night)
- Throw or Pashma
- Shorts or 3/4 pants
- Watches and jewellery
- Belts if needed
- Accessories Costume jewellery
- Sleeping Attire (Lingerie, pyjamas)
- Multiple swimsuits (beach attire)
- Swimsuit cover-up (sarong)
- Dress shoes
- Casual shoes
- Beach or Pool shoes (flip-flops, crocs)
- Exercise shoes
- Windbreaker or Fleece
- Sweater or Cardigan
- Rain cover or jacket
- Sun hats, Caps or Beanie
- Thermal wear
Bathroom accessories can really weigh you down
The next section is all about bathroom toiletries. This is where a lot of personal preferences can really expand your luggage. If you have your favourite shower gel or hair conditioners etc that you desperately need then take them. For those that are happy to use any brand then leave those things behind.
Most cruise lines, like most hotels/motels, provide soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Also things like shower caps, Q-tips, and body lotion.
Savvy packing tip: fill any liquids from your large bottles of cosmetics into small rubber bottles of less than 100ml, save space and they won’t break.
Bathroom toiletries for a cruise holiday
- Toiletries Bag (all your items should fit in a hangable bag)
- Deodorant ^
- Toothbrush & paste
- Dental floss
- Earbuds (Q-tips)
- Make-up and face care products
- Feminine Products
- Hand cream
- Shower Gel or Body Wash (Is normally provided) **
- Shampoo and Conditioner (is normally provided) **
- Hairbrushes & combs
- Hairdryer (if not in your cabin) and other hair items
- Straightening or Curling iron
- Hair styling products
- Hand Sanitiser (for going ashore, the ship has plenty)
- Aftersun Lotion (Aloe)
- Lip Balm
- Shaving cream ^
- Razors (shaver & charger)
- After Shave or Perfume
- Insect Repellent
- Ear Plugs
- Eye Mask
- Tweezers (pincers) *
- Scissors *
- Nail Clipper & File
- First Aid Medical Kit
- Motion sickness medication
- Bio-Degradable flushable wipes
- Alcohol Wipes
Make sure that you try to limit yourself where ever you can, every gram is precious.
Do you really need to take all those gadgets?
Moving along, next, we have the electronics section. Those gadget lovers amongst us will really have to restrain themselves here.
Savvy packing tip: most cruise cabins have limited power points so a surge protecting power board is handy. Please not though that some cruise lines have been known to confiscate them.
If you can go without your laptop for the vacation then leave it behind. Internet costs can run well into the hundreds of dollars on cruise ship’s and the connection is average at the best of times.
You will notice that most items need chargers if you can always try and have items that use the same charge adaptor that way you can limit the amount you’ll need to pack.
Electronic gadgets for a cruise vacation
- Computer & Charger
- Kindle (E-reader) & Charger
- Cell Phone & Charger
- Camera, Lens & Charger or Batteries
- Extra Memory Card
- Video Camera & Charger
- Selfie Stick
- External Power Pack
- Surge protection Power Board
- Universal Travel Adaptor
- iPod/mp3 player & Charger
- Speakers & Charger
Next up is what I call miscellaneous extras. You might choose to put some of them into the essentials section, that’s fine, just try to limit the amount you really need. Moni & I have a few of these items with us and probably would take a couple more if only having a trip once a year say, but being location independent and moving around every three or four months limits what we can keep with us.
Miscellaneous items for a cruise vacation
- Water Filter (the water onboard is perfectly safe to drink)
- Water Flavouring tablets (even though, to some it might taste different)
- Refillable Drink Bottle
- Coffee Thermos (Travel mug), (great for taking ashore or around the ship)
- Day bag (beach bag), (this could double up as your backpack carry-on)
- Book (if no e-reader or kindle. Most ships have a library so get one there)
- Snorkel Gear
- Swim Goggles
- Swim Hats
- Playing Cards (most ships have them available from guest services)
- Shoe polish
- Thank you Cards & Gifts
- Air Freshener
- Hangable Door Organiser (can help keep the cabin tidy, and things off countertops)
- Sewing Kit
- Hammock for your balcony
- Expandable Washing line (bear in mind that most ships do not have a laundry onboard)
- Washing detergent (to wash by hand in the sink)
- Portable alarm clock (or use your smartphone)
- Waterproof camera cover (if needed)
- Underwater Camera (for diving or snorkelling)
- Addresses of friends and family to send postcards
- Small umbrella
- Swiss Army Knife *
- Highlighter pens (to note interesting activities in the cruise newsletter)
- Foreign language book or destination guidebook
- Foreign Currency (small bills for tips and souvenirs on shore)
- Money Belt or Hidden Wallet
- Tic Tacs or Chewing Gum
- Favourite sweets or chews
- Vitamins and supplements
- Plastic cable-lock ties
- Plug-in Night Light (indoor Cabins and for Kids)
- Suction or Magnetic Hooks
- Magnets (to hang things on the walls. Ship walls are metal)
- Safety Pins
- Lint brush
- Garbage Bags (e.g for dirty laundry, or for emergency)
- Washing detergent (to wash by hand in the sink)
- What should you pack when cruising with children?
If you are not going to be travelling with children then you can skip this section. You know that you could probably fill a case alone just with stuff for your kids, but believe me, there is so much for kids to do on most cruise ships these days that you probably won’t need a thing.
Check with your cruise line as to what children’s facilities and services they offer. They really do tend to promote very kid friendly cruises these days, with many cruise lines having the kids cruise for free with two paying adults.
Travelling With Kids
- Children’s Toys
- Cuddly Toy
- Favourite Movie
- Favourite candy
- Beach toys or Floatable’s
* These items could be confiscated by security when boarding, be sure to place them in your main luggage for the hold, especially on aeroplanes. ** Always fill smaller containers with these to take up less space and weight. ^ If flying to join your cruise make sure to pack only non-aerosol items.
Be sure to give us your feedback in the comments below or any more tips that would make this even better for fellow cruisers to benefit from, we are always trying to find ways to improve our packing skills.
That’s it, folks, my Ultimate Cruise Packing Checklist explained and discussed. Hopefully, you will be able to pack with more ease and less stress the next time you cruise or travel anywhere with luggage. If you missed the link in the post to download and print out the ultimate cruise packing checklist then just click that gold coloured link above and go print it.
You are welcome.