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Your Guide To Packing for a Cruise Vacation

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Packing for a cruise vacation can be a daunting task for newbies. Here is my tried & true list that is perfect for your Caribbean cruise.

One of the keys to a successful trip is to make sure you have everything you need when you need it. As avid cruisers, one of the questions we get the most is, “what should I pack for my cruise?”. So, we have made a guide to packing for a cruise vacation to answer that question. We are assuming you are traveling on a week-long cruise (7 to 8 days), with two formal nights (it is your choice to dress up or skip those formal dining room nights and eat elsewhere) three days at-sea, and three ports-of-call. Modify this as you see fit. Here is your ultimate guide to packing for a cruise vacation.

Keep in mind, typical staterooms are less than 200 square feet, so optimizing for space is highly important. You can often fit your suitcases under your bed, or store dirty clothing in them to free up space as you use them. 

suitcases ready for vacation

Cruise Clothing

One of the most important things on your cruise will be your clothing. You’ll want to have several items that are great to pair with others to save room on your packing, as well as comfort, comfort, comfort. For instance, maybe you have a white blouse that can be worn with shorts by day and with a skirt at dinner. 

  • 3 outfits for ports-of-call
  • 3 outfits for at-sea day (keep it comfy)
  • 5 casual or dressy outfits for dinner (think mix-or-match-sundresses, pants, golf shirts, button-ups)
  • 2 swimsuits and cover-up
  • undergarments (bra/panties/underwear)
  • 1 formal outfit (unless you opt out of dress-up nights)
  • 2 pairs of exercise wear 
  • 2 sets of sleepwear
  • sweatshirt or a lightweight jacket
  • raincoat
  • belt (if needed)
  • shoes
    • Even if you do not plan on needing tennis shoes, pack them just in case. Some ports and excursions involve a lot of walking or walking across uneven pavement or rocks. These will be best for support and your back.
  • blue jeans (in case its chilly) 
  • outfit for traveling home

Tip: Before going on your cruise, familiarize yourself with your cruise line’s dress code (perhaps join Cruise Critic and the roll call for your ship). Every night will have a different dress code and it is best to know ahead of time what is acceptable for each (casual, smart casual, formal). This will help you decide what clothes to bring.

Tip: Stick with basic or neutral colors so you can mix and match bottoms and tops. Try wearing a blouse for dinner and then wearing it the next day with shorts for sightseeing. Consider using a scarf or other accessories to change the look of an outfit.

Tip: Try only to bring what you know you will need. You may need room in your suitcase to hold souvenirs on the way home.

packing for caribbean cruise


Personal Items/Toiletries 

Personal items take up a great deal of space, but you’ve got to have them. Keep in mind that the cruise lines furnish soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a hairdryer. Unless you like having the brands you are familiar with, you can save space by leaving those items at home. 

  • make-up
  • deodorant
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • body wash or soap
  • toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
  • hairbrush/comb
  • curling iron or straightener
  • hair spray/gel
  • hair accessories (bobby pins, ponytail holders)
  • hand soap (I’m not fond of bar soap so I bring liquid soap)
  • lotion
  • sewing kit
  • shaving cream/razor
  • lint brush
  • cologne
  • medicine Kit (pain reliever, cold medicine, antacids, Band-Aids, nausea and diarrhea remedies)

Tip: Most of these things can be bought on the cruise ship if you forget them, they are expensive.

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Carry On or Purse

When we travel, we pack our clothes and toiletries in a suitcase (which gets delivered to our stateroom), and a carry on a separate bag for things we need immediately and that we can’t take the change on them getting list. We are big Vera Bradley fans, which work perfectly to hold your goods fashionably. Our carry-on contains a swimsuit to enjoy the swimming pool for early boarding and: 

  • passport
  • cruise documents
  • flight documents
  • hotel confirmations 
  • money (cash and credit cards)
  • health insurance cards
  • jewelry (and other valuables)
  • medication
  • tissues
  • hand sanitizer
  • phone and charger
  • sunglasses, contacts, or reading glasses
  • pens and a pad of paper
  • gum or mints
  • a change of clothes (your luggage could possibly get lost) 


Since all of our electronics require charging, we like to travel with a power strip to ensure enough places to plug Most staterooms only have 1-2 ports for outlets. 

  • music player, headphones, and charger
  • converters and adapters
  • walkie talkies (a great way for families to keep track of each other since cell phones do not work at sea)
  • laptop and charger
  • camera, batteries/charger, extra memory card
  • video camera and charger


Now is where the fun stuff comes in. Your cruise will keep you incredibly busy or relaxed, but it’s always nice to have things to pass the time or to track your journey. 

  • sunscreen
  • sun visor or hat
  • water toys (great to keep children entertained)
  • books, magazines, E-Reader
  • underwater camera
  • guidebook or journal
  • carrying bag or tote (for carrying your items around the ship and on excursions)
  • water shoes

holiday cruise memories caribbean cruise


Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout. We can’t help but be prepared for whatever may come our way.

  • plastic bags
    • these come in handy to get wet clothes home at the end of your vacation.
  • snacks
    • although there is plenty of food on the boat, buying snacks can get expensive, and food is usually not available at all hours of the day.
  • water/soda
    • Some cruise lines allow you to bring drinks on board, which can help save you tons of money. You can also bring one bottle of wine per guest with some cruise lines. 

Bon Voyage

Well, there you have it, our guide to packing for a cruise vacation. I hope no matter where your travels take you that you have a blast!

If you have anything to add to our guide to packing for a cruise vacation, please let us know.

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Check out some of our other cruise posts:

Your Ultimate Guide To Booking A Cruise

Cruising New England and Canada with Holland America

Viking River Cruise: Paris to Swiss Alps

Baltic Capitals Cruise on Norwegian Star

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