white cruise ship on the sea
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Ultimate cruise packing checklist: Helpful packing tips for your cruise

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Cruise vacations are back in full strength and are the best kind of vacation because you get to experience many destinations at various ports of call like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Cozumel, Aruba etc. and the ship itself without ever having to pack and unpack all the time.

Unless you choose to sail in a luxury stateroom like a suite or a mini-suite, the staterooms tend to be restrictive in size. So, to optimize the space we have, we need some hacks. And to have the best experience on a cruise, especially if it is your first time, you need to add these cruise must haves on your list.

Here is a incredibly useful checklist for your cruise packing. Make a note of these essential cruise must haves!

1) Magnetic Hooks

cruise packing tips magnetic hooks
Photo by Lisa

Magnets and magnetic hooks should be at the top of your cruise packing checklist.  Why?  Most cruise ship cabins have magnetic walls.  Unless you’re lucky enough to have a suite, space will be at a premium in your cabin.  Magnets allow you to use your wall space and keep your cabin more organized.

You can use sturdy magnetic hooks to hold hats, jackets, swimsuits, or light bags – things that you want to keep in sight so that you don’t forget them as you’re heading out the door.  Button magnets are great for holding up important notices such as your dinner reservation or your cruise daily activities planner.

Bon voyage!

Contributed by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones.

2) Outlet Extender

Traveling these days usually entails bringing along a lot of electronics for your trip—say, for example, you pack your Sony A7III camera, Kindle, cell phone, Air Pods, and battery pack to bring on the cruise with you. That’s five rechargeable electronics for just one person! 

Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, there’s usually so many things to charge in your cabin at night—and unfortunately, most basic cabins only have one to two outlets to plug things in.

So instead, bring along an outlet extender, like the Anker PowerPort Cube. This compact power strip offers three outlets and three USB ports so you can maximize your charging while you’re at sea.

Contributed by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler.

3) Packing Cubes

person holding white and blue vr goggles
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Going on a cruise vacation and don`t know who to pack all your items? Packing cubes are the perfect way to make sure you have everything you need for your trip. They are lightweight and can easily be packed away in your suitcase, allowing you to save space and keep all of your items organized. With packing cubes, you can make sure that all of your clothing, toiletries, and other items are kept neat and tidy throughout the duration of the cruise.

Packing cubes also help eliminate stress when it comes time to unpack at each port of call as everything will be easy to find and organized. Investing in packing cubes for a cruise vacation is an easy way to ensure that you have a stress-free trip!

Contributed by Martina of PlacesofJuma.

Pack a laundry hamper while you are at it too. This keeps your dirty clothes neat and at one place instead of all over the room.

4) Over-the-door Shoe Organizer

An over-the-door shoe organizer is an essential item to have while cruising. Not only can it be utilized in the stateroom bathroom, but also in the main living area of the room to maximize space and organization. 

This type of storage solution is incredibly versatile because it provides ample space for packing a variety of items. So it can hold a wide range of items that passengers may need during their voyage, such as toiletries, snacks, books, and more. 

Furthermore, an over-the-door shoe organizer is perfect for small cabins since they are easily mounted on a door without taking up too much space. 

Contributed by Brodi Cole of Our Offbeat Life.

Also read: Best useful gift ideas for travelers that they actually like!

5) Swim Suit

Man doing somersault in the ocean
Photo credit: Openverse

Whether you’re visiting a tropical island like Tahiti or simply cruising around the Mediterranean Sea, an absolute must-bring item for your cruise vacation is a swimsuit!

From bikinis and board shorts to one-pieces, there are so many options when choosing the perfect swimwear for your cruise. And if you’re feeling a bit shy and don’t want to be seen in your bikini, then a cute cover-up is always an excellent option! Plus, the cover-up can offer you a bit of protection from the sun. Either way, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit so you don’t miss out on any swimming opportunities!

Contributed by Kristin of Global Travel Escapades.

6) Towel Clips

towel clips - cruise must have
Photo by Dan Bagby

A simple but essential item you must bring with you on your cruise is beach towel clips. They can be found at most dollar stores or department stores and look like oversized laundry clips, sometimes in fun beach-themed designs. 

The pool decks can be windy on a cruise and by using a towel clip, you ensure that your towel will not be blowing away while you are enjoying the pool, stepping away to chat with your neighbors, or going to get some food. 

Not only do they help keep your towel in place but they make it makes your chair easier to locate, standing out from the rest of the crowd. 

Contributed by Dan Bagby of Honeymoon Always.

Also read: Best useful gift ideas for travelers that they actually like!

7) Snorkel Set

snorkel set - cruise must have
Photo by Allison Green

One must-pack item for a cruise vacation is your own mask and snorkel set! You should at the very least bring a mask and snorkel, but fins are also good to have because they help you snorkel longer.

It’s ideal to bring your own mask and snorkel set because then you don’t waste any time renting snorkel equipment during your shore excursions. This way, you can simply show up to the beach you want to snorkel at without having to spend time or money renting gear.

I brought my own mask, snorkel, and fin set so I could enjoy snorkeling in French Polynesia, it’s one of the best things to do in Tahiti, and it was a game-changer!

Contributed by Allison of Eternal Arrival.

8) Sunhat

When going on a cruise a good sunhat should always be at the top of your list of must-pack items. It protects your head as well as your face and eyes from sun damage.

A wide brimmed hat is best for reducing UV exposure on your face. Some even come with built in spf50 which offers protection against 98% of UVB rays.

More expensive brands are often foldable making them easy to pack. If your hat is not foldable, pack socks and other clothes below the brim and in the middle of the hat so it keeps its shape in your suitcase.

Contributed by Kristin of Scotland Less Explored.

9) Air freshener

An air freshener is a must-have item for a cruise. Cabins on a cruise liner can get stale and stuffy very quickly, especially if you are eating in the cabin, so having something to freshen the place up is important. 

We recommend getting a plug-in version with a diffuser which will create a constant background scent, rather than a spray which can dissipate quite quickly. Especially in tropical environments, the air can get musty so a fresh flow of clean smelling air will really help you cruise experience, so make sure you pack one amongst your travel gear.

Contributed by Ben Reeves of The Sabbatical Guide.

10) Lanyard/Water proof mobile pouch

Carrying your stateroom key card in your pockets or backpack may make it hard to get to in a hurry and also has the risk of dropping the key card. If you like lanyards, they are an easy worry free way of carrying the key card.

Also, to keep your phone dry, you would want to consider getting a water proof mobile pouch. If the mobile cover has a card holder, that is even easier. If you do not like lanyards, a fanny pack may come in handy.

When you’re packing for your cruise, remember to bring a waterproof and floating case lanyard for your phone. This simple accessory is great for showing off all your vacation experiences, in and out of the water!

This case gives you a convenient way to hold your phone close without worrying about carrying it in your pocket or leaving it behind. Most of us don’t even have pockets in our bathing suits, so this solves a potentially irritating issue when splashing around at sea!

Most importantly, you’ll never miss an opportunity to take awesome underwater photos and videos when snorkeling and swimming – all with the peace of mind that your phone is safe in its floating, waterproof case. Whether you’re snorkeling in Turks and Caicos or relaxing in the cruise ship’s hot tub, you’ll always have your phone on you to make lasting memories.

Contributed by Rachel Grenis of Caribbean Uncovered.

11) Dry bag

Dry bags are very useful in keeping your important documents dry and safe when you get off at a port for your adventures. Always carry your legal documents like passports and other IDs with you whenever you get off the cruise ship at the local ports.

This is as a precaution that will be extremely useful in the long chance that you miss boarding the ship at departing time from that foreign port. Get a good quality dry bag and have a stress free vacation.

Also read: Top Things to do in Big Island, Hawai’i with kids

12) Water Shoes

people walking on rocky shore holding white and brown surfboard
Photo by PNW Production on Pexels.com

If you’re going on a tropical adventure style cruise, you absolutely must pack water shoes. Not only are they essential for all the water activities like waterfall climbing and cliff jumping, but by bringing your own water shoes you will save money by avoiding the need to pay for upcharged water shoes locally.

The perks of wearing water shoes during your off-boat excursions is that they won’t slip on wet rocks and will protect your feet from rocky terrain underwater.

Nowadays, you can purchase water shoes online that look like regular tennis shoes and are comfortable to walk in outside of the water.

No matter if you’re cruising on Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, or the like, water shoes are a must!

Contributed by Alanna from Periodic Adventures.

13) Sunscreen/Suncream

Photo by Rosie Fluskey

Suncream can cost a small fortune on board cruise ships so it is wise to bring your own. This also allows you to make a good choice for the planet and pick up a reef safe sunscreen. Even if you aren’t planning on snorkelling or scuba diving, it is worth remembering that any chemicals on your skin can affect the water you are swimming in. Plus, you would be surprised, even the Mediterranean has reefs so don’t just think you need it in more tropical locations. 

Reef safe suncream uses minerals rather than damaging chemicals and still come in nice high SPFs. When you are shopping, look for the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These aren’t great for humans if inhaled but are fine on your skin so make sure you pick a cream/lotion rather than a spray. 

Contributed by Rosie Fluskey of Flying Fluskey.

14) Reusable Water bottle

Water bottle
Photo by Paulina

One of the items that you should pack on a cruise vacation is an eco-friendly water bottle. Everyone who enjoys traveling and is concerned about marine life is aware of the harm that our daily use of plastic is doing to the oceans.

It is convenient to have a water bottle with a straw on a board that will save you time going to the shop every time you get off the ship. You can fill up your water bottle in the buffet and enjoy a cold drink for the whole day because insulated water bottles can keep them cold for 24 hours. 

Contributed by Paulina of UK Every Day.

15) A good book

ebooks vs physical books
Picture Credit: Pixabay

Do you like reading? Perfect because a book is one of the best travel companions you will have on a cruise! What’s best than relaxing on the deck while reading your favorite author’s last romance? Careful to the sunburns though.

A little advice when packing, consider taking with you a book that you have already started reading. If you are unlucky and start a new book you don’t like, you will be limited your whole trip.

Or another luggage-friendly solution is taking a Kindle or Kobo. That way you can carry thousands books within a few grams.

If you like reading you will probably love our collection of the most inspiring quotes about specific destinations. Be inspired!

Contributed by Anita Sericano of Anita Beyond The Sea.

16) Formal Outfits

brown leather bag clothes and macbook
Photo by OVAN on Pexels.com

A couple of nice outfits for dinner is something you can’t miss off your cruise vacation packing list! You don’t have to dress up fancy every night, but most cruise liners advise you to dress in smart casual outfits for dinner onboard.

So whether you’re cruising with your partner, family, friends or you are cruising alone and will be eating solo in a restaurant on the cruise ship, it’s wise to pack a shirt and trousers for males, and a nice dress or top and an elegant skirt or trousers for females.

Some cruise lines like the Norwegian cruise line do not have formal nights, so you can keep it casual. But on all cruises, for the main dining room, it is recommended to dress smartly.

Contributed by Catrina of 24 Hours Layover.

Also read: Volunteer Vacations – Satisfy Your Wanderlust Without Breaking The Bank

17) A Wrinkle Release Spray

Cruise ships tend to be very strict about what is allowed on board, and unfortunately for our clothes, irons and handheld steamers are not permitted to be brought on board.

Instead, pack a wrinkle release spray to help coax out the wrinkles and creases your clothes may have accumulated while en route to your ship.

There are many brands that carry wrinkle release sprays, and you can even find travel sized ones. If you’d rather opt to make one yourself, you simply need a small spray bottle, and a ratio of one tablespoon of fabric softener to every 8 ounces of water. 

You simply add the fabric softener to your spray bottle, pack it in your luggage, and add the water once you get to your room.

Contributed by Rachel Childress of Our Vacationing Life.

18) Scarf

One of the easy must have accessory for a cruise for either men or women would be to take a scarf which really has multiple uses from a fashion accessory, covering yourself or even for those windy or cold days. Even in warmer climates scarfs can be used for a pareo coverup, an easy tank top or even a place to sit on the beach if you don’t have anything to sit on if you are needing something for those white pants or delicate dress.

Scarves are multi-purpose and easy to pack and small in scale so they can fit anywhere in your suitcase or day pack to serve for the day. You’ll find them handy for day time and into the night time especially when you want to use them as an accessory item for your outfit and add just a little bit of color or bling to any look you want to create.

Don’t pass up on bringing some of your favorite scarves for a trip and you’ll love all the fun and easy things and uses for this versatile accessory and useful item the serves many purposes for your cruising adventure.

Contributed by Noel Morata of USA Road Trip Now.

19) Camera

Travelling is all about creating wonderful memories to last a lifetime and a cruise vacation is no exception. There’s no better way to keep the memories of a trip alive than looking at photos taken on that trip. Therefore, packing a camera for your next vacation is essential. Whether you want to snap photos of all the gorgeous places you’re going to visit during the cruise or capture fun moments of you and your loved ones on the cruise ship, a good camera is a must-have for a cruise vacation.

Unlike phone cameras, a DSLR or mirrorless camera allows you to take quality photos in any condition, for example in low-light situations. Since size – and most importantly weight – always matters while travelling, make sure you choose a mirrorless camera, like the Nikon Z50 Mirrorless Camera, to keep your photography gear minimal and your luggage lightweight.

Contributed by Katerina of It’s All Trip To Me.

While you are at it, pack a compact pair of binoculars too.

20) GoPro

A GoPro is a must-pack item for a cruise vacation! Not only is it waterproof, making it perfect for all the watersports activities you’ll be able to do, but it’s also light and portable, making it easy to bring on your cruise.

With a GoPro, you’ll be able to capture all the amazing moments of your cruise, many of which will be in the water. GoPros are waterproof, so you can take them snorkeling through reefs in the ocean or in the pool on the ship.

Additionally, they are shockproof and built to withstand a range of adventure activities like parasailing and jet skiing while capturing amazing 4k videos and photos. The GoPro app also has easy-to-use editing features, so you can create amazing videos to remember your cruise vacation.

Contributed by Lora Pope of Take Me To Puerto Vallarta.

21) A telephoto camera lens

Photo by Jiayi

As you’re relaxing on a cruise, you’ll often come across gorgeous views of your surrounding destinations. However, it can often be tricky to capture them on camera, because you’re unable to go closer to the subject. A telephoto camera lens would come in very handy in helping you capture far-away subjects from your cruise, especially if those subjects are small.

With a telephoto lens, you can also get creative shots by zooming in on certain subjects and making them the sole focus of your photos. Try out the Tamron 28-200mm F2.8-5.6, an amazing travel telephoto lens for the Sony a7III – a spectacular camera with which to capture your cruise vacation.

Contributed By Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad.

22) Luggage Tags

Simple lugggage tags make it easy to find your luggage in the tons of bags that are loaded and unloaded from the ship at embarkation and disembarkations. Luggage Tags are especially useful if you have a flight to catch on the same afternoon as you disembark.

23) Custom door decor

Decorate your cabin door with cute custom magnets and personalize your stateroom and easily identify it. Cruise ship decor is definitely good to have!

24. Motion Sickness Relief

Apart from Tylenol, and general first aid you pack with your luggage for the cruise, pack some motion sickness relief medicine too. Helps a lot till you gain your sea legs!

25. Compression bags

Save luggage space by using compression bags.

Bon Voyage!!

Also read: Top 25 Hidden Gems of USA

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About Priyadarshini Rajendran 210 Articles
Priyadarshini Rajendran is a travel enthusiast, avid reader and a passionate writer. She has a few of her books published and is writing more books. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a software consultant taking breaks for her travels. Her blog is her passion and she writes about travel, books and food on the blog. She offers customized itineraries for South Indian destinations.

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