From first-time cruiser who packed too many of the wrong things to cruising semi-pro who packs the essentials and a few bonus items, I have come a long way.
I’ve learned two important things when it comes to packing. One, you’ll pack certain items no matter where you’re cruising to, and two, your cruise destination’s climate will impact what you will need. With those points in mind, I created a packing guideline for a 7-day cruise and added a few cruise-packing hacks.
- Travel documents (airplane and ship)
- Identification: Passport/ID/visa
- Credit cards
- Small bills for tipping
- Phone charger
- Change of clothes
- Jewelry, camera and other valuables
- Toiletry items for freshening up
- Reading material
- Cruise line luggage tags
Basic Clothing to Pack:
- 2 or 3 pairs of pants/shorts/casual skirts (jeans are allowed on some cruise lines but should not be torn or look worn)
- 3 to 5 casual shirts, polo shirts or T-shirts
- 2 or more active wear outfits – For active shore excursions and working out on the ship
- 1 to 2 outfits for formal nights – Most seven-day sailings have at least two formal nights. Formal wear is not required on the other nights but cruise lines still request that you follow their casual dining dress codes.
- 2 or 3 casual dresses
- 1 sport coat for men
- 1 to 2 sweaters/jackets/scarves (public spaces get chilly with the air-conditioning going)
- 2 or more bathing suits with cover-ups
- 3 to 5 pairs of shoes – Closed-toe shoes, study sneakers or walking shoes, sandals, shoes for formal night
- Lightweight raincoat
- Hats and sunglasses
- Undwearwear/intimate apparel
Tip: Pack tops and bottoms that you can mix and match so you don’t need to pack a new outfit for every day.
- Ships will have the basics (shampoo, conditioner and soap), but if you’re picky, pack your own.
- Lip balm
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hair dryer (if you don’t want to use the low-wattage ones on the ship) and any other hair-styling tools
- Sunscreen, sunglasses (for all itineraries)
- Extra contact lenses
- Clear nail polish: A little bit of clear nail polish on your nails after a day at the beach or in the pool keeps them looking fresh and shiny instead of dull and worn out.
- Mosquito repellent
- Downy wrinkle release
Tip: Pack your toiletries in small plastic bags to keep everything easy to see and organized in your bathroom. This will also keep any liquids from spilling on your clothes in your suitcase.
- Enough prescribed medication to last your entire cruise
- First-aid kit with items like pain relievers, adhesive bandages, hand sanitizer, cough drops, eye drops and other items
- Seasickness medication like Dramamine or a scopolamine patch
Tip: If you forget your seasickness medication eat a green apple or salty crackers. There are also shops onboard that carry Dramamine and a medical facility if you need it.
Tech Gear and Entertainment:
- Smart phone and portable battery charger for your phone
- Camera, GoPro and waterproof casing if your camera is not waterproof
- Books: Either the tangible kind or some already downloaded to your device
- Movies and music: Download any songs or movies you’ll want to enjoy on your cruise well before you get on the ship
- Binoculars, especially if you’re cruising to Alaska
- Wristwatch: If you rely on your cell phone for time, you need a backup; your cell phone will be in airplane mode. You don’t want to miss the ship or an event on the ship because you don’t know the time.
- Backpack or daypack to use while you’re in port and at the pool
- Extra SD card for your camera
- Refillable water bottle
- Alarm clock: You can request a wake-up call, but they can be unreliable
- Highlighters to highlight things you want to do in your daily cruise itinerary
- Bluetooth speaker for your stateroom and beach days
- Noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs
- Magnets for your door and hanging things up on the wall (most stateroom walls and doors are magnetic)
- Noise machine for those light sleepers who need white noise (there are plenty of apps if you have an iPhone or Android phone)
- Extra hangers
- Foldable duffel bag to bring home souvenirs or to fill up with your dirty clothes
Here’s what to pack based on the climate:
- Waterproof jacket
- Sweaters, fleece jacket or a warm vest
- Pants or jeans
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Shoes for walking (preferably waterproof)
- Warm hat and gloves
- Compact umbrella
- Binoculars (especially for Alaska)
- Pajamas you don’t mind being seen in
Tip: Dress in layers when you leave the ship, especially if you’ll be in port all day. The temperatures might be cool in the morning and warm up as the day goes on.
- T-shirts or polo shirts
- Lightweight shorts, sundresses and/or casual skirts
- Walking shoes or sturdy sandals
- Light rain jacket or poncho
- Sweater or shawl (for shipboard air-conditioning and visiting religious sites)
- Polarized sunglasses
- Inflatable water toys for the beach
- Snorkel gear
- Anti-chafing balm
- Waterproof phone case
- Swim shirt/rash guards
- Extra sunscreen and aloe vera or after-sun soothing lotion
Tip: Fill up a water bottle and take it with you when you leave the ship. If you plan to go to the beach, don’t forget a towel. The cruise line will provide one for you, so don’t worry about packing one.
Want to keep this list handy while you pack? Download our packing list to make sure you don't miss anything.