Our Ultimate Guide On What To Pack For A Cruise

We've done the cruise rounds and asked our cruising pros for the best tips on what you should be including in your checked bags and carry-on luggage.  

A woman kneels on a suitcase stuffed full of clothes

4min read

Published 22 May 2024


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We've done the cruise rounds and asked our cruising pros for the best tips on what you should be including in your checked bags and carry-on luggage.  


Whether you're a newbie at sea or a seasoned cruise critic, we've got you covered with packing tips and downloadable packing lists to make your holiday prep even easier.

There are definite must-haves that experienced cruisers won't leave home without. We've done the rounds and asked our cruising pros for the best tips on what you should be including in your checked bags and carry on luggage.  

The best bit? Once you're on board, you only have to unpack once!


A couple lie in deck chairs holdings hands with cocktails
A couple lie in deck chairs holdings hands with cocktails
A couple lie in deck chairs holdings hands with cocktails

Important Things To Consider When Packing For Your Next Cruise Vacation

Before you start madly throwing clothes into a suitcase, take a moment to consider the following. 

Cruise destination - What you pack for a cruise through the Caribbean or South Pacific is very different to what you'll need when cruising through Alaska. Do some research and consider temperature variations for your different ports of call.  

Cruise line - Different cruise lines have different vibes which will determine the onboard dress code. For example, a family-friendly line like Royal Caribbean is likely to be a bit more laid back with dress codes compared to a luxury option like Cunard or Seaborn.  

Cultural norms - If you plan on visiting churches, mosques, religious sites or countries with more conservative views, consider packing clothing to cover up your shoulders and legs out of respect.  

Shore excursions - What are you hoping to do at each port of call? Those keen on adventure-based shore excursions like hiking, kayaking and white water rafting will need to pack differently than those planning to spend each day lazing by the beach, shopping at boutique markets or wine tasting in local towns.

General Packing Tips & Tricks

Regardless of what you're packing and where you're going, here are 10 tried and tested packing tips to make your life a little easier.  

  1. Choose the right size bag! If your flight and cruise allows up to 25kg of luggage, then make the most of it, especially if you're heading on a cruise and don't have to worry about lugging it through the streets. Likewise, if your cruise is just one leg of a bigger adventure, consider the pros and cons of a suitcase with wheels vs. backpack-style luggage.  
  2. Packing cubes will make your life more organised. Stop your undies running rampant through your bag and organise your luggage with packing cubes.  
  3. Roll your clothes to help minimise wrinkles and save space.  
  4. Opt for travel-friendly fabrics that won't crease as much. Woven fabrics like linen and cotton are far more prone to wrinkles.  
  5. Can't live without your linen? No stress, pack wrinkle release spray and hang your garments up in your room to help get them crisp and ready to wear.  
  6. Pack two small laundry bags so you can separate dirty clothes into darks and lights. 
  7. Bring a small bag or backpack for day trips, with an extra little tote to carry souvenirs and market purchases.  
  8. Keep important medications and travel documents in your purse or carry-on bag in case your luggage is delayed.  
  9. Organise your liquids into travel-friendly clear containers and bags to prevent leaks and ensure you're ready for pre-flight security screening.  
  10. On embarkation day, pack a day bag with essentials like bathing suits, casual shoes, sunscreen, and a cover up so that you don't have to wait for your checked luggage to arrive before hitting the pool deck. 

Clothing

The clothes you pack will vary based on your style, cruise destination, weather and cruise line. We recommend paying attention to the clothing advice provided by your cruise company regarding the destinations your cruise will call in at, as well as the weather at sea.  

Many cruise ships have a fairly laid-back dress code, if they have one at all. It's always worth checking to avoid packing the wrong thing. It's also likely that your cruise will host one formal night where it's essential to dress up if you want to join in the formal dinner and entertainment.  

With all of that in mind, here is a general cruise packing list with key items to get you started. 

Casual Daywear 

Perfect for laid-back sunny days in port or on the ship, make sure you have some comfy and casual attire like: 

  • T-shirts / tank tops 
  • Shorts 
  • Jeans 
  • Skirts / sundresses  
  • Jumper/ sweater 
  • Baseball caps / wide brim hats

Evening Wear

Bring a mix of chic, smart casual options that can go from day to night. 

  • Blouse or elegant top 
  • Button down shirt 
  • Longer skirt or dress 
  • Long pants like chinos or slacks 
  • Cocktail dresses / formal evening dress (depending on ship dress code) 
  • Blazer or a sports jacket 

Outerwear & Activewear

This will vary based on your cruise destination. Colder climates like Alaska will require waterproof layers and warmth like spray jackets, gloves, hats and hiking boots/ comfortable walking shoes.  

Warmer destinations like the Caribbean are best experienced with poolside wear. Think a bathing suit or two, hats, flip flops, water shoes and casual cover ups like a shawl or sarong.  

If you plan on getting sweaty while on holiday with any of the ships sporting activities or fitness classes, make sure you bring suitable activewear, a sweat towel and sneakers. 

Top Tip: Pack at least two or three pairs of swimmers so you can wear a fresh pair while the others are drying. 

Underwear

When in doubt, always pack more undies.  

  • Underwear 
  • Socks (athletic and dress socks) 
  • Undershirts 
  • Bras 
  • Comfy pajamas 

Accessories

While most rooms should have a safe, we recommend leaving your finest jewels at home. Surprisingly, the most useful accessory is a wristwatch, especially if you're cruising between time zones. Beyond that, consider bringing: 

  • Sunglasses 
  • Reading glasses 
  • Umbrella 
  • Rain poncho 
  • Day bag/backpack 
  • Wet bag 

General Clothing Packing Tips 

Here are a few more tips from seasoned seafarers and our senior cruise editor: 

  • Travelling in a group? Why not colour coordinate a group outfit or custom t-shirt? 

  • Even if you're travelling to warmer climates, make sure you bring a sweater or something to cover up as the aircon on board can be chilly.  

  • Check out what the cruise theme nights are and pack accordingly. Popular choices include white night, pirate night, 80s and retro. Trust us, cruisers do go all out for these nights.  

  • Pack a pop-up hamper to keep dirty laundry separate and off the cabin floor.  

  • For flexibility in your wardrobe, aim for layers and items that work for daywear, smart casual and evening chic.  

  • Check the weather forecasts before you go.  

  • Remember there's nothing wrong with wearing the same outfit twice.  

  • Make the most of the onboard laundry service. Just bring laundry detergent so you don't have to pay for it on board.

A woman marks off a checklist with items stacked in a suitcase
A woman marks off a checklist with items stacked in a suitcase
A woman marks off a checklist with items stacked in a suitcase

Toiletries

Most cruise lines will stock the basics like shampoo, conditioner, soap and a hair dryer in your cabin. Larger ships will also have onboard shops stocked with essentials in case you forget or run out. Heads up though, these shops can often hike up the prices because they are the only option at sea. 

With this in mind, we recommend bringing the following toiletries. If you're flying, don't forget to check the liquid limits and use travel-sized bottles in a clear bag.  

  • Shampoo, conditioner and soap (if you have a preferred brand)  
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste 
  • Dental floss and mouthwash 
  • Facial cleanser 
  • Comb/brush and detangling spray  
  • Moisturiser and after sun lotion like aloe vera 
  • Deodorant 
  • Shaving supplies 
  • Reef safe sun lotion and insect repellent 
  • Lip balm 
  • Tweezers and nail file/clippers 
  • Feminine hygiene products and birth control 
  • Hand sanitiser and hand wipes 
  • Your preferred makeup supplies 
  • Perfume/ cologne  
  • Toilet spray (trust us, this is a must in a small cabin) 

Medications & First Aid Kit 

Items like Band-Aids and painkillers can be expensive to buy on board, so take a well stocked first aid kit with you just in case. There is a doctor and medical facilities on board all cruise ships, but for cuts and scrapes it's much better to have your own basic medical supplies at hand.  

If you take regular prescription medication, make sure you pack enough for the trip. It's also worthwhile bringing an extra prescription in case anything happens and your trip is delayed.  

Don't forget to bring some seasickness remedies like patches or chews, plus any vitamins and daily medications.  

Expert tip: Bring some sheet masks and plenty of body lotion. Plane rides + days in the sun + different climate + air conditioning on the cruise can lead to dry skin.

Storage 

Unless you're staying in a deluxe suite, you'll want to maximise your cabin space as much as possible. Portable storage options are easy to bring and will do wonders decluttering and saving space over your trip. Some of our favourite options include:  

  • Over-door shoe storage with clear or mesh pockets. Great for snacks, kids toys and accessories. 
  • Extra clothes hangers 
  • Over-door hooks 
  • Magnetic hooks. Most cruise ship cabin walls are made of metal, meaning magnetic hooks are perfect for hanging towels, swimmers and jackets.  
  • Laundry hamper/ dirty washing bags 

Drinks & Snacks

Some cruise lines allow passengers to bring soft drinks on board, which can be a great way to help save some extra cash. Most cruise ships have strict policies on bringing alcohol on board. If in doubt, chat with your cruise line to confirm. Don't stress though, those after an alcoholic beverage can purchase a drinks package before you depart or take advantage of daily happy hours.  

Food-wise you are more then welcome to bring packaged snacks and chewing gum/mints on board. These are perfect for late night cravings, long excursions or picky eaters prone to missing the creature comforts of home. 

Power Adaptors & Batteries

The type of power socket on board your cruise ship depends on the country of origin of the ship. Make sure you pack a suitable travel adapter so you can charge up any devices.  

Those with large charging needs should consider bringing a power strip, as power points in cabins can be limited. Check your ship's guidelines though, as some do not allow power strips or extension cords due to the increased fire risk.

Batteries 

Easy to forget and expensive to purchase on board, spare batteries are essential if you have portable electronic devices with you. Ideally, bring rechargeable batteries and a charger so you'll never run out of power. 
 

Electronic Gadgets 

We're gonna preface this by saying that cruises are the perfect excuse to disconnect and leave the multiple devices that rule your life behind. There is no shortage of activities on board to keep you and the kids entertained without the assistance of a device.  

However, we won't deny that the following tech can also help improve your cruising experience. Just remember to keep your devices on airplane mode to avoid excess roaming charges while out at sea! 

  • Mobile phones and tablets - download the cruise ship app before you depart. Here you can check the daily schedule, deck plans, make dining reservations, book shore excursions and more.  
  • Camera, memory card and lenses (depending on how pro you are).  
  • Waterproof phone case for scrolling and snapping pics by the pool.  
  • Portable video game system for little ones keen on in-room tournaments.  
  • Small Portable speaker for great vibes and dance parties in your room.  
  • Staying in a cabin without windows? Bring a battery night light for trips to the loo to avoid waking up your fellow passengers.  
  • White noise machine. If you struggle to sleep, or have a room near the elevators or party areas of the ship, consider a white noise machine or speaker to help drown out any extra noise that filters through.  

Top Tip: Cruising to picturesque locations like Alaska? We recommend bringing a proper camera for the best chance of snapping epic animal pics from your balcony.  

Documents & Other Cruising Essentials 

Beyond the usual suspects, there are a few other essentials to include in on your cruise packing list.  

  • Wallet or money belt to use for shore excursions 
  • Foreign currency or a travel card with no fees. If in doubt you can exchange money on the ship, though the rates aren't always the best.  
  • Reusable water bottle and coffee keep cup 
  • Travel aids like earplugs, travel pillow and sleeping mask 
  • Earphones 
  • Portable charger  
  • Snorkel and goggles (though most activities will allow you to rent or borrow a set) 
  • Lanyard to keep your room key card handy 
  • Towel clips to prevent your towel from blowing away on your sun lounge 
  • Reading material like paperbacks, magazines, ebooks and audiobooks 
  • Binoculars for animal spotting  
  • Dry bag for port excursions  

Last but not least, don't forget to tuck your car and house keys somewhere safe and easy to access once you get home.  

Essential Documents 

Keep a copy of the following documents in your luggage or emails.  

  • I.D. like a driver's license, passport and birth certificate 
  • Medical and travel insurance information 
  • Copies of flight or hotel bookings 
  • Important phone numbers 
  • Copies of any prescriptions and medications you take should a medical incident occur

Kids Packing List

What you bring for your little ones will very much depend on their age and interests. Before you leave, make sure you check out the kids club and children's menus so you have a good idea of what to expect.  

As a rule of thumb, consider packing the following in addition to your children's clothing and cruising essentials:

  • Diapers 
  • Formula 
  • Strollers 
  • Toys and games for the room 
  • Beach toys (if suitable) 
  • Books and puzzles 
  • Plenty of snacks 
  • Wet wipes 
  • Reusable water bottle 

What Not To Pack For A Cruise 

Save yourself some space and avoid including these on your cruise packing list as they are generally supplied by cruise ships or contraband items.  

  • Linen and towels (though an extra beach towel will never go astray) 
  • High chair and portable cribs  
  • Coffeemakers and appliances with heating elements like irons, straighteners or hair dryers  
  • Candles 
  • Drones 
  • Extension cords or surge protected power strips (confirm with the cruise lines) 
  • Illegal items like guns, drugs, explosives etc.  
  • Non-prepackaged foods. If you are flying internationally it's important you are conscious of each country's immigration rules.  
     
A ship's wake at sunset viewed through a porthole
A ship's wake at sunset viewed through a porthole
A ship's wake at sunset viewed through a porthole

Download Your Cruise Packing List  

Got your cruise ticket and ready to start packing? Download one of our cruise packing lists to make sure you're prepared for your next vacation at sea.  

  • Alaskan & Cold Climate Cruise Packing List 

  • Pacific, Caribbean & Hot Climate Cruise Packing List 

  • Kids Cruise Packing List 

  • River Cruising Packing List  

Ready To Set Sail? 

Not sure which cruise to book and keen on some more information? Flight Centre's cruising experts have got you covered with access to thousands of cruising details and destinations across the globe.  

Head in store or look online to book your next cruising adventure today. We can even package it up with flights, accommodation, insurance and transfers to and from your departure port before the cruise sets sail!  

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