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Cruise packing list: Essentials to bring on a cruise

Couple enjoying their cruise ship balcony

Once you have booked the perfect cruise and the countdown has officially begun, you're going to need a cruise essentials packing list.

Packing for a cruise varies on the duration and destination, among other things. What you will want to bring on a Caribbean cruise, for instance, will differ from an Alaskan cruise

It is important that you think ahead, as you do not want to miss out on an onboard activity or shore excursion because you didn't bring the proper footwear. 

Here is a detailed list of everything you need to pack for your upcoming cruise vacation!

Important documents


No matter where your cruise is sailing to, you will need to make sure you have your travel documents with you. These can vary, as all you need for a closed-loop cruise is an original birth certificate and government-issued photo ID, while you'll need a passport for a cruise that departs from or ends in an international port, like Canada or Europe. 

That being said, a passport is always recommended. In the event of an emergency, traveling abroad with a passport vs. a birth certificate is much easier. 

Read more: Why it's more important than ever to cruise with a passport

Additionally, you will want to make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after the date your cruise ends. If the expiration date is within that time frame, you will want to go ahead and plan to get it renewed. 

You will also want to round up your boarding passes and cash. If your cruise travel abroad, it's a good idea to go ahead and get exchange some money to the local currency. Even though credit cards are widely accepted, you don't want to be in a situation where you cannot pay for your meal or souvenir! 



Before you leave for any vacation, it is important that you pack your medication. While your prescriptions are the most important, there are some medications that you should plan on bringing on a cruise. 

If you forget something, you will have to pay a premium for it onboard. It is also important to note that cruise ships do not have full pharmacies like on lane, so your selections will be fairly limited. 

Here are the over-the-counter medications and first-aid supplies that you should have packed for your cruise:

  • Pain killers (Ibuprofen, Motrin, Tylenol, etc.) 
  • Band-aids
  • Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) 
  • Hydrocortisone (especially if you are going to ports where you'll be spending time outdoors and could get bug bites)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Bonine or Dramamine for seasickness 
  • Cold/flu medication (DayQuil/NyQuil, Tylenol Cold + Flu Severe, etc.)
  • Cough drops (Ricola, Cepacol, etc)
  • Sunscreen and aloe vera gel


travel sized toiletries

Unlike hotels, not all cruise ships come with complimentary toiletries, so it is crucial that you bring your own. You can purchase whatever you may have forgotten in the ship's store, but the selection will be limited. Plus, you'll be paying way more than you would be on land. 

Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, deodorant, razors and shaving cream, body wash, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and hair brush should all be in your suitcase before you zip it up! If you wear contacts, make sure that you have contact solution, too. 


Packing basics

Undergarments are a vital component of any packing list! You don't want to start unpacking on the ship only to realize that you don't have any underwear or socks. 

If, for instance, you are going to be walking everyday on long excursions like in Europe or Alaska, you will want one pair of socks for each day. You probably will not need this many for a Caribbean or Bahamas cruise.

The amount that you bring is up to you; however, remember that it is always better to have more than not enough! 

You will also need some comfy pajamas to sleep in and rest up for the next day's adventure!


Celebrity cruise ship at Hubbard Glacier

Packing for an Alaskan cruise takes a little bit more thought and preparation than a tropical one. You are probably cruising for different reasons, too, as cruising to the Last Frontier isn't all about relaxation. 

Keep your swimsuits and flip-flops tucked away. Instead, you will need to pack things like a rain jacket, gloves, and non-slip tennis shoes. 

Dressing in layers is pretty much a requirement in Alaska where the mornings and evenings will be cooler than the afternoons. Therefore, being able to adjust your layers as needed throughout the day is a necessity! 

The base layer is the first item of clothing you'll put on-- think a short or long sleeve t-shirt and jeans, leggings, or shorts. 

The second layer should be something like a fleece or down jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt. The goal is to be able to throw it on when it the temperature is cooler and take it off when it warms up. Gloves, scarves, and hats are all great things to bring, too. 

Finally, you will need a waterproof layer. Due to the potential for strong wings, umbrellas are not recommended! 

Clothing onboard the ship will depend on your personal preference. Perhaps you will want to focus on comfort and pack extra loungewear or dress up a little bit more since you'll be dressed casually/athletically in port. Maybe it's a mix of both! Rotating outfits is always a great idea to prevent overpacking, especially when you will be packing bulkier clothing to wear during the day.

Majestic Princess

When packing for an Alaskan cruise, you will want to make sure that you have a variety of footwear. During the day, you will need a pair of water-resistant sneakers, lightweight hiking shoes, or active sandals that will support a wide range of outdoor activities. The soles will need to have plenty of grip in the event that you encounter slippery and/or rocky surfaces. 

The shoes you wear onboard can be whatever you find most comfortable. Since you'll be wearing sneakers all day, you might want to bring slippers, flip-flops, or slides. Plus, you'll need at least one nicer pair of shoes to wear during the evenings and at dinner. 

Bahamas and Caribbean

Ocean Cay

Bahamas and Caribbean cruises are some of the most popular itineraries and for good reason. Even during the winter, the weather is always pleasurable, and you're guaranteed to soak up some incredible ocean views. 

Packing for a tropical cruise, however, requires more than just throwing some swimsuits and flip-flops in your suitcase and calling it a day. 

While this attire is certainly acceptable on the pool deck and in port, you'll need to cover up appropriately when navigating the ship. This could mean slipping on anything from a t-shirt and athletic shorts to buying a full-fledged stylish cover up. 

Additionally, you will need to consider what shore excursions you will be doing, as they may have specific clothing requirements. 

The same goes on onboard activities. The zip line onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships, for instance, requires closed toed shoes that can are laced and can be tied. Slip on shoes, like Vans, won't work. If you aren't sure what you will be doing in port or what the requirements are for specific activities, it is good measure to pack a pair of sneakers and a long pair of pants. 

WoTS Zip Line

The evening dress code varies from cruise line to cruise line and by venue. Some cruise lines are more casual, while others have formal and themed nights. In general, however, cruises tend to be less formal than they used to be.

Some guests opt not to ignore the dress code altogether. After all, it's not like the cruise line will deny you service because you show up to the Main Dining Room in shorts on formal night. That being said, dress codes on luxury lines are more strict, and most guests abide by the rules. 

A mix of nicer pants and jeans, polos/collared shirts, blouses, skirts, and dresses will suffice for most evenings onboard. For formal night, however, you might consider packing a suit and tie or sports coat, a cocktail dress or evening gown, or a nice pair of pants with a dressier top. 

You should also research what the themed nights are, if any. Many cruise lines will have a decade night, ranging from the 60s to 90s. There also may be a Hawaiian/Caribbean night, white night, or even a country night. The themes vary by cruise line and cruise duration.

Read more: Caribbean cruise packing list



A Europe cruise can mean anything from a warm-weather Mediterranean itinerary to a journey up to visit the Norwegian Fjords. For the most part, you can bring casual clothing that is suitable for your destination's weather. Depending on the time of year, for example, a Northern Europe cruise may require some bulkier clothing for warmth. 

Additionally, Europe is filled with cultural and religious landmarks, many of which have specific dress codes that visitors must abide by. If you show up dressed inappropriately, you will be denied admission! For that reason, you should pack some modest, comfortable clothing that will work for these excursions. 

The base of your packing must take into consideration the kinds of things you will be doing in each port of call. 

If your cruise is to the Greek Isles, are you planning on sunbathing at the beach or exploring the nooks and crannies of each little town? Packing a mix of swimsuits and casual clothing, including closed toed shoes, is good rule of thumb. That way, you'll be prepared for anything! 

If you're sailing to Northern Europe, there's little to chance that you'll end up at the beach, so you need to pack what you'll be most comfortable in for long days at port. 

This might mean something like jeans and t-shirts, as well as a good pair of walking shoes! You will also want a rain jacket, as the rainfall in this region of the continent tends to see more rain than its southern counterpart. 

And similar to other cruises, you'll need to pack some comfortable clothing for your time onboard, as well as nicer clothing for the evenings. 

Miscellaneous items


All itineraries call for a pair of good sunglasses and portable cell phone charger, but if you are sailing to the Caribbean, you might also want to pack a lightweight pool float or snorkel. Alaska, on the other hand, calls for a good set of binoculars to try and spot as much wildlife as you can. 

These items, of course, are mostly optional but may enhance your overall vacation experience. 


Mendenhall Glacier

When cruising to Alaska, there's a good chance that you'll be spending each day off in port. While you can choose which of these items that you may or may not need, they're great additions that can help you make your long days ashore a little less exhausting and much more enjoyable:

  • Water-resistant backpack or waterproof dry bags
  • Binoculars 
  • Mosquito repellent (this is a must)
  • Water bottle
  • Chapstick

You may even want to bring a book or card/board games for your days at sea. You can get situated and watch the glaciers pass by while playing games with friends and family!

Bahamas and Caribbean

Coco Beach Club

If you are going to the Bahamas or Caribbean, you are probably hoping to head to the beach. Depending on how you like to spend your time on the beach, you may want to pack some non-essential items:

  • A good book
  • Inflatable donut or mat
  • Snorkel equipment 
  • Frisbee or beach ball
  • Collapsible beach pail and shovel

If you are driving to the port, some of these items may make more sense. If you do have room, however, you are sure to save some money by bringing them. Renting a floating mat can cost upwards of $15 or $20 per day, while a snorkel mask can be $25 or more. For the same price, you can buy your own and reuse it for future vacations!



While pickpocketing is an issue all over the world, it is pretty frequent in Europe. You should consider packing a secure day bag to keep your belongings safe. While it might not be as fashionable as your other purses, you can rest easy knowing that you'll have your money and other documents when you return to the ship. 

You may also want to bring a water bottle to fill up and sip on throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated, as well as a small umbrella in case you get caught in the rain. 

What NOT to pack for a cruise

yellow suitcase packed for journey and hat

There are certain things that you won't need, or cannot bring with you, on your cruise vacation. Knowing these ahead of time can prevent overpacking or being faced with the dreading confiscation letter and having to wait in line to retrieve your items at the end of the sailing. 

  • Hair dryer (most cruise ships have them onboard, so it's best to save the space for more important items)
  • Towels (there will be plenty of pool and shower towels on the cruise)
  • Food and beverages
  • Weapons and sharp objects
  • Steamers and clothes irons
  • Surfboards
  • Candles and insence 
  • Electrical extension cords
  • Coffee makers
  • Illegal drugs

As this is not an all encompassing list, you should double and triple check with your cruise line to see what items are prohibited onboard.

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