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8 things to pack for a cruise vacation (and 5 to leave behind), from someone who has cruised over a dozen times


When packing for your upcoming cruise, there are some obvious items that you'll want to bring, such as swimsuits, formal wear, and casual clothes for lounging around the ship on sea days. 

If you are unfamiliar with cruising, however, some things might not cross your mind. Moreover, you might try and bring an item that you could normally take to a hotel or vacation rental on land. 

From saving money to the peace of mind that accompanies having a valid passport, here are 8 items that will enhance your cruising experience, as well as 5 that you shouldn't even bother to pack. 

Read more: 15 Packing Tips for First-Time Cruisers (2024)

Must-haves for your next cruise



While there are some circumstances where you can cruise with a birth certificate and government-issued ID, I always recommend having a valid passport. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's website says that they recommend "...everyone taking a cruise from the United States have a passport book in case of emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port." 

If you have to disembark while abroad without a passport (or don't make it back to the ship on time), you'll have to visit the nearest U.S. Embassy, which wouldn't be fun. 

Of course, if you're cruising from an international port, you'll be required to have a passport. You will also need one if you're going on an open-jaw sailing from a United States port, such as an Alaskan cruise from Whittier to Vancouver, Canada. 

Read more: Do you need a passport to go to The Bahamas?

Carry-on bag


When you arrive at the cruise terminal, you will be greeted by a porter who will take your larger pieces of luggage. You won't see them again until they are delivered to your stateroom after you've embarked (Speaking of luggage porters, you'll want a few small bills readily available to tip them! $1-$2 per bag is usually sufficient). 

For that reason, you must plan ahead and bring a small carry-on bag with you that can fit your documentation, medications, valuables, etc.

Usually, it'll be a couple of hours before you're able to access the contents of your luggage again, so you want everything important to be kept on your person at all times, similar to air travel! 

Read more: 25 items you should always pack in your cruise carry-on bag

Power adaptors 

NoTS outlets

If you're sailing on a newer ship, you will not have to worry too much about your available charging options, as there are plenty to choose from. Older vessels, however, tend to have limited outlets. Rarely are there any beside of the bed, either, so you'll have to pack a long charging cable if you want to use your mobile phone at night before falling asleep. 

It might be your first instinct to simply pack whatever extension cord you have lying around your house; however, most cruise lines have prohibited them from being brought onboard since they pose a fire hazard. 

To combat the issue of fewer charging options, bring a European power adapter or non-surge power strip. Both can be purchased from Amazon for $25 or less. 

Wrinkle-release spray 


Did you know that irons and steamers are banned from cruise ships? 

This means that you'll have to get a little creative when getting the wrinkles out of your clothing. Some ships have laundromats where you can pay to do a load of laundry. Most of the time, however, you'll have to pay to use the ship's laundry service, which can be pretty expensive. 

Personally, I like to bring some wrinkle-release spray and then hang the article of clothing in the bathroom while I'm showing. I find that this is both a cost-effective and efficient method to get the wrinkles out of my clothing post-travel. 

Read more: Can I Bring A Steamer On A Cruise?

Prescription and over-the-counter medications 


Cruise ships don't have fully stocked pharmacies onboard, so prior to leaving, you'll want to ensure that all of your prescriptions are filled. It doesn't hurt to bring your favorite OTC medications, either. 

When I recently sailed onboard Carnival Conquest, the FUN Shops weren't selling Dramamine, which was unfortunate for those who didn't bring any motion sickness meds. 

At a minimum, I always pack pain relievers, cold and flu medication, band-aids, eye drops, antacids, and, of course, seasickness medication

Read more: 15 Packing Tips for First-Time Cruisers (2024)

Themed attire 

DCL Fantasy

If you want to participate in 80s Night or White Out Night, you will have to do some research to figure out what themes to expect on your upcoming sailing, so you can purchase the required items. 

If you're struggling to figure out where you can access this information, Facebook groups are usually a good place to start. You can search either by the ship's name or a recent sail date. From there, you'll be able to ask members what themes they had on their sailing. You'd be surprised at how helpful cruisers can be! 

Another method is to Google the ship's daily schedule (i.e., "Freedom of the Seas daily schedule February 6, 2024"). 

Read more: Guide to Disney Cruise Pirate Night

Clothing for onboard activities 


Newer cruise ships are destinations in and of themselves. You'll find everything from water slides to zip lines, go-kart tracks, roller coasters, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, and more onboard. To participate, though, you'll often have to abide by a dress code, such as closed-toed shoes or long pants.

According to Royal Caribbean's website, for instance, everyone wanting to ice skate must be wearing socks and full-length pants. You'll be provided a helmet for no cost once you've arrived for your skating session. No exceptions will be made. 

Similarly, go-karts onboard Norwegian ships require that you not wear any baggy or loose articles of clothing, such as scarves. Plus, you must have closed-toed shoes. 



To save money on your upcoming cruise, you will want to pack all of your toiletries at home. Unlike standard hotels, cabin stewards won't provide complimentary lotion each day of your stay. If you happen to forget any, you'll have to purchase some from the overpriced store onboard. 

Shampoo, conditioner, contact solution (if applicable), face wash, deodorant, razors and shaving cream, body wash, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and hair brush should all be in your suitcase before you leave your house. 

Items you should leave at home



Included in the cost of your cruise is unlimited food. Yes, you read that right! You won't go hungry on your vacation because you have access to all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Whether you want to enjoy sit-down meals in the Main Dining Room, prefer a quicker dining experience in the ship's buffet, or want to splurge on a specialty restaurant, you'll have numerous options for every meal. 

If you're someone who likes to snack throughout the day, you can always take a piece of fruit back to your cabin from the buffet. Trying to pack a ton of snacks (unless you have children with particular preferences) is not worth the time and effort. 

Clothes iron/steamer 


As mentioned earlier, you won't be able to bring your trusty steamer or iron with you on your cruise. Due to the fire hazard that both items pose, they're prohibited onboard cruise ships

In fact, my friend tried to bring her handheld steamer onboard Allure of the Seas a few years ago and was shocked when she opened her suitcase to find that it had been confiscated. 

Thankfully, she was able to collect it at the terminal on disembarkation day; however, it was a huge bummer to start the trip off that way, especially since she didn't have any wrinkle-release spray packed. 



Cruise lines make a ton (I mean a ton!) of money on alcohol sales. With one cocktail costing upwards of $14-$16 depending on which line you're sailing on, that shouldn't come as a huge surprise. If you were able to bring your own alcohol onboard, they would lose a primary source of revenue, not to mention the bartenders who wouldn't be making as much money in tips. 

Some cruise lines allow you to bring on limited quantities of wine only on embarkation day; however, this likely won't be enough for your entire 7-night cruise, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the ship to make money off of you purchasing a couple of drinks here and there. 

Of course, you can always get a drink package if you're someone who doesn't want to worry about racking up a large bill. Either way, you should leave the liquor at home, as it'll be discarded before you get on the ship, and you'll lose the money that you spent trying to think of a creative way to smuggle it on. 

Read more: How to sneak alcohol on a cruise and why you should not do it



Did you know that if you're found with marijuana, even if it's medicinal, you could get kicked off the ship or denied boarding? Despite marijuana being legalized in some states, cannabis, CBD oil, and any other form of the drug are banned on cruise lines. 

Carnival's website states that, while they recognize it's legal in some places, cruise lines must follow U.S. law "...which strictly prohibits possession and use of marijuana and other illegal substances. Consequently, marijuana, including marijuana for medical purposes is not allowed onboard." 

In fact, they have drug dogs who sniff your carry-on before boarding! Bringing marijuana onboard isn't a risk that you should be willing to take, especially since you've been eagerly anticipating your cruise! 

Camouflage clothing 


While camouflage clothing is not prohibited onboard in the same way that marijuana is, it's illegal in many countries in the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and Middle East that cruise ships frequently visit, as it's reserved for military and/or government officials. 

If your cruise has a scheduled stop in any of the following countries, you should leave the camo pattern attire at home: 

  • Azerbaijan
  • Antigua and BarbudaBahamas 
  • Barbados 
  • Dominica 
  • Ghana 
  • Grenada 
  • Jamaica 
  • Nigeria 
  • Oman 
  • Philippines 
  • Saint Lucia 
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 
  • Saudi Arabia 
  • Trinidad and Tobago 
  • Uganda 
  • Zambia 
  • Zimbabwe
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