Now that your vacation is booked, you might be wondering what to pack for a cruise. It has been a learning curve for me, as I overpacked the first cruise, and now tend to pack more along the lines of a minimalist on our cruises. Depending on your purpose, and goal for your cruise, you may be surprised by what you need, and don’t need to pack. If this is your first cruise, you may learn a lot from my cruise guide.
What to Pack For a Cruise
Each cruise we have taken has had its own purpose, and the packing changed based on that purpose. You will find that to be the same for your cruise, or maybe cruises if you get hooked on them like we have.
Our first cruise had more packed then we really needed, but it also had formal clothing for the elegant dining that happens a few nights on a 7 days cruise.
When we took our children on a family cruise, we packed for two formal nights with them, but we only ended up doing that once. You will want to read my Cruising With Kids tips if you plan on taking your whole family.
I’m going to cover the basic things you will want to be sure you pack, regardless of your cruising purpose, and then highlight key things you will want to consider based on your other needs.
Basic Cruising Needs
Let’s face it, we take cruises for the relaxing and for the water.
I recommend packing one bathing suit for every two days. So far a 7 day cruise, we pack 3 suits per person. For women, I would recommend one cover for the ship, and one cover up dress for things off the ship. For men, I would recommend, having the same number of swim shirts as you pack trunks.
I also recommend two sandals. One for the ship and a more comfortable pair that you still get wet, but won’t bother your feet with walking.
Don’t forget a sun hat, sun glasses, sun screen and bug spray, as some areas have issues with health concerns based on insects in that area.
You will want to have cooler clothes for eating areas, entertainment and down time that doesn’t include water activities. I have found that 3 capris (or shorts), 5-7 shirts (blouses), 1 pants, and 1 sweater has been perfect for a 7 day cruise.
If you are planning on formal dining, you will need to pack for those nights as well. Women can pack really formal attire, shoes and accessories, or just a simple summer dress for each night. Men can pack one suit, shoes and two ties to change the look up.
Formal nights are part of your fair, but are optional to attend. Depending on your purpose for the cruise, you may decide to forfeit those nights and just order in your room or eat at the buffet in casual clothing. That is what my husband and I have decided for our upcoming cruise. Our purpose is to relax, and just enjoy each other!
Of course, you will need to pack your personal items, undergarments, and your PJs.
If you are doing excursions, you may want to read a little about the ship and excursions you plan on doing before packing. Some require close toes shoes, pants, long sleeve, or water shoes.
Lastly, you will want to carry plenty of cash to pay tips for your taxi drivers, any excursions you do, or purchases along the way. We ran out of cash quickly on our first cruise, so don’t do that unless you plan on taking your debit card. If you do, you may get charged more surcharges than you would like to pay. Most places will take credit cards, but you will want to notify your credit card company that you are traveling, and where, so they don’t block the charges.
Optional Items to Pack
My husband and I absolutely love to snorkel. When we decided to take our children on a family cruise, we decided that our Christmas presents would be their own snorkel sets, color coordinated for each of us to tell whose is whose.
This purchase saves a lot of money on excursions when we ported to the different islands. It was a huge success.
Now, we have our own snorkel sets, so we pack them for all our cruises, saving us so much money when we cruise because we only pay for taxi rides to the best snorkeling islands.
A splurge to bring a waterproof camera to capture your underwater favorites is something that I highly recommend.
I would recommend packing a deck of cards, or a small game that you can play together in your down time, or even a book. Some ships have a game room, so check to see if this is an option before packing too many games.
Internet service isn’t complimentary, and can be a big expense. I recommend having your phone full of some good music, and pack your phone charger, and ear buds so you can block out any noise while laying in the sun or pool side.
We like to bring a good water bottle with us, so we can fill up at the water stations, and stay hydrated. There are beverage packages you can get, but we tend to only drink water.
There is juice also available at stations, so unless you need soda or other beverages during your cruise, the beverage package isn’t necessary.
If you are flying, be sure you don’t have water in the bottle before going through security. They will make you dump the water out, and that would require going to the restroom and back through the lines. You can fill it up once you are through security.
You will be able to take the water bottle filled on and off the ship without any problems.
If you have a hard time going without your favorite chocolate, it is best to bring some with you. Ask me how I thought of this tip! You have no idea how much M&Ms can cost on the ship, or on an island.
I also recommend bringing an easy bag that will hold your towel (ships allow you to carry their towels off ship, but you must return them or you will be charged), sun screen, wallet, etc, when walking around the ship and while ported. You might even want to pack some sandwich bags to take a few snacks off the ship to help you when you get hungry!
Things You Shouldn’t Pack
Before our first cruise, I found some tips for what to pack for a cruise. They suggested bringing your own bottles of water, like Deer Park or the like, or your own soda.
This was such a frustration because you can’t have it checked with your luggage to go to your room. Thankfully, we were able to ask customer service to hold it for us, but that was after we carried it around the ship for a few hours. We regretted that quickly!
We found that just having a water bottle that we can fill was the best thing to staying hydrated.
Yes, metal cases. Our son packed his poker case, and we had issues going through security because it looked like a gun case. Thankfully, they were kind to him but that could have turned out causing more harm to our schedule then we would have liked.
I hope you find this helpful, and aids you in having a wonderful cruise.
Don’t go on a cruise with reading my Complete Cruise Guide first, because you don’t want to make the same mistakes we did when we went on our first of many.