The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

by Fran Golden

The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

by Fran Golden

It's easy to overthink what you'll need while packing for a cruise. If you are heading to, say, the Caribbean or Hawaii, it seems like you should just throw a bathing suit in a bag and go. But then what about dinner, shore excursions, and beach days? Relax. We’ve put together a full list of what should go in your suitcase (and your carry-on) to make packing a breeze. 

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Packing / iStock.com / seb_ra
Woman with tablet at the beach
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Carry-On Bag

Documents: Your passport and boarding documents always go in a carry-on — never in checked luggage.

E-reader (Or Real Books): Yes, you'll actually have time on your vacation to start that novel that's been sitting on your bedside table for months.

Camera: We've given up our big camera in favor of our iPhone, but every once in awhile we have long-lens envy. If you're after that perfect sunset or wildlife shot, come prepared.

Mini Surge Protector: Cabins tend to have few electrical outlets. To avoid having to deal with at least one device always down near 10 percent, bring a power strip.

Large, Sealable Plastic Bags (2): The go-to solution for all sorts of situations, these carry damp bathing suits, protect electronics from rain, and ensure souvenir hot sauce doesn't leak.

Documents: Your passport and boarding documents always go in a carry-on — never in checked luggage.

E-reader (Or Real Books): Yes, you'll actually have time on your vacation to start that novel that's been sitting on your bedside table for months.

Camera: We've given up our big camera in favor of our iPhone, but every once in awhile we have long-lens envy. If you're after that perfect sunset or wildlife shot, come prepared.

Mini Surge Protector: Cabins tend to have few electrical outlets. To avoid having to deal with at least one device always down near 10 percent, bring a power strip.

Large, Sealable Plastic Bags (2): The go-to solution for all sorts of situations, these carry damp bathing suits, protect electronics from rain, and ensure souvenir hot sauce doesn't leak.

Sunscreen
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Toiletries

Shampoo, Conditioner, and Soap: The toiletries provided by your ship may come in dispensers for liquid soap and shampoo. We prefer sample sizes of our favorite products and a normal-sized soap bar. 

Suntan Lotion: The sun shines brightly at sea and on shore, so you'll want to be prepared with SPF 15 or higher.

Bug Repellent Wipes: Bring a mosquito repellent that protects against Aedes mosquitoes, the kind that carry the Zika virus. The virus can make anyone sick, but it's particularly dangerous if you're pregnant.

Medication: It's a good idea to bring a small amount of whatever you use at home — in pill form — plus seasickness medication, such as pills with the ingredient Meclizine.

Shampoo, Conditioner, and Soap: The toiletries provided by your ship may come in dispensers for liquid soap and shampoo. We prefer sample sizes of our favorite products and a normal-sized soap bar. 

Suntan Lotion: The sun shines brightly at sea and on shore, so you'll want to be prepared with SPF 15 or higher.

Bug Repellent Wipes: Bring a mosquito repellent that protects against Aedes mosquitoes, the kind that carry the Zika virus. The virus can make anyone sick, but it's particularly dangerous if you're pregnant.

Medication: It's a good idea to bring a small amount of whatever you use at home — in pill form — plus seasickness medication, such as pills with the ingredient Meclizine.

Laying out clothes
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Clothing

Underwear (at Least 7 Days’ Worth): Pack more than you think you'll need, taking into account multiple changes a day.

Bathing Suits (2): Always have a spare, since Caribbean humidity means things take longer to dry — and putting on a damp bathing suit feels yucky.

Cover-Up: You'll need to have something for walking through public areas of your ship, including when you pull yourself away from the pool to hit the buffet.

T-Shirts or Polo Shirts (7): These are easy to roll up and fit in your suitcase, and you'll want several because in the warm weather you'll change them more than once a day.

Nighttime Outfits (5): Bring sundresses or khakis and a polo or Hawaiian shirt for the dining room. Our trick (even for venues where blue jeans are banned at night) is white or black jeans paired with nice tops and nice shoes or heels.

Dressier Outfits (2): If your ship has semiformal or formal nights, you'll want to dress up a tad, which means a blazer for men, and a cocktail dress or pants for women. 

Casual Skirts or Shorts (3): Pack a variety, in lightweight fabrics with loose waistbands (beware the buffets).

Sweater, Wrap, or Sweatshirt: You may be heading to the islands, but don't discount the chill from sea breezes. This also protects you from blasting air conditioning.

Underwear (at Least 7 Days’ Worth): Pack more than you think you'll need, taking into account multiple changes a day.

Bathing Suits (2): Always have a spare, since Caribbean humidity means things take longer to dry — and putting on a damp bathing suit feels yucky.

Cover-Up: You'll need to have something for walking through public areas of your ship, including when you pull yourself away from the pool to hit the buffet.

T-Shirts or Polo Shirts (7): These are easy to roll up and fit in your suitcase, and you'll want several because in the warm weather you'll change them more than once a day.

Nighttime Outfits (5): Bring sundresses or khakis and a polo or Hawaiian shirt for the dining room. Our trick (even for venues where blue jeans are banned at night) is white or black jeans paired with nice tops and nice shoes or heels.

Dressier Outfits (2): If your ship has semiformal or formal nights, you'll want to dress up a tad, which means a blazer for men, and a cocktail dress or pants for women. 

Casual Skirts or Shorts (3): Pack a variety, in lightweight fabrics with loose waistbands (beware the buffets).

Sweater, Wrap, or Sweatshirt: You may be heading to the islands, but don't discount the chill from sea breezes. This also protects you from blasting air conditioning.

Flip-flops
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Accessories

Jewelry: The best way to stretch one outfit over multiple nights is with costume jewelry, and other accessories.

Assorted Pairs of Shoes (3): Shoes take up room, and deciding how many pairs to have is a struggle. One solution is to bring flip-flops or lightweight walking sandals (such as Naot's Kayla style) in various colors, and maybe a dressier pair of heels or shoes for nighttime. Then pack sneakers and water shoes for adventurous excursions.

Beach Bag: We like to have a way to carry our provided beach towel and water (bring your own water bottle to avoid charges). We also recommend bringing a small backpack if you are planning more active excursions, like hikes.

Rain Jacket, Poncho, or Folding Umbrella: There are showers (typically brief) even in the sunny Caribbean.

Sun Hat: You'll be happy to have the extra shade. Baseball hats, straw hats, or rimmed canvas hats all do the trick.

Sunglasses: At sea and on the beach you'll want to protect your eyes, preferably from both UVA and UVB rays. Polarized lenses only reduce glare.

Jewelry: The best way to stretch one outfit over multiple nights is with costume jewelry, and other accessories.

Assorted Pairs of Shoes (3): Shoes take up room, and deciding how many pairs to have is a struggle. One solution is to bring flip-flops or lightweight walking sandals (such as Naot's Kayla style) in various colors, and maybe a dressier pair of heels or shoes for nighttime. Then pack sneakers and water shoes for adventurous excursions.

Beach Bag: We like to have a way to carry our provided beach towel and water (bring your own water bottle to avoid charges). We also recommend bringing a small backpack if you are planning more active excursions, like hikes.

Rain Jacket, Poncho, or Folding Umbrella: There are showers (typically brief) even in the sunny Caribbean.

Sun Hat: You'll be happy to have the extra shade. Baseball hats, straw hats, or rimmed canvas hats all do the trick.

Sunglasses: At sea and on the beach you'll want to protect your eyes, preferably from both UVA and UVB rays. Polarized lenses only reduce glare.

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