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The Essential Packing List for Your Cruise

Becky Hart | Jun 4, 2024

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You’ve probably seen this meme: the wife makes her packing list and plans for weeks what to take on vacation. The husband, meanwhile, throws a couple of shirts and maybe an extra pair of socks in his bag 15 minutes before they leave and can’t figure out why she’s frustrated.

Regardless of packing style, you want to know what to pack for your cruise so you can make the most of your time away. What if you get out on the ocean and realize you forgot something? It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

Thankfully, Seven Corners has done the research for you. Put your and your travel companion’s mind at ease by using this cruise packing checklist.

Packing Daily Essentials for a Cruise

Clothing

Packing for a cruise.The first step in deciding what clothes you need to pack for a cruise is studying your itinerary. What kind of activities are you looking forward to? Will you be active and need clothes you might wear to the gym or on the trail? Or will you be more relaxed with no real plans to get out of your swimsuit and cover-up?

The dress code for most cruises is usually casual, so pack what you feel comfortable in for what you choose to do.

I’m a big fan of packing clothes that, with a few tweaks, can be worn at different events, regardless of whether I’m on a two-week cruise or a weekend road trip. Think about that classic little black dress and a few accessories to dress it up or down as appropriate. Similarly, a pair of neutral-colored pants goes as well with a T-shirt as it does with a button-down.

For those formal dinner evenings, the dress can vary. Carnival suggests packing your “Sunday best” as a general guideline.

You should also note that the longer your cruise, the more formal evenings you’ll probably have, maybe up to as many as one per week. If wearing the same attire for more than one fancy night out makes you uneasy, pack accordingly.

In addition to reading your itinerary closely, research what the weather will be like. You don’t want to get caught without a raincoat if they’re calling for downpours during your shore excursions. Similarly, you’ll want that scarf on some northern cruises.

No matter the destination, toss a sweater or jacket in your bag. Once the sun goes down, it can get pretty cool on deck.

Finally, remember a portable laundry bag. This will help you pack less. Cruise lines have laundry service, so you may be able to reduce the clothing you pack by at least half.

Shoes

What shoes should you bring on a cruise is a question that has left many of us standing in our closet, arms akimbo, contemplating every shopping decision we’ve ever made.

Life Well Cruised recommends four to six pairs of shoes for a cruise that’s a week or longer. That final total comes down to what you plan to do, though.

Flip flops or sandals – something that’s easy to slip on and off, even if you aren’t on a cruise in the Caribbean – are a good idea. You’ll also want sneakers or hiking shoes, especially if you plan on active onshore excursions.

For Alaskan cruises or trips in colder and wetter weather, a pair of comfortable, warm, water-proof boots are a smart choice. I know they aren’t always the cutest accessory, but your toes will appreciate the fashion sacrifice.

Finally, particularly if your cruise has formal dinners, you’ll want some dressier shoes. This could be an opportunity for some double-dipping. If you have a pair of sandals, for example, that look fancy or casual depending on what you pair them with, pack them.

Toiletries

I tend to think about packing toiletries for a cruise the same as I would when packing for any trip. Your stateroom will likely have some toiletries included, but if you’re picky about your hair care products and soap, bring your own. And don’t forget things like deodorant, toothbrush and paste, eye care, and feminine hygiene products.

First Aid & Medications

Your cruise ship will have a sickbay and medical staff to take care of you if you get ill or injured. You still want to take precautions for staying healthy on your cruise, though.

Although you probably don’t need a full first-aid kit, it’s a good idea to throw some of the basics — medication for headaches and seasickness, band-aids, sunscreen — in your bag.

When you pack your prescription medication, make sure you have enough for the duration of the cruise plus whatever you might need onshore before and after you sail. A little extra in case of trip delays is also a good idea.

Packing the Essentials for Your Time on Shore

Daypack

You’re going to get off the ship at some point, even if it’s just for a few hours. Bring a daypack or a tote bag so you don’t have to haul a massive piece of luggage with you everywhere. When you head to shore for an excursion, pack your sunscreen and a filled reusable water bottle. If you plan on buying lots of souvenirs, make sure your pack can accommodate all the goodies or throw a second tote in with the essentials.

Prepare for changing weather. Your bag should also have a raincoat or umbrella, a hat, sunglasses, and maybe that sweater you brought to wear on deck when gazing off into the waves at night.

Cash for Tipping

Especially if your cruise is all-inclusive, it can be easy to forget you might still need money. Some cruising veterans recommend packing some cash in the local currency, and not just for buying souvenirs.

Show your appreciation to your tour guides and other service providers by tipping them for a job well done.

Money exchange.

Packing Essential Electronics for a Cruise

This is a bit of a controversial category, so we’ll let you decide whether you really need to pack your laptop for a cruise or if you'd rather unplug. What we do feel confident advising, though, is that you’ll want your phone with a waterproof case and a portable battery charger.

When you plan on taking lots of pictures, your phone might be all you need. But some cruises, especially those where you hope to see whales or other rare wildlife, call for a real camera. Carefully pack extra lenses, batteries, and memory cards, too.

Noise-canceling earbuds might not be at the top of your list, but many a light sleeper has found them beneficial on a cruise. Noise from the ship, waves, or cabin-mates can be comforting to some but obnoxious to others. Earbuds or earplugs can help.

Even if you pack the bare essentials, you and your travel companions will likely fill up the electrical outlets in your cabin rather quickly. When you pack your power cords, pack a power strip, too. If it has built-in USB ports, even better.

Packing the Essential Documents for Your Cruise Vacation

Smart packing advice always says to put everything you think you need in your suitcase, then take half of it back out. Make sure the documents below stay in your bag. And better yet, keep them in a carry-on.

  • Passport or photo identification, visas;
  • Airline tickets, hotel information, and any directions you’ll need at either end of the trip onshore;
  • Email addresses and phone numbers for travel assistance services, including the contact information for credit card companies, insurance companies, and other providers;
  • Proof of medical insurance and travel insurance;
  • Proof of vaccination, if necessary.

You may be able to get away with carrying just a digital copy of some of these documents on your phone. Others, you’ll need the originals for, but it’s a good idea to have a spare hard copy or digital file with you, too.

"Pack" Travel Insurance for Any Cruise

Travel insurance can protect you and your trip. Seven Corners offers protection designed specifically for those planning to set sail. Learn more about Seven Corners Cruise Insurance, which can help if you get sick or hurt during your trip as well. It also helps with travel mishaps like missing your cruise or tour connection.

Find the right plan for your next trip and get a quick quote online. If you’d rather talk to a live, licensed agent, give us a call or send an email. Seven Corners is ready to make your next cruise the best one yet.

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