Cruising 101 Part 4: What to Pack

March 23, 2021
Cruising 101 Part 4: Packing
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Note, very important: Check the FAQs for the cruise line you will be on. Read what is not allowed on board to avoid unpleasant surprises. My blog is just general information, for beginners.

Updated: Most cruise lines do not allow bottled drinks except for one bottle of wine per adult per cabin. This includes water, even when you return on port days.

Basic Info: Your luggage is checked in at the curb (download your luggage tag before you get to the port). Your bags may not be delivered to your stateroom until late afternoon. Cruise luggage tags help to keep the printed tag on your bags. . Pack a day bag, the same one you would take off the ship for excursions: swim suit, workout clothes, music player, book and a towel. When you board, most areas except your room are available and you can have fun right away.


All Aboard!


Most ships have reasonable limits, but there are security and weight concerns. This blog entry will refer mostly to 5-10 day cruises. My tip: pack as if you were traveling on an airplane. With experience, you will realize how much stuff you don't need.

  • 2 outfits per day: casual wear for daytime and something slightly dressier for the evening, depending on your activity. Outfits can be repeated, it's OK. Keep the climate in mind.
  • You may want to exercise. Bring 2-4 changes of workout clothes and the small travel packets of detergent to rinse them out. Or use the ship-provided shampoo.
  • Bring at least 2 swimsuits, 1 coverup and 1 pair flip flops/sandals.  You will need to rinse out the suit after a day at the beach, so while one is drying, the other is ready to go.
  • Part of the cruising experience is dressing up for dinner. Your newsletter will tell you when it is an elegant/formal evening. Nowadays, that simply means a collared shirt with dress pants for the men and a skirt, dress or dress pants for the ladies. 
  • There may be special days. Be prepared for all-white parties, pirate deck parties, ugly sweater parties.

Personal Items:

Day pack essentials: sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellent, anti-bacterial gel


Staterooms generally will have one 120V outlet (USA) and one that may require an adapter. I carry my voltage converter always. I also carry a USB hub so that I can charge more than one device. Extension cords and strips are usually not permitted. You might want: phone, camera, tablet/laptop. Blow dryers are provided, but curling irons may or may not be allowed.

The Internet:

If you need to communicate with the landlubbers, access the shipboard internet cafe or use your device. Check the website before you go so that the price does not surprise you. Each cruise line is different: some sell time by the week, others by the minute. Tip: service is really slow on days at sea, so be patient.

Other items:

If you are very active, you will need your snorkeling mask and your scuba gear.


Day pack, glasses pouch, water bottle carrier

Day packs: There are many day packs that can be worn across the body. Some people pack their money and cards under their clothing in a money belt. Every place warns against pickpockets, do not take these advisories lightly. A water bottle carrier with pockets is helpful.


For little ones, excessive toys and books are not needed: the kids clubs have that. You may want a tablet for videos in the stateroom at night. For babies, try to bring what they need; the shops on board and at the ports can be pricey. 

The ship's shops are open only at sea. You can buy emergency items either on board or when you are in port. They tend to cost more, of course, but items are available. The key is to learn to live without some things and to remember you are not moving away from home, just vacationing. 

All photos and text copyright Marcia Crayton, All Rights Reserved, 2020

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Cruising 101 Series:

Part 1: 10 Facts to Know

Part 2: How to Book a Cruise

Part 3: Below Deck & Behind the Scenes

Part 4: What to Pack

Part 5: Plan Your Own Excursions

Part 6: Hidden Costs


Cruise Reviews:

Anthem of the Seas

Jewel of the Seas

Carnival Pride

Cruise to Alaska

Intro to Carnival Cruise Line


How to Travel Series

Part 1: Plan Your Own Trip

Part 2: Resources to Use

Part 3: Travel With Electronics

Part 4: Renting a Car