What are the essential things to take on a cruise is one of the questions I get asked a lot.
Having sailed on many cruises with different cruise lines I have years of experience of what to pack and what can most definitely be left behind!
Here is a guide to all the things which are either essential to pack, cool things to pack, or just downright fun to pack!
Your Ultimate Cruise Packing List Guide starts here!
- MUST-HAVE ITEMS TO TAKE ON A CRUISE
- WHAT TO PACK FOR THE BEACH AND THE CRUISE SHIP POOLS
- ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO PACK FOR A CRUISE IF YOU CAN BRING DRINKS ONBOARD
- THINGS TO BRING TO KEEP YOU HEALTHY ON A CRUISE
- TRAVEL ESSENTIALS FOR SAFETY
- CLOTHES TO PACK FOR A CRUISE
- THINGS TO PACK TO MAKE LAUNDRY A BREEZE ON A CRUISE
- THINGS THAT ARE NICE TO TAKE ON A CRUISE
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MUST-HAVE ITEMS TO TAKE ON A CRUISE
Here are the essential things which we think are must-have items that we bring on every single cruise. We don’t leave home without these!
These are the items that we bring with us every cruise sailing whether it is a short 3-day journey or a longer cruise where we will be on the ship for weeks at a time.
Packing Cubes are really the absolutely essential travel item that I always take with me no matter what.
They make packing, organization, and even unpacking so much easier.
There are many different types available but I like this Set of Packing Cubes with Laundry Bag & Shoe Bag. This set is a good value and will make such a huge difference to your packing.
When you arrive in your stateroom you can easily unpack and know where everything is.
We all tend to have a lot of things that need charging now. Some cruise ships have a lot of outlets, but really on most ships I have sailed on, there are never enough.
I always take a Power Strip but you have to be careful to take the right one. If it is not Cruise Approved it will be confiscated and returned to you at the end of the cruise.
This Power Strip with USB Cruise Approved is one of my favorites as it has a 5-foot power cord with 3 outlets and 3 USB ports.
On the same theme, you always seem to run out of phone power just when you really need it.
This 2 Pack Portable Charger is reasonably priced and works well.
You can use hooks and clips for hanging things up on the wall such as bags, to-do lists, and hats. These do the job really well.
Magnetic Hooks Heavy Duty Extra Strength for Hanging are always useful things to pack on a cruise ship. Your stateroom is just one big magnetic space – and it is a really efficient use of space to take advantage of this.
I also always take a Reusable Water Bottle with me when I sail on a cruise.
It is so useful for many things including getting your morning coffee, taking to the gym, and taking with you when you are out and about in a port.
This Stainless Steel Water Bottle with Straw is a good one as it has a good capacity and is perfect for both hot and cold drinks.
This is well insulated and actually keeps your drink cold – even in those very hot destinations where it is so important that you keep hud
You will need to carry your cruise card everywhere with you. The easiest way to keep it safe and easily accessible is by having a lanyard.
Some cruise lines give these out when you board. However, sometimes they don’t so I always make sure to take my own.
This 2-Pack Cruise Lanyard combination is good value.
WHAT TO PACK FOR THE BEACH AND THE CRUISE SHIP POOLS
Most cruises sail in places with great weather year-round so you are likely to want to use the swimming pools onboard.
If you are sailing in the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, or Europe you are also likely to want to spend some downtime at the beach.
Here are some things to take on a cruise for the pool and the beach.
Always have a great tote bag to pack with pool and beachwear. Then it is easy to keep organized.
Often on a cruise, your luggage doesn’t arrive until late in the day to your stateroom on embarkation day.
So it’s a good idea to take your swimming tote with you so that you can use the pools on the ship when they are quiet.
One of my favorite tote bags is this Disney Mickey & Minnie Mouse Icon Print Zipper Travel Bag.
I sail mostly on Disney cruises so this is the one I usually take with me.
However, if you aren’t a fan of the Mouse (it’s OK I understand) then this is a really good Large Waterproof Beach Tote Pool Bag with lots of choices for different designs.
I recently discovered these fabulous Cooling Towels. I use them all the time now at home in the summer, at the gym at the Disney theme parks and I always take them on cruises.
The concept is really simple and they work so well at keeping you cool in hot weather. You just wet them with cold water and you are good to go.
Beaches can be uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous places to walk on with bare feet.
No one wants to end up with a cut foot from stepping on a sharp object on the sand or stones. Even Disney’s Private Island Castaway Cay is pretty rough on your feet!
The easy and inexpensive solution is to always bring Water Sports Swim Shoes. These are available in a variety of styles and sizes so there is a pair for all members of the family.
A swimsuit cover-up is essential to get you from the water back to your stateroom.
This Women’s Bathing Suit Swimwear Beach Cover Up is ideal for the beach or the pool and doesn’t take up too much space in your bag. There are lots of different colors to choose from.
If you are in the sun you really should be wearing a hat as well as sunscreen.
The great thing about this Women’s Beach Sun Straw Hat does not only offers UPV50 protection, but it is also foldable so ideal to pack it in your cruise suitcase.
Men need sun protection too so check out this Super Wide Brim Sun Hat to keep them safe from the rays.
There is nothing quite like sitting by the pool or lounging on the beach with a good book. I always pack my Kindle when I sail on a cruise.
I do sometimes like a “real” book but when traveling, the Kindle is just so much more convenient.
The new Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is the best design yet and also has the great feature of being waterproof.
This e-reader has up to 10 weeks of battery life – so that it is a long time before you are going to have to worry about recharging!
Water and electronics do not mix so I always make sure to bring a Universal Waterproof Case for Cellphone. It really isn’t worth taking a chance with your cell phone!
Another problem you may have with water is it might rain! Often in cruise destinations, showers are short but significant!
Pack this Windproof Travel Umbrella so you are not caught out in the rain.
ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO PACK FOR A CRUISE IF YOU CAN BRING DRINKS ONBOARD
Although many cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises have their own drink’s package some also allow you to bring a limited amount of bottles of wine and other soft drinks onboard. Always check the policy of the cruise line with whom you are sailing.
Disney Cruise Lines has one of the most generous alcohol policies as it allows you to bring two bottles of wine or a 6 pack of beer per person over 21.
If you are allowed to bring bottles of wine onboard you need to bring them in your hand luggage.
I have used these Wine Wings Reusable Bottle Protectors for years and never had a problem with any leakages or breakages.
In a bid to be more environmentally friendly, most cruise lines have discontinued the use of plastic straws. Most now use paper straws.
If you are one of the many who don’t like paper straws you can bring your own reusable straws on the ship. These Reusable Silicone Straws are a great option to bring with you.
THINGS TO BRING TO KEEP YOU HEALTHY ON A CRUISE
We all know that keeping healthy anywhere you go is more and more important these days.
There are some things that are specific to sailing on a cruise that you will want to pack in your suitcase.
These days there will be a Hand Sanitizer available all over the ship. I do still like to take my own with me so that I can always have it when I need it.
This Hand Sanitizer Gel Infused with Essential Oils is a favorite as it is travel size and also has a clip so you can carry it easily.
I have also recently bought these Travel Size Hand Sanitizer Holder Bottles which are really useful. They have hooks so you can attach them to your bag or lanyard.
You can fill them with a sanitizer, or use them for sunscreen or even hand cream. Just so useful to carry with you or throw into your beach bag.
Sometimes you really just want some soap to wash your hands with. These Mini Portable Disposable Travel Paper Soap Sheets are ideal for when you are sailing. They come in a cute dispenser.
Another recent find that I wouldn’t now be without is this UV Light Sanitizer Bag. I use this a lot at home now too.
It is great to take on a cruise with you as it is easy to sanitize things like your phone and even your toothbrush.
The first thing I do when I arrive at my stateroom is set up this sanitizer (it uses a USB). I put things like the stateroom remote control in there.
I know that cruise lines are very careful and thorough in their cleaning methods, but I do think it is important to do what you can as well.
I always bring these Multi-Surface Antibacterial Cleaning Wipes and use them to wipe down surfaces in my stateroom.
Always use Sun Screen. It will be available on the ship, but at a premium price. So always take your own preferred brand.
If you will be swimming in the ocean always use one that is eco-friendly such as this Reef Safe Sunscreen SPF 50.
I always make sure that I have some Aloe Vera in my cruise packing bag. I like this Organic Aloe Vera Gel because it is pure without the toxic additives that some brands have. It is great to use on sunburn, stings, and bites.
I also always pack some Sting Stop Gel – it really works quickly if you do get a bite or sting.
Although I am fortunate enough never to have experienced it, seasickness is a real thing for some.
The modern cruise ships have excellent stabilizers so most people do report that they are not affected by motion sickness, but it is always wise to pack some remedies just in case.
I have written a guide to what to do to help prevent and alleviate seasickness. You should always pack a remedy such as Dramamine.
The Dramamine Motion Sickness Original may have you so sleepy you will be fast asleep before sailing away! But the Dramamine Non-Drowsy works just as well. Save the original version if you want to fall asleep on the plane!
It is a good idea to take a Basic Medical Kit with you. I like this Mini First Aid Kit as it has all the essentials and is compact and easy to carry,
TRAVEL ESSENTIALS FOR SAFETY
We might not want to think about it, but sometimes things do happen. However, there are many things you can do to minimize the chances of this by traveling smarter.
Here are the things we always take with us.
You always want to keep your travel documents safe when you are traveling. This Passport and Vaccine Card Holder Combo is useful for keeping your passport and vaccine card together.
You can choose from lots of different colors.
As a very frequent Disney cruiser, I have this Adventure Awaits Passport Cover inspired by the Pixar movie Up.
I love the design and the fact that it is big enough for more than one passport.
Never ever travel without Travel Insurance. Most of the time you won’t need it, but when you do you will be so thankful that you have it.
When you are onboard your ship you do not need to carry any money with you – all you need is your cruise card. However, when you get off the ship at any port you will need to carry money and possibly travel documents with you.
Therefore you need somewhere safe to carry your valuables with you. I have had one of these Eagle Creek RFID Blocker Travel Money Belt for a long time and it’s easy to wear and comfortable.
If you are looking for a travel purse I like the Travelon Women’s, Anti-Theft Range.
They are reasonably priced and have such features as hidden, slash-proof, Chain Link construction, and an adjustable, cable-reinforced, cut-proof shoulder strap.
Always use a TSA Approved Luggage Lock for your luggage so that Transportation Security Administration screeners can inspect and relock baggage, without damaging the lock.
CLOTHES TO PACK FOR A CRUISE
Here are some ideas for some clothes that you might want to pack for a cruise.
Before you sail make sure that you know your cruise line’s specific dress code. Some cruise lines are definitely more formal than others.
However, many cruise lines have a very relaxed dress code these days.
Just make sure you know what is appropriate for the ship you are sailing on.
I sail mostly with Disney cruises and they have a fairly relaxed dress code, even for formal night.
One of the best things I have bought for any kind of travel is this Large Soft Cashmere Silky Pashmina Solid Shawl Wrap. It is great for dressing up in the evening, keeping warm on deck or your balcony.
I even took it with me on a recent trip to England and it kept me really warm. You can choose from lots of different colors and it’s reasonably enough priced so you can have different colors.
One idea to bear in mind is that to minimize the number of clothes you take, your aim should be to create a capsule wardrobe with key pieces that can be worn with each other.
I spend a lot of time wearing summer dresses on a cruise. One of my favorites is this Women’s Summer Halter Maxi Dress. It is inexpensive, good quality doesn’t crease, and is available in lots of different colors and designs.
This Belted Wrap Short Jumpsuit is another really great outfit to take with you on a cruise.
It is available in lots of different colors, is so comfortable to wear, and goes easily from day to night time.
THINGS TO PACK TO MAKE LAUNDRY A BREEZE ON A CRUISE
If you are on a short cruise you probably won’t have to think about this. However, for cruises of 7 nights or more, you will probably need to do laundry.
Here are some things that will make it easier to deal with the laundry on your cruise.
Of course, no one really wants to do laundry on a cruise, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it! But it can be made easier if you just pack a few things to make a difference.
Laundry rooms on cruise ships will sell detergent and fabric softener. However, it will probably not be the brand that you like and it will certainly be more expensive than taking your own.
Another discovery I made a number of years ago and now always take with me is Downy Wrinkle Releaser. This handy little spray doesn’t take up much space but is wonderful at getting creases out of dresses and shirts.
Perfect for a formal night when you may not want to spend time in the laundry room ironing!
I always bring a laundry bag as well. It helps to keep things much more organized and also means that you have something to carry laundry into the laundry room on board!
This Large Laundry Mesh Bag with Drawstring Closure Bundle with 6 Pack Mesh Wash Bags is particularly good as you can have one large bag and also separate out delicates and socks.
It’s just so much more organized so that everything is sorted according to how it should be washed. Even if you don’t want to do laundry on the ship it means everything is organized for packing when you go home.
THINGS THAT ARE NICE TO TAKE ON A CRUISE
Here are some ideas for lots more items that are not exactly essential things to pack on a cruise, but will make it an, even more, self-indulgent and enjoyable experience. Treat yourself!
One thing that absolutely should be on your Alaska packing list is a pair of binoculars. There is so much amazing scenery and wildlife on an Alaskan cruise you will miss out unless you have some.
They are also definitely nice to have on other cruises too. Some of the most amazing moments on the Mexican Riviera cruise have been when I have seen whales and dolphins while sitting and relaxing on my verandah.
The binoculars really don’t have to be expensive – these Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision are very reasonably priced. They are also compact and lightweight enough to easily be packed in your port visit tote bag.
If you want to keep a track of your exercise and fitness levels this Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch is one of my favorite new accessories.
It can be difficult not to put on weight on a cruise – the temptation of all that food can be overwhelming! But you can keep an eye on your step count, heart rate and even track your sleep patterns.
A set of wireless earbuds is also something that is nice to have on a cruise. You can listen to music or maybe an audiobook and be in your own private world.
Earbuds don’t need to be expensive well-known names. These Wireless Earbuds are an inexpensive option with high ratings.
The memories that you make on a cruise are things that you will have with you forever. But to make those memories a bit clearer you will want to have a great camera with you.
If you are going to take a lot of video footage then you really should think about the GoPro HERO9 Camera. It takes amazing photos too.
The OLYMPUS Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera is an excellent point-and-shoot camera which is easy to use and produces great results.
I am always looking for ways to make a cruise stateroom more comfortable. At home, I pretty much always have a candle burning, so I looked for an alternative to take with me on a cruise as obviously, no cruise line allows candles because of the fire risk!
I now take a Yankee Candle room spray with me when I travel. One of my favorite selections for a cruise is this Yankee Candle Summer Favorites 3-Pack Concentrated Room Sprays (Sun and Sand, Pink Sand, Beach Walk). I really love the fragrances included in this pack.
I always take a Dry-Erase Board with me. It’s small enough to be easy to pack but large enough to be able to leave messages for your cruise mates.
Even though many cruise lines are now going paperless, some still have daily schedules on paper. I make sure that I have packed my Highlighter Pens so I can mark activities that we are interested in.
What do you always pack on a cruise? Do you have any tips for others about things to take on a cruise?
Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando. In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.