Vacation Ready - What to Pack for a Cruise

by author David Jones

The beauty of the cruise vacation package is that it lets you experience everything you could ever want in a vacation – great food, lots of fun activities, premier accommodations, and world-class sightseeing – all in one place. For that reason, the extravagant cruise is often advertised to be the perfect vacation package for travelers who don’t want to take time with preparations.


While it might be true that a cruise won’t demand so much of your planning effort, preparing for the cruise itself is another story. Failing to bring the right stuff means putting yourself in the middle of the sea without the essentials you need to truly enjoy your vacation.


So if you want to steer clear of vacation disaster, it pays to know – what are you supposed to pack for a cruise? Here’s my take on all the necessities you’ll ever need.


Clear Plastic Envelope



Bet you didn’t think this would be the first thing on your list? A clear plastic envelope holds great value for anyone wanting to stay worry-free on a cruise. These nifty little things can hold all of your necessary documents – like gate passes, identification, passports, and your birth certificate – should all find a place in your carry-on.


Just to keep them extra safe, sort them all out in a clear plastic envelope so for water-proof protection. The plastic makes it easy to see at a glance if you’ve got your documents in tote.


Waterproof Carry-On



Unless you want to keep going back and forth to your room – which might be a ways away from where all the fun is at – then it would be wise to have a bag to bring with you while you explore the amenities of your cruise.


Keep in mind though that things can get unpredictable. Splashing water from on-board pools, spilled drinks, and even just nasty humidity can moisten your personal items. If there are a bunch of electronic devices in your bag, then the exposure might just conk them out.


Use a waterproof bag for all your belongings, and make sure it fits all the essentials you need to take around with you. Whenever possible, choose a bag that you can maintain within your view – like a side bag or a belt bag – as opposed to a backpack that leaves room for potential accidents.


Large Clothing Pins or Clips



Do you know how windy it gets on a cruise? Pretty windy. Packing some large clothing pins to clamp a towel down on a lounge chair can save you a lot of standing up to retrieve said towel. If you have a bag with a long strap and a big sun hat, then the clip can come in handy to secure those to your chair as well.


But aside from that, clips can also come in handy in your room. Shower curtains and window drapes that aren’t wide enough can leave gaps. So using a clip to hold them in place can keep water from splashing around and unwelcome daylight from seeping into your room as you sleep.


Power Bank



You don’t want to a miss a thing when you’re on a cruise. So whether you’re on the ship or visiting your first stop, the last thing you’d want would be to have to find your phone and camera all juiced out.


A powerbank becomes a nifty little device to have at there ready for those moments when you won’t have an outlet to plug into. Keep it in a waterproof envelope or case to prevent any water or moisture damage and hook it up to your phone to restore your juice for those unexpected photo ops.


Reusable Drinking Glass or Bottle



Most cruises offer free flowing drinks to their guests, but the catch is you have to use their glasses withing restaurant premises only. So what if you want to bring your drink out to the deck or the pool? Easy – bring your own reusable bottle instead.


Not only are they eco-friendly, but a reusable bottle can also help you identify your drink in a sea of drink vessels. Besides, you’ll have to find a way to stay hydrated while you’re frolicking about. And because a cruise ship can get pretty spacious and expansive, going back to the restaurant to get a drink might not be the smartest recourse.


Formal Wear



Most cruises – especially more luxurious liners – will often have a formal attire event lined up to keep their guests entertained and satisfied. As you might have guessed, these events are strictly organized and call for the appropriate attire. If you’re not dressed to match the event, then you might not be allowed entry.


Don’t forget to pack along some formal wear so you can attend special events on the cruise whenever they’re scheduled. For top-tier cruise liners, you might want to pack more than one since these formal nights tend to happen more often.





There’s a lot to see while you’re on a cruise. So don’t think that just because it’s water all-around, there’s nothing else to observe. Bringing a pair of binoculars can help you see the great beyond, perhaps even letting you watch rare animal species in the water and air.


On-board, binoculars can also be pretty helpful. Crowds can get think on a cruise, and if you’re trying to look for your friends or family among groups of guests, then it might be impossible without enhancing your sight somehow.


Wrinkle Release Spray



Cramming all your clothes into a suitcase might have caused a few wrinkles to plague them here and there. This can be especially annoying if you’ve brought along a crisp white shirt for formal night that’s now looking like it’s been crammed in there for years.


Because most cruise liners will not allow you to bring appliances like irons, it’s best that you pack along some wrinkle release spray. The simple product can help smoothen out your clothes and get them looking pristine once more so you can wear them with confidence throughout the trip.





Did you know that most cruises will not provide you a shopping bag after you buy from their souvenir shops and other stores? That’s all part of their commitment to help the environment by reducing the amount of plastic they use. Of course, they do sell eco-bags at the shops themselves, but like most of the other items, they’ll be pretty overpriced.


So instead of dishing out an extra $10 just to buy an eco-bag, bring one of your own. Fold it up and keep it in your carry on so you have some extra storage for when you decide to go through the items in the shops.


Plastic Bags



While it might seem contradictory to the cruise’s commitment to reduce plastic waste, it’s important to emphasize that these plastic bags aren’t for throwing away. If you plan to swim at the on-board pool, then a plastic bag might come in handy. When you’re all soaked with pool water and you go to get changed, you’ll have no choice but to hold on to your wet swimsuit until you get to your room.


To eliminate that hassle, bring along a plastic bag. Carry your wet clothes, towels, and other swimming essentials in it until you get back to your room. Empty it out and hang it to dry so you can pack it again tomorrow.


First Aid Kit



There are provisions for medical care on-board, so you might be able to get sound medical attention for minor injuries while you’re on the cruise. But just to be doubly sure, it wouldn’t hurt to carry around a first-aid kit. Bandages, disinfectant, cotton swabs, and OTC medications for typical conditions like the flu or the common cold might come in handy.


Pack all of your first aid essentials in their own separate bag and keep them in your carry on at all times. This way, you can help treat any minor health problems that arise especially if you’re too far from a medic.


Sewing Kit



No one wants to go through a wardrobe malfunction. But unfortunately, there’s no way to predict when they’ll happen. So to keep yourself safe from the ever embarrassing situation, bring along a sewing kit with all the essentials. Pack along with various colors of thread in different thicknesses as well as needles, a small pair of scissors, and even a measuring tape.


Undone bikinis, loose buttons, holes, rips, and tears – whatever might have happened to your clothes, you’ll be sure that you have something with you to repair the damage and make them wearable again.


Bug Spray



You’d be surprised how many mosquitoes and other pesky bugs can fly around on a cruise, especially at night. The warmth of the ship as well as the bountiful supply of hosts attract these insects and make for a very unpleasant nuance while you’re trying to enjoy your evening.


To prevent any bites, pack along some bug spray. Spread generously on all of your exposed skin. If you’re interested in something a little more effective against bigger, more persistent bugs, consider lotion instead. These products often offer better resistance to bites because they leave a thicker layer of protection on your skin.


Desk Clock



Cruise rooms aren’t quite as luxurious or lavish as your typical hotel. That’s because they don’t really have enough space on board to provide their guests with such spacious rooms. So because of that, you can expect decor and features inside the room to be pretty limited as well. For instance, I once stayed on a cruise where the clock in my room looked like nothing more than a wrist watch nailed against my wall.


Because time is of the essence when you’re on a cruise, it would be wise to bring along a clock to help you keep track of the time. A simple desk clock or alarm clock can be more than enough to help you stay on schedule, especially because personnel will be pretty strict about following time guidelines.





Again, unlike hotels and other accommodations, cruises won’t be quite as generous when it comes to replenishing your toiletries. Even if they do replenish, ther emight not be enough for you and the rest of the family, so it might be better to pack your own instead.


Take a bunch of your toiletries and personal care essentials and keep them in a hanging organizer. Make sure they’re all sealed in their own zippered compartments so that if anything spills, the mess won’t spread around too much.


Hang the organizer behind your bathroom door to keep them easily within reach, and roll it up and pack it away when it’s time to leave for an effortless clean-up process.


Sea Sickness and Allergy Medication



Here’s something that not everyone remembers, but almost everyone needs. You’d be surprised just how stimulating the ocean waves can be. And when that nausea kicks in, you might find yourself wanting to lurch over the ship rails all the way through your stopovers.


If you don’t want to water down your experience with a nasty case of nausea, then make sure you pack along some sea sickness meds. Menthol rubs and gels can also help keep your senses centered by sniffing on them and rubbing them on your chest and temples.


For people with AND without known allergies, allergy medication should always find a place in your bag. There are lots of unknown substances on cruises from throngs of guests that you’re not familiar with that could trigger an allergic reaction. Unless you want to ride out the puffiness while the rest of the gang enjoys the beach, then it would be wise to pack some antihistamines.


Rubbing Alcohol



Cruise ships are packed with people. And that means there’s going to be germs, bacteria, and contaminants literally everywhere. While personnel will try their best to make sure everything’s spic and span, there’s no way to tell if there are any potentially harmful substances covering doorknobs, rails, and other things you might come into contact with.


Pack along some rubbing alcohol and keep it in your carry on at all times. Spray it on regularly and rub away to keep your hands clean, especially after you’ve had to touch or handle items that you might find questionable.




A cruise will only be as fun as how well you prepare for it. So make sure you’ve got all the essentials down. Keep these necessities in mind the next time you’re planning for a cruise and curb the headaches that come with poor preparations.