If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ve probably already learned that I HATE packing. It stinks. I hate carrying around a bunch of stuff but equally hate forgetting something important at home.
Luckily, after years on a cruise ship, I’ve gotten the process down. And I am here to help you know exactly what to bring on your next vacation! Yay! So without further ado, here are the top 7 things to pack for a cruise no matter where in the world you’re going.
Just to let you know, this post may contain affiliate links. Don't worry, they won't cost you anything extra. If you do decide to purchase something, I may receive a small commission. I absolutely hate ads so to avoid using them on my blog, the links I've attached cover the cost of running this site. I will only ever recommend products that I truly believe in or advocate for.
1.) Appropriate clothes
The biggest item in your suitcase will be your clothing so I wanted to hit this one first. Typically people either substantially under or overpack when it comes to clothes.
Look at it this way, yes you will have lots of different types of clothing you’ll want to pack, but you’re also going to be on a high-end vacation that has everything on board you could ever imagine. You’ll be joining a floating city, not pitching a tent at a campground. You don’t need to stress too much because at the end of the day, any necessities you may leave at home, the ship can more than likely replace.
Yes, replacement fees can be pricey so we’re still gonna set the goal at not leaving everything at home, but it’s even MORE expensive to pay for a heavy suitcase. Not to mention that sucker will slow you down. Lots of things you can borrow for free just like in a hotel. (Towels, robes, slippers, etc.) Just ask.
Having problems keeping that bag light? Check out all my Best Tips and Tricks to Avoid Overpacking before your next trip!
This may not apply to everyone, but if you like to get that sunrise run in before the rest of the cruise ship wakes up, make sure to pack some gym clothes. Even if you don’t work out at home regularly, you will have access to time and a gym and you might even feel inspired to get a workout in. -since you’ll be living your best life and all that. Awesome. Pack a couple of outfits.
Did you hear that correctly? A couple-as in two, or maybe even three if you’re extra spunky.
Not only will you be walking a lot (more on that later) but also you may not even feel motivated to go to the gym every day once you start exploring the ship. Let’s be real, even if you do, laundry services are affordable. It’s better to pay to have a few pairs of leggings cleaned then pack 5 outfits you never use.
Your Gala Dress
Remember that expensive, elegant and totally over the top dress, you bought years ago, swearing to yourself you’d find reasons to wear it? Then you wore it once and after that single occasion, it sat in the back of your closet. The dress that is just frankly overdressed for most normal life uses? Well, the time has finally come to use it!
Every single cruise will have a gala or formal night. Dress code will be fancy and you’ll maybe even get to meet the captain. Even during short cruises cruise lines will squeeze this night in. You getting pretty and meeting the captain means you wanting pictures, which in turn leads to more photographers making sales. (Duh, everything is about money.)
This is the night to go all out. Make yourself feel like a princess. You will find some people more overdressed than you with bigger ball gowns and you’ll find some people in sports shorts and flip-flops. There’s no wrong dress code so feel beautiful and dress up because let’s be honest it’s just fun. Might as well use the dress.
Fun Things for Theme Nights
Do a little research before your first cruise and figure out what theme nights they’ll be having on board. You can either ask a travel agency, the company directly, or my top suggestion: Find a Facebook group that cruises frequently with the company you booked.
For example, I work for MSC and I recommend future cruisers to hook up with the MSC Cruises Fan Page.
This group is always onboard an MSC cruise and is super friendly and ready to help with anyone’s questions.
This Facebook group basically accepts anyone as the goal is to keep first time cruisers informed.
They usually know best as they could have gotten off the same ship you’re boarding less than a week ago. People are dedicated to Facebook and can give you very updated information.
There's a Facebook group for everything these days so you'll be sure to find one.
The last thing we want is you to be bummed when everyone is jamming to 70’s music in all his or her best clothes from the past and you don’t have something to dress up in too! You won't be kicked out of a party, but again, it’s just fun to dress up.
There's basically a whole bunch of things that are consistent cruise by cruise with every cruise line, so if this is your first one, make sure to check out What to Know Before Your First Cruise before heading off as well.
Weather appropriate clothes
If you’re going to the Caribbean EVEN IF YOU DON’T PLAN ON SWIMMING, bring a swimsuit. You might surprise yourself. Also, the Caribbean is hot guys; don’t pack tons of layers you’ll regret wearing once you’re carrying them up and down the street or beach.
If you’re going to Norway, even if you’re super-tough and used to harsh winters, bring a coat. Norway is cold. You will be upset if you have to come back to the ship sooner than you wanted because you didn’t dress appropriately either way.
2.) A good camera
You’re going to have such an amazing time. You’ll want to take photos. You’ll want to remember your whole trip. If you have a go-pro, or a Canon or Nikon, pack it. If you don’t and just have your phone, use that!
The worst part is when you’re sharing all kinds of stories and all you want to do is SHOW your family what you did, but you don’t have any photos!
I always travel with my Canon. I left it at home one time and really regretted it. No matter where I am in the world, my best photos have always been captured on this guy. I’m not saying go out and buy an expensive camera, but if it’s sitting on the back of a shelf at home, dust that bad boy off.
One of my favorite things to capture on my camera is wildlife! (Specifically monkeys since they're my favorite animals! Phone cameras have really improved but let's be real, animals far away can be hard to catch. I'm so proud of these photos and show everyone and I wouldn't have been able to catch something even close to this without my nice camera and lens. I would highly recommend saving up for one some day!
3.) A secure pouch or backpack
Depending on the countries you’ll be visiting (again do some research), pick-pocketing rates can be pretty high. I know it’s dorky, but a little pouch to wear around your neck to carry your cruise card and money is worth the security of knowing you’re not being stolen from.
When I’m traveling, I use a theft proof backpack. It has lots of hidden pockets; it’s waterproof and even has a lock. Not every place is dangerous, but having invested in a secure backpack, I don’t have to worry about what places are or are not.
Here’s the truth though-not everything is as bad as it’s advertised to be. Once you’re on board, just ask the crew which ports to be a little bit more cautious in and they’ll know right away. Better safe than robbed.
4.) The skin and hair products you use
The older and wiser I get, the more I care about having nice products. I want good skincare products and good makeup and just nice things that make me feel fresh, clean and healthy. Not because I’m rich or high maintenance but because I love myself which allows me to love my skin.
Investing in myself even just a little bit tends to jump start my entire mood for the whole day. Self-Love goes a long ways people!
That being said, on the ship you will be getting CHEAP products provided to you. Think hotel quality bottles but probably less. You’ll be stocked with what you absolutely need as far as hygiene goes.
In some ships, that is just soap and shampoo. That’s it.
Not that you need every product in the world with you on vacation, but if your hair or skin is already sensitive to chlorine, salt or sun-like mine, you won’t have as much damage control when you get home if you just pack your products.
If you’re not picky, cool. If you’re okay with the possibility of not having conditioner, you’re way chiller than me. If you’re a dude and you just don’t care, I’m surprised you got this far in this article You can always get as many mini bottles of supplies or re-fills of soap as you need if you ask your housekeeper or reception.
5.) Good walking shoes
You will want comfortable tennis shoes. You will try to get by with comfortable heels or comfortable sandals and you’ll be upset that you didn’t pack tennis shoes. Not only will you be doing a lot of walking just back and forth on the ship, but also when you dock in port you’ll have hours upon hours of walking and exploring planned. The last thing you want is to have to go back to the ship early because your feet will be aching from your cute summer sandals.
If it means that much to you or your photos, pack your other shoes in a bag with you and switch them out when you need it.
As a crewmember, my absolute favorite shoes to wear are my Adidas Superstars. They’re comfy, go with most of my outfits and I can wear them on and off the ship. I go through about a pair every 3 months. (That just shows you how many steps we’re getting in!)
6.) Pre downloaded books, things to do in port lists, etc.
I’m sure you already know this but Wifi is EXPENSIVE at sea. Even if you decide to buy it, you don’t want to drain it too quickly. Take some time at home (or heck even your local Starbucks) beforehand and download everything you’ll need.
If you’re a reader, you might be surprised how fast you can get through books when you’re laying out on a sun deck with no interruptions other than your cocktail. Download at least a few books on your kindle before coming on board that way you don’t waste time in one of the ports searching for free-Wi-Fi.
In the same way, look up some things you’d like to know or do in each new stop and maybe make a list to use as reference that way you don’t have to rely on Google once you’re on your vacation. If you’re cruising through Europe, you might have awesome included service. If you’re cruising through the Caribbean and island hopping, I wish you good luck.
7.) Patience and an open mind
I know, I know, cheesy but I just had to include this. You’re literally about to go on a vacation in a city filled with people from all over the world, who all think differently than you, and who all have different expectations. And oh yeah, it floats-so the weather can get a little tricky.
You might miss a port because of the winds. I’m sorry, it stinks but it happens and safety is ALWAYS first.
You might be put at a table with another couple that doesn’t speak your language. Maybe you can find another way to communicate with them and learn something. I know you may find this inconvenient, but you’re not at home. There are thousands of other people dining with you and I sure hope they don’t see you as an inconvenience.
You might have one of your excursions that you were looking forward to canceled. Sometimes the employees can’t control whatever issue it is, be weather or a problem with security outside. Be nice to them and find something else to fill your day.
You might even be surprised how many new things you got to try and do because you TRIED AND DID new things.
No matter what you forget at home, you’ll manage to get by and still enjoy your cruise vacation! (Remember, the cruise lines are prepared for things like this so always ask!)
Download My Cruise Vacation Packing List for Free so you don't leave anything at home!
Is there anything else that you always pack when you’re cruising that I didn’t mention? What did you find the most useful in your suitcase? Let me know in the comments below!
For advice on all things cruising make sure to subscribe below and follow me on Instagram to stay connected to the adventure!
As always, God bless, and enjoy your cruise!