What to pack for a cruise holiday


Wondering what to pack for a cruise holiday? Is it your first time at sea? This guide will tell you how to pack light so there’s plenty of room in your suitcase for all of those must-have souvenirs.

Packing for a cruise holiday can be difficult, especially if it’s your first one.  You don’t want to forget anything and have to buy it at double the price onboard the ship.  Nor do you need to go without something important and wait until you get into port to buy it.   So, it is really essential that you create a packing list before your vacation.  My advice is that you shouldn’t wait until the week before you go. The earlier you start your list, the better! That way you won’t forget anything important at the last minute.

It can also be difficult choosing what to take when you don’t know the culture of the area or weather in the region. For example, women visiting predominately Muslim countries might forget to take a long sleeved t-shirt to cover up with, an easy mistake when packing for a hot African country!  And those visiting Europe might not realise how chilly it can get on a summer evening.

The length of your vacation and whether or not you’re going as a couple or as a family will also determine how much (and exactly what) you will need to pack.

We can’t provide you with an exhaustive list of what to pack for a cruise holiday, but we can give you a few things to think about as you start planning.

Essential Items:

  • The most important things to remember:  Tickets, Passports, Visas (if needed)
  • Any other proof of citizenship or identification you might need (check with your cruise line what’s needed)
  • Cash, travellers cheques and debit cards.  Something secure to keep them in.  Alway keep your traveller’s cheque receipt separately, for security.
  • Any medical information, documents or certificates. Write down your medical history if you’re travelling alone.  This could save your life in a foreign country if anything went wrong!
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Proof of vaccinations (if needed)
  • Any specific cruise-related documentation, including your information pack.


Clothing can be so hard to get right, plus it’s proven that women always overpack and take far too many outfits.  This is not a good idea if you’re flying to your port (or home from port) and there’s a bagage limit.  Think about the climate of everywhere you’re visiting, and find out what the average temperature is for each region.  This is especially important if you’re travelling across a range of different countries and territories.

Here are a few items you might wish to think about well in advance, to prepare:

Evening wear:

  • You might need to pack a particular type of formal wear, if your cruise line requires it. It’s best you call up, read your information pack or check the website to see if there’s a dress code in advance so you can get prepared.  Some ships have formal dinners with dances, so it’s certainly work checking dress codes well in advance if this is something you’d like to participate in.

Day time wear:

  • Don’t forget to pack a lightweight jacket, no matter where you’re visiting!  Even if you’re visiting typically hot countries, some evenings at sea can feel cooler than you’d expect.

Theme nights?

  • It could be worth finding out if your cruise will host a fancy dress theme night during your vacation.  If this is something you’d like to participate in, finding out in advance will ensure you have time to prepare costumes.


  • You might think cruising will be all flip flops for the day time and high heels for night, but you MUST pack a pair of sturdy comfortable shoes for excursions.  Especially if you wish to trek along the coastline, wander around ruins and monuments or simply indulge in hours of shopping!


  • Sunburn isn’t pretty, nor is it good for your healh!  Packing sunglasses and hats is a must – a requirement if you’re visiting hot countries!
  • Don’t forget: a foldable raincoat will protect you from light showers, plus they’ll fit in a bag or pocket.  Convenient!


Only take what you need, and decant cosmetics and lotions from into smaller travel bottles where possible.  If you’re travelling by air to or from your cruise destination you’ll find this saves weight and space, helping you meet the airline’s weight limit.

Find out if a hairdryer is included in your room, and what type it is. You don’t want to rely on your room’s hairdryer if it’s very weak and takes a long time to style your hair.

Don’t forget these essentials: Soap, tweezers, hand sanitizers, razors, shaving creme and dental floss! Also ladies, check you’ve got a small travel mirror with you for touching up makeup away from your room. Suncream, aftersun and a pack of plasters are must-haves too!

Gadgets, entertainment & electronics:

Aside from the usual (cameras, phones and chargers) consider whether or not you’d like to take any other gadgets. For example, you may wish to take a small laptop, an e-reader, plug adaptors, converters, binoculars or pre-paid phone cards.

Even though some ships have libraries onboard, and there is always a wealth of entertainment options to choose from, sometimes you just want to curl up in bed and finish a book you’ve been meaning to get through all year.  Remember to plan ahead and choose the books (or DVDs) you wish to take with you.

More resources:

  • This article from Cruise Direct Online features a long, comprehensive packing list – certainly one to amend and then print off before undertaking the task yourself!

About Author

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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