Planning a cruise requires plenty of research and careful consideration — and that’s after you pick your cruise line, your ship and the itinerary you like the most. From there, you have to plan things to do in every port of call — or decide you want to do nothing at all. You also have to figure out what to bring on your cruise and what should stay at home. After all, cruise cabins almost always have limited space, and you don’t want to cramp your room with too much luggage or items you don’t really need.
We spoke with several cruise experts for their input on what to pack for a cruise to make the most of your space and best enjoy your long-awaited cruise vacation. If you’re packing for your next cruise and wondering what you should bring along, let this cruise packing checklist serve as your guide — plus, don’t forget all of your essentials like shorts, shirts, dresses and swimwear, dependent on your cruise itinerary and time of year.
Stewart Chiron, founder of The Cruise Guy
, always brings a portable Bluetooth speaker to listen to his own music in his cabin. Having sailed on 300 cruises, Chiron’s speaker of choice is the Bose SoundLink Flex, which is waterproof and built to withstand dust, debris and drops — anything a cruise vacation may throw at it. If you’re looking for something smaller to take on your travels, we recommend the Sony XB13
portable Bluetooth speaker, which packs a powerful sound in a compact shape — you can read our review on why it’s so good for travel here.
Cruising can be loud, whether it’s loud passengers, the sound of the cruise ship’s horn or music in common areas. So, Chiron recommends bringing along a set of Bluetooth wireless earphones so he can enjoy his music and quiet time even during the loudest environments. His favorite pair are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, and we agree they’re a great choice. In fact, after our testing, we dubbed them the best true wireless noise-canceling earbuds out there. You can read our full review of them here.
Erica Silverstein, travel editor at The Points Guy
, suggests bringing magnets along on your cruise. “Most travelers are surprised to discover that most cruise ship cabin walls and doors are magnetic,” she says. Silverstein brings magnetic clips to organize tour tickets, newsletters and other papers, and strong magnetic hooks to hang everything from hats and jackets to slightly damp swimsuits. Both the magnetic clips and hooks help her stay organized in her cruise cabin.
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Bringing a cooler on a cruise may seem strange, as you’ll be having most of your meals and drinks on the ship. But, it can be a smart move to bring a smaller one when you plan to explore off the beaten path at port. Fill it with ice, your favorite beverages (don’t forget lots of water!) and snacks for a trek to your favorite local beach. This version from IceMule features backpack straps that make it easy to carry along your favorite refreshments hands-free. The IceMule Jaunt 15-Liter Cooler is also made to be rolled up for travel and storage, so you can easily pack it in your suitcase or travel backpack.
Tanner Callais, founder of Cruzely
, says travelers should always bring an international plug adapter on their cruise. Because many cruise ships have several types of plugs because they move within different regions of the world, it’s not always guaranteed that your ship will have the right power outlets for your electronics. A device like the Bestek International Power Adapter is a good option since it has three traditional AC outlets, four USB charging ports and plug adapters that work for devices that are compatible for charging in Australia, Europe, South Africa, the UK and elsewhere.
In addition to letting you charge up in just about any type of outlet, international plug adapters can also help you expand your charging capability to more than one device at a time. “Newer cruise ships are better, but older ships may have literally one outlet for you to charge your phone, plug in a hair straightener or a night-light,” Callais says.
Packing cubes are a must for staying organized in your cruise cabin, particularly if you like to use the built-in drawers. These compression packing cubes from Monos come in a set of four, allowing you to organize your things based on clothes type. Not only can they keep you organized while you pack your suitcase, but when you get to your cabin, just arrange them in the drawers. Then, when you’re ready to pack up and go home, you can grab your cubes and stash them in your luggage for the journey.
This portable charger can serve as a supplement to your cruise cabin outlets or while you’re out for the day exploring a new port. The Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 is a great option for travelers, as it’s slim and ultra portable while also carrying enough power to charge an iPhone 12 more than two times.
Storing a single suitcase in a cruise cabin can be a challenge on its own, but if you want to bring three or four pieces of luggage along for the trip, you may mightily struggle with enough storage space. Collapsible luggage from Rollink provides the ideal solution since it’s lightweight and entirely collapsible for easy storage — especially in a small cruise cabin. This checked bag is large enough to pack all your cruise attire and toiletries, yet it folds down flat so you can store it in your cruise closet or under your bed when not in use. You can read our full review of the Rollink here.
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Shaving your legs can be tricky on a cruise, mostly due to the lack of space within the cramped confines of cruise cabin showers. However, this All-In-One Portable Razor from Alleyoop makes the task easier by helping you touch up your legs and elsewhere on your body on the go. The portable razor includes two shaving heads, a refillable water spray bottle and a shea butter moisturizing bar. It’s TSA-approved, and it’s made to suit all skin types.
If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you know that finding a chair on the pool deck can become a competitive sport. Not only that, but if you’re lucky enough to secure chairs for your group, it can get extremely windy. Souza recommends bringing a set of towel clips to help secure your towel to your deck chair on the pool deck. You’ll never miss which chair is yours in a sea of loungers that all look the same with this multicolored set of eight towel clips.
Paravel is one of our favorite travel brands. Not only are the products made with sustainability top of mind, but they’re also incredibly chic. We love the Fold-Up Backpack, which also comes in a mini version for $45
, for travelers — especially cruisers. As the name suggests, the bag folds up for easy transport and storage when not in use and then extends to fit all a day’s essentials when you’re ready to take it ashore.
Even tropical destinations popular for cruising can see temperatures drop in the evenings, and most frequent cruisers know that wind can play a role as well. With that in mind, this fleece wrap from women-owned company J.J. Winks is perfect for relaxing evenings on the lido deck when it’s cool enough that you need some extra warmth. As an alternative, you can also use it to stay cozy on the plane or in the car while en route to your cruise port. This fleece wrap comes in two neutral shades — black and gray heathered — and it’s one-size-fits-all.
No matter how well you pack, sometimes wrinkles are inevitable. And since irons aren’t an option in cruise cabins, Souza recommends taking wrinkle-release spray for clothing. While packing your evening attire in a garment bag can help, Downy Wrinkle Releaser can help your clothing appear crease-free.
When you’re cruising with a family in tow and everyone has their own devices, it’s crucial to keep all your chargers, adapters and power cords organized and tidy. The STM Dapper Wrapper does exactly that by providing one central location for these items with multiple pockets and storage compartments to utilize. The Dapper Wrapper is available in multiple colors, and it wraps up nicely with a secure magnetic closure so you can throw it in your travel backpack or your luggage to bring along on your cruise.
Souza recommends bringing along a waterproof pouch to carry your essentials without the worry of being out of pocket should your phone take a tumble in some water. “If you plan on visiting the beach or going snorkeling at one of your ports, bring a waterproof pouch for cash and your phone.” Even on the ship, these pouches can be useful for a day on the pool deck. This well-loved set of two is a great option for your group, as it has nearly 54,000 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Regardless if you bought your cruise line’s laundry package, you’ll need a way to organize clothes you’ve already worn on your vacation. The Nomatic Laundry Bag from Amazon is perfect for this chore since it comes with a hook for easy hanging in the cruise cabin’s closet and it’s made of lightweight mesh. This laundry bag also folds down into a small rectangle for easy storage and transport before and after your cruise.
You’ll want a way to organize all your toiletries and makeup in your cruise cabin bathroom, and the Kusshi Vacationer Makeup Bag is the perfect tool for this purpose. The bag has several interior storage compartments to help you store makeup sponges, an eyelash curler and more. The bag also expands large enough to hold 20 to 30 products in its main compartment, and a zippered pouch lets you separate smaller makeup items like eye shadow and lipsticks. Best of all, the Kusshi Vacationer Makeup Bag is fully machine-washable, so minor spills won’t prevent you from using it over and over again for many cruises to come.
Cruises are always cash-free, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want — or need — to carry a travel wallet with you. You may want to bring cash to tip special crew members, and you’ll need to have credit cards and identification with you when you get off your ship to explore a port. The 5.0 Deluxe Security Pouch With RFID Protection from Victorinox is the perfect size to carry your smartphone, some cash, cards and identification with you wherever you go.
You’ll definitely want to bring a quality beach bag on your cruise if you’re sailing somewhere tropical. Doing so will make it much easier to bring along everything you need for a day at the beach or an excursion, which may include towels from your ship, sunscreen, snorkeling gear, snacks and more. The Black Hole Gear Tote 61-Liter is perfect for this purpose, considering it’s entirely weather-resistant and waterproof with a large opening that lets you stuff it to the max. This beach bag also has durable handles that make it easy to carry. Best of all, it folds down with ease for transportation or storage when not in use.
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