21 Cruise Essentials: What to Pack for a Cruise

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Have a cruise booked and it’s soon? It’s time to make sure you have the cruise essentials you need. Here is a list of what to pack for a cruise. Don’t forget to hit print on the printable below.

During every cruise vacation, we learn new cruise tips. On our last cruise (before Covid hit) on the Celebrity Equinox, we watched as everyone’s beach towel stay perfectly in place over their beach chairs while ours kept annoyingly slipping off the back. How did they do this? With beach towel clips. Something we thought was such a frivolous item and yet, we sat by the pool or at the beach, wishing we had a pair of beach clips.

Obviously, we returned from our cruise and added them to this cruise packing list.

We spent 10 days in the Southern Caribbean with Celebrity Equinox. We visited the ABCs of the Caribbean: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. We also made a stop in Key West, and unfortunately, our port-of-call to Grand Cayman was canceled. No matter the number of port-of-calls, it’s still 10 days on a cruise ship. So when we pack, we need to make sure I’m not missing anything.

When you embark on a cruise ship for vacation, you are temporarily moving in. The cruise ship becomes your home for the next 7, 9, or 12 days of your itinerary. Sometimes longer. It’s important that you bring some comforts that will help you feel more at home. 

We don’t have a dozen cruises under my belt, yet. Most of what we’ve learned is from research prior to cruising. Followed by experience. Also, we get a ton of advice from my friend Kim, who is the cruising Queen.

We loved having this conversation with Kim. There are cruise essentials she likes to bring with her that are absolutely genius, and important to her. And yet, personally, we can live without them because our needs are different.

That’s the thing, everyone’s needs are different. And that is okay.

While these are cruise essentials, we highly encourage you to look over this cruise packing list and see what will fit your cruising needs. We give explanations below for each item as to why it will help maximize your cruising experience. There may be items on this list that you may have or may not have thought of.

With COVID-19 in mind, we added items that may seem obvious, but need a reminder.

Cruise Essentials | blog cover
[Last updated: May 2021]

What to Pack for a Cruise

Cruise Essentials: Cruise Cabin Items

Power Strip

Everyone should bring a power strip.

Your cabin may have one power outlet or maybe two if you’re lucky. Is that enough?

We all have cellphones, cameras, and other technology we may want to charge at the end of every night. You may plan to put your cellphone away and never use it, which is not a bad idea. Think about everything you will be bringing and what you will need to plug in.

If it’s more than one person in your cabin, the power strip will be for everyone and their electronics.

‼️ Important: Surge protectors are banned on cruise ships. Bring a plain power strip.

Our personal preference is a power strip with USB outlets. You fix two problems with that.

USB Adapter

Sometimes we bring a laptop, multiple cameras, our phones, and well, personally, we need more USB ports. We enjoy recording our experiences.

If we don’t bring a USB adapter, we can’t plug everything in at once at night before bed. Imagine your camera dying in the middle of the day, all because you didn’t have a full charge due to sharing one USB port with other devices. Who wants to keep returning to the cabin to swap out these devices throughout a cruise day on the ship?

Definitely don’t want that to happen. Make sure you have enough USB ports.

what to pack for a cruise

Over the Door Toiletry Organizer

We discovered and ordered the most amazing toiletry organizer, which we used in Kauai, and then on our Celebrity cruise.

Why is it amazing? Because we packed both our toiletries in this organizer and it fit nicely in our luggage pouch. When we unpacked in our Kauai Airbnb and then in our cruise cabin, I just unfolded it open and hung it up in the bathroom. It’s perfect.

There are different varieties on Amazon to choose from that will fit you and your families needs.

If you’re taking a flight prior to your cruise, it may not be the perfect scenario for you because of the rules. When we travel together, we do check-in one luggage that is slightly bigger than our carry-on.

Consider taking an over the door shoe rack instead. This is an amazing bathroom storage hack. If you and your family are staying in one cabin together with only one bathroom, this may be the way to go. There is not enough surface space in the bathroom. This will hang over the bathroom door and everyone can stick their toiletries and other items for later use into the pockets.


What to do Before Going on a Cruise

Prepping for a cruise vacation? Read our top tips on how to prepare for a cruise.


Portable Fan

A portable fan? Surprised? Because we sure were when this came highly recommended. And it the most popular item on this list.

This portable fan is battery operated, foldable and stores easily in your luggage.

Our friend, Kim, likes to use it to sleep at night and to circulate the air that may become stagnant. She won’t cruise without it.

Stand-Up Mirror

A stand-up mirror is another genius recommendation by Kim. Seriously, this one is another hit amongst our readers. So it’s a keeper!

Unless you’re living the suite life, cruise ship cabins are small. Getting dolled up with someone else in the room can become cumbersome. If you’re worried about applying your make-up with a good mirror, this standing make-up mirror is a great option to consider.

Magnetic Hooks

Did you know the walls of the cabin are made of metal? This is why magnetic hooks come in handy. Great to hang your lanyard, hat, or any other item you don’t want to just toss around the cabin.

Nightlight

The cabin gets really dark when you turn off the lights at night. Normally, it’s great for sleeping, but when you wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, you’ll probably stub your tow on the way. We find a small nightlight helps us find our way.

We love bringing battery-powered tea lights. It’s a cheap night light and really takes up no room in the luggage. Your local $1 store will have them.

You can check out this travel nightlight.

Laundry Bag

This laundry bag has been with us on many trips already. What’s to like about it? It folds up small and you can just toss it into your luggage or carry-on. Once you’re in the cabin, you can throw all your dirty clothes in. At the end of the trip, stuff the laundry bag with clothes and all in your luggage.

Others recommend a popup laundry bag which is great too, but I can’t imagine packing that with clothes in it.

Let’s be real, even a shopping bag will get the job done.


Beach Items to Pack for Your Cruise

Heading on a Caribbean cruise or a beach destination? Check out our beach packing list with the best items to bring for some fun in the sun.


Cruise Essentials: Accessories

Coffee Tumble

Word to the wise, if you’re a coffee drinker, consider taking a coffee tumbler with you. You will thank me later!

The coffee mug is still #1 on my list. Coffee is hubby’s BFF.

Those little cups they provide at the buffet are laughable. Since we like to save money when possible, he fills his 24oz Hydro Flask and BOOM, we don’t have to worry about returning to the buffet for a refill. The best part is it’s environmentally friendly.

It’s also safe for everyone around you. Imagine, getting bumped into one of those buffet cups full of HOT coffee. Not fun.

The coffee tumbler will keep your coffee warm longer.

Water Bottle

Speaking of eco-friendly. We always carry an insulated water tumbler off the ship. Fill it up with ice and water at the buffet before you head out of the day.

Eco-Friendly Straws

Plastic straws have been banned from many of the cruise lines. Your fruity drink is no longer being served with a straw.

For some, slurping a piña colada just doesn’t seem right. Personally, we like to have a straw with our frozen drinks. What do we stir our drink with? However, we do know how important it is for the environment that we start eliminating plastic to keep our oceans safe.

Now, you have the option to bring your own straws, many cruisers do, and others don’t care about having straws. It’s all up to you.

Some cruise lines like Celebrity will provide you with paper straws. We highly suggest checking with your Cruise Critic Community if straws are being provided on the cruise ship. Until all cruise lines decide to provide alternatives to plastic straws, we highly recommend looking into eco-friendly ones that are either biodegradable or reusable.

Lanyards

Lanyards are sold on the cruise ship. If you don’t want to wait, there are plenty of pretty options on Amazon for great prices. And yes, you’ll need to carry your cruise ship card with you whenever you leave your cabin.

Cruise Tip: After you receive your ID Card, stop by guest services or the casino and borrow their hold puncher. Punch a hole into the corner or the top of your ID card. Now you hook it to your lanyard.

Beach Towel Clips

One of the things we could have used during our last Celebrity cruise and while at the beach was the purpose of beach towel clips. I saw so many people with these clips on their chairs and I quickly learned why.

The towel does not stay on the chair and it’s the most frustrating thing having to fix it over and over again. We will not forget to add this to our cruise packing list next time.

Ziplock Bags

Probably the most versatile and useful item you can bring is Ziplock bags. You think you may never need them, but then you come to find that you’ve used them all by the end of the trip. From stuffing wet clothes into a bag to organizing last-minute items for your luggage, Ziplock bags will come in handy.

We suggest bringing gallon and quart sized bags.

Environmentally friendly and reusable storage bags will work as well.

Cruise Essentials: Toiletries & First Aid

Sun Screen

Planning to sunbathe on the pool deck? Pack sunscreen.

While we do mention sunscreen on our beach packing list, we can’t forget to mention it on our cruise packing list.

SeaBands

Because you never know when you will get seasick make sure to bring sea bands or a motion sickness patch just in case.

We’ve been told that if you eat a green apple (always available at the buffet) or take ginger pills that help with motion sickness too.

Poo-Pourri

Sharing a cabin with multiple people and only one bathroom? A bottle of Poo-Pourri will come in handy. Especially if the bathroom is part of the cabin with little privacy like on the Norwegian Epic. You’ll be happy to have brought a before-you-go toilet spray.

Downey Wrinkle-Release

Irons are not allowed onboard. They are also not readily available to use in your room. Some Carnival ships have laundry rooms equipped with irons (that’s if they have also haven’t been taken away by now) – if you’re cruising Carnival, definitely verify this before boarding.

Some of us are okay with clothes being a little wrinkled out of the luggage and that’s fine. But for those of us that aren’t, we have the option of using Downey Wrinkle-Release. Spray it on the clothes, smooth it out and within mins, your clothes are wrinkle-free. It’s a great quick fix for casual everyday wear.

For more formal attire, we send those pieces of clothing to be ironed properly on day 1 of our cruise vacation. On your first day, check for specials on dry cleaning and ironing with your cabin steward. Most of the time, it is 50% off. You can go that route as well.

Medications & First-Aid Kit

If there are any medications you take regularly, make sure to bring them with you. On top of those, you may want to bring a few over-the-counter medications in case you need them during your cruise vacation.

We have a pill organizer that we fill with meds we may think we will need. You just never know when allergies may hit or you may come down with a stomach bug. Believe us, it really has come in handy.

Some of these are…

  • allergy meds
  • aspirin (Tylenol)
  • anti-inflammatory (Advil, Aleve)
  • cold meds
  • anti-diarrhea (Immodium, Pepto)
  • Dramamine

Make a list of what you think you’ll need.

Always travel with a first-aid kit, but on a cruise ship, it is even more important to have one on hand in case of anything. You can go to the medical office, but they may overcharge you for something as small as a bandaid.

Cruise Essential Tip: More imperative than ever to have travel insurance.

Hand Sanitizer & Disinfectants

We normally carry hand sanitizers and wipes with us when we travel. Sometimes in the travel section of your pharmacy or Target, you can find mini disinfectants. With COVID it’s even more imperative to travel with these items.

On cruise ships, you will find hand sanitizer stations set-up everywhere. Prior to embarking on the ship or entering the buffet, cruise staff will be posted with spray bottles to disinfectant your hands.

We shouldn’t rely on what’s on the ship, try to carry your own to keep germ-free hands between hand washes.

Face Masks

When we start cruising again, you more than likely will be required to wear a mask in public spaces and events on cruise ships. Keep up to date with your cruise line and its health guidelines.

Cruise Packing List

Don't forget to pack these items for your next cruise vacation

Instructions

  1. Power Strip
  2. USB Adapter
  3. Hanging Toiletry Organizer
  4. Portable Fan
  5. Stand-up Mirror
  6. Magnetic Hooks
  7. Nightlight
  8. Laundry Bag
  9. Coffee Tumbler
  10. Water Tumbler
  11. Eco-friendly Straws
  12. Lanyards
  13. Beach Towel Clips
  14. Ziplock Bags
  15. Sea-Bands
  16. Sun Screen
  17. Poo-Pourri
  18. Downey Wrinkle Release
  19. Medications & First-Aid
  20. Hand Sanitizers and Disinfectants
  21. Face Masks

Notes

  1. Print this checklist
  2. Check off every item as you pack.
  3. Have a fantastic cruise vacation!

Did you find this checklist useful?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest


If you’re heading on a beach holiday on your next cruise, don’t forget to read my Beach Packing List. Beach towels, snorkel gear, and more!

What are your cruise packing tips? I’d love to hear about what your cruise essentials are.


Don’t forget to share the love on Pinterest:

When I’m not daydreaming about my next vacation, drinking coffee, or playing with my dogs, you can find me on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook for more posts and stories! Would love to hear from you!

28 thoughts on “21 Cruise Essentials: What to Pack for a Cruise”

  1. I’m about to book a cruise and this list is going to help me a lot! I love making travel lists and this one gave me some new ideas like makeup mirror lol (you know, us ladies need that!!) and tea lights. Overall, great tips!

    Thanks,
    Amira at ASelfGuru.com

    Reply
  2. I love that your husband needs to have his travel coffee mug! That is the best. Maybe you can make it a tradition to buy one on every ship…you know, just like people collect shot glasses or magnets?

    So TMI but when I am packing for short trips (like overnights), I forget the most important item ever. AND IT’S NOT THE WINE. For some dumb reason, I forget clean undies. Yup. Confession from a world traveler here, and I am SO embarrassed. But I had to bring it up after the coffee mug thing.

    Love the little electric candles. Clearly, I am too barfy for a cruise, but they came in so handy for our last FL hurricane. They are romantic too. A must; you are right.

    I 200% need to travel with a stand up mirror! I need something for the plane too.

    I will be sure to use your affiliate links when I make purchases.

    Great post and tips. Thanks!

    Love, Christine, The Uncorked Librarian

    Reply
    • ? But that is the most important thing to pack! ?? Love It!

      But yeah, who knew that a coffee travel mug was an essential? I mean, I need coffee too but I just get it at breakfast and lunch if needed. I guess I don’t have the addiction your hubster has? He must literally drink it all day long. If I did that, you’d never see me cuz I’d be in the restroom ?

      Kathy, your posts are always so informative! Informative, fun, and engaging! A triple threat! And Kim, awesome tips! Thank you!!

      Reply
      • Haha, about the bathroom thing. I plead the 5th! =D

        When you go on your first cruise and it’s one of those mega ships, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. It’s a long walk to and from the buffet usually. Coffee mug is a must for the free coffee. 🙂

        Keep an eye on Bermuda cruise sales from NYC. You can get a great deal to go here and they stop in Bermuda for like 3 days. Great week away, even with the family.

        Reply
    • Omg, Christine! I was dying laughing reading your comment last night. The way you express yourself is a skill I wish I had. Never change!

      And, we did try to buy a travel mug at the gift shop on board, but they didn’t have any in stock. Can you believe that? Lack of marketing because I believe they would make a killing. We are not the first people to forget our travel mugs.

      If you take a stand up mirror on the plane, I want pics!

      Thank you for the support. You are amazing.

      Reply
  3. This post is awesome! I’ve been wanting to cruise forever and I’ve read so many posts about what to bring when you cruise. I promise you, none of them covered half the things you put on this post. And all of these things are super necessary. Great post 🙂

    Reply
  4. This post comes at a perfect time for my family and I. We leave on our cruise in a week! So excited but nervous I may forget something. This will be my husband’s 10th cruise, my 4th cruise, my daughter’s 3rd cruise and my son’s 2nd cruise and all on Carnival!

    Reply
    • Oh, how exciting! You must come back and let me know how it went. Or do you plan to blog about it? Either way, have a fantastic time! Cruising is a great family vacation.

      Reply
  5. What a treasure trove of tips! Many of these are great tips for travel in general. I’d never thought about an insulated cup for taking ice out in. I’ve never been on a cruise but if I ever do, I’ll definitely be referring back to this list ?

    Reply
    • Hey! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, some of these just make life easier. I’m not one to pack a lot, but when we cruise, we do tend to take more stuff than usual.

      Reply
  6. There are some awesome tips here that I would never have thought of!!! I love the suggestion of using an over the door shoe rack as storage space in the bathroom – genius!! We’ve only ever been on one cruise but it’s definitely something I’d like to do more of! Thanks for sharing these great tips!

    Reply
  7. Useful info! I’m not sure if I’ll ever be brave enough to go on a bigger cruise but it’s also exciting. Do you know any good pills that one can take if they are seasick? Or do you not get that on these huge ships?

    Reply
    • I think the bigger the ship, the less likely you’ll get seasick. Also, important to book a mid-ship cabin so you don’t feel the rocking so much. Generally, I don’t feel it and I get used to it after a day. My BFF loves to cruise but suffers from motion sickness… ginger pills help, so she says. The crew always tells us to eat green apples cause that helps. Hope you get to try it out some day, even if its for a long weekend. It’s really like one great big party on the ship, especially if you go with a group of friends you love. Thanks for coming by, Jella! You’re awesome!

      Reply
  8. This will be my third Cruise! I am definitely looking forward to it. Ever since my first cruise, I have researched what I might need on each trip. Your suggestions are spot on! I have gone through each trip list and either taken out some items or added to the list. I love cruising very much and like that you have made a list of essentials needed. Take care and cruise on!

    Reply
    • Hi Joyce! Your feedback means so much! I’m always learning from other cruisers as well. So glad you agree with this list and think its helpful. Have fun on your next cruise!

      Reply
  9. I am curious as to how you take all this stuff and still stay under the 50# weight limit for the airlines. Haha. Going on our 2nd cruise in 12 years in a few months. Have been stocking up but need to watch the weight.

    Reply
    • Hi Karen! Not everyone will pack everything on this list, only what they think they need to make their cruise more comfortable. We manage to always be under 50 lbs unless I start adding too many things from my beach packing list, that’s when it starts getting tricky. As we usually travel with a carry-on and then another suitcase that is slightly bigger that needs to be checked in. We also have travel backpacks. When we travel it is also just hubby and I, depending on the cabin, we probably won’t need the shoe rack and I may not be in the mood to apply make-up, so no mirror necessary. It all depends, however, most of this is small and light. I also do not like to overpack when it comes to clothes because I used to do this all the time and return home with never wearing half of what I packed. We also always take advantage of laundry on the ship (NCL offers $20 per bag of laundry as a mid-week special). When do we run into problems? On the return flight! Usually, its too many pounds of duty-free foreign coffee that we need to bring home or chocolate! That’s when the travel backpacks truly help. 😀
      Hope you have a fantastic time on your cruise! Don’t stress about packing every single thing, just what you think you’ll need.?You can also buy one of those handy luggage scales and weigh your luggage before you leave your home.?

      Reply

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