What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise Packing List and Guide

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What to pack for a Caribbean cruise? Right off the bat, toss a swimsuit, flip-flops, sunscreen, a sun hat, and lightweight clothing in your suitcase. These basics will get you through days of lounging on the cruise’s pool deck and enjoying the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean.

Don’t forget the swimsuit as we did during our first Southern Caribbean cruise over 20 years ago. We wasted time at the ports finding one that worked for him.

Cruises to the Caribbean are some of our top favorite cruise itineraries. We just returned from one and have others planned in the near future. Not only are Caribbean cruises more accessible from US ports, but they can also be the perfect 7—to 10-day cruise itinerary. With the warm temperatures, the beautiful islands with pristine beaches, and the incredible views, it’s the ultimate getaway from everyday life.

featured blog image with text caribbean cruise packing listPin

This is your go-to guide for packing for a Caribbean cruise: from wardrobe essentials to must-have items, complete with a handy printable checklist.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission at no extra cost. Please refer to our full disclosure for details.

Over the years, we’ve compiled a Caribbean cruise packing list that includes everything you need for your vacation, from what to wear to what cruise items not to miss. We’ve included a printable checklist below to help you pack.

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What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise List

Packing for a Caribbean cruise is, in my opinion, so much easier than packing over other travel destinations. It’s a casual vacation in warm client that requires you to pack less of the bulky clothing and more of the lightweight, breezy attire. Which, ultimately, ends up meaning that you take up less space in your suitcase so you can fit fun things like a snorkel set.

Wardrobe for a Caribbean Cruise

What to wear for a Caribbean cruise? Focus on the basics: lightweight and breathable clothing, comfortable footwear, and swimwear for a relaxing by the pool and beach. Create a capsule wardrobe with versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched.

Capsule Wardrobe: A capsule wardrobe is a collection of essential, versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits.

While not listed, don’t forget to bring undergarments and socks.

Swimsuits

No cruise is complete without a swimsuit. Bring at least two sets per cruiser. This way, you have options, and while one is hanging to dry after use, you can use the other set for your next adventures. Bring the ones you are comfortable wearing.

Cover Ups

A cover-up is essential for a Caribbean cruise. It’s your perfect companion for seamlessly moving from the pool to the ship’s corridors, exploring port towns, or relaxing on the beach. Choose one that matches your swimwear and is easy to wear, keeping you effortlessly stylish while respecting the cruise’s dress code.

Rashguards and Swimshirts

Rashguards and swimshirts protect from the sun’s intense rays while enjoying water activities. You may think you don’t need one, but by the third day of a cruise, when you’re hitting the beach under the hot Caribbean sun, you wonder why you didn’t bring one.

I experienced this recently while cruising on Virgin Voyages in the Caribbean. By the time we reached our last port, I was burnt and wished I hadn’t left my rashguard at home to go snorkeling. Hubby had his Amazon essential swimshirts, which have been reliable for years.

Flip Flops and Sandals

No beach vacation is complete without a pair of flip-flops or sandals. I like to bring both. The flip-flops are great for the beach, and a nice pair of sandals that work well with the rest of my wardrobe can be worn for dinner and throughout the ship.

Reefs and Tevas are too great brands to look at.

Sunglasses

A pair of shades is a must when vacationing in the Caribbean. If you don’t need prescription sunglasses to see, we always recommend buying a cheap pair of stylish sunglasses that offer UV protection for the beach. If you lose them, you won’t be too heartbroken.

Sun Hat

We talk a lot about sun protection because the sun is a beast in the Caribbean. A sun hat is another layer of protection for your scalp, face, and eyes.

kathy holding onto a coconut in Puerto Plata port wearing her caribbean must-have items she packedPin

Enjoying a day on the beach during our time in the Puerto Plata cruise port on our most recent Caribbean cruise.

  • Hat
  • Cover up
  • Sunglasses
  • Swimsuit (underneath)
  • Flip-flops (not pictured)
  • Sunscreen slathered on

Water Shoes

Water shoes are great to have on hand. Of course, whether you need them depends on the destination and the planned excursions. Not all beaches are white and sandy. There can be excursions where water shoes may be the footwear you need. Do a little research. They do not take up much room if you want to bring them.

I prefer and own these water shoes that fit like lightweight sneakers. Hubby likes his Speedos.

Short Sleeves and Tanks

Don’t think too much about it. Pack some comfortable short-sleeved tees, button-downs, polos, and tank tops. Aim for at least one shirt or tank top a day.

Shorts

Bring at least two pairs of shorts to wear on and off the cruise ship. You won’t want to wear jeans or long pants in the hot Caribbean. Just note that some cruise ship dining rooms do not allow shorts for men, even nice shorts. (I don’t make the rules).

I like to wear shorts made of lightweight fabrics. They are breathable and easier to dry if you need to do a quick hand wash in the sink.

Lightweight Pants

Bring 1 or 2 pairs of lightweight pants that are comfortable and fit in with your wardrobe. We recommend sticking to khakis or linen pants, anything that is breathable for that Caribbean humid air.

Summer Dresses

  • Author note: For example, I own the dresses shown above in different colors and love them.

Ladies, pack summer dresses. For a 7-day Caribbean cruise, I’d aim for at least 4-5 summer dresses because you will probably live in them throughout your Caribbean cruise vacation. I know, I do. They are perfect for spending the day on the ship and going to dinner; some may even pass for a chic night. You’ll probably re-wear one or two of them.

Light Outerwear Layer

I’m the kind of person who never leaves my house without that one layering piece. Pack one light jacket, cardigan, or sweater as part of your wardrobe that will match with everything. Especially if you’re traveling off-season, when the weather can be unpredictable, you’ll be happy to have it and use it as a layer.

Formal Night Outfits

  • Author note: I own the maxi dress above. It’s one of my favorite dresses.

Most mainstream cruise lines no longer enforce strict formal attire and ask that you dress up a little. Keep it simple but chic and classy for a chic night on a Caribbean cruise.

Women: Maxi dresses, smart casual dresses, linen sets, or elegant jumpsuits are excellent choices for chic nights on a Caribbean cruise. Pair them with stylish sandals or wedges and accessorize with statement jewelry to elevate your look.

Men: For a classy yet relaxed ensemble, opt for smart dress pants or khakis paired with a crisp button-down shirt and linen blazer. Complete the look with a nice pair of shoes.

Related Reads:
Women’s Cruise Wardrobe Guide
Men’s Cruise Wardrobe Guide

Comfortable Shoes and/or Sneakers

As you lay out your cruise outfits, consider the shoes you’ll bring aside from flip-flops and sandals. Will you need a pair of sneakers? Dress shoes for a formal night? What can you wear from home on travel days to save space in your luggage?

Typically, I’ll wear my sneakers as my flip-flops and sandals occupy the least space in my luggage. Hubby will decide between wearing his sneakers or dress shoes (if he needs to bring them) and packing one or the other.

A Rain Jacket, Poncho, or Umbrella

You might question needing a rain jacket or umbrella when you’re off to bask under the Caribbean sun. Trust me, I’m no fan of packing for rain either. But tropical destinations are known for their quick, fleeting showers. Rather than retreating to the ship, being prepared lets you embrace every moment, rain or shine. After all, from experience, those showers hardly ever stick around long enough.

Disposable ponchos can also work in a pinch.

Toiletries You’ll Need in the Caribbean

Outside of your everyday toiletries (toothpaste, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, facial treatments, etc.) that you love, you’ll want to bring these additional items below.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen is one of the top things you should bring on a Caribbean vacation. It’s another additional layer of sun protection that is a must. If you have a preferred brand or want to save money, pack it in advance or buy it before getting on the ship.

Tip: Purchase a sunscreen that is at least 50 SPF or above. Stick with reef-friendly sunscreens.

Aftersun Moisturizer

After sunbathing and getting a little red, bring some aloe or aftersun moisturizer to soothe your fiery skin. We love Maui Vera for its limited ingredients and cooling effects that make your skin feel good after getting burnt. The sun is fiery, and even if sometimes we think we are covered with sunblock, the next thing you know, you’re a lobster.

Insect Repellent

In the Caribbean, mosquitos are alive and well and ready to attack. Protect yourself with insect repellent before you leave to enjoy your day in port.

Leave-In Conditioner

This may not be necessary for everyone, but it is for me because of my mop of hair. The sun can damage and dry out hair. Adding some leave-in conditioner with sun protection before you head out for a day in the tropical sun can help.

Lip Balm with SPF

Keep your lips hydrated and protected from the sun with lip balm with spf. The Supergoop brand is our go-to.

Caribbean Port Day Accessories

Beach Bag, Day Bag, or Dry Bag

A day at the port will require you to bring a beach bag or day bag. There are multiple options to choose from. We like to use this packable water-resistant backpack and, sometimes, our carry-on duffle if we need to bring our snorkel sets and other accessories. Of course, if you’re going on a boat trip or want to keep things close with you as you go into the water, a dry bag can work, too.

Packable Beach Towels

The cruise ship provides towels for you to bring off the ship, so bringing towels is completely optional. We recently packed these packable microfiber ones to take with us to port, and they were much easier to carry than the bulky ones from the ship.

Beach Towel Clips or Bands

We recommend bringing beach towel clips or bands if you plan to lounge on a pool or beach chair on the cruise ship’s deck or at a beach in a Caribbean port. These clips or bands help keep the towel in place so you can sit back on it without fussing it so much. You’ll be grateful to have them, especially on a windy day.

Tip: The beach towel clips can double as clothespins when needed. We’ve had

Snorkel Set

A snorkel set is a must for those who love to snorkel. This is all hubby wants to do when we are in the Caribbean. Snorkels are provided when you go on a snorkeling excursion, but you can use your own if you want, and you may prefer that. Having a snorkel set with you at the beach saves you money from renting it out and allows you to go snorkeling from the beach shore at your own pace.

Handheld Portable Fan

A portable fan is another item you’ll be thankful for if it’s hot and humid and there is no breeze coming your way. It’s great to use if you’re at the beach or walking around and exploring the port.

Water Bottle

You should bring a refillable water bottle to have with you around the cruise ship and in port. You can purchase bottled water on your way out of the cruise, but that’s usually an extra cost that you can save.

Note: Virgin Voyages does not offer bottled water on its cruise ships, and it is highly recommended that you bring your own reusable water bottle.

Waterproof Phone Case

Save your phone with this easy and cheap waterproof phone case. They are great when you go swimming or when you ride a boat. You can still take pictures inside the case with it and keep it hanging around your neck. They also take up very little room to pack.

Zip Lock Bags

Zip-lock bags are incredibly versatile for cruising. Pack some gallon-sized ones to store wet swimsuits after beach outings or excursions. This will keep the rest of the things in your day bag dry.

Other Cruise Items Not To Forget For a Caribbean Cruise

Power Outlet and/or USB Extender

Newer ships have been equipping their cabins with extra power and USB outlets. This is not the case for older ships that may come with one or maybe two power outlets and no USB plug-ins. We always recommend bringing a power outlet extender. Depending on your needs, we recommend one with an extra electrical outlet and a USB-B and USB-C. These take little to no space in your luggage.

Magnetic Hooks

Since discovering magnetic hooks as a cruise hack, I do not cruise without them. These strong hooks can be used throughout your cabin on the walls and even from the ceiling. They are great for hanging items from hats, purses, clothing, and even drying wet clothes. The key is to buy ones that hold 100 lbs and up.

Portable Charger and Charging Cable

We never travel without a portable charger and an additional charging cable, and you shouldn’t either. You never know when you will need that extra charge, and power outlets and USB outlets aren’t always available. This is great to have on hand in the port; just in case your phone suddenly dies, you have a way to charge it.

Laundry Detergent

On a Caribbean cruise, you will likely wash a few things in your cabin bathroom sink, probably your swimsuit. So pack some travel-sized detergent. You can send them out for cleaning, but sometimes, it takes too long to return them to you.

Wrinkle Release Spray

Traveling with wrinkle spray release is a must especially since irons and steamers are prohibited onboard cruise ships. It also helps freshen clothes.

E-Book Reader or Book

For some of us, a cruise to the Caribbean means some time to get some reading in. If you don’t subscribe to audiobooks, E-readers are a great way to bring multiple books without sacrificing luggage space. I love my Kindle Paperwhite; it’s lightweight and waterproof (to an extent). You can always bring that paperback from home you’ve wanted to read.

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit readily available when you go on a cruise, even to the Caribbean, is smart. Prepared for any minor accidents or needs for basic medical supplies like bandaids. Recently, I fell trying to sit on my cruise ship balcony and cut my elbow. I was thankful for the bandaids and disinfectant in my first aid kit.

Prescription and OTC Medications

Keep your prescription and any other medications you think you’ll need in your cruise carry-on bag. Basic over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, seasonal allergy meds, and things to help an upset stomach will also be useful.

Important Travel Documents & Finances

Passport or Government Identification + Birth Certificate

Even if you’re visiting the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, you must provide a passport or another official form of identification to embark the ship. As a US Citizen, if you do not have a passport and your cruise starts and ends in a US port, a government ID such as a driver’s license in combination with your official birth certificate should be sufficient.

Of course, we always recommend checking the requirements directly with the cruise line.

  • Apply for your passport. Make it a family event. It is one of the best investments you and your family can make.

Cash and Credit Cards

Never leave home on vacation without cash and a travel credit card. Cash is not only great to have on hand for tipping, but it is widely favored on the islands when getting in taxis, paying for shore excursions, and even in restaurants. Having a credit card when the option is available is best for security reasons and to accumulate travel points.

Print This Caribbean Cruise Packing List

400 px size of the Caribbean Cruise Packing ListPin

We’ve created a printable cruise packing list of everything mentioned in this post for your Caribbean Cruise. You can cross off anything you don’t plan to take or doesn’t make sense for your traveling style. Place a checkmark beside the things you pack as you add them to your suitcase.

What is a smart casual dress code on Caribbean cruises?

The smart casual dress code for Caribbean cruises typically requires stylish yet informal attire, such as dress pants or khakis with a polo for men and a sundress, skirt, or dressy pants with a nice shirt for women. The key is to balance comfort and a polished appearance suitable for dining and evening events.

How many outfits do you pack for a 7-day cruise?

For a 7-day cruise, we recommend packing 7-10 outfits, considering both daytime and evening attire. You have to take into account what you plan to do on the cruise ship and at the port and whether any of your clothing can be worn at another time during the cruise. Creating a capsule wardrobe will allow you to mix and match key pieces to create different looks.

How do you pack lightly for a 7-day cruise?

Packing lightly for a 7-day cruise involves creating a versatile capsule wardrobe, choosing multi-purpose items, limiting the number of shoes you bring, considering your laundry options, and minimizing toiletries. It can be done, but you must prioritize and pack essential items efficiently.


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Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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