Cruising is, in our opinion, one of the most enjoyable ways to travel. But what should you pack for a cruise? Here’s a list of 34 essential items, some of which might surprise you. Out of these, there are 11 I’m so glad I packed and 23 I wish I had!
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most organized person.
The fact that we were able to get on our cruise without losing one of our boarding passes was a miracle in and of itself.
So it comes as no surprise that throughout our trip, I kept thinking, “Darnit…” when I realized we had forgotten something (or just hadn’t thought of it entirely!)
I figured that instead of writing a traditional cruise packing list, I would share things a few of those things I forgot…as well as a few things that I did remember to bring along and really liked having.
Keep in mind that we went on a Caribbean cruise with Carnival – so some of these things are pretty specific to that experience 🙂
If you want to know some “secrets” before you go, be sure to read this post about what we wish we knew before cruising.
Still in the planning stages? Be sure to talk with our friends at Get Away Today before booking your trip. They are the best when it comes to vacation planning – including our cruise. Make sure to tell them Clarks Condensed sent you!
Cruise Packing List
What I’m Glad I Remembered
I brought my 64-ounce steel water bottle, and this was SUCH a good decision. They had water stations on the main deck where I could go and fill it up at the beginning of the day with a bunch of ice and water. It was nice to have around, because they don’t provide cups in the stateroom, plus the water in there wasn’t that great. Our other option was to purchase overpriced water bottles…which wasn’t about to happen.
One little tip though – you can bring cups from the main eating area anywhere you want on the cruise. That was nice for the times I didn’t want to carry around my water bottle!
Phone Waterproof Bag
Because we were going to some tropical islands where there was sure to be plenty of water to ruin my phone, I looked into getting a waterproof case. However, I stumbled upon a waterproof bag that was a lot cheaper.
I paid $6 for it, and it kept my phone bone dry – here is the one I bought. Forrest took it underwater for 20 minutes as he went snorkeling, and it did a great job. You can still type through the plastic screen. I saw them selling these for A LOT more as you got off the cruise ship, so I thought it was a great buy. We had people asking us a few times where we got it!
Although we didn’t have service on the cruise (thank goodness!), we did use our phones a lot as we were on the ship to take pictures, check the cruise schedule, and to use the Cruise chat to talk to each other when we weren’t together.
This definitely drains the battery, and you don’t want to be running back to your stateroom just to charge your phone. Portable chargers are definitely a must! We have a couple, and they were definitely well-used.
I was SO nervous about getting seasick on the cruise. I had heard horror stories about seasickness, and it totally ruining a trip, so I decided to pick up some Sea-Band bracelets to help prevent it.
They work by using acupressure. I’m not totally sure if they worked, but I didn’t get sick at all – so who knows, maybe they did! There are a lot of people who wore patches behind their ears, so that’s a good thing to consider.
If you are into essential oils, you may want to bring along some Lavender or Peppermint. They can be helpful with nausea! This Tummy Time Roll-on is my absolute favorite (and this Bug Away would be great for anyone going to a buggy location). I really think any of the Roll-ons from Rocky Mountain Oils are fantastic for travel – I am partial towards the kids’ line for myself!
Even though we went cruising during the summer, it still got chilly on the boat, especially at night! That cool ocean breeze definitely warrants a jacket, and I’m glad I decided to bring one along.
This is helpful for keeping your ship keycard handy. We got lanyards sent to use by Get Away Today, so I brought those along, and they ended up being pretty handy. Your keycard is your passport to just about everything on the ship – it’s your room key, it’s your form of payment, and you don’t want to lose it. I’m notorious for losing cards, so it was nice just to have it around my neck.
Faster to Fun
This one is specific to Carnival Cruises, and it’s not really something I brought with me…but it was SO worth purchasing before our cruise. It lets you go in a priority line when you board the ship, and you are given priority when leaving the ship. The lines were SO long, and we just skipped right on through. Our wait time was significantly less, and we were able to get on the cruise and settle in much more quickly and efficiently than we would have otherwise. We had to buy this ahead of time for around $75, but it was 100% worth getting.
Our room was right next to the engine, and it was REALLY loud at times (of course, usually when we were sleeping). White noise saved me a couple of nights! I have a white noise app on my phone that I used, but you can always bring along a white noise machine if that’s easier (we have liked both the Marpac Dohm and the Hatch Baby Rest. The Hatch Baby Rest can double as a nightlight, too).
I bought this on a whim, but I walked away with no bug bites…so I think they were a win. I bought them for just a few dollars at Walmart.
I didn’t actually bring this, but Forrest did. He never travels without it, haha. The staterooms can be rather tight quarters, and the bathroom is right next to the beds…which can make for a rather unpleasant experience whenever someone has to go to the bathroom. This really does work pretty well and disguisting the smell! Hopefully, no one will get food sickness or some other kind of stomach bug while on the cruise…but if they do, this will be your best friend. On another note, I also made a cruise food guide to help you with your meal choices while aboard.
I brought a swim coverup dress that I really liked. It was nice to throw over my swimming suit when we went to the casual buffet (it probably wouldn’t have been the best option for the formal dining room). I liked wearing it when we went to the excursion on our day in Nassau as well. We went over on a boat, and I think I would have felt a little uncomfortable had I just been wearing my swimming suit. But it was a casual and easy to take on and off outfit.
What I WISH I Brought
It’s like the goal of the cruise ship is to make sure you can’t charge your devices so you can really disconnect 🙂 There was literally one outlet in our stateroom (though I think there was one hidden that I heard about later).
Regardless, there was a definite shortage of outlets, and we were wishing we’d brought along a cheap power strip. They have them at the Dollar Tree (I will be putting up my Dollar Tree Cruise Prep list soon!).
If you are mainly wanting to charge devices with USB cords, this type of contraption is a little smaller and might be a good option.
UPDATE: We have gotten several comments that many cruise ships will confiscate power strips. Instead, a multi-outlet is a better option (one with USB ports like I mentioned above might be the best of all).
Carnival provided us with one large beach towel per person…which was nice in theory, but it totally stressed me out. If you lost it, you had to pay for it, and it was like $25-30 bucks. Plus, if you had two beach days in a row, it doesn’t have a ton of time to dry out. So I think it would have been helpful to bring our own towels – and more than one of them.
I know some people scoff at this idea, but honestly, if you are like me and it stresses you out about losing the towel – why not?!
This microfiber towel folds up really small, which is helpful for packing space.
There was a European outlet in our state room, so if we’d had a European adapter, we could have made use of that.
Although we didn’t spend a lot of time just relaxing in our room, when we did, it would have been nice to have headphones with a splitter so Forrest and I could watch a show or movie while the boys slept.
But not for the reason you might think. Baby powder is apparently the BEST way to get sand off your body quickly and easily. We were SO sandy – even after taking showers. And it was super annoying. This would have been a much better option in my opinion.
Downloaded movies and shows on iPad
Again, we didn’t spend a ton of time just lounging in the room watching TV and movies, but there was definitely a limited number of shows available. Most of them weren’t that exciting 🙂 I wish we had downloaded some movies and TV shows to our iPad before we got on the cruise (because we definitely couldn’t stream!). Netflix and Disney on Demand are two apps we use that allow us to download movies and shows to be used while offline.
When we got to the beach, Forrest realized how much he wanted to snorkel…and we didn’t have any gear. He ended up renting some, but it was pricey – as was buying it at the beach gift shops (shocking, I know). I wish we would have brought some gear beforehand because you can typically get a better deal.
Going a little further, I would recommend getting the full face masks. I tried snorkeling with the gear that Forrest rented, and I felt like I was going to suffocate. The full face masks look like they would work a lot better!
Want to learn how to save on your next cruise? Make sure you read this post – How to Save Money on a Cruise: The Best Tips For Cruising on a Budget.
My boys had so much fun playing in the sand, but they were really wishing they had some toys to play with. Of course, the sets available for purchase were WAY overpriced. This would have been an easy and inexpensive find to bring – even just a shovel and pail would have been fun!
You can get little clips that will hold up your towels on the chairs. This can be a great way to save your spot – chairs often go fast on a cruise ship – as well as keep track of your towel amongst all the identical ones that are inevitably going to be there.
My own shampoo and soap
Our shower had a dispenser with some soap and shampoo…but let’s just say it’s not exactly top of the line. Or even close to it. I wish I would have gotten some little bottles beforehand to fill up with my favorite shampoos, conditioners, and soaps. It would have made the showering experience better (as good as it can be – I could barely turn around in the shower. It’s tiny!).
Two swimming suits
Similar to wanting to bring multiple towels – my swimming suit just didn’t have time to dry off, and it was full of so much sand. It made the second day on the beach not quite as pleasant 🙂
I’m sure you are reading this and thinking, “Well, you forgot everything.” And that would be true. Because that’s what it felt like. Our boys love goggles, and we totally forgot to bring any with us.
This is mainly applicable to those of you who are taking a child in diapers on a cruise ship. Believe me – you will want something that you can store those stinky diapers in. They can easily make the room really smelly, really quickly, if they aren’t stored properly until the trash can be taken out. You can get diaper trash bags pretty cheap at the Dollar Tree. We did not do this, and we paid for it!
Good Beach Shoes
We all brought sandals, but they ended up not being the best options. I brough my Sanuk sandals, which were great around the cruise…but they have fabric straps, and the ended up getting soaking wet on the beach…and they never really dried out.
I accidentally packed the wrong shoes for Oliver, and they were tennis shoes. Not ideal for the beach. I wish I’d just grabbed several pairs of cheap flip flops from Old Navy before we left. We ended up paying $25 for a pair of VERY overpriced (and too big) flip-flops for Oliver when we realized our mistake.
There’s always the possibility of rain while on a cruise – pack a few inexpensive ponchos so if there is rain, you don’t have to be stuck inside. This is another good Dollar Tree buy.
This one might seem a little bit silly, but if you plan to play BINGO on the ship (which is a huge rip-off but fun to do once, in my opinion), grab a dot marker to bring along with you. They aren’t required to play, but they do make it easier, and they cost at least $3. It probably ends up being the same per marker through Amazon, but if you can find it cheaper than $3 per marker, it might be worth buying a pack (especially if more than one person wants to play).I have also seen them at The Dollar Tree.
We were in an interior stateroom, which meant there was ZERO outside light. As soon as we turned the lights off at night, it was pitch dark. I had my phone that I could grab and turn on to get some light from, but in the middle of the night, a nightlight (assuming you have an extra plug 😉 is wonderful. We had our kids with us, so this would have been extra helpful for them.
I tried as hard as I could to prevent a sunburn…but I still ended up with one. It was not fun, and I really didn’t have much relief. I wish I’d brought some Aloe vera along. I’m sure I could have found some on the ship for like $30 😉
Pretty standard, but I definitely forgot these. I’m really sensitive to the sun, so you’d think I’d have these everywhere I go…but alas, I did not bring them on the cruise, and I regretted it.
Our stateroom did not have a clock in it. While we did have our phones, I would have much preferred to just be able to roll over, look at the clock, and decide if I wanted to wake up rather than relying on my phone (which looking at – even just for the time – makes it hard to fall back asleep).
Your cruise time will be based on the time zone of the port you left – not necessarily your destination. This makes it easier if you are traveling through different time zones…but it can get confusing.
If you put your phone on airplane mode, it shouldn’t update to the current time zone. But in the off chance it does, just have a regular, analog wrist watch that won’t change regardless of where you are. Even when you are at your port destinations, you
There are a lot of magnetic surfaces in the stateroom, so bringing heavy duty magnets that have hooks on them can help with storage.
Pretty much everything on a cruise is expensive – make sure you bring along your own mini pharmacy. Just the basics – Advil, Tylenol, Anti-diarrheal, heartburn medicine, band-aids…in both adult and children versions 🙂 This is an amusement park walking pharmacy, but I think it would be helpful for a cruise as well.
Did I miss anything? Chime in below!
Be sure to book your cruise through Get Away Today. We have used them for all our Disneyland trips in the past, so when we saw they offered cruises, it was a no-brainer. They made the process SO easy, and we couldn’t have been happier with the experience.
Other Cruise Posts You May Enjoy:
- How to Choose a Cruise: Tips for Picking the Best Cruise Itinerary
- The Ultimate Guide to Carnival Cruise Food
- How to Not Gain Weight on a Cruise (From Someone Who Didn’t!)
- Cruise Clothing 101: What to Wear on Your Cruise!
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.