These days, cruise ships are essentially floating resorts making stops in various ports around the world. Most people think about Caribbean routes or traveling along the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. These routes usually range from three to seven days, although it’s possible to find two-week options as well. But you can also take cruises to Alaska, Asia, Europe and basically anywhere in the world with a port that can accommodate cruise ships. 

This leads to the age-old question of what should someone bring on their trip. Obviously, people need enough clothes to last for the trip’s duration — especially since it’s unlikely they’ll have access to laundry or want to send clothes out to be cleaned. But depending on the cruise line, ports of call, and intended activities, travelers need to cater their packing list so that it makes sense. So, while this isn’t a comprehensive list of what cruisegoers should bring, it’ll provide enough guidance so that you’re packing items that make sense. 

Consider the Length of the Trip

Unsurprisingly, the first step is to consider the length of the cruise. As mentioned previously, most cruises range from 3 to as many as 14 days. However, it’s possible to find journeys that are longer. 

Regardless of the length, assume that each day will require at least two changes of clothing. Pack casual clothing for daytime activities spent on-board or while sightseeing when the ship pulls into port. Meanwhile, in the evenings, most guests will take advantage of a “smart casual” dress code for dinner. This typically translates to button-down shirts and sports jackets for men, and stylish dresses or separates for women.

If of age, don’t forget about dropping by the nightclub or enjoying a drink at the Captain’s club (if available). Usually these venues will expect patrons to look the part — which usually translates to a slightly elevated “night out” dress code. It’s okay to pack mix-and-match clothes to stretch outfits and reduce luggage bulk. 

Don’t forget to include swimwear and coverups if there are pools or hot tubs on board or for beachside lounging. Likewise, at night it can get breezy on cruise ships so don’t forget a light sweater or wrap. For sightseeing days that require a lot of walking, pack comfortable shoes. Pool or beachside days are ideal for sandals. Save the “only practical for sitting” shoes for dinner.

Consider the Destinations

Photo credit: Celebrity Cruise Lines

After determining how many total outfits to bring, don’t forget to think about the ports of call. Routes traveling through warm weather locales are easier to pack for since summer clothes take up less space in luggage. However, trips to temperate or even cold weather climates may mean travelers need to bring sweaters or even bulky coats. 

Don’t Forget the Accessories and Toiletries

Assuming travelers plan to enjoy a mix of on-board and in-town activities, there are a few accessories that shouldn’t be forgotten. If spending any time in the sun, don’t forget essentials like sun block, hats, or sunglasses. Likewise, sightseeing excursions might require a belt bag, backpack, or tote bag to carry valuables or necessities. 

Similarly, don’t assume that the in-room toiletries will be sufficient. Those who have preferred facial care products, lotions, or even soaps should bring them on board. And if the cruise is going to be longer, don’t forget that a razor and shaving cream might be helpful. One factor to consider is that unless booking a room with a balcony, those windows don’t open. So, don’t forget some air freshener for those times when a trip to the in-room bathroom takes a while. 

Pack Medications for the “What Ifs”

Obviously, if passengers have known health conditions that require medication, bringing prescriptions is a necessity. But other medications like aspirin for headaches or even motion sickness, upset stomach, or antidiarrheals are also helpful. While there are sundries stores on board, be prepared to pay an exorbitant amount of money for this convenience. 

Bring the Tech Gear

Delta Air Lines Faces of Travel
Photo credit: Delta Air Lines

Even if travelers aren’t trying to become the next influencer, most people these days rely on smartphones, cameras, and tablets — items that require power to function. Be sure to bring the right charging cables and necessary USB port plugs, along with power banks so that smartphones and cameras don’t power off at the worst moment. 

Also note that accessing the internet while at sea can get costly. So, keep internet-enabled devices on airplane mode while away from ports. If spending time around water, don’t forget to bring waterproof camera or phone bags so that they’re not susceptible to water damage. It’s not uncommon for many cruise ships to only have one US outlet and one European outlet in each room. So to expand the available outlets, consider bringing an adapter. 

Don’t Forget the Cash

Even if passengers prebook drink and meal packages, that doesn’t mean that the servers, bartenders, and general staff on-board aren’t deserving of recognition for their hard work. Similarly, it’s nice to tip tour guides or drivers for shore excursions.