My husband, Len, and I love cruises. A lot. To give you an idea, we have been married for three and a half years and we are about to set sail on our fourth cruise together in under two weeks. If you have any doubt about whether you want to go on a cruise, all you have to do is talk to Len and he will talk you into wanting to go – 95% guaranteed. In fact, I plan on working with him to write a blog post about why cruises are one of the best ways to vacation after this next one!
Through the past couple of years, we have talked several friends and family members into going on cruises with us, so we have some experience with telling people what they need to bring. This is based on our own research, things that we didn’t bring on our first cruise that we wish we did, our friend’s notes, and just three cruises worth of experience. (Granted, that’s not a ton compared to some, but our #goal is to be that old couple that has been on 100 cruises LOL.)
Even though it’s a super fun and stress-free vacation, there is a lot that goes into cruising – or at least planning for it. It’s best to be prepared, but not over prepared! Hopefully this list will help you get started.
Keep scrolling for a printable version of this list!
Note: These suggestions are based on a Carnival cruise (we haven’t gotten the chance to try any cruise lines out yet, but we hope to soon!)
What To Do Before You Get On The Ship
Get your passports if you don’t have them already. If you are departing and returning to the US, you can use your birth certificate, but using a passport is much easier to carry around and it’s good to have one anyways!
Call your bank and credit card companies and give them a travel notice.
Just give them the date range and locations that you will be at during your trip. Do not give them specific days for each stop, because some transactions don’t get processed until the next day. This happened to us and our card got locked with no way to reach the bank!
Download the app for your cruise line.
I don’t know about the others, but Carnival recently released the Carnival Hub app. Before, you would view everything on your account on your TV. Now, even if you don’t pay for the wifi package – which you shouldn’t anyways…it’s not worth it – you can use the app to purchase excursions, photos, view your card balance (if you want to see how much damage in strawberry daiquiris you’ve done), and even text other people on the ship for only $5! This is super handy when you have friends or family on the ship and you need to find them. So yeah, see if your cruise line has one and download it ahead of time, or else it will take forever to download if you try to use the ship’s “service” to download it (trust me, we learned the hard way).
If you are flying, fly the day before (if possible).
Flight delays are way too common to risk not making it to the ship on time. If the schedule says they are leaving at 4pm, they will leave at 4pm and will unfortunately not wait for you. Play it safe and travel the day before!
Here is my FULL (down to every detail) packing list:
- “Elegant Night” Outfits
- Tip: For most 6-9 day cruises, there are two elegant nights for dinner. You can find Carnival’s evening dress code (for both casual and elegant nights) here.
- Evening outfits for every day (see tip above)
- Planned outfit for any days at sea
- Planned outfit for every stop
- Tip: Try to plan ahead for what you are going to do at each port. You are most likely going to need to make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes for walking around or sandals/flip flops for the beach. Pack smart!
- First day on ship outfit
- Tip: You might not have access to your room right away when you get on the ship, so go ahead and wear what you want to wear for the first few hours on the ship, or at least bring a change of clothes in a carry-on that you do not turn in with your luggage when you arrive to check in. This could be your bathing suit or a pair of shorts. You can always change in a bathroom!
- Two travel day outfits
- Tip: Layer up if you are traveling from cold weather to warm weather (or vise versa) – I know as soon as I step off that plane in Miami I will be ready to change into a pair of shorts (Lord knows I’m ready to get out of the cold!)
- Flip flops/sandals
- Nice shoes for dinner/elegant night
- Underwear (bring extra – you’re going to be gone a long time with lots of changing!)
- 1-2 extra outfits (you will be changing a lot)
- Light jacket or sweater
- Tip: Movies are shown every night outside on the lido deck. With the wind and the speed of the ship, it can feel rather chilly. Bring something warm to throw on when you head up there. They also provide blankets that you can check out!
Tip: This is a lot, so it’s easy to overpack. Try to pack pieces that you can repeat, like a pair of jean shorts. Doing this will save you lots of room to bring back souvenirs in your luggage!
- Face wash
- Face wipes
- Face lotion
- Body lotion
- Hot hair tools (Hair dryer, curling iron or wand, straightener)
- Tip: The dryers in the rooms are terrible and do nothing but frizz your hair!
- Feminine hygiene products (check your cycle’s schedule!)
- Shampoo/Conditioner/Body wash
- Tip: There are dispensers in every shower for shampoo and body wash, but of course if you are picky about them, you should bring your own.
- Hair product
- Hair clips/ties/scrunchies
- Dramamine/Motion sickness patches
- Tip: If you are prone to motion sickness, you’ll need this. Don’t let it keep you from taking a cruise and having the best time of your life! The motion is rarely noticeable, but some nights when the ship is moving fast, you can feel it enough to feel queasy – IF you’re prone.
Note: most of your basic toiletries and first aid can be purchased on the ship in the case that you forget! Selection is limited, as you might expect, but they are available.
- Non-Smart Watch
- Tip: Check to see if you will change time zones for any of your stops. If you do, you will need to make sure that you are not following that time and that you are staying on ship’s time, which will always be the same time zone of the port that you left from initially.
- Camera(s) and charger(s)
- I am bringing my GoPro as well as my DSLR – A GoPro is a must on a cruise!
- Phone and charger
- Apple Watch or Fitbit and charger (you’ll get so many steps in just exploring the ship!)
- Non-surge protected power strip and/or extension cord
- Tip: There is usually only one outlet in each stateroom (and I mean one – not a double socket that you usually have at home), and with all of your electronics you’re going to need more outlets! It is also important that is a non-surge protected power strip.
- UPDATE: Some newer ships have USB ports and an extra (single) outlet! If you can’t check online to see what you ship offers, come prepared for the bare minimum.
- Headphone Splitter
- Great for the plane ride to watch movies with your travel partner
- Kindle & Charger
- Alarm clock
- Tip: this is mostly useful if you are changing time zones. Most of us use our phones as alarm clocks, but if your phone changes time zones, you might be woken up too late. This is also important if you booked an excursion. You can buy a battery powered one so you can put it on your nightstand.
- Snorkel mask and mouthpiece
- Tip: Most places that have snorkeling provide snorkeling gear, but you can’t always trust the sanitariness of them. I always feel much better if I have my own that I know where it’s been. If you carry a backpack (mentioned below), the gear can fit inside perfectly.
- Aloe/after sun lotion
- Tip: A backpack is a must for each port. Carry a change of clothes, your camera, your snorkel gear, a towel, anything you can think of that also won’t make it too heavy to carry. Plan for each stop accordingly!
- Small purse or clutch
- Tip: This isn’t always necessary. My “purse” is my mini backpack (my husband carries the big one). But it’s nice to have a clutch to carry to elegant night to hold your phone, lipstick, etc.
- Fake wedding ring
- Tip: I don’t like traveling with my real diamonds, so my husband bought me a beautiful cubic zirconia ring for traveling with. You should definitely consider this – Berricle makes great ones.
- Medical insurance card
- Tip: Cash is super handy for cabs, shopping, etc at each port. Not everyone takes cards, and you have less chance of getting your card number stolen in a strange place!
The most important thing to remember is to not over pack. I definitely over packed with way too many clothes and shoes that I didn’t touch on our first cruise. If you plan out your outfits ahead of time with 2-3 extra options max, you should be fine.
Click Here to Download the Printable List
Also, make sure you check your cruise line’s FAQ page. Here is Carnival’s.
Have any questions? Comment below and I’ll be happy to help the best I can!
What are some essentials you like to pack for your cruises?
xo // Em
I love carnival cruises but I never thought about bringing an alarm clock instead of using our phones, thanks for the tip! I always wear a watch set to ship time in port so I don’t accidently get the wrong time from a local clock
Glad I could help you think of something new! The watch is so important – my biggest fear in life is getting left on an island by a cruise ship LOL!
Ohhh these are such great tips. I definitely would refer to this while I get ready for my first cruise soon. Thanks for posting this !
Glad to help!!! I hope it comes in handy 🙂
I haven’t been on a cruise yet because they scare me lol I have this thing where I’ll be on the next titanic and I’m just not ready to make that plunge. However your packing tip of bringing a fake wedding ring is new!! I never even thought of doing that. I think that’s a good tip for any jewelry and for any travelers. Especially solo female travelers!
Girl I hear that ALL the time! You have to remember that today’s ships are built MUCH better and if you go to the Carribbean there are no ice bergs 😉 Also there are SO many cruises that go out every day with little to no problems. They are SO much fun and SO worth it!
Love this post! Never been on a cruise and if I do I definitely need a checklist like this! Great tip for credit cards as well! #scsister
Thanks so much!!
I’ve never been on a cruise, but I plan to in the near future. I am saving this post so that I can use these awesome tips. Great post!! xoxo
I hope it helps!!
What a great and thorough list! I’ve never been on a cruise!
You should definitely consider going!!!
I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise, and this will be so helpful when that blessed day finally comes! LOL
Haha!! I hope it comes soon for you!!
Emily! Thank you so much for this amazing list. So detailed and very helpful. I’ve never been on a cruise but think it’s time to set sail next month.
YES girl I hope you do!! They are SO much fun!
You have listed just about everthing! I always take fresh socks, too.
Yes socks are important!!