What to Pack for a Cruise Holiday

Packing, Tips and Guides,

Your exciting cruise holiday is all booked and you’re busy dreaming about all the fun and relaxation heading your way. Perhaps the least enthralling part of going away, however, is the process of packing. Unfortunately, this is inescapable, and at some point you’ll need to think about just what you will need to pack into your bags and suitcases. If you are left scratching your head at the prospect – perhaps you’ve never been on a cruise before – or just want some general tips in case you might be forgetting something, we have put together the below guide to get you by. So, with that being said, take a look at our tips for what to pack for a cruise holiday.

Advice from Nomad travel

woman enjoying a cruise

Marc Allard from Nomad Travel, leaders in travel health and equipment, has some wonderful advice for those anticipating a cruise holiday:

“Packing for a cruise should be relatively easy, as most items usually required for the distance you will be travelling are taken care of. Other than the items mentioned,” (please see recommended packing items from Marc and Nomad Travel throughout the piece), “pack as you would a normal holiday taking in to account any activities you wish to do and the weather possibilities for your destination.”

Casual clothes

Cruises are a diverse affair, and as such you will want to pack clothes for many scenarios. Scaramanga, an original lifestyle brand that handcrafts a collection of wonderful leather bags and furniture, was on hand with their excellent cruise packing advice, which includes casual clothes.

“We can speak from experience, you don't need much for a cruise holiday! As you'll be getting on and off the cruise ship to explore new places, you don't want anything large, heavy or cumbersome. Take your lightweight casual clothes and perhaps one outfit if you like getting a wee bit fancy for a night.”

Comfortable, casual clothing that you can relax in really is a must. You’re on holiday after all! So make sure to pack jeans, t-shirts, sundresses, blouses, shorts and general casual attire to last you your trek. Just remember to check your cruise’s dress code beforehand.

Smart-casual clothes

Following on from Scaramanga’s advice, there will be times during your next no fly cruise that you will want to look a little sharper but still feel comfortable in your clothes. So for going out to dinner, having a drink at the bar, and other activities of this nature, remember to pack some smart-casual clothes such as collared shirts, dresses, skirts, blazers, and smart shoes.

Formal clothes

Of course there may be times when being a little neater simply won’t do. For nights out and more upscale gatherings, it’s important to have a few formal outfits that you can wear so that you are looking your best. Such items would include suits and ties, dinner jackets, formal dresses, or perhaps an evening gown.

Clothes that have versatility

Your cruise will be keeping you out on the ocean and visiting the world for quite some time, so it’s a good idea to have versatility in your packed clothes to make things easier for you and to save some space. Gretta Schifano, an award-winning blogger from the travel blog Mums Do Travel, says that choosing sensibly what you pack is key.

“Think carefully about what you pack for a cruise, only take things which you absolutely, definitely will use, and choose clothes which work together so that you don’t waste any space in your luggage or cabin. Essential items are swimwear, a smart outfit, and comfortable, practical clothes for sightseeing.”

Workout clothes for the gym

woman in gym clothes

Some cruises will have a gym available for guests to get those important workouts in. This is indeed a holiday, but if you are planning to do a little exercise between reading sessions and delicious meals, make sure to pack shorts, vests, sport shoes, t-shirts, and any other clothes that you like to do your workouts in.

Clothes suitable for your destination

At the end of the day, every cruise is different, and what you will need to pack will be influenced by your cruise’s destination. You might find yourself in the sunny Caribbean, beautiful New Zealand, or maybe even chilly Alaska!

Adam Coulter, the UK managing editor of Cruise Critic – the leading cruise reviews and information site – has been kind enough to offer us his cruise packing advice.

“When packing your clothes for a cruise, first consider your itinerary. Are you visiting cool or warm climates? Or a combination of both? Also consider how formal the ship and the destinations you’re visiting will be, and whether you might be required to cover up.

“For everything you could ever need to know about packing for a cruise, check out our ultimate guide to packing for a cruise.”

Pool/beach attire

One activity that you are likely to be partaking in is lounging around the pool and soaking up the sun. For this you’ll want to pack multiple items of swimwear to tide you over, towels for drying yourself with, flip flops, sandals, and other important items. Marc Allard from Nomad Travel has some fine suggestions in this department:

“Sun cream, a hat, sunglasses and a light cotton or silk scarf are all useful tools against the hot sun. Whether on or off the boat, the fair skinned, sun sensitive or follically challenged should be taking extra precautions but no-one should be out in the sun unprotected. The scarf makes a useful neck protector and depending which part of the world you are travelling to, a hat or a scarf may be required to cover your head for entering culturally sensitive sites.”

The correct footwear

We reached out to Christine Sarkis, Deputy Executive Editor of the expert travel site Smarter Travel. Christine was kind enough to offers us her own tips for cruise packing, and she put an emphasis on the importance of packing the correct footwear.

“Imperative to pack are comfortable walking shoes for shore excursions, flip flops for going to and from the pool, the spa, and the relaxation decks, and of course, a pair that’s formal enough to meet the evening standards of the ship.”


We’re sure you won’t be forgetting these essential items but every now and then something gets left behind and outside the suitcase. Items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel, and any other toiletries should all be making their way into your suitcase.

Christine had another great recommendation for us in this department, suggesting a handy accessory to make life easier for cruisers.

Christine suggests bringing “a hanging toiletries kit. Keep your toiletries easily accessible but self-contained in a toiletries kit that you can hang from the towel bar. This space-saving measure makes a big difference in small stateroom bathrooms.”

Simone from The Aussie Flashpacker, a travel blog and magazine focused on luxury and adventure travel, has an important toiletry recommendation when it comes to the ladies.

“Girls, I can't recommend dry shampoo more highly!” said Simone. “It will be your life saver on the ship!”

Seasickness tablets

Simone also has advice for those new to the experience of sea travel: “If you've never sailed then I recommend bringing sea sickness tablets, because you never know how you will go at sea!”

This could be an important item to remember, and such a small object isn’t likely to take up much space so it becomes one of those things that it is better to have and not need, than need and not have.

Leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs

While packing, we all want to be as efficient as possible, saving room where we can so that we can fit our items into fewer bags. While this is certainly sensible, it doesn’t afford room for souvenirs.

“You’ll likely pick up at least a few souvenirs during your cruise,” says Cruise Critic’s Adam Coulter, “so don’t forget to save room in your luggage to bring them home when packing, or at least be sure to bring an extra bag to transport your new purchases.

Speaking of bags and saving space, Scaramanga, of course, have an excellent collection, and some perfect options for packing your cruise gear into.

“We suggest using our leather duffle bag for your clothes, it's large and lightweight and incredibly stylish! You'll easily fit a week's worth of clothes in it and find it easy and comfortable to carry whilst on the go. For your day journeys off the boat, consider taking one of our backpacks - again, stylish, but more importantly, you'll have your hands free for taking photos but have room in your pack to get some lovely souvenirs.”

Fun items 

reading and glasses

Bringing the essential day to day items is most important of course, but there are a number of things that you will want to pack to make your holiday even more enjoyable.

Scaramanga offer some fantastic advice in this department, saying: “As there is usually plenty of entertainment on cruise ships, you'll not need to bring much to keep yourself entertained. However, there is nothing better than reading or listening to a podcast whilst sunbathing, so load up those Kindles or phones with some great digital material that won't weigh you down.”

Along with the above advice, be sure to bring along a travel guide to help you explore the destinations, and if you happen to be adverse to e-readers, go ahead and pack a book/magazine to devour under the sun.

Electrical equipment

It’s paramount not to forget your much-needed electronics and cables. In this day and age, not many of us will get far without our phone, camera, and tablet chargers. This is also advised by Marc of Nomad Travel.

“In the modern world of gadgets we all need to keep our devices charged, so make sure you have the correct charger for your ship. The origins of your ship will determine which plug adaptor you will need so make sure you check with your cruise company. Generally they will be a European two round pin plug or an American two flat pin plug. There are lots of suppliers of these and they are much of a muchness, we would recommend an adaptor with USB capability to prevent having to remember all your different plugs and to prevent any ensuing socket battle with your cabin buddy.”

Simone from The Aussie Flashpacker also pitches in here when asked what essential items need to be brought along for the journey: “Your camera of course! You won't want to miss any photo opportunities whilst you are on your holiday!”

Extra Hangers

Adam Coulter from Cruise Critic also suggests bringing some extra hangers for longer cruises.

“If you’re going on a longer cruise, and have space, bring extra hangers to ensure every item that needs to be hung up can be.”

This could be crucial advice from Adam, as the last thing you want is to pull out creased clothes that were stuffed away into a bag because you couldn’t hang them up.

First-Aid kit

first-aid kit

Fingers crossed you sail through your holiday without any accidents, but you never know when a bump or scrape might occur, so make sure to pack a first-aid kit with sufficient supplies for you and your family/companions. You probably won’t use it, but it’s better to have it, just in case.

Marc from Nomad Travel advises:

“As you enjoy the carefree lifestyle that a cruise offers, it’s easy to slip into poor habits and not take care of yourself as you would normally. At Nomad Travel we always recommend taking some general first-aid as little cuts and scrapes are much less hassle when dealt with quickly by yourself.  Your ship will no doubt have adequate health care facilities on-board but who wants to be trekking around a ship at dawn because of a shaving cut or having to cut that excursion short because of a headache? Carrying some basic First Aid means a little extra peace of mind and a little more time having fun. Most of us have a stash of plasters and basic medication at home, so simply take a little of everything or buy a pocket kit.”


“On the topic of health,” Nomad Travel’s Marc continues, “there are always rumours flying around about cruise ships and outbreaks of diarrhoea or stomach bugs. This could happen anywhere, it is exaggerated because cruise ships have to report it, not that they are a higher risk than any other environment. That said, if you want to be cautious, or you’re adventurous when off the boat with your eating, invest in a Worldwide Traveller’s Diarrhoea Kit. These kits contain everything you need, including an antibiotic that will have you back to normal far quicker than the usual treatments. You should also take some hand sanitiser with you, as good hand hygiene is the healthy traveller’s best friend.”

Insect repellent

Keeping in the realm of good health and protecting your body, Marc also recommends something for those travelling to tropical environments.

“Whether or not you are tropical enough to require malaria medication you should be carrying some insect repellent, this is only relevant for when leaving the ship. 50% DEET is the gold standard for tropical locations, lesser concentrations are acceptable for areas of lesser risk. For anyone with sensitive skin then a Saltidin or Icaridin based product of a 20% concentration would be recommended. It’s important to put your sun cream on first, allow 15-20 minutes drying time and then apply the repellent. It must always be that way round for the best effectiveness.

“Please apply your repellent every four hours when on land. If you reapply sun cream, get in and out of water or get very sweaty, then the likelihood is that your repellent is no longer effective. If you stick to the every four hours rule, you should be fine. A little tube of an aloe vera based product or specific bite treatment will help with any itchy bites, and anyone who has bad reactions to bites should pack some antihistamines.”

Important documents

British passport

Perhaps most essential of all, you will need to remember to pack your important documents.

“Don’t forget all your travel documents,” Nomad Travel warns, “take photos of them and bring photocopies. Again, peace of mind is the key, you may not need them but you’ll be glad that you took these steps should you encounter any issues.”

Don’t pack items like photo IDs, cruise documents, boarding passes and passports in your suitcase, instead, keep them safely in a bag that you can keep on your person. You won’t want to be refused entry to your cruise for lacking the proper documents!

Scaramanga have some brilliant options in this department, and suggested to us a particular item for keeping your documents safe and sound.

“One of our most popular travel accessories is our leather travel wallet, as it suits the needs of the practical and stylish traveller. You'll be able to keep all your travel documents, passport and other important personal items safe and secure in this wallet. With a zip interior pocket, you can even keep your coins and money inside.”


Marc from Nomad Travel suggests cruisers remember to pack something for getting the best look at the many wonderful sights they are bound to come across during their travels.

“Binoculars or a pocket scope will complete your look as an intrepid explorer and will be most useful for perusing the landscapes of peninsulas, searching for dolphins and whales, and the plethora of sea birds that you will hopefully encounter. You’ve gone all that way, make sure you take it all in!”

Stain remover

While some cruises have a handy laundry service that you can use during your stay, if you want to save money or are just worried about a small stain, why not bring some stain remover to put your mind at ease? After all, the longer you leave it, the harder it will be to get out.

Body wallet

“The sight of a cruise ship in the port is unfortunately sure to attract a few pickpockets and scammers,” says Marc from Nomad Travel, “this is nothing to be too concerned about with a few precautions. Prepare yourself for this unfortunate occurrence by using a body wallet, preferably with RFID blocking technology. For those of you unfamiliar with these terms, a body wallet looks like a very thin bum-bag which you wear under your clothing. This is for putting cards, large amounts of cash, and passports in.

“RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is the technology that scans your credit card when you use a contactless payment. Having this blocked prevents anyone stealing money or information from your cards by using electronic devices to scan them. You should always carry a change wallet or purse so that small purchases can be made without having to reveal where your cards and cash are kept. Always be careful when and where you expose your body wallet. In crowded places any bags should be worn in front of you, with an arm or hand resting on it, as they’re safer where you can see them.”


Image Credit: Chris Fleming