19 Essential Things You Cannot Forget for Your Next Cruise

Setting sail on a cruise is an exciting adventure that makes visiting several locations in one trip a breeze! But you’ll also be stuck on a boat without access to mainland services while you’re at sea, so it’s essential to pack everything you might need. Here, we’ve compiled a list of 19 things you should definitely pack to ensure a smooth, enjoyable, and memorable cruising experience.


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Sunglasses and sunscreen are a great start, but don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head from the sun. The CDC advises to “wear a hat that has a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck.” Hats in darker colors and woven fabrics like canvas offer more protection from UV rays than straw hats.

Travel Documents

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Imagine traveling for hours to reach your port of departure, only to find you don’t have your passport! Always triple-check that you have all the necessary documentation for your trip before leaving home and that it’s valid for six months from the date that your cruise ends. You should also take any pre-approved visas for countries you’ll be visiting.


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This is a no-brainer! Pack enough swimsuits (at least two) for the duration of your cruise and consider different styles, like bikinis, tankinis, or one-piece suits, to suit different sun exposure levels and activities. Spectrum News reports that the Icon of the Seas cruise liner has six waterslides and seven swimming pools and can cater to swimmers in all weather conditions.


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You don’t want to stay cooped up in your cabin the entire time, and spending time outdoors on the sundeck is a big part of the cruise experience. Pack plenty of environmentally friendly (reef-safe) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, or 50+ for infants. Sunburn and sunstroke are not only uncomfortable but also dangerous, so always protect yourself from harmful UV rays.

Comfortable Walking Shoes

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Most cruise ships are large, with multiple levels that necessitate a lot of walking on board to access different areas and activities. Pack comfortable shoes that offer good support, especially if you plan on doing any shore excursions that involve walking tours. Breathable sandals are a good option for warmer weather, while sneakers are ideal for cooler destinations.

Casual Clothes

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Despite what you’ve seen in Hollywood movies, regular evenings on a cruise ship often call for a casual dress code. Pack a variety of comfortable outfits depending on the expected weather conditions and climates you’ll be visiting. We recommend loose linens, sundresses, casual pants, smart shorts, and comfortable shirts. You may need extra layers on deck thanks to the wind chill factor.


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According to RX Safety, moving bodies of water cause additional glare from the sun, causing “distortions of vision and color and blinding flashes of glare.” You’ll need good-quality sunglasses to prevent potential eye damage, particularly when you’re out on deck during daylight hours at sea. Packing two pairs is also a good idea, just in case you lose one.

Beach Bag

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A sturdy, spacious beach bag is a must-have for carrying your essentials to the pool or for day trips while at port. Go for a water-resistant bag with comfortable handles and a decent zip. Also, be aware of security and that thieves on shore can target unwitting cruise passengers—a secure inner section or additional fanny pack may be advisable for carrying valuables.

Reusable Water Bottle

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Don’t let dehydration ruin your vacation. Drinking enough liquids is especially important if you’re visiting warmer climates and intend to sunbathe or undertake strenuous exercise. Pack a reusable water bottle for convenience, to save money on bottled water, and to help reduce plastic waste. Insulated steel containers are a great option, as they’ll also keep your drink cool.


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While most larger cruise ships have a supply of basic medications, it’s essential to pack any prescriptions you need and a decent supply of medications you use regularly, e.g., headache tablets if you suffer from migraines. It’s always better to pack anti-allergy meds, painkillers, and antacids just in case and not use them, rather than the other way around!

Books or E-reader

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Cruising is supposed to be relaxing, so you’ll have plenty of time to chill with a good book. While there may be a library or book swap on board, don’t assume you’ll be able to find something you like. Pack your favorite novel or a new bestseller, or download some ebooks onto your e-reader to ensure you have plenty of reading material. And don’t forget a bookmark, of course!

Cash and Credit Cards

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While most onboard purchases can be made with your cruise card, having some cash on hand for gratuities or souvenirs is a good idea. Pack a variety of denominations to cover different situations and exchange some money into local currencies before you go—you’ll get a much better rate. Credit cards are also helpful for unexpected charges or emergencies.

Small First-Aid Kit

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A small first-aid kit with basic supplies like bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and motion sickness medication can come in handy for minor cuts, scrapes, or headaches. Cruise ship staff are often capable and attentive, but being self-sufficient to some degree can save time and be more convenient. As with medications, it’s always better to pack it and not need it than the reverse situation!

Deck of Cards

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Cruise ships often offer plenty of entertainment, but patches of rough weather or elongated stints at sea can get dull without some personal entertainment. Pack a deck of cards or a small travel game to enjoy with friends or family onboard, or use them to make new friends with your fellow cruisers. Just be aware that cards may not be appropriate up on deck, where it’s often windy.

Formal Wear

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Some upscale cruise lines have a formal night or two, and you may even be invited to dine at the captain’s table! Check your cruise line’s dress code beforehand and plan ahead if there is a formal night in the offering. One elegant outfit, like a cocktail dress or a suit and tie, is sufficient. It would be a shame to have the chance to dress up, but there are no formal clothes to spruce yourself up in!


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Your cruise may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see certain exotic locations, landmarks, and natural wonders, so don’t leave your camera at home. While your smartphone may take serviceable snaps, Inspiration Travel recommends taking dedicated photography equipment if you have it. Just ensure that any expensive gear is insured, and never use it on deck without a strap!

Laundry Detergent

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Packing a small, travel-sized packet of laundry detergent allows you to freshen up clothes or swimwear during the cruise. This is especially important if your cruise ship doesn’t offer onboard laundry services or requires passengers to bring detergent. It may seem bulky, but it will reduce the number of clothes you need to take overall and ensure any stains don’t set.

Waterproof Jacket

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You can never predict the weather, and even warmer climates have tropical thunderstorms and monsoon rains. Cruising provides limited time to explore each location (sometimes only a few hours), so you may want to venture ashore no matter the weather to avoid missing your chance of experiencing a certain port destination.


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These are essential kits for anyone who loves wildlife or will enjoy zooming in on distant shorelines to see famous landmarks or scenic landscapes. There is often a chance to see marine wildlife during a cruise, and binoculars can be vital in getting a good view of whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and even sharks from the lofty heights of the poop deck.

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