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Ultimate Cruise Packing Tips for First-Timers

Ultimate Cruise Packing Tips for First-Timers

  1. Remember Essential Documents
  2. Bring a Carry-On Backpack
  3. Keep a First-Aid Kit
  4. Use Sun, Bug, and Rain Protection
  5. Wear Comfortable Closed-Toed Shoes or Water Shoes
  6. Have Proper Attire For Dinner
  7. Take a Light Jacket, Sweater, Sweatshirt or Wrap
  8. Carry a Non-Surge Power Strip
  9. Use Resealable Plastic Bags
  10. Bring Hanging Essentials
  11. Remember Additional Cruising Essentials


After lots of dreaming and planning, you’re going on your first cruise. Now, all you have to do is pack. Don’t worry. This handy cruise packing checklist for first-timers offers all the tips you need for an enjoyable voyage.

friends getting ready to go paddleboarding together

Essential Documents

When packing for a cruise, start with a few essential documents. Make sure to bring:

  • Your paper or digital airline tickets, if you are flying to your cruise departure port
  • Your cruise documents
  • Your passport, an enhanced driver’s license or a government-issued birth certificate to show proof of citizenship (take photos of these documents in case of loss)
  • A certificate of vaccination (if required)
  • A medical insurance card and your medical history
  • Copies of your prescriptions and a list of all medications you’re taking

Carry-On Backpack

On the first day of your cruise, it may take a few hours for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom, but you don’t have to wait to have fun. Stuff a carry-on backpack with essentials like your cell phone, wallet, bathing suit and sunglasses, and start swimming, sunning or exploring your ship immediately. When it’s time for shore excursions, pack this handy tote with everything you’ll need for the day and save space for a few souvenirs you’ll pick up along the way.

First-Aid Kit

Chances are, you’ll enjoy every day of your cruise in perfect health, but it’s good to be prepared for small ailments that might pop up like a scratchy throat, a headache or a blister. Bring along a small toiletry bag packed with pain relievers, cough drops, allergy medicine, adhesive bandages, antacids, antiseptic wipes, antibacterial hand gel and seasickness remedies like pills, wrist bands, skin patches or ginger chews.

Sun, Rain and Bug Protection

A few protective items keep cruisers comfortable on board the ship and on land. To guard against harmful UVA and UVB rays, pack sunglasses with UV lenses, sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or more and a brimmed hat.

In the event that you are going on a snorkeling tour, you need to remember to only bring eco-friendly sunscreen, as most tours now only allow that type of sunscreen on their excursions. In case of rain, stay dry with a small umbrella or light raincoat, and prevent bug bites with some travel-sized mosquito repellent.

father and daughter happily ready to snorkel together

Comfortable Closed-Toed Sandals or Water Shoes

Your footwear can make or break your cruise vacation. Comfortable, closed-toed sandals or water shoes with anti-slip soles make the perfect choice for staying upright on slippery pool decks, wading in rocky reefs, exploring ancient ruins or shopping till you drop in outdoor markets. For easy transitions from water to land, purchase products made from durable, quick-drying materials.

group of people playing volleyball at sportsquare onboard a carnival ship

Proper Attire for Dinner

If you’re cruise packing for the first time, make sure to bring the proper attire for dinner. While you can come as you are at lunchtime, dinner on a cruise calls for more elegant attire. Think smart-casual dress for women and slacks and a collared shirt for men. If you enjoy extra glitz and glamour, you can dress up in cocktail dresses, gowns, suits and ties or tuxedos on “formal night.”

group of friends watching an executive chef prepare his specialty dish

Light Jacket, Sweater, Sweatshirt or Wrap

When you’re at sea, it can get chilly after the sun goes down. Don’t miss out on stargazing from the deck or cozying up in a lounge chair with a box of popcorn for a dive-in movie. Stay warm and comfortable with a light jacket, sweater, sweatshirt or wrap.

two people enjoying a dive-in movie

Non-Surge Power Strip

These days, travelers depend on lots of electrical gadgets and electronics for a comfortable vacation including phones, tablets, cameras, portable gaming devices, electric shavers, hair dryers and curling irons. Make sure you have enough plug-ins and outlets in your stateroom by packing a non-surge power strip. When shopping, look for one with a few regular outlets and USB ports.

Resealable Plastic Bags

Who knew something as simple as a resealable plastic bag could be a cruiser’s best friend? These handy items take up little space in your suitcase, and they keep your smartphone, wallet and other items safe and dry on water-related shore excursions. When you’re ready to pack for your trip home, use them to store wet toothbrushes or bathing suits.

Hanging Organizers

Few items help keep your stateroom neat and orderly like hanging organizers. A variety of companies sell attractive toiletry bags that can hang on bathroom towel bars and hooks. For all of your toiletry needs, consider packing the following items:

  • A comb or brush
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Non-aerosol hairspray
  • Makeup
  • Deodorant
  • A toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Tweezers
  • Nail polish
  • Nail clippers
  • A razor and shaving cream

To keep other items like wallets, cell phones, sunglasses and water bottles organized and always at the ready, bring along an over-door shoe organizer with clear pockets.

happy couple in a clean stateroom onboard a carnival ship

Additional Cruising Essentials

A few additional essentials help ensure a more enjoyable cruise. To stay extra comfortable throughout your vacation, consider packing these items:

  • Magnetic hooks to hold light jackets and bags, hats and wet swimming suits
  • Athletic shoes for hitting the jogging track or SportSquare
  • Wrinkle-release spray and spot stain remover to always look neat and put together
  • A waterproof camera for exploring scenic reefs or cenotes
  • Reading material like paperback books or magazines
  • Magnetic message board for communicating with fellow travelers
  • A lanyard for your cruise ship keycard

Because you may not be able to pick up whatever you need when you’re out at sea, it’s important to pack carefully for your first cruise. To ensure you don’t forget any of your must-haves, make use of this handy cruise checklist.

When packing for a cruise, always consider your destination, the duration of your trip, your ship’s onboard activities and the shore excursions you’ll be taking. But most of all, don’t forget to save room pack some new memories during your trip and have fun!

family having fun at the beach on a private island

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.