Picture taken from a cruise ship overlooking another ship and The Bahamas

Packing for a trip is usually pretty straightforward; as long as you have a couple of shirts, pants, undergarments, and toiletries, you are generally good to go. Packing for a cruise, however, is a bit different; some of the things you’ll need may seem a bit unusual. I put together this list of cruise packing essentials to ensure you don’t forget these not-so-typical items at home.

Boarding Passes

Picture of a cruise boarding pass, which is a cruise packing essential. They will not let you on the cruise without it.

This might seem like a given, but make sure to have your boarding pass available before arriving at the cruise terminal. Cruise companies did not always issue boarding passes before sailing, but now many are doing this via mobile apps. On my most recent cruise, you couldn’t even enter the security area without one! Make sure it is all set up and ready to go; otherwise, you may start your vacation with a headache.

Treat boarding a cruise as you would an airplane; have your boarding pass, travel documents, and necessary health records on hand.

Motion Sickness Remedy

Picture of a pile of pills representing motion sickness medication, which is a cruise packing essential

Don’t cancel your cruise vacation just because you threw up on your uncle’s fishing boat last year; there are many ways to combat seasickness. It is essential to bring a remedy with you on your cruise, even if you have never experienced seasickness before; the water conditions can vary from cruise to cruise and destination to destination. My first Caribbean cruise felt calm, but my last one had some rather violent waves.

Some common seasickness remedies include acupressure bracelets, patches, pills, and acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture treatments are usually offered in the ship’s spa but are generally pricey. I recommend trying one of the other remedies, with acupuncture being your last resort. For more information on how to prevent and cure seasickness, click here.

Formal Wear

Picture of Julia and her sister wearing fancy clothes during a cruise event

I personally do not think formal clothes are cruise packing essentials, but I know a lot of people who do. Cruises have formal nights and dinners, and people love to get all dressed up. I prefer casual cruising, but I have participated in formal events (as evidenced by the pictures above). Photographers usually are stationed around the ship to capture shots of you and your fellow travelers, if you wish.

Themed Party Attire

Picture of a themed outfit for a cruise party. Themed outfits are cruise packing essentials.

Not everyone will agree, but I think outfits for themed parties are cruise packing essentials. The main highlight of a cruise may be your destination, but the themed parties make the journey fun! Cruises often have a themed party (or several) every night. On my last cruise, there was a red party, a Caribbean party, a 70s party, and an 80s party; people went crazy with their outfits!

The photo above was taken on one of my past cruises. At the traffic light party, people were supposed to wear red if they were taken, yellow if they were possibly single, and green if they were single. My friend thought it would be funny to wear a red, yellow, and green dress (I agree, it was funny)!

How do you know what themed parties to prepare for? Well, many cruise companies will let you know via their app as you approach your sail date.

International Travel Adapter/Converter

Power outlets are limited on cruises, which can be a nightmare when sharing a room; my last cruise only had two USA outlets. Luckily, there is a way around this. Most cabins have both USA and European outlets; bring an adapter so you can use both! I always bring my European adapters; I believe these are true cruise packing essentials. In fact, I invested in a European hair straightener so I could free up the USA outlets for my irresponsible friends who do not think ahead!

If you are cruising outside Europe and the Americas, different outlets may be available in the cabins. To be safe, consider purchasing a universal adapter. Please note that cruises prohibit the use of surge protectors.

Over-The-Door Organizers

Cruise cabins are notoriously small, leading to disorganization and chaos (especially if you share the room). One of the best things you can bring along with you is an over-the-door organizer or an organizer that can hang from a hook/bar. I have a toiletry organizer which prevents a lot of clutter in the tiny cruise cabin bathroom; another bonus is that it saves a lot of room in my suitcase and keeps my clothes safe from spills/leaks during travel!

Magnetic Hooks

As I previously mentioned, cruise cabins are small and have very little room for storage. The good thing about cruise cabins is that the walls are generally made of metal. If you buy magnetic hooks, you can easily hang your wet bathing suits without occupying the limited closet space. The hooks may not be “essential,” but they are handy.

Reusable Water Bottle

Water is not difficult to find on a cruise; it is usually offered in cups or from a machine in the buffet areas and throughout the ship. Although this seems convenient, it is not when you are on the move; you do not want to carry around one of the ship’s cups all day. I highly recommend bringing your own reusable water bottle to fill up on the go and throughout the day. Please note that, for sanitary reasons, the crew may ask that you fill up a plastic cup and pour that into your bottle rather than pouring directly from the machine.

International Currency (If Applicable)

If you know anything about cruises, you know they are like floating cities. A floating city must have currency exchange, right? Not necessarily. Although many ships advertise this service, it is usually quite limited, and the exchange rates are high. I have banked on my cruise having this service (no pun intended), and I was left without international currency upon reaching my destination. Do yourself a favor and exchange your money for that of your destination before embarking on your cruise.

If you want to learn more about the cruising experience, check out Episode 4 of the Runways and Byways travel podcast! It is currently available on SpotifyYouTube, and Anchor. If you’d like to find out more about my podcast in general, click here.

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What is on your cruise packing list? Contact me or let me know in the comments!

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