What to Pack For Your Caribbean Cruise
Not sure what to pack for your next Caribbean cruise? We recommend making a list early so you have plenty of time to add, review and revise as you think of things prior to your cruise.
Tip: Download and print our Caribbean cruise packing checklist to help you make the most of your vacation and minimize forgotten items.
Make sure you have your passport or whatever official identification you need to board your ship. We also recommend leaving a copy of your passport or identification at home in case something is lost during your trip. This will allow a friend or family member to fax or email a copy of the documents to you onboard the ship and help expedite the process of proving citizenship or replacing the lost items. Also, be sure to leave a copy of your cruise information including how to contact the ship with someone at home.
2. A Toiletry Bag
This seems like an obvious “must pack” but there are a few common items that can be easily overlooked or forgotten. Small bottles of shampoo and conditioner (not all cruise lines provide these in the bathroom) as well as body wash, face wash, deodorant, make-up remover, toothbrush and paste, razor, and shaving cream. To freshen clothes as well as minimize wrinkles, Downy wrinkle releaser (or any other brand) is a must-pack! As a relationship saver or simple courtesy to your travel companion, we highly recommend a bottle of Poo-pourri...bathrooms on cruise ships can be small and sharing is not always caring.
If you are flying to your cruise, be sure these are all 3.4 oz or less if they are in your carry-on luggage. For checked bags with the airline, any size is acceptable, but you might want to seal in Ziploc bags in case anything leaks to prevent damage to your clothes.
3. Beach Essentials
Regardless of the time of year, it’s always summer in the Caribbean! With that in mind, don’t forget sunscreen, bathing suits, cover-ups, water shoes, sunglasses, a hat, and a good book or Kindle/iPad. When it’s cold up north, it’s easy to forget that it’s sunny and warm in the Caribbean, so be sure to plan ahead and make a list of all the things you need for an enjoyable beach day. For those who don’t want to think about the dreaded “who used this before me” with rented snorkel gear, you can bring your own but leave the fins at home as those are easy to rent and take up a lot of precious luggage space.
4. Cruise Clothing
Perhaps Santa has it right...make a list and check it twice. When packing for a vacation, it’s easy to overpack, so start with a list of your “must-have” items such as undergarments and socks and then layout by day what you think you are going to wear. Don’t forget to include “formal night” or as many cruise lines are now calling it “dress your best”. While this is optional, it’s always nice to see those who go all out or at the very least make a bit of an effort.
A couple of top tips for choosing your cruise clothing is to make sure whatever you select, it travels easily (no ironing needed) and that you can mix and match with other things to make a new look. For example, dark trousers are versatile and if you are only wearing in the evening for a few hours, you likely can get two or three wears out of them. You can also rotate shirts - what you wear at the beginning of the week can be repeated the middle or end of the week. For ladies, a maxi dress allows multiple wears and easily transitions from day to night with the change of jewelry, a scarf or cardigan.
5. Active Wear
Being on vacation doesn’t mean giving up your regular walks, gym visits, yoga or whatever exercise regimen you do at home. Be sure to take your gym clothes with you as well as shoes or anything else needed for your exercise of choice. Don’t have enough room in your suitcase for clean gym clothes every day, no worries, pack a couple of small travel size laundry detergent sachets (in a Ziploc bag) and wash out your clothes in your cabin bathroom sink and hang to dry. Keep in mind it could take a day or two to dry, so plan accordingly. Be sure to check if your cruise ship has guest laundry facilities, as you can always run a load during an at-sea day or opt to send out a bag of laundry mid-cruise to save space in your suitcase.
You can buy over-the-counter pills like aspirin on board, but triple check to make sure you have all your prescription medications packed. As for whether or not the medications need to be in their original bottles, it is highly recommended (especially with Schedule II narcotics) but not always necessary.
7. Reusable Water Bottle
Single-use plastic is being phased out and to help the cruise lines in their efforts to minimize waste, bring a reusable water bottle on your cruise. These can easily be refilled at various spots throughout the ship and most easily at a drinks station in the casual buffet area ie Lido, Windjammer, etc.
Not only are you helping the environment, but you can also show off your cruise spirit, favorite sports team, college etc with water bottles adorned with your favorite slogan or college/team logo. At Cruiseline.com we use the tumbler shown above every day at home, at work, and while onboard a cruise.
8. Shout Wipes
Didn’t think about this one before, did you? If you did, then you must be the “go-to” person when traveling who thinks of everything! Shout wipes can be a lifesaver for spills and stains on your clothes, especially if you were planning to wear something again during your cruise. Shout wipes also come in a pen form and easily slip into a pocket, purse or travel bag to take ashore or while out and about on the cruise.
If you find yourself in need of shout wipes during your cruise, don’t despair, many of the cruise lines now stock this item in their gift shop on board or you can find at a local supermarket or drugstore while in port. If you see a passenger in need of a shout wipe, remember, in this case, sharing is caring!
Yes, we already mentioned this above for your toiletry bag, but we thought it bears repeating and putting as its own standout item. Why? To prevent skin cancer as well as make sure you don’t get burned during your cruise! A sunburn can ruin your vacation, not to mention your treasured vacation photos. We’ve all seen that person, bright red at dinner and thought “why didn’t they remember sunscreen”, so don’t be that person...pack sunscreen with a strong SPF and be sure it’s water and sweatproof and PABA free. You might even want to pack an extra sunscreen at a higher SPF made specifically for your face. A nice healthy vacation sun-kissed glow is one thing, looking like a lobster is something completely different and to be avoided at all costs. Not sure how much sunscreen you need, throw in an extra one just in case as it’s much like being a Boy Scout, always be prepared.
10. Waterproof Camera/Phone
Vacation and beach photos are a great way to reminisce about all the fun, but what about the cool stuff you saw while scuba diving or snorkeling? Not everyone has a waterproof camera or wants to carry an extra device, but you can easily make your phone waterproof to take along on every excursion. There are lots of options for waterproof phone cases that come in lots of colors to match every bathing suit or beach outfits. One tip - make sure the case you choose floats! Should you drop or have your phone swept away, it will be much easier to find if it’s floating on top of the water in a bright color case.
11. Electronics...and the chargers that love them
We’ve all done it, unpacked only to realize that we forgot a charger OR gotten to our cabin and found only one or two outlets in the cabin. Don’t forget an outlet expander (turns one outlet to two or three) as well as extra-long charging cables. By extra long, we mean, ones that are 10-12 feet long. Why is this important? Depending on when your ship was built, there may only be one or two outlets in the cabin and they are likely by the desk/vanity table in the cabin which can be a long way from the bed or sitting area. With an outlet expander, not only will you be able to use multiple devices simultaneously during the day, but you can charge multiple devices at night and with extra long cords, your phone will reach the nightstand and can double as an alarm clock for those early excursions or night light.
12. Post-it Notes and Pen
Many cruise lines now offer chat features via their onboard app that doesn’t require an internet package to use, but those are only on the newest ships in the fleet. While the older ships are being retrofitted with this technology during their upcoming dry docks, it may be a while before your next ship has this capability. Time to take it old school and take a pack of post-it notes and a pen or marker to leave notes on the cabin door or in the cabin.
Didn’t really think about this one, did you? Yes, it’s true that most cruise lines allow you to bring wine onboard typically at 2 bottles per stateroom at embarkation as well as at each port of call. Be sure to check with your cruise lines for their official rules as you don’t want to leave behind your favorite bottle or be “forced” to consume it before boarding. If you do take your own wine on board, be sure to pack your own wine opener so you can enjoy in your cabin. If you take a bottle to the dining room or bar onboard the ship, be prepared to pay the corkage fee which is typically about $15 per bottle but varies by the cruise line.
If you are flying to your cruise it may be hard to pack wine in your luggage and risk something breaking en route. With apps like Instacart, you can order your wine from a store near the port and have it delivered right to your hotel before you head to the cruise port or have the delivery driver meet you outside the cruise port. You’re welcome!
Think of this has the honorable mention category of things you may (or not) need for your Caribbean cruise.
- Disposable rain poncho as it does rain occasionally in the Caribbean and umbrellas take up too much room Laundry bag or pop-up hamper to keep dirty clothes in their place and make packing at the end of the vacation much easier
- Highlighters with a color for each family member to highlight the daily program with their favorite activities. Newer ships will have the program available via their app and you can select your favorite to create your own calendar, but for those ships without this technology, the highlighters are a great way for everyone to keep track of their activities.
- Lanyard to hold cruise sea pass card as well as a few dollars for tips or the casino
- Headphones to listen to your favorite tunes in the gym, by the pool or relaxing in your cabin
Join the discussion
What do you keep in your suitcase?