What Should I Pack for my Cruise?

About River or Ocean Cruises
Aside from your personal belongings, most cruise lines provide just about everything you need to make the most of your cruise vacation, from food and entertainment to shopping and onboard activities. But it's always important to prepare for anything and everything when planning a cruise on the high seas. Unlike vacations on land, if you forget something, it's not super easy to swing by a store to pick up what you need.

If you're like a lot of people, packing for your first cruise is both an exciting and daunting task. Heck, even seasoned cruisers often find it hard to decide exactly what to pack for a cruise. Where do you even begin? Do you need formal wear? Is one pair of shoes enough? Don't fret. It's a lot simpler than you think to pull together the essentials without going overboard - pun intended. Keep reading to learn helpful cruising tips and tricks and to find out what to pack for your first cruise.

Quick Cruise Packing List

  • Summer dresses
  • Skirts
  • Capri Pants
  • Shorts
  • Jeans
  • Blouses
  • Caps or hats
  • Khakis
  • Jeans
  • T-Shirts
  • Bathing suits
  • Sunglasses
  • Light sweater
  • White outfit
  • Flip Flops
  • Closed-toed shoes
  • Small umbrella
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Light jacket
  • Lined bag for wet items
  • Chargers
  • Battery-powered nightlight
  • Travel adapter
  • Health kit
  • Extra hangers
  • Air freshener
  • Bedside fan
  • Alarm clock


Deciding which clothes to pack tops the list of concerns for most cruisers. Does the cruise line you’re sailing with give you the freedom to choose how you cruise and that what clothes you wear? Some cruise lines have a laid-back dress code, which allows you to feel free to dress casually just about anywhere on the ship. Casual wear for women includes summer dresses, skirts, capri pants, shorts, jeans, and blouses. For men, khakis, jeans, shorts, and T-shirts work well in just about every situation.

Kick things up a notch if you plan to eat in the main dining rooms or upscale specialty restaurants. This means no shorts, ball caps, or sandals for men. Most cruisers pack twice as many clothes as they need, so think carefully about the activities you want to do and wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Proper Footwear

Planning to live in your flip-flops for your entire cruise vacation? Take note of any special footwear requirements for shore excursions. Often you need to wear closed-toe shoes for certain activities, such as zip lining or horseback riding. If you're hiking through forested areas, proper footwear protects your feet from potential snake bites and other obstacles. Some cruise ship activities such as also require closed-toe shoes.

In Europe, many countries feature beautiful cobblestone streets that pose a tripping hazard. It's pretty common to stub your toes on loose or uneven stones. Keep in mind that you won't get a refund on your excursions if you don't have the proper footwear, so come prepared.

Weather-Appropriate Gear

Headed to The Caribbean? Thanks to year-round sunny skies and crystal waters, it's unlikely you'll encounter anything other than swimsuit weather. Fill your bag with bathing suits, sunscreen, sandals, and cover-ups, and you're good to go. Still, it's important to check the weather before packing your bags. If the forecast calls for rain, toss an umbrella and a light jacket in your carry-on bag just in case.

If your cruise includes ports in Europe or Canada, temperatures often vary from day to night and even from one day to the next, so it's especially important to know what to expect and pack appropriately. No matter the forecast, always pack a light sweater to wear on the ship. Air conditioning often creates quite the chill in the dining rooms, theatre, and other indoor spaces.

Theme Clothes

Some cruise lines throw parties that include an awesome theme. From disco dancing to eighties events, avid cruisers love to get dressed up while the DJ spins era-appropriate tunes. Some cruise lines have “all-white” parties. “Know before you go”–and join in the fun.

Enjoy dressing up? Some cruise lines give you the option of formal nights’ others have strict dress codes for their formal nights. If you do decide to dress up, it's a perfect chance to get a portrait with family and friends or even the ship's captain while looking your best.

Stateroom Staples

Staterooms offer everything you need for a relaxing home away from home during your cruise vacation. But you'll want to pack a few extra items to make the most of your cozy cabin and maximize comfort. Make sure you pack chargers for all your electronic devices. Most staterooms only have one North American electrical outlet and one European outlet, so bring along an outlet adapter to make use of both options. Also, pack a small surge protector that allows you to charge multiple items using the same outlet at the same time.
One of the best cruising tips for first-timers is to create a health kit with basic first-aid supplies. Also include any over-the-counter medications you typically use to ward off tummy troubles, colds, motion sickness, and other issues. It's often a challenge to find your favourite products at sea or in port. Other stateroom essentials include extra hangers, an air freshener, a bedside fan, a portable nightlight, and an alarm clock.

If you're not sure what to pack for your first cruise, follow these helpful cruise packing tips to get you started.