Cruise Ready: The Essential Packing Guide for First-Timers

Heading on a cruise? Lucky you! I’ve been lucky enough to cruise many times, and I’ve mastered the packing and am sharing what to pack for a cruise, where ever you’re headed.

Packing for any holiday or vacation is always equal parts challenging and exciting. Exciting for the adventures ahead, but challenging for the weight limits and knowing what to pack and what to leave at home. Packing for a cruise adds another level of complexity, as there is limited space to consider (staterooms aren’t notoriously huge, unless you’ve paid for the penthouse), and there are items that you simply can’t take when you’re cruising.

What to pack for a cruise:

Carry-on Bag

First of all, a must-have for cruising is a carry-on bag. If this is your first time cruising, you may not know that there is a period (which can be a few hours) where you embark the ship, but don’t yet have access to your room and your luggage. In your carry-on luggage you’ll want to have everything you need for those first few hours. Generally after you embark, you’ll want to go exploring, eat a meal, take some tours, or you may like to take advantage and get straight in the pool, or hit up a sun-lounger. It’s a good idea to pack your swimwear, a hat, sunscreen, any medications, and a phone charger. You’ll also want to have close on hand any of your identifications, like passports, and credit cards for purchases (before your ship account is sorted).

Travel Insurance

A less fun item to pack, I strongly recommend getting Travel Insurance, even if you’re sailing domestically. If ports change, illness outbreak, or even if you miss jumping back on the ship on a port day, you want to be protected. I usually use Travel Insurance Direct for our international travel, but I chose Cover More for our cruise experience. It had the best cover, at the best price.

Travel Adapter

It’s best to research your particular ship and what outlets it offers, but most will have a mix of USA, and Europe sockets. Bring adaptors so that you can use your chargers while cruising.

Magnetic Hooks

Did you know the walls of a stateroom are made of metal? They are. Which makes metal hooks super handy when cruising. We take a pack of these metal hooks (only $13 for a pack of 12) cruising with us, so we can hang our lanyards, hats, swimwear (for drying), and even coats.


Pack any medications for each day of travel, and then pack a few more in case of any delays. While there is a medical room on board, it’s best to bring a little kit of everything you could possibly need. Any pain relief in the ship are costly, so pack whatever you may need in a small kit, for just in case.

Reusable Water Bottle

We were provided four bottles of water on our most recent cruise, but they weren’t replenished. It’s a good idea to take a reusable, refillable water bottle so you can have water and stay hydrated, but also to take out on port excursions too.

Swimwear (and a cover up)

My rule is, don’t ever think you won’t swim. Always pack swimwear. On our most recent Princess Cruise we didn’t use the pools, but we did head down to the day spa and utilise the steam rooms and spas. Even if you’re traveling to colder climates, swimwear is essential for any cruise.

Towel Clips

Perfect for on the top deck, for relaxing in the sun, these towel clips anchor your towel to your deck chair (because cruise ships are moving and can be windy), or you can use them to clip a towel to the chair on your balcony. Alternatively, you can use them to clip wet swimwear to the chair on your balcony to dry, so that they won’t blow away.

A Good Book

Depending on how long your trip is, and how involved you like to get, you might be able to find downtime to read while lazing about on the deck. A good book is essential for any good holiday. I’m reading Sally Hepworth’s Darling Girls and highly recommend it.

Laundry Detergent

Each cruise ship will have a laundry room, so packing a little laundry powder so you can do a load of washing during your time sailing is useful. Alternatively, there are laundry services that you can pay for, which aren’t too pricey. I paid AUD$1.50 per each pair of underwear and it was washed and returned on the same day.

Comfortable Shoes

There’s a lot of walking on cruise ships, which may come as a surprise to many. With cruise ships around 300m long, and around 18 decks, I easily did 10,000 steps each day with our exploring and getting lost a few times. I don’t worry with heels, but you may like to pack some. I take Twoobs for sandals (the most comfortable!), sneakers (Adidas are my choice!) and leather sandals like Bali Tailor sandals.


On our recent Princess Cruise, there were ample hangers, but I packed my own as well – just so that I could pack my dresses in my bag on hangers, and then just pop them straight up when unpacking.

Wrinkle Release Spray

Irons and steamers are on the banned list for cruising, so you’ll need to pack smart by choosing materials that don’t crease. I bought some Wrinkle Release Spray as soon as I unpacked, and also used our shower as a steam room for the more challenging pieces.


Cruise ships are mostly cash-free, or at least it’s easier to be cash free while on board, but you’ll want cash on port days, especially if you’re visiting places like the Pacific Islands. Most will accept Australian currency as well as their local currency.

Shampoo and Conditioner

In our bathroom we had a liquid that claimed to be shampoo and conditioner, but it didn’t look like it would condition very well, so I was glad that I bought my own shampoo and conditioner. You’ll want to do the same!

Toilet Spray

Look, staterooms are small spaces, and for the benefit of everyone it’s a good idea to bring toilet spray to make toilet breaks a bit more bearable for your room mates. These AESOP post-poo drops smell beautiful and are super effective.

A Bottle of Champagne

Check with the rules for your cruiseline, but most cruiselines will allow one bottle of alcohol in your carry on when boarding. I’ve always seen people bring in cases of soft drink for long trips. A bottle of champers will be fun to pop before the sail away party!

Sheet Masks

Travel plays havoc on skin, so why not end the day with a sheet mask and a restful sleep. I love Go-To sheet masks for that glow, although they’re ideal for pre-make-up use, I do love them before bed too.

Hand Sanitiser

While most cruise ships have many handwashing stations and hand sanitiser available around the ship, it’s also handy to pack your own hand sanitiser to use at ports, and also whenever you feel the need.

Sea Sickness Medication

Thankfully I don’t get sea sick, but it’s always a good idea to take some sea sickness medication on board, especailly if it’s your first trip. A friend recently recommended Scopolamine Cream which is placed behind the ear (apply every 8 hours) and is meant to work wonders. You can pick it up from a compound pharmacy.

Beach Toys

I always forget these and wish I’d bought them, especially when going to the Pacific Islands. Some days you’ll get a lot of beach time, and the kids love playing in the sand, so consider packing some sand toys, and snorkeling gear.

Themed Attire

Research your cruise to see what themed nights they have while you’re sailing. Our most recent cruise had an 80s night, but no formal night (because it was a shorter cruise). Most cruises will have a formal night and then a fun themed night. About 80% of guests will get into the themes, so I suggest doing the same (you only live once!).

A Jacket or Wrap

It can get chilly up on the top decks, so pack a jacket or wrap to wear if you want to explore the decks at night, or on cooler days.



On average, there’s about 3-4 single power outlets in every stateroom, but when you think about everything you need to charge, especially if you have a family with phones, iPads and other electrical devices, that doesn’t feel like enough. If you pack a powerboard, it will get confiscated. Some cruiselines will allow ‘no surge protection’ powerboards, like this one. It’s worth investing in one for all your cruising adventures.

Steamer or Iron

Having personally had this confiscated, definitely don’t pack a steamer or iron! You can get items ironed through laundry services, or some laundry rooms do have irons for guests to use.


On a cruise to the Pacific Islands we took our drone, to take some beautiful beach photos. It was quickly confiscated when we boarded (we had no idea it was on the banned list!). We were given it back when we got to the islands, but we probably wouldn’t travel with one again and save ourselves the headache (it slowed down our boarding process).


This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but candles are definitely no allowed on a cruise ship. It’s a fire risk, and not approved by cruiselines.


I took a hairdryer on our first cruise, and quickly realised it was a waste of time. The power that comes from a cruise ship is much weaker than we have at home – so the air coming out is minimal and would take forever and a day to dry my hair. Instead I use the hairdryer provided in the staterooms (usually hidden in the drawer). It’s the most efficient way to dry hair. Just be prepared that curlers and straighteners will work, but might not be as effective as they are at home.

A little note. For the past 15 years, I’ve loved writing and sharing my life, the good and bad, with you, my beautiful readers. Over those years I’ve often recommended products, and services that I’ve tested, tried and/or researched. Off my blog, I’ve always been the person that people go to to ask, “Do you know what the best X is?” I’ll often publish blog posts or guides to products that I’m having fun researching, and would recommend. Some of those posts, like this one, may include paid inclusions (where I may receive a small commission at no cost to you), but I promise to only feature products that I have or would happily buy myself. Honesty and transparency is, and always will be super important to me, because I know it’s important to you too.