What do I need to pack for a Caribbean Cruise?

Cruise packing

Living life one cruise at a time.

Click here for a free Packing List from The Quiet Cruiser

Cruise packing list

What to pack?

With three weeks left till our cruise on Freedom of the Seas, it’s about time that I start thinking about packing.  So, right after Easter the luggage will come out of the attic and into the bedroom.  Now….what to pack? It can get a bit overwhelming, even though I’ve done it so many times.

I always pack too much

It’s so hard for me not to pack too much.  Since we drive to the port and spend the night, the first thing that we do is pack a small duffle bag just for the hotel night.  In it we’ll put a change of clothes for our first day on the ship, pajamas, underwear and my curling iron and makeup.  We’ll try to use the toiletries provided in the hotel.

I’ll put my medications for that evening and the next morning in Ziploc bags.  The next day our dirty clothes and pajamas from the day before will go into the duffel, and we’ll leave that in the car during the cruise. We like to cover it up with a blanket or throw so that it can’t be seen.

That morning I stuff the curling iron and makeup in the front of my cruise luggage. (The ship will have a hairdryer usually.) This means that there is less to pack for the rest of the cruise, and we don’t have to shuffle through our luggage that is already packed for the cruise.  It’s just a pain to get it all back in the right way after that.

What to pack in carry-ons

The next thing that we pack are our carry-ons.  First thing that we do is put in our cruise documents, passports, and trip insurance information.  I keep all of these together in an accordion folder, and put it in the front pocket of my carry-on for easy access at the port.  Please do not put these documents in your check on luggage because you will need them to board, and you won’t be able to get them back out of the luggage after the porter takes them.

We also split up any cash that we are taking with us, put it in envelopes, and put it in our carry-on luggage.  Next goes any electronics that we are taking, such as a tablet, and all chargers that you’ll need, cameras, jewelry, and necessary medications.  If you want to swim before you can get into your cabin, pack a swimsuit, and you may want to pack a change of clothes if you have room, just in case you don’t get your luggage in your cabin on time.  We never do that and we’ve always gotten our luggage on time.

Packing for the cruise itself

Now comes the hard part….what do I need to pack?  And how do I not pack way too much?  I always have a hard time with that.  We normally do a 6-8 day cruise, so we have two elegant nights.  We pack two different outfits for elegant night, and those are the nights that we have our picture taken.

The Caribbean is warm (hot) any time of the year so I count out how many days I have in my cruise and pack one pair of capris or shorts for each day, one light sport blouse or shirt for each day, and a couple of extra shirts just in case.  They’re usually small and easy to pack.

Then I pack one pair of dress slacks, and one dressier shirt/blouse for each day that I’m going to eat in the main dining room that is not elegant night.  If you’re going to eat in the buffet for dinner, that wouldn’t apply, you can go casual, but I like to dress up a bit for dinner.  Pack a pair of dressy shoes or sandals, and some comfortable ones too.  You’ll do a lot of walking.  And sunglasses and a hat for port.

Don’t forget the swimsuit

I pack one swimsuit because I don’t use the pool or jacuzzi that much, but you could pack more if you thought you’d need them. Carnival has a clothes line in the shower to dry them on, don’t know about the other cruise lines.  Don’t bring a beach towel, the ship will have them for you to use.  Remember your underwear and pajamas.  Definitely bring a sweater or a light jacket, it can get cool in the dining room and on the deck in the evenings.  The best way that I’ve found to pack all of this is to roll the outfits up together and stack them in the luggage. See, I already have too much packed.


Now for the extras in the check on luggage…Where am I going to put it all?  I like to bring my own shampoo and shower gel because I don’t like what the ship offers, but I put them in small bottles, and put that in a Ziploc bag.  I bring wet wipes, tissues, and a small bottle of Purel because not all of the restrooms in ports are as clean as I’d like, plus, I like to wipe down the phone, doorknobs, etc. in the cabin just in case the last person had norovirus or something.  I’m not paranoid but I did get the dreaded bug a couple of times and I prefer not to do it again.

I always bring a small power strip without a surge protector. Surge protectors will be confiscated. There aren’t always enough outlets in the cabin for everything you need to charge.  I pack a metal insulated water bottle to fill up with water or iced tea on the ship and take into port, and some electrolyte drink mix, just in case.

Waterproof phone holder for water activities

If we’re going to do anything in the water, I bring a waterproof holder for my phone and ship card.  I take a lanyard to hold my ship card the rest of the time. A tiny sound machine is handy in case the neighbors are noisy, and I also bring earplugs and a sleep mask for more comfortable sleep.

We have a large black laundry bag that we keep in the cabin closet and put our dirty clothes in. Large Ziploc type large compression bags are handy. As the laundry bag fills up with dirty clothes, we put them in a compression bag and kneel on it till it goes as flat as it can, put the cap back on, and put it back into the luggage that’s under the bed.  It saves a lot of room.

And more extras

Of course we don’t want to forget sunscreen, bug spray if you’ll be doing outdoor activities in port, antiperspirant, toothpaste, and toothbrush.  I like to bring Bandaids and antibiotic ointment for blisters. I always get them.  We stick a couple of clips in the side pockets to keep the curtains closed, and magnets to post things on the metal walls or doors of the ship.

Carnival ships have a magnifying mirror in the bathrooms, but Royal Caribbean doesn’t, so I make sure that I bring a small magnifying mirror with me.  I just bought one of those new as seen on TV light up magnifying mirrors that fold up.  I think that will be a big help, my eyes aren’t what they used to be.

Sometimes we bring snorkel gear, we put that in a backpack and carry it on board with us if we don’t have room in our check on luggage.

Luggage tags

And don’t forget to put your luggage tags onto your luggage handles.  Most cruise lines provide them online with your boarding documents to print out.  You can either use a luggage tag holder, or you can fold them, tape or laminate them, and then put them around the luggage handle, and staple them together.  Just be careful that they’re secure, you don’t want them to fall off.

And once you’re on the ship and unpacked, you can store your luggage under the bed.  It fits nicely.  And there’s plenty of room to hang and put your clothing and other items in the closets and drawers.

Everything but the kitchen sink?

Okay…anything I forgot?  Oh yeah…the kitchen sink because I’m sure to need that!  NOT!  I will do no work for the full week of my cruise. That’s what makes this packing all worth it.  I have no idea on how I’m going to stuff this all into my suitcase, but somehow I always manage.  Thank goodness the porters will take them off my hands when I get to the port. I’ll only have my rolling carry-on to deal with till we get into our cabin.

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