The 8 Best Items to Bring on a Cruise (From an ex-ship employee)

Note: Our website is reader-supported, that means we may earn a commission on any products purchased through outside retailers (at no extra cost to you).

A cruise ship has almost everything you could ever need—almost. While life aboard a floating resort is luxurious and comfortable, you still need to bring along a few essentials with you. 

Keep in mind when packing for a cruise that you’re preparing for two distinct parts of your trip. One is the cruise itself, which is like a hotel for all intents and purposes, and the other is your ports of call. 

Naturally, depending on your destination and personal preferences, the items you pack are going to vary, but there are a few things that you’re sure to need, no matter where you’re going or who you are, too. To give you an idea, here are some of the best items to bring on a cruise.

Appropriate Clothing

Clothes will likely make up the majority of your luggage space, so might as well make them count.

The best way to make sure you’re prepared is to check the weather at each of the ports that you’ll stop at during your cruise. If your cruise is only in one localized area, then the weather will most likely be similar. But if you’re taking a long-distance cruise, then the climate might vary, and you need to take that into account. 

Generally, light summer clothing is the way to go. These will be flexible enough for you to use them while on deck, or during shore excursions in your destination ports. If you’re keen on swimming on the beaches, then a bathing suit or two should be considered as well.

One common mistake people make is not bringing a sweater or jacket. Even in scorching places like the Caribbean, it can get windy and chilly, especially at night out on the open sea. Bringing some warmer clothing with you can help make these events more bearable.

Lastly, don’t forget to bring some formal wear! Most cruises have formal nights, where you get to dine and mingle with the captain and fellow passengers. It’s a great experience, so be sure you’re dressed for the occasion.


Credit card and online payments might be commonplace in western countries, but in some places, cash is still the preferred mode of payment.

While you probably don’t need to pay in cash directly on the cruise itself, you do need some money if you want to explore each port of destination. Some countries in the Caribbean deal almost exclusively with cash, especially if you’re buying souvenirs or food from side stalls. You don’t want to be unable to purchase something simply because you don’t have any cash on hand.

Tipping is also an excellent way to show your appreciation to the many people servicing you on your trip, like bus drivers and guides—and, of course, you need cash to do that!

Carry-on Items

As a rule, you should treat your carry-on items as your “only means of survival.” If your luggage gets delayed or stolen, you should be able to last a day or so with just your carry-on bag.

This is especially crucial with cruises since you potentially won’t be able to gain access to your room for the better part of your first day—and that’s not counting the worst-case scenario of your luggage getting delayed.

Make sure what you pack in your carry-on can keep you comfortable, at least on your first day. These include essentials like an extra set of clothes, chargers, pillows/blankets, and essential toiletries.

Motion Sickness Medications and Patches

As with any other trip, you need to bring in some medical essentials in case of emergencies. While the cruise most likely will have a doctor or clinic on board, it’s best to bring your own supplies just in case.

Vital items include pain, allergy, and fever medicine. You also need to bring supplements or any special medication you might need. If you’re prone to seasickness, it would also be wise to include these in your travel aid kit—that is, if you want to enjoy your trip rather than the ship’s bathroom. 

While on a cruise, a few people get seasick and fun you can lose sea days with your head in a bucket. Hence carrying some sea sickness pills may do the trick for you.

Likewise, medicines to combat diarrhea and upset stomach are also crucial, especially if you’ll be sampling the local cuisine in your port of destination. You never know if it’s not going to agree with your gut! The same goes for sea-sickness. Motion Sickness patches usually work perfectly. Stick one of these patches behind the ears and your motion sickness will magically disappear during the trip.

Waterproof Phone Cases

Your cruise adventures will often involve going into sand and water. Right from a stroll along the beach to hanging around with your family, you cannot part with your phone and leave it into your room on-board the ship.

So get one of these cheap phone cases and cut through the beach waters and the sand with no worries. You do not understand how many people I’ve seen ruin a brand new iPhone on a cruise!

These sand proof, scratch proof phone cases allow you to use your phone normally and ensure you come home with a working phone. So get one and tuck it in your bag.

Hangover Relief Medication and Pills

They say alcohol and the sun can be injurious to your health. Well, if you play your cards right, on a ship, you’ll get a little too much of both.

After a night-long of partying in the on-board pub, you often wake up with unrelenting headaches. Trust me, while a snorkeling adventure in the island sun sounds like a great idea, it loses its charm when you’re feeling a little under the weather.

The traditional lemon water might help, but some hangover relief pills can really help. They make these pills up of electrolytes, natural vitamins and other ingredients such as Dihydromyricetin.

The Dihydromyricetin has proven the effects of countering strong alcohol intoxication and hangovers. Some available products are Cheers and placebo.

Underwater Cameras

Going on a cruise means you get to explore a lot of beaches full of crystal-clear water and white sands.

Carrying an underwater or waterproof camera can help you get some shots of a lifetime. Whether you are snorkeling or just clicking pictures in the shallows on the beach, some affordable underwater cameras can really help you capture some amazing underwater moments.

So get one of those affordable underwater cameras and let it find a place in your backpack.

Check out our article on the best cameras for a cruise to learn more.

A Portable Power Bank

In this day and age, our smartphones are everything. They most likely contain all your essential information, travel plans, and even your plane or cruise e-tickets. There’s a good chance you’ll also use your phone to snap photos and record videos of your trip, so that’ll drain the power more quickly.

It goes without saying, then, that you should have your phone powered up at all times. The best way to do that is to have a rechargeable, portable power bank with you.

Packing Cubes

Your stateroom will be tiny and organization will be the key with your packing.

Get some packing cubes to stuff in all your essentials in them rather than haphazardly scatter them all over the room and in your luggage.

These come with zippers, so just neatly put all your stuff in them and in your luggage.

While in the room you can neatly put them in the tiny drawers and compartments in your cruise room. This thus helps free up a lot of space for all the collectibles and duty-free shopping that you will carry back home.

Beach Bags

Beaches will be a sure thing while you are on the cruise. So you will need one of these beach bags to carry your swimsuits, snacks, snorkels and an extra set of clothes.

Some come with an insulated cooler compartment at the bottom of the bag to keep the drinks nice and cold. Also, these are compact and are virtually weightless. One such bag from Aruba Mesh does its job perfectly, is super cheap and collapsible so it won’t take a bunch of room when not in use.

Activated Charcoal

Now, I said earlier that a hangover or seasickness can be a pain in the butt. Well, speaking of, there’s one thing I can think of that’s worse…

Leaving for a cruise without Activated Charcoal tablets can prove disastrous. You will visit a lot of foreign countries such as Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, and Greece and we know all these places are infamous for travelers’ diarrhea.

And if you do not get sick while on a cruise, you may be very lucky or someone with a very strong gut. But that’s not the case always. So a dose of Activated Charcoal the moment you felt sick can save the day for you.

So make sure you get a bottle or two before you get on board if you don’t want to spend most of your time in the tiny bathroom of your tiny room on the ship. Seriously, for the small price, they’re so worth it.

Slip-on Mesh Shoes

While in all the tropical locations full of beach escapades, getting in and out of the water is something that you cannot avoid. Ship decks can also be slippery.

And your usual flip-flop is not really going to help. You would need something comfortable to walk into the water and then through the beachside shopping trails with ease.

And a pair of water shoes are perfect when you have to hop from land to sea and back to land. You can put on these shoes wherever you go thus saving your hiking shoes from the sand to water and water to sand ordeal.

Final Words

So, while there can be many more items that can make an entry into your bag, these are the few of the best items to bring on a cruise.

Do some research and make your own list of things to bring on a cruise you think will come very handy while you are on that once in a lifetime cruise holiday.

And if you are a regular, you better keep these and a few others stocked and packed in your bags, anyway; so that you are always holiday-ready.