Knowing what to take on a cruise can be tricky, especially if you’re packing for your first cruise holiday. Here’s everything you need to take so you can turn up prepared.

Since I live out of my suitcase, I didn’t really have a chance to pack for my first cruise – but, oh boy, do I wish I did. 

It turns out packing for a cruise is something you’ll want to give some thought to. Unlike other types of travel, where you can pick things up as you go, you’ll want to be prepared so you can make the most of your time.

With a lot of time on board and limited time to explore your ports, the last thing you’ll want to do is waste time picking up necessities or forgotten items!

This list of items to take on a cruise is based on the things I was glad I had and the things I wished I had on my Princess Cruises cruise this year.

I have another two cruises booked already (yes, I’m a convert!) and these are the items that will definitely be on my cruise packing list for both of those. They’re not cruise essentials per se, but they sure will make your time on board better. And that’s what you want, right? 


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1 – Water bottle 

A water bottle is pretty much always a travel essential for me. Seriously – I take my Hydroflask EVERYWHERE. (If you’re curious, my water bottle of choice is a Hydro Flask. I have a pink one and it’s never let me down!)

Something that really surprised me was that the tap water on board cruise ships is potable. In fact, it’s some of the cleanest water in the world!

Having a refillable bottle means you can simply fill up at the water fountains or your own sink every day. You’ll save plastic, cut your costs and never have to worry about going thirsty.

2 – Card wallet 

Your cruise card will be your golden ticket to everything while you’re on board the cruise ship – so you don’t want to lose it! It’ll be your room key, get you in to dinner and add anything you buy to your tab. You’ll also need it to get on and off the ship.

Luckily, I always travel with a small card wallet, so I could tuck mine safely in there. I saw lots of people wearing them on lanyards – which works too – but I much preferred having mine safely hidden away.

Card holder for cruise card

3 – A passport copy

One of the (many!) great things about going on a cruise is that you can visit lots of different countries, and you often don’t need to show a passport.

Even though you might not need to take your passport off the ship with you, it’s a good idea to at least take a copy. Carrying copy means you always have it should you need it without having to worry about losing the real thing!

4 – Hanging toiletry bag 

Cruise ship cabins can be short on space, especially where the bathroom is concerned.

A hanging bag like this one will help keep your toiletries organised (and in one place!) during your time on the ship.

5 – Adaptors 

No matter where in the world your cruise starts and ends, you might not be able to predict which type of plug you’ll find on board.

Just because a cruise ship is in Europe right now, it doesn’t mean it spends all of its time there. It could have begun its life in Asia and spent recent months in the US, for example.

That means the plug sockets could be pretty much anything. Make sure you check in advance and go prepared with the right kind of adaptor.

And if you want to make sure you’re covered for all possibilities, it would be smart to pack a multi-way adaptor like this one.

6 – Extension cable

An extension cable might seem like a slightly unusual item to pack for a cruise! But when you need an extra plug socket or two, you’ll be really glad you packed one.

Using an extension cable also means you only need to worry about one adaptor, too. Save on space with a lightweight power strip with both plug sockets and USB ports like this one.

7 – Power bank 

The last thing you want is to get lost while you’re out and about at a new port and have no map to hand. Carrying a power bank with you will make sure you always have enough phone battery to find your way around – or simply watch TV while lounging by the pool. I always have an Anker power bank in my day bag.

8 – Tote bag 

I always have a tote bag or two in my suitcase and they ALWAYS come in handy.

Whether it’s some spontaneous on-board shopping or to pack a book to read at the pool, a tote bag is one of the handiest things you can have on a cruise.

9 – Flip flops 

For the cabin, for the pool, for the spa… it’s always good to have a pair of flip flops or slip on shoes!

I recommend Havaianas. They’re the only ones that are actually comfortable!

10 – A jacket

You might not think you’ll need to packet a jacket on your cruise, especially if you’re heading somewhere warm. But evenings in the middle of the ocean can be breezy and chilly, as can the restaurants, bars, theatres and other air-conditioned rooms on board. Make sure you have some warmer layers.

11 – Kindle/books

The great thing about a cruise is you can do as much or as little as you like, and play it by ear. Even though there’s probably loads going on during sea days, sometimes it’s nice to just chill out and relax. You’re on holiday, after all!

Since the internet can be expensive and unreliable at sea, make sure you pack a good book or download one to your Kindle.

12 – Highlighter

There’s usually so much going on during a cruise that it can be hard to keep track. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do it all!

Pack a highlighter or coloured pen for scribbling down notes and highlighting events you don’t want to miss.

13 – A watch

Don’t rely on your phone to keep track of time zones – technology isn’t always reliable and sometimes phones can get confused as to where you are on a cruise! Pack a watch so you can manually set the time yourself and always be sure that you don’t miss anything. 

I always have a watch with me to keep track of time zones when I travel by plane but it works on cruises too!

14 – Cash

I rarely carry cash while travelling, but you’ll definitely want some on a cruise! The most useful currency to have is US Dollars because this can generally be exchanged anywhere.

15 – A first aid kit

You don’t need to lug around a full kit to cover every scenario, but you might want to pack some basic medication for your cruise.

I couldn’t find cold and flu medicine anywhere on board and basic painkillers were available but pretty pricey. If you ever need them, it’ll be worth packing some antihistamines and other basic medication in a mini travel first aid kit.

The one exception is seasickness tablets, which are nearly always available for free. If you have a preferred brand or don’t want to waste time getting them, though, it might be worth packing these too.

16 – Insurance

It shocks me how many people travel without insurance! Even if you’re not flying anywhere to take your cruise (lucky you!), you should still get travel insurance.

After being hospitalised in Peru and claiming on my insurance this year, I would never want to be without it – it’s just too risky!

Keep in mind that not all travel insurance is the same. On a cruise, it’s important to make sure you have adequate insurance that covers all of the destinations you’ll be visiting and the activities you’ll be doing.

I use World Nomads insurance because they cover more than most travel insurance and their claims process was painless!

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17 – Torch

It can be pretty dark in the cabins at night and it’s not always easy to get to the light switch. Packing a torch means you never need to worry about stumbling around in the dark and tripping over (if you’re clumsy like me!). 

You can pack a full torch, but even a mini keyring light would do the trick. I had my head torch with me and that worked a treat, too.

18 – Tea bags 

This my be one of the times when I can’t hide my British-ness… it’s so nice to have tea! There should be somewhere on board to get hot water – and perhaps even coffee and English breakfast tea – but it’s nice to have some herbal/decaf bags for the evening. 

I generally found that I’d spend 45-60 minutes organising my stuff and planning my next day when I got back to my cabin in the evening, and it was lovely to do it with a cup of warm tea in hand.

19 – Hand sanitiser 

Hygiene is always important (obviously!) but that’s especially true in a confined space like a cruise ship. If you don’t want to spend time running to and from the toilets – they can be far away – then it can be handy to have a small hand sanitiser in your bag.

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things to pack for a cruise