Packing for Your Cruise Vacation: 26 Big Essentials for Small Spaces

Updated on November 5, 2018
Deb Vesco Roberts profile image

I'm always looking for savvy ways to make travel easier and more convenient. Here's our live-and-learn list from our 12 cruises in 5 years!

These essential items will take the stress out of packing for a cruise!
These essential items will take the stress out of packing for a cruise! | Source

26 Essential Items That Every Cruiser Needs

If you're preparing for your first cruise, not knowing what to expect, what is provided, what is available for purchase, and if there is ample space to stow it all can leave you very tired of packing and unpacking before you even leave. Luckily, taking along a few handy essentials will simplify the packing process.

The following items can be quickly and easily stashed in the shoe organizer below once you are settled in your cabin. The following are my recommendations for must-have items that will help your cruise go smoothly. Here's everything you need for a stress-free and organized cruise!

This mesh, over-the-door shoe holder will help you keep your cabin organized.
This mesh, over-the-door shoe holder will help you keep your cabin organized.

Storage and Organization

1. Over-the-Door Shoe Holder. I cannot say enough how handy this little piece of mesh is! I bring at least five pairs of shoes on each cruise, and there is never a good spot to stash them. This handy organizer takes care of that issue and holds all of the luxury items I'm about to tell you about—all while keeping the cabin clutter-free. We are light travelers, with generally nothing more than a large backpack or small roller bag each, but this bag is very light and compact, and we never cruise without it!

2. Heavy Magnetic Hooks. These are great for hanging your toiletry bags, extra towels, and wet bathing suits.


3. Compressible Backpack. There is nothing worse than not having any way to carry your island purchases or beach essentials. We always end up buying some sort of straw or canvas bag on one of the islands, but it always ends up being awkward or heavy to bring home, and we never use it again. We love these light, thin, water-resistant packable backpacks. They pack up tight like a rain poncho, yet are able to hold one of the cruise-ship-issued beach towels or a bottle of your favorite island spirits to bring back.

4. Insulated water bottle. This will be key to staying hydrated, especially if you do not buy the cruise's beverage package.

5. Portable Backpacking Chair. One thing you will find on the islands is a huge push by the locals to rent you beach chairs and umbrellas. This can cost anywhere from $20–$40 for two (sometimes more). Also, the chairs on your balcony aren't all that comfortable either, so lightweight portables are a nice alternative. We started taking our own chairs a few cruises ago and will never go without them again. It took us a few tries to find ultra light-weight chairs that we liked, but there are many on the market to choose from in the 2-pound range, so go with whatever works best for you.

6. Water Shoes. Snorkeling is fun. Ending up with a slice on your foot is not. Take along some water shoes for any seaside wading or swimming you might do.

7. Rain Poncho or Compact Umbrella. Weather seems to be particularly unpredictable when you're cruising, so be sure to pack for precipitation.

8. Your Own Snorkeling Gear. Whether on a paid excursion or exploring on your own at the nearby beaches and coves, you can always be prepared and comfortable using your own gear that is adjusted for you. We prefer fog-free, panoramic masks and dry snorkels. You can get very nice sets on Amazon that are quite affordable.

Handy Tools

9. Small Corkscrew. It took me two cruises of bringing wine on board (purchased locally prior to boarding) and then learning that I had no way to open it to finally learn my lesson. I had a hard time finding a corkscrew that I could keep in my carry-on, so I was excited when I stumbled across this TSA-approved mini corkscrew. Save yourself the hassle and time and get this little guy for the (2) bottles of wine or champagne you are permitted to bring onboard or that you may buy and consume on the islands.

10. Outlet Adaptor/Nightlight Combo. The ships are equipped with both US and EU options, but outlets are limited. We usually take some kind of additional adaptor and night light, so I was excited when I stumbled across this combo unit. We usually take an iPad, a laptop, our cell phones, and fitness watches with us, so that's a lot of outlet usage compared to the number available in your cabin. Also, if you want to sleep uninterrupted, leaving the bathroom door cracked for light is not a good option due to the swaying of the ship and the door being slammed closed or moving back and forth. Save your toes and give this handy unit a try.

11. Walkie Talkies. Be prepared for any situation that might arise!

Clothing Care

12. Tide or Bleach Pen. This will be key when you need to clean up that wine you spill on yourself (and trust me—you will!).

13. Laundry Bag or Pop-Up Hamper. This will help you keep your clean items separate from your dirty, sandy ones.

14. Lint Roller. Just trust me on this one.

15. Safety Pins. These will come in handy for quick repairs and mishaps that you don't want to sew.

Health and Wellness

16. Small Bag of Antibacterial Wipes. We always wipe down the shelves, drawers, desktop, bathroom counter, nightstand, and doorknobs. A virus-free cruise is a happy cruise.

17. A Small First Aid Kit and Over-the-Counter Meds. Though of course you hope your cruise will go smoothly, it's wise to come prepared. I recommend bringing something for headaches, diarrhea, motion sickness, and indigestion, as well as band-aids, antibiotic ointment, and sunburn gel.

18. Several Travel-Size Sunscreens. Being sunburned on your cruise is just awful, so be sure to use plenty of sunscreen.


19. Gallon-Size Ziploc-Type Freezer Bags. These are perfect for wet clothing, leaky bottles, collecting shells, and keeping your personal items dry and sand-free. You will find numerous uses for these throughout your cruise.

20. Liquid Hand Soap. This is much better than using a tiny bar of soap.

21. Towel Clips for Your Beach Chair. Clothespins or chip-bag clips work well.

22. Sea Pass Neck Lanyard. You'll need to keep your Sea Pass with you at all times, and it's nice not to have to dig it out of your bag each time you need it!

23. Bubble Wrap. This is very handy for packing purchased alcohol and souvenirs.

24. $1 Dollar Bills. These will be important for tipping while on the islands.

25. Highlighter. You find many uses for a highlighter, from marking what you want to do on the Cruise Compass to filling in your BINGO cards.

26. Portable Fan to Block Noise. Trust me on this one. The nightlife runs into the wee hours and people are less than mindful of their voices when it comes to entering their cabins or navigating the hallways. We love this for blocking the sounds of the stampedes.

Any Other Helpful Suggestions?

This is our personal list, but I'm open to hearing suggestions of other helpful items or tips that you might have too!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Debra Roberts


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      • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

        Debra Roberts 

        3 weeks ago from United States

        Thank you! The links must be pretty helpful, because people are buying many of the items I recommended! I'm obsessed with being organized, so I'm pretty proud of this blog :)

      • profile image

        Donna of The Upward Blip 

        3 weeks ago

        I have never been to any cruise and would really love to experience it one of these days or maybe when the kids are older. These are great for the inexperienced like myself! Thank you so much for the tips!

        P.S. Your amazon links look cool!

      • profile image


        3 weeks ago

        Great tips! We’ve only been on a couple of cruises, but hope to do more in the future. Would have never thought of several things on your list.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks for the information. I will check it out.

      • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

        Debra Roberts 

        4 weeks ago from United States

        Liz, you first need to set up an Amazon Affiliate account with Amazon (using your existing account or a new one if you don't have one). They you link your affiliate i.d. with your HP earnings account. Once it's setup and approved, you can add products to your blogs as long as they are discussed and relevant to your blog post. I hope this helps get you started. It took a bit of trial and error to get it to work, but I have had a few people buy things using my link, so it's working!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        How did you set about doing your Anazon links?

      • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

        Debra Roberts 

        5 weeks ago from United States

        I know, right? Live and learn! I am pleasantly surprised to see that people are actually ordering many of the items I suggested and linked to Amazon! This was a fun post to put together for sure!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        5 weeks ago from UK

        Great list. I laughed at the corkscrew and bubblewrap. I take them wherever I go. Nothing worse than a corked bottle with no means of opening it! The bubblewrap works wonders in keeping bottles intact in a suitcase in the hold of a plane.


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