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

Updated on March 5, 2019
Deb Vesco Roberts profile image

I'm always looking for savvy ways to make travel and packing easier. Here's a packing trick to keep you organized that I think you'll love!

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!

For packing and organizing your smaller necessities in your cabin, check out this handy packing hack that no cruiser should sail without!

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. We take our Yeti 20 oz. tumblers (with the Magslider lid option--spend the extra $10 for this feature) since they are the bomb for keeping our morning coffee piping hot for hours and our iced beverages cold on the pool deck or balcony.

5. Portable Backpacking Chair or a lightweight beach sand blanket. One thing you will find on the islands is a huge push to charge you for beach chairs and umbrellas. This can cost anywhere from $20–$40 for two chairs and an umbrella, depending on the island and location. There are many chairs on the market to choose from in the 2-pound range, so go with whatever shape, size, and height that works best for you. On our most recent cruise, we took an oversized, parachute-fabric blanket, as well as our chairs, so that we had a few options since one of our excursions only allotted one hour at a beach and it was easier to just take the blanket (it comes with stakes to hold it down).

6. Water Shoes. Snorkeling is fun. A slice on your foot from a sea urchin or sharp coral is not. Take along some water shoes for any seaside wading, swimming, or snorkeling you might do.

7. Rain Poncho or Compact Umbrella. The weather seems to be particularly unpredictable when you're cruising, so be sure to pack for precipitation, especially when walking around the ports of call as rain comes and goes without warning on the islands.

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, sanitary, 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. Even though this is TSA-approved, they will most likely ask you to take it out for inspection, so I suggest stowing it in an easily-accessible side pocket if taking only carry-on luggage.

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. If you opt for a different one, be sure it is of the non-surge type, otherwise, it will be confiscated.

Our most recent ship, Freedom of the Seas, only had two outlets total in the cabin and both were mounted so low to the top of the counter, the above combo did not work due to it's size--this is the first time we have encountered this issue with our adaptor above. I have found another alternative that is smaller and compatible for the Freedom class ships, so it can't hurt to take more than one type. My husband and I were constantly battling for the two outlets!

11. Walkie-Talkies. Be prepared for any situation that might arise. We love having walkie-talkies on hand because they allow us to communicate with our cruising buddies to arrange meet-ups or when out and about in port.

Clothing Care

12. Tide or Bleach Pen. This will be key when you need to clean up that wine you spill on yourself.

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; everyone's pet hair becomes your pet hair.

15. Safety Pins. These will come in handy for quick repairs and mishaps that you don't want to sew. I pack a variety of sizes that can hold up a hem, replace a button on pants, or repair a bra strap.

Health and Wellness

16. Chlorox Healthcare Hospital Grade Disinfectant Wipes. We wipe down the shelves, drawers, desktop, bathroom counter, nightstand, and doorknobs. A virus-free cruise is a happy cruise. To kill the big bugs like Noro and Rota Virus, the ones that hits cruise ships fast and hard, you'll need the strongest wipes available.

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, butterfly closures, antibiotic ointment, and sunburn gel. It's not always fast nor easy to get in to see the nurse or doctor on board and you'll pay a pretty penny for these items at the ship's store.

18. Several Travel-Size Sunscreens. Being sunburned on your cruise is just awful, so be sure to use plenty of sunscreen. The smaller-sized containers are less cumbersome when you want to decrease your bulk when leaving the ship.


19. Gallon-Size Ziploc-Type Freezer Bags and space-saver 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. The Space-saver bags are heavier and very handy to use, especially on the return trip home when you most likely need more space for your liquor and other souvenirs!

20. Liquid Hand Soap and a Potent Hand Sanitizer. This is much better than using that tiny bar of soap provided in your cabin. Even though you did the "washy washy" ritual as you entered the restaurant, you will be touching the menu, serving spoons, and other surfaces prior to eating, so I recommend this spray to disinfect your hands again before touching your food. Take it from someone who's entire family of six got Norwalk virus on a ship, you can never be too cautious!

21. Towel Clips for Your Beach Chair. Clothespins pop off too easily and Amazon has a wonderful variety of fancy, colorful, larger-sized towel clips that are bigger and more sturdy to withstand the high winds on the deck. These are also great for hanging your swimsuits to dry.

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! Amazon has quite a large selection.

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

24. $1 Dollar Bills. These are handy for easily tipping the luggage porters upon your arrival to the port and for incidentals 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. The nightlife runs into the wee hours and people are less than mindful of their voices and their heavy feet when it comes to entering their cabins or navigating the hallways. We love this for blocking the sounds of the hallway 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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      • profile image


        5 weeks ago

        Great post! We all can use this for any traveling!! Thank you!

      • profile image

        Tammy Staley 

        5 weeks ago

        This is a great list, I have never been on a cruise but i think this list would be very helpful! Thanks!

      • profile image

        Mary Beth 

        5 weeks ago

        I love the idea of the compressible bags. I have those and hadn't thought of those. I would also add BUG SPRAY! OMG! I got eaten alive at one beach along the way. Of course, we were there at twilight when the bugs are at their worst. Great list though. :-)

      • profile image

        Ntensibe Edgar 

        5 weeks ago

        Hhhhmmmm...this list is quite long but spelt out well enough. Mostly, I was struck by the safety pins and how important they are, while on water, you know.

      • profile image


        5 weeks ago

        This has got to be the most comprehensive list I’ve ever seen, of items to take with you on a cruise. I think out of this list, I’ve only brought sunblock with me on a cruise.

      • profile image

        Donna of The Upward Blip 

        4 months 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


        4 months 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 

        5 months ago from UK

        Thanks for the information. I will check it out.

      • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

        Debra Roberts 

        5 months ago from Ohio

        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 

        5 months ago from UK

        How did you set about doing your Anazon links?

      • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

        Debra Roberts 

        5 months ago from Ohio

        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 months 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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