What to Pack for a Cruise: The Essential List

Packing for a cruise is fairly straightforward unless you’re on a trip to Antarctica. What you might want to bring is similar no matter where you go. This includes bathing suits, sandals, casual daytime attire, nighttime outfits and formal wear. You’ll also want to pack some handy accessories and toiletries too. With this in mind, we’ve put together a handy guide covering what to pack for a cruise: the essential list.

What to Pack for a Cruise: The Essential List

Swim Wear

You’ll probably spend a lot of time in or at the pool or hot tubs or on the deck on the sun loungers. So, you’ll need some swimwear – trunks, bikinis, one-piece, swim shorts, etc. Swimming costumes should be worn only at the pool. So, if you don’t want to get dressed when going to the buffet or lido lunching, make sure you bring a cover-up, like a sarong, shorts or linen shirts. A sunhat and sunglasses are also essential items.

Daytime Attire

For days spent at sea doing indoor activities, pack walking shorts, casual trousers, jeans, casual skirts and sundresses. Out on deck, swimsuits, casual shorts, jeans, and T-shirt ensembles are perfectly fine. For men, chinos and a sports jacket are a good, safe bet, as well as polo shirts, nice t-shirts and Oxford shirts.

Nighttime Wear

For men, a suit, shirt, and tie is another safe bet, or a pair of casual trousers and a short-sleeved shirt is also good. Basically, you can’t be too dressed up on a cruise ship, but smart-casual is also fine. As for the ladies, smart-casual is also fine, so think shift dresses, flowing cotton dresses or silky mix-and-match pants outfits. These outfits are perfect for speciality dining, the casino, the theatre, cocktail nights and other evening activities.

Formal Wear

Some cruises have formal nights when the dress code calls for men to be suited and booted or even in a tuxedo. Ladies, you can go as fancy as you like. No need for a full-on Cinderella ballgown, but this is the perfect occasion to wear your best frock or glam dress.

Workout Clothes

Most cruise ships have well-equipped gyms and offer fitnesses classes too. So, if you want to keep fit whilst at sea, make sure you pack your workout gear.


You’ll need appropriate deck shoes that are comfortable with lots of grip so you don’t slip. Sneakers are fine, and so too are flat shoes. For evening time and formal night, smart shoes and dressy sandals are appropriate and so too are heels, if you can walk in them and they are comfortable.

Plug Adaptors

Since many cabins have limited electrical outlets, bring an extension cord or multi adaptor so you can plug in multiple items. Make sure you also pack the correct plug adaptor too. For example, if you live in the United States and are heading on a European cruise, be sure to pack an adaptor for European-style plug sockets.

Seasickness Pills

Those who are susceptible to motion sickness should pack some seasickness medicine – pills or patches. If you’ve forgotten to bring the medicine with you, you will be able to get the non-prescription tablets onboard.


Make sure you pack sunscreen, no matter what your cruising destination. If you forget to pack sunscreen, you can buy it on board or in a port, but it’ll be much more expensive than bringing it home.

Melanie May

Melanie is an intrepid solo traveller, endlessly curious about people, places and food. She is a fan of slow travel and loves exploring the world by mouth, discovering a culture through its food. Having backpacked her way around the world she turned her wanderlust into a career and is now a full-time travel writer.

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