What to Pack for a Cruise: 10 Essential Items

what to pack for a cruise

Getty A couple takes a selfie photo with some docked cruise ships in the background, in Palma de Mallorca on August 12, 2017. / Getty

When it comes to what to pack for a cruise, we’re assuming you have the basics covered. You’ll remember your swimming suit and a formal outfit, t-shirts, pajamas, and other necessities. But there are some essentials you might forget to pack, or might not even think of at all. These ten items will make your cruise experience so much better, by saving you trips to the bar to get water (or from having to flag down waitstaff), keeping your cell phone dry, ensuring you see dolphins and other wildlife up close, and more.

More than 20 million people take cruises each year. Stock up on these items now so you’re not lined up with crowds trying to buy something you forgot during your time off the boat. If you’re not sure what to pack for a cruise, follow this list and rest easy knowing your belongings are safe, your clothes won’t be wrinkled, and you’ll have the perfect quick dry cover up to take you from poolside to cocktails. Happy cruising!

1. Sunscreen

sunscreen spray


This seems like an obvious one, but if you forget it, you’ll end up paying much, much more at some touristy port pharmacy. Buy this double pack on Amazon and save yourself dollars (and a sunburn).

We like sport sunscreen for cruises because it stays on through sweat and time at the pool or beach. The spray feature helps you access hard to reach spots, so you don’t end up with splotches of color. Coppertone delivers broad spectrum UVA/UVB cover that protects from 98 percent of the sun’s most harmful rays, so you know you’re keeping your family’s skin safe. This double pack of SPF 50 also has Vitamin E and moisturizers, helping to keep your skin in good shape even after lots of time in chlorine.

Price: $12.32

Buy the Coppertone Sunscreen Spray here.

2. Polarized Sunglasses

cheap polarized sunglasses


There’s nothing like looking out over seemingly endless water while cruising along, but sometimes the sun hitting the water can create extra irritating brightness. Polarized sunglasses reduce the glare reflected off the water while protecting your eyes. The lenses are UV400. They also restore true color to things, so you know the view you’re getting isn’t tinted, but the real deal.

These Merry sunglasses are unisex and work well on most face shapes. The metal frame is lightweight, something users loved about them. They’re also very affordable for the quality. They’re perfect for lounging by the pool, but durable enough to withstand adventure activities like rafting, zip lining, and other opportunities at each destination.

Price: $12.25

Buy the Polarized Sunglasses here.

3. Downy Wrinkle Releaser

travel wrinkle releaser


Unlike hotel rooms, cruise cabins don’t come with irons (they’re a fire hazard). Keep your linens and formal outfits wrinkle-free with Downy Wrinkle Releaser. All you do is spray, shake, then smooth our your clothes. The wrinkle release is pretty effective, though as one Amazon user said it’s recommended “you dewrinkle the night before you plan on wearing your items, because they need a little time to relax and dry out.” It also has a nice fresh scent that emulates dryer sheets.

The product won’t work on severely wrinkled items, but if you pack your clothing for a cruise, unpack when you arrive and use the wrinkle releaser fairly soon after, you’ll see results. This two-pack is a great deal and is also TSA approved, so you don’t have to worry about it if you’re flying to the port where your cruise departs.

Price: $6.49

Buy the Downy Wrinkle Releaser here.

4. Anker PowerCore Portable Charger

best portable charger


With WiFi available on most cruise ships, your phone gets a lot of use. Whether you’re using it to update social media or as your camera, you don’t want to have to go back to your cabin to charge it whenever your battery runs low. Then there are excursion days, where you need the battery to last for hours, especially if you use your phone as your camera. Here’s where a portable charger comes in. It’s one of the most useful things you can pack for a cruise.

Though it’s about the size of a deck of cards and weighs only 6.35 ounces, the Anker PowerCore can charge an iPhone three and a half times, and a Samsung Galaxy S8 two and a half times. For someone who drains their battery by using the camera and updating Instagram Stories constantly, like me, it’s a huge help. It also charges quickly, which is nice on the go.

The charger comes with a micro USB cable, a travel pouch, and an 18-month warranty. There’s a lightning cable option sold separately. Anker is known as one of the most reliable portable charging brands, topping lists from TechRadarDigital Trends, and more.

Price: $29.99

Buy the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger here.

5. Slip-Resistant Flip Flops

slip resistant flip flops


Cruise ship decks get slippery. Pack a pair of slip-resistant flip flops to ensure you don’t end up with an injury during your trip. These flip flops from Gold Pigeon come in a few different colors and are unisex, so you can buy a pair for everyone in your family.

They’re extremely lightweight, but also last through beach days, adventure activities, and of course lots of time on deck. They have slip-resistant grippy bottoms, and perforated upper soles to keep them smelling fresh. The rubber material is waterproof and bounces back easily, which is nice for maintaining shape. The shoes come in half sizes, and a half size up from your normal size is recommended for those with wide feet.

Price: $14.99

Buy the Gold Pigeon Slip-Resistant Flip Flops here.

6. Waterproof Valuables Pouch

waterproof pouch


Whether you’re heading out on a kayaking or snorkeling excursion, or just don’t want your valuables getting splashed by the pool, a waterproof pouch is a great solution. This one from Blue Sky Basics provides protection up to 32 feet underwater, and it also floats if you’re not wearing it. One Amazon user said it floated even with a pound of rocks in it!

At 9 x 6.7 inches it can fit phones, most tablets, a small camera, keys, a wallet, or any other small items you deem valuable. The adjustable straps can buckle around your waist for safekeeping, or be used as a shoulder strap. The translucent bags are touch screen friendly, so you can actually use your phone while it’s inside the bag (hello underwater photos!).

The pouches come with a 100 percent lifetime guarantee, that’s how confident the company is  it can protect your belongings from water damage, theft, and loss. Users overwhelmingly love this product, and attest that it keeps valuables safe and dry even after extended time in the water. Make sure to pack this for your next cruise!

Price: $17.97

Buy the Waterproof Valuables Pouch here.

7. Lightweight Binoculars

lightweight binoculars


Don’t miss whale, dolphin, or rare bird sightings whether on deck or on an excursion. Pack a lightweight pair of binoculars like these that let you zoom in up to 10 times and have a 367-foot view. The Skygenius binoculars provide crisp, clear views even in low light, and remove light reflection and discoloration with a multi-layer coated Aspherical Lens.

The rubber finish is comfortable around your eyes, so you can gaze at the horizon for as long as you wish without irritation. The full-size binoculars are 7.48 x 6.59 x 3.97 inches and weigh only 1.76 pounds, so they’re easy to transport. The binoculars come in four sizes, and the smaller sizes are foldable for easy packing.

Each pair of binoculars comes with a pouch, an adjustable strap, a cleaning cloth, and four lens caps. Users loved that they provide clear images even in low light, and thought they were very high quality for the low price.

Price: $16.99 to $54.99 depending on size

Buy the Skygenius Lightweight Binoculars here.

8. Refillable Water Bottle

insulated water bottle

Hydro Flask

Don’t waste money buying overpriced water bottles from cruise ship restaurants and bars. Pack a refillable water bottle and you’ll save money and the environment. This Hydro Flask insulated stainless steel water bottle has a powder coat, giving it a slip-free grip, and a standard mouth size that’s easy to sip from but big enough to fill with ice if needed.

It’s made of non-toxic, BPA-free plastics and 18/8 food grade stainless steel, meaning it’s good for the earth but also good for you (some plastics can be harmful to drink from after continued use).

The double walled, vacuum insulated technology keeps your beverages either ice cold or steaming hot. This is for the most part a good thing, but note that coffee can stay extremely hot for hours–wait for it to cool a bit before pouring it in the bottle if possible. On the opposite spectrum, some reviewers said ice didn’t melt for six to eight hours (this makes it great to take on excursions!). It comes in 17 colors.

Price: $22.50-59.59 (some colors on the lower spectrum are on sale

Buy the Hydro Flask Refillable Water Bottle here.

9. Water Resistant Backpack

water resistant backpack


When you leave the ship for day trips, you’ll want to take things like your camera, your wallet, your phone, and your keys. Plus, there’s always the change you’ll pick up a souvenir or two. Bring along a water resistant backpack to carry it all. This 25L one is a great size–big enough to carry everything you need for a day off the boat, but not so big it’s too hard to pack.

It comes in seven colors and folds neatly into a carrying bag that’s the size of a sandwich and can be stuffed in your suitcase. It’s made with durable, water-resistant material, so it will hold up during canyoning, hiking,  and other excursions. It’s also nice just for a day on the beach or by the ship’s pool to keep your belongings dry.

Two-way zippers are convenient for quickly grabbing cash, and the S-shaped straps are comfortable even after long wear. The bag has six pockets and weighs only 8.8 ounces. Venture Pal offers a lifetime warrantee, so if it doesn’t work out on your cruise, you can exchange or return it.

Price: $15.99

Buy the Water Resistant Backpack here.

10. Quick Dry Sarong

quick dry sarong

Ladies, this one is for you. A quick dry sarong is one of the most versatile things you can pack for a cruise, as it can be used as a towel, as a skirt, as a dress, and as a cover up in a wide variety of ways. Go from lounging by the pool to cocktails in seconds with a quick twist of fabric.

These beautiful sarongs are made in Bali and come in 13 colorful patterns. The rayon fabric is breathable and dries quickly, so you can use it as both a towel and a cover up. Each one is 78 inches long and 43 inches wide. Amazon reviewers say the colors are true to photos. Check out the Amazon link to see multiple ways to style your sarong.

Price: $8.99 to $15.75 depending on pattern

Buy the Quick Dry Sarong here.

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