Packing for a Cruise

It’s been over ten years since I’ve gone on a cruise, but I have one coming up this spring.  I’m getting excited and starting to think about packing. If you know me, you know that I like to travel with a carry-on only.  Can I do it for a two week cruise? (See the update below).

What to Pack

There will definitely be differences between packing for the cruise and packing for a trip to Europe. There are items that I will bring on the cruise, that I wouldn’t even consider in Europe. There are other items that I will have no need for.

Sunscreen and Bug Repellent

I am not light complected and don’t burn easily, so I don’t often use sunscreen. I know I should, but I don’t like the feel of it on my skin. It is especially important that I use it on the cruise, though, since I will be spending so much time in the sun. I will definitely be packing sunscreen.

Some of the areas the cruise is visiting may have mosquitoes that carry malaria or the zika virus. I do not want to be infected with either of these, so I will need to use bug repellent in these areas. I plan to purchase a package of repellent wipes – they will be easiest to pack.

Beach Wear
For Rent – Beach Chairs and Umbrellas

My usual vacations don’t include much beach time, but on the cruise, I will not only be spending time sitting on the beach or in the water, but I will also be lounging by the pools on the ship’s deck. Although sometimes I try to make room for one bathing suit, this time I will pack two suits and beach cover-ups. If I wear them often as I expect, I’ll trade off with them to give each one time to dry before the next use.

I dug up my old water shoes. They don’t take up much room and will be appreciated on a rocky beach area. I also purchased a sun hat. I can use the hat in addition to sunscreen in bright sun or to replace it in light sun. I’ll also pack a couple of gauzy scarves that I can throw over my shoulders to add more sun protection without adding warmth.


When I’ve traveled to Europe, I have always had access to a washing machine at some point during my stay, so I did not have to bring a new outfit for each day of the trip. There is laundry service available on the ship, although I’ve been told that it’s expensive.  I’ll be able to hand wash some clothes in the sink, but I will probably also pack more tops than I otherwise would.

I can usually wear pants and shorts more than once – they don’t seem to get as dirty as the tops do – so I won’t need as many of them. Another plus is that the cruise will be traveling in tropical areas, so shorts, tank tops, and even bathing suits will be normal attire and they take up less room than jeans, sweaters and jackets.

Cash and Credit Cards

When I go to Europe, I always bring a small amount of Euros to get started. The cruise, though, will be stopping in several different countries that each use a different currency. In my research, I’ve read that most of these countries also accept the US dollar. I don’t plan to do a lot of shopping, but I will probably take a small amount of American cash. If I can’t use my credit card – my preferred method of payment – I’ll have some cash to fall back on.

What Not to Bring

It sounds like I will be loading up my suitcase, but there are several items I would bring on a trip to Europe, that I’m going to leave home when I cruise.

Electronic Items
Kindle and iPad

I will not be bringing my laptop, although I might still bring my iPad. The iPad is much smaller and lighter than the computer, but it will still be handy to have. I can use it for journaling, I can download books to read, and I can check my email.

One thing I won’t need is an electric adapter. The outlets on the ship will be compatible with the plugs for my phone and iPad.


When my husband and I went on our first cruise, we had trouble with the weather.  It didn’t rain – instead,  sleet covered the ship deck. The crew was ecstatic – many had never seen sleet or snow before. Weather like that was extremely unusual. In fact, I don’t expect to encounter any rain during the trip. I am leaving my umbrella at home. If there is bad weather, I’ll just go to an inside area on the ship.

Warm Clothes

I will wear jeans on the plane, but these will be the only long pants I bring along. I plan to spend a lot of time in my bathing suit – the rest of the time I’ll wear shorts. I’ll pack a light sweater or two and a lightweight jacket just in case, but I hope they will remain in my suitcase.

A Formal Dress

Traditionally, cruises have had at least one evening meal where guests were expected to wear formal dress. I remember buying an evening gown for my first cruise. Today’s cruises do not have this requirement, although I may want to dress up a little once in awhile.  I have a casual black dress that I can accessorize with a lightweight beaded shawl – that should do the trick.

Carry-on Only
My Carry-On Luggage

I’ve done a practice run with my carry-on suitcase and don’t think I’ll have any trouble fitting everything in. I’ll have the carry-on for my clothes and I’ll put some knitting in my personal item – an over the shoulder bag. I’ll also pack a small empty backpack in case I find a yarn shop (just kidding) or find other souvenirs that I’d like to bring home.

Could you pack for a two week cruise of other vacation using only a carry-on? Read my post on carry-on packing and then challenge yourself on your next trip.

Packing Tips

Do you have any cruise packing tips that I haven’t mentioned? Share them below.


I did, in fact, pack carry-on only for the cruise – even for the return flight. I did not take advantage of on board laundry or washing clothes in the sink, but instead, packed enough underwear and tops for each day. I wore my shorts or capris several times.

I packed a couple items that I did not wear. I had an extra skort, a pair of water shoes, and a second beach cover-up. I wore my jacket to and from my home airport and some on the plane – I could have done without it. There was nothing that I wished I had packed.

Several times, I was glad that I didn’t have to worry about checked luggage or about hauling large bags around. I will definitely pack carry-on only on future cruises.


  1. Take less shoes. We. always think we need lots. I would say 1 pair dress shoes and fancy flip flop. Wear casual or tennis shoes. I don’t care for tennis shoes but have a cute pair of black flats that can compress and wear with dresses or shorts. I am learning to take less

    1. I wear tennis shoes because I like the support I get from them. I wore them on excursions, but on the ship I just wore my sandals or casual black flats. I brought water shoes but didn’t wear them. Other than the water shoes there were two things in my suitcase that I didn’t wear- a skort and a second beach cover-up. I’m always trying to improve my packing.

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