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ULTIMATE First Time Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for a cruise

ULTIMATE First Time Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for a cruise

So you are taking a cruise for the first time! Cruises are a great holiday but they can feel a little overwhelming if you haven’t been on one before. In our ULTIMATE First Time Cruise Packing List we have you covered to make sure you don’t forget anything you will need on your first cruise vacation.

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Top Tip: Be sure to check our other first time cruise tips to help you make the most of your first cruise holiday.  

What should I bring on my first cruise? Documentation Essentials

ULTIMATE First Time Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for a cruise

Passports or Valid ID 

Depending on your port of origin and itinerary will depend on the type of ID you require. If you are on a closed loop cruise leaving, and returning and staying in your country of origin then you have more choices of photo ID that can be taken and used for embarkation. However the safest form of ID to take with you is always your passport and is essential for non closed loop cruises and fly cruise packages. If there is one thing you don’t want to forget to pack for your cruise it is your passport. 

This will be required as part of the embarkation process so be sure not to forget it. For more cruise embarkation day tips click here. 

Travel Insurance 

In my opinion travel insurance is a must whatever type of holiday you are going on. If you are going on a cruise make sure you travel insurance covers cruise travel, the duration of cruise and all of the ports you will be visiting etc. BE sure to have electronic and print copies of your travel insurance documentation with you at all times. 

Any medical documentation 

Whenever you travel with a medical condition it is recommend to travel with medical notes and any necessary doctors notes. Cruises have specific requirements on what people need to show if travelling with a medical condition for instance if you are planning to cruise while pregnant  you will need to proof due date and have a doctors note as minimum but it varies from cruise line to cruise line. Be sure to check the requirements of your cruise line when booking and check that they will carry. 

What to Pack For Embarkation Day 

ULTIMATE First Time Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for a cruise

One thing that first time cruisers are sometimes surprised by is that your luggage is taken from you port side and may not be delivered to your stateroom until late that night. Therefore it is essential to pack your embarkation hand luggage carefully. This should at a minimum include: 

  • Medications – these should be kept with you in your hand luggage rather than in your packed luggage
  • Evening Wear or Change of Clothes – the first evening dinner is usually cruise casual to accommodate those that have yet to receive their luggage by dinner time however if you would like to change for dinner be sure to have a change of clothes in your hand luggage. 
  • Swimwear – if you plan to go swimming once you embark be sure to have swimwear in your hand luggage. Towels are provided by the ship. 
  • Baby diapers, bottles, milk etc – If you are cruising with a baby or cruising with a toddler and they require diapers, milk. pacifiers etc then be sure you have packed them in your hand luggage. 
  • Clothes and sun screen for the weather – on embarkation day you will be doing a muster drill. Be sure to have appropriate clothing and sun screen for the weather (depending whether you are on a hot weather or cold weather cruise)

For a full cruise embarkation day cruise check list click here! 

First Time Cruise Packing List: Clothing  

Formal Wear on a cruise ship

The need for formal wear on your cruise will depend on a number of factors

  • Cruise line – Cunard required formal wear far more than Norwegian Cruise line 
  • Length of Cruise – this will determine how many formal nights there will be on your cruise. You will need to decide how formal you want to be and whether you are happy to reuse outfits. 
  • Whether you want to do formal night – now depending on the cruise and our mood we don’t always do formal night. If you don’t want to do formal night then don’t pack any formal wear and decide to eat in the buffet restaurant on that night. However if this is your first cruise I would advise you participate as it is part of the cruise experience in my opinion. 



Even if you are not traveling on a cruise itinerary that covers a lot of beaches be sure to pack your swimwear. Even if you have no plans to use the pool in my opinion there is nothing better than jumping in the hot tub after dinner. 

Comfortable Walking Shoes


Depending on your ports of call and the activities you decide to do will depend on how much walking there is. Wherever you are going I recommend packing at least one pair of sensible walking shoes.

Flip Flops 

I use this around the pool! 

Swimwear Cover


If you plan on lounging around on deck this is another essential. 

Transitional Clothes / Capsule Wardrobe

Depending if you are happy to do laundry on your vacation or pay for ship laundry will depending whether you need to pack an outfits for each day or not. I try and have transitional clothes that I can dress up for dinner and then use a more casual accessory and use it in the port on a subsequent day. I also put some spares in just in case. 

Pashmina or Layers 

Even if you are traveling to a warm weather location I find that the dining rooms in the evening can get chilly with the air conditioning so I always take a pashmina or smart cardigan as an extra layer. 

Sun Hat and Sunglasses 


Particularly for warm weather destinations, a sun hat or cap for men is very useful and sunglasses are always an essential.  

If you are cruising with a baby be sure to check out our cruising with a baby packing list

What to Pack for a Cruise – Other Essentials 

Tips for Cruising While Pregnant - How to Take a Babymoon Cruise (People in sea infant of cruise ship)

Microfibre Towel 

If you will be hitting a lot of beaches on your itienrary  I always recommend packing a quick dry microfibre towel

Waterproof Protection for Phones 


Again, another essential if you are hitting beaches and don’t want to leave valuables on the beach while you head into the sea (never recommended) then you should get a waterproof protection for your phone and valuables so you can keep them with you at all times. 

Lanyard for your Cruise Key Card


I personally don’t use a lanyard but many people on cruises like to keep their cruise cabin key on a lanyard so they have it with them at all times. You can even get some lovely cruise themed ones so they don’t feel like the ones you get at work. 

Pool Bag

Whether just for use on the lido deck or on beach excursions pool bags are handy for carting around swimwear, towels and books. 

Suncream, Aftersun and Toiletries 

Although you can buy toiletry essentials on board you will pay a premium so be sure to bring them on board with you. 

Camera and Chargers 

Self explanatory

Snorkel Gear

This is only for those traveling to destinations that offer snorkelling. 

Adapter Plug

Modern life means we need to charge a lot of things. Depending on where you are from and plugs you have I always recommend having a universal travel adapter with you. 

Books or E Book Reader 

Cruises for me (at least before I travelled with kids) was all about relaxing with a good book on deck. Don’t forget to pack one with you. 

What not to bring on a cruise ship


If you like tea first thing i the morning like I do (I am British after all) it might be tempting to bring your travel kettle along with you. Unfortanately these aren’t allowed and you state room attendant will remove if they see

Too much and the wrong types of Alcohol

Can you bring alcohol on a cruise ship is a commonly asked question. Depending on the line you are on will depend whether you are allowed to bring alcohol on board and the types and amount. Check with your line before packing your alcohol. 


Similar to the kettle, you just aren’t allowed these in your stateroom. 

First Time Cruise Packing List FAQS

Can I bring bottled water on a cruise ship?

This varies from line to line. Some do not permit while others allow small quantities but not in checked luggage. Be sure to check with your cruise line before sailing as to their policy. 

Can you bring snacks on a cruise?

While fruit and vegetables and other perishables are not permitted most cruise lines permit you to bring onboard a small quantity of prepackaged snacks. 

Do cruises provide toiletries?

Cruises do tend to provide toiletries in form of soap and all in one shower gel shampoo however I don’t find these to be very good. I always take some of my own toiletries with me particularly condition for itineraries that I will be at the beach or using the pool lots. 

Ultimate First Time Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for a Cruise Checklist