The cruise is booked, you got the time off from work, the mail has been held, and the pets are looked after. Now all you need to worry about is getting packed for the trip. For the most part, you’ll pack for a week-long cruise just as you would a week-long stay on land. As a guide, we’ve offered 37 things to bring on a cruise.

While many cruises allow as much as you would like, it’s usually recommended passengers bring one bag for a three-day cruise and two bags for cruising that last a week or more. Obviously, for cruises lasting a month or longer–such as our Longitudinal World Cruise III–other arrangements will need to be made.

Many passengers check their bags in before boarding the ship, but keep in mind they must be able to fit through the x-ray machines and all bags should weigh less than 50 pounds. We recommend bringing a piece of carry-on luggage or a backpack so you have easy access to important items even if you decide to carry your luggage aboard.

37 Things to Bring on a Cruise

Depending on the cruise, you may not have to bring every single item. Hopefully, we’ve included things that you may not have thought of before on this cruise packing list.

  • Clothes for a cruise
  • Medicine to bring on a cruise
  • Documents
  • Entertainment
  • Electronics
  • Food and Drinks

Clothing for a Cruise

It doesn’t matter if you’re on the water for three days, a week, or even longer, trying to figure out what clothing to bring on the boat with you can be fraught with peril. Do you need to bring an evening dress and tuxedo for formal dining along with a swimsuit, flip flops, and a floppy sun hat to protect you from the sun?

Relax. A little bit of planning will go a long way. See where the boat will be making stops (you won’t need that winter parka on a Caribbean cruise), consider the weather and time of year, when formal attire is encouraged, and how often you’ll need it. From there it’s just choosing which clothes to pack.

You should also pack a quick change of clothes in your carry-on luggage in the off-chance that you need to wait for your luggage to arrive at your stateroom. This way you’ll be able to begin enjoying everything the ship has to offer as soon as you get to your accommodations.

Footwear – Sandals for the sandy beaches, dress shoes for formal dining, and a good pair of walking shoes should have you covered. If you’re planning to take on some challenging hikes during a stop, sturdy hiking shoes make sense, too. But be selective–you don’t want to have a 50-pound bag full of just shoes!

Casual Wear – Dress codes used to be relatively stuffy on ships, but casual wear is more and more accepted on most cruises. For a seven-day trip, two pairs of shorts or shorts and a pair of jeans or khakis should suffice and go with almost any shirts or tops you bring. T-shirts are acceptable throughout the day unless planning on having a formal dinner.

The key is to think about clothes that can be mixed and matched. Bringing seven changes of clothes for both day and night use is impractical. Four or five tops with three bottoms (along with two dresses if you prefer) should give you all of the variety you’ll need.

Formal Wear – Jeans and khakis are acceptable in most cases if paired with polos or button-down shirts. Long gone are the days of three-piece suits or tuxedos–but a nice sports jacket can help spiff you up. For women, a nice dress, pantsuit, or slacks with an appropriate shirt should suffice.

Active Wear – If you’re looking to keep up with your fitness levels, consider how much room you want to devote to athletic shorts and shirts. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to launder your clothes in between uses, either. So instead of the treadmill, maybe consider getting your steps in while at a cruise port.

Accessories – A change of socks, underwear, and so forth for every day won’t take up too much room in your bag. Sunglasses are necessary to protect your eyes from the glare of the water. A baseball cap or floppy hat is recommended as well as a nice wool cap for cooler climates. One bathing suit should suffice, although two would probably be okay, and a beach bag that you can roll up.

Cold Climates – It’s usually a good idea to bring a jacket of some sort–it can get cold on the open water at night. If you’re heading to a cooler climate, maybe switch out a t-shirt or two and replace it with a sweater. Layered looks work well, so bring something waterproof, a warm layer underneath, and then a shirt and you’re good to go!

Medicinal Items for Your Cruise

Most, if not all, cruises will have some kind of sick bay or medical center for passengers, but it still doesn’t hurt to be prepared. When you do encounter a need for medication, you’ll have everything you need in your room. Think of this as a custom-made first aid kit for your cruise.

Someone holding a toiletry bag to illustrate things to bring on a cruiseAdhesive Bandages – Useful for little scrapes or scratches you pick up during your travels, but they’ll also come in handy for unexpected blisters. Whether you stay on the boat or take part in shore excursions, chances are you’ll be doing a lot of walking in sandals that your feet aren’t prepared for. These will help make walking less painful.

Ibuprofen – You never know when a headache, sore muscles, and other aches and pains will make an appearance. Bringing a small bottle of Tylenol, Advil, or other medication won’t take up much room and could make all the difference in the world.

Cold Medicine – Is there anything worse than coming down with a cold on the first day of your vacation? Having quick access to cold and sinus medication will keep you from spending the whole cruise in bed.

Hydrocortisone cream – Anti-itch ointment can be a lifesaver if you encounter pesky pests that leave you with a few too many bug bites.

Baby wipes – These can be sold in smaller packages so they’re easy to pack away in a side pocket. Just like at home, they’re a quick way to disinfect scrapes and scratches on the spot.

Hand sanitizer – These come in a variety of sizes, so you can take some with you wherever you go. Some even have clips to go on your purse, backpack, belt loop, etc.

Sunscreen – Even on overcast days, if you’re planning on walking around a port of call, take a minute or two to protect your skin.

Aloe Vera – Forget the sunscreen one day? This will come in handy to soothe any burns you may have acquired while out and about. Lip balm is always a good idea, too.

Digestive medication – Pepto Bismol, Rolaids, Tus, Imodium, and other medications help calm an uneasy stomach. On the flip side, laxatives will help battle constipation or bloating after trying new and interesting local flavors.

Seasickness meds – Whether it’s bands, patches, pills, or gummies, it’s better to be prepared for any motion sickness you may encounter, whether on a lake, a river, or the high seas.

Allergy – From pollen to peanuts, allergies can stop the good times when they appear. In some cases, allergies can be life-threatening, so don’t forget the Benadryl, epi-pen, and any other allergy medication you need.

Prescription Medication – It’s true, most of the above items will be available on the cruise ship. But when it comes to prescription meds, you’ll be out of luck if you forget them at home. You may be able to call ahead to the next stop and pick up a prescription, but don’t risk it. Especially when traveling abroad.

Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? But we think you’ll find a large ziplock bag or “ditty bag” that will help you prepare for the worst. Remember, they make travel sizes for most of these items for a reason. A small bag comes in handy for taking certain medications during off-the-boat adventures is a good idea, too.

Things to Bring on a Cruise: Documents/Forms of Payment

If you’re traveling internationally, or along the waterways of the U.S., you may be required to have certain documents with you. Keep them in a safe place while on the board and make sure you have them with you when leaving the boat as well.

Passport – A passport or some other form of identification that’s accepted for international travel is a necessity, even when traveling to Canada. If traveling with kids, it probably makes sense to keep all of the passports together and keep them on you at all times when off the ship.

Credit Card – Your debit card may not work in different international ports, so a credit card will be good for emergencies.

Cash – Although it seems like everything runs on credit cards, cash apps, or phone apps that can be used during checkout. But if the power is out or a vendor is old school, it doesn’t hurt to have some money on hand. You should consider exchanging money before leaving for the cruise because it can be hard to find an exchange point abroad.

Birth Certificates – Chances are you’ll never need these, but it doesn’t hurt to have them on hand when traveling internationally. Keep them locked up until you need them, though.

Proof of Vaccination – Times being what they are, it can be hard to know what is required to enter a country from one month to the next. Make sure you read up on what’s required and get those shots if you need to and keep your proof of vaccination card updated.


Cruises are well-known for having plenty of stuff to do on board and pointing out adventurous excursions once pulling into port. In most cases, rooms will be nicely appointed with televisions and movie options. You’ll also have to pay for Wifi on some cruises, so having backup entertainment is a good idea for things to bring on a cruise.

Someone holding a few playing cards in their hand to illustrate things to bring on a cruiseA good book – There’s something to be said for sitting on the deck, listening to the water, and getting totally lost in a good book. You may want to bring two or three depending on the type of reading material and how fast you read. Just make sure they’re the paperback variety.

A deck of cards – From War to Go Fish to Poker to Old Maid, a deck of cards can keep a family entertained for hours. And they’re small enough to fit anywhere during travel.

Downloads – Downloading games, tv shows, or movies to your phone, tablet, or laptop will ensure you can relax the way you want to relax.

Puzzle books – Sudoku, Crosswords, and others can provide hours of relaxation sprinkled throughout the trip (or a way to get you ready for a nap). Be careful around the pool, though–a few drops of water and you may have to wait for it to dry out before finishing the puzzle.


Now that nearly 90 percent of the people in the US own a smartphone, the need for other electronics has nearly disappeared. Still, there are a few nifty gadgets that could be lifesavers when at sea for a week or two.

Power Strip – If you’re traveling with the whole family, your cabin may not have enough outlets to keep all the cell phones, tablets, and laptops powered up. A power strip featuring USB ports means everyone can charge their electronics at the same time.

Extra Chargers – If you accidentally leave a charger behind when out and about a port of call, you’ll be glad you have one back on the ship.

Adapters – For those times when you run into an outlet that differs from the ones at home–both in voltage and configuration, an adapter will make it so you can charge your phone anywhere.

Waterproof phone case – If you’re on a cruise, chances are you will be spending some time in the water. These handy cases for your phone allow you to get some great underwater shots while hanging out on the beach.

Portable charger – Planning a long excursion? A portable battery pack is a great way to make sure your phone will always have enough juice.

Things to Bring on a Cruise: Food and Drink

When it comes to things to bring on a cruise, food is the last item to think about for many. So many cruises offer all-inclusive meal service, meaning you shouldn’t have to worry about bringing your own food or drinks on board. You are allowed to bring certain items on board if you’re feeling peckish and don’t feel like leaving your room.

Sealed snacks – You can bring your favorite chips, cookies, and snacks on board if they are sealed and non-perishable. Homemade items, fruits, cheeses, and meats are not allowed.

Alcohol – In most cases, travelers are allowed one or two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne for use in their room. If you want to drink your wine with dinner, you may be subject to a corkage fee. Other alcohol is forbidden and if you buy wine, champagne, and other alcohol at a port, many cruise lines require you to check them in when returning to the boat. They will be returned to you the night before disembarking the boat.

Soft drinks – Although this may differ from cruise to cruise, 12 cans of soda can be brought aboard in your checked luggage and kept in your room. However, that can take up a lot of room in your bag, so think about how important it is.

Water bottles – Having a reusable water bottle is an absolute must for those day excursions, so bring one along. Check with the cruise about bringing bottles of water on board, however–they may be expressly forbidden.

Coolers – In some cases, you may be able to bring a cooler aboard, but they must be no larger than 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches. A good size for a two-hour trip to the beach, but not nearly big enough to store food for a whole trip.

Other items that you would bring for any trip also apply to cruises. Toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, floss, makeup, moisturizer, and the rest should all be included in your toiletries/ditty bag. You shouldn’t need to worry about towels as they are provided by the ship, both in your room and if you go to a designated beach.

That is a pretty exhaustive list of things to bring on a cruise. Using this as a handy checklist will make sure nothing slips your mind or sends you scrambling at the last second while you pack for a cruise. And, if push comes to shove, many cruises have a pretty robust market where you can pick up the stuff you need.

Now you’re ready to enjoy some rest and relaxation as you sail the open sea or roam the waterways of the U.S. on your cruise vacation. If you have questions about what you’re allowed to bring on one of our cruises, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with USA River Cruises. And have a great trip!