Perhaps you’re like me and start filling your suitcase a week (or more) before your vacation, armed with a packing list and smart space-saving techniques, like rolling up socks and stuffing them in your shoes. Or maybe you’re like my husband, who throws a bunch of clothes into a carry-on at midnight before a morning flight and always packs the right things.
Either way, you’ve probably learned that what you bring — or more importantly, what you forget to pack — can impact your enjoyment of your vacation. So today I’m giving you a full breakdown of what you need to pack for a Caribbean cruise vacation. If you’ve ever wondered how to pack for a cruise, you’ve come to the right place!
First Category: Swimwear

If you’re cruising to a tropical location like the Caribbean islands, then I would start here. For an eight day cruise, I packed 3 swimsuits and 3 cover-ups. I wound up wearing two of each. If you’re a water baby and you know that you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the pool, on the beach or doing water based excursions, then it’s a good idea to pack 4-5 swimsuits and cover-ups. Of course, you can pack less and re-wear items (there is a small clothesline in the shower of your stateroom which comes very handy).

Your checklist:

  • Swimsuits
  • Swim cover-ups
  • Flip flops
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach Bag
  • Sunscreen (lots of it)

Note: No need to bring beach towels since the cruise ship provides those for you!

Second Category: Dinner Outfits

If you choose to dine in the formal dining room on all seven nights, then you would need 2 “cruise elegant” outfits and 5 “cruise casual” outfits. Since I drove to the port, I was liberal with how many pairs of heels I packed (4). If you’re traveling by plane, I would narrow down your dinner shoes to save space.
Your checklist:
  • Two outfits for formal night: I would sum up formal night dress code (aka “cruise elegant”) as cocktail attire. Some people will wear tuxedos and evening gowns (akin to ‘black tie’) but it’s not necessary if you’re not up for it. I would recommend picking something you would feel comfortable wearing to a wedding party (see the first two outfits above). For more info, refer to your cruiseline dress code.
  • Outfits for the remaining nights: Our cruise was 7 nights, so I packed 5 “cruise casual” dinner outfits. Consider these as something you’d normally wear for a night out (see outfits 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above). Items that aren’t allowed in the dining room include gym shorts, flip-flops, bathing suit attire, cut-off jeans, sleeveless shirts for men and baseball hats. Otherwise pretty much anything casual is game. (And to be honest, sometimes people break the rules. I don’t recommend it though!)
  • Clutches: I carried 2 clutches, one for the elegant nights and the other I practically used all the time I was out and bout on the cruise ship.  Little clutches are perfect to take to dinner, all you need is your room key!

Third Category: In-between Outfits (not swim, but not fancy either)

This is what you will wear to travel to and from the ship, outfits you can wear to brunch in the nice dining room, and in general outfits you can throw on and wear around the ship. You will also want to consider any stops your ship is making that are NOT swim destinations. I would pack 2-3 cute shorts, off-shoulder tops, striped tees (nautical inspiration!), easy breezy rompers, and maxi dresses/skirts.
Your checklist:
  • Outfits for traveling to the ship, and home from the ship
  • 2-4 outfits you can wear to brunch in the nice dining room, or around the ship
  • Outfits for any excursions/stops that are not swim/beach destinations

Last Category: Workout Gear

This is totally optional, but every cruise ship has a nice onboard gym and they offer yoga and fitness classes. I brought 2 workout outfits.
Your checklist:
  • Gym clothes
  • Gym shoes
  • Empty water bottle (fill it up on ship and take it with you to the gym)

Other things you need to pack:

  • Enough underwear because you change so often on the cruise ship
  • Toiletries – your stateroom will have the basic one likes shampoo, conditioner, bath wash, hand soap
  • You can also bring soda cans (Carnival allows 12 cans per person; there is a fridge in your stateroom)
  • You are allowed to bring one bottle of wine per person. Pay a small corking fee to enjoy it at dinner, or enjoy it in your room for free
  • There should be a hair dryer already in your room, but you can pack one if you use it. I’ve heard cruise ship hair dryers are not powerful enough
  • HDMI cable if you want to watch movies from your computer in the comfort of your room
  • There is only one plug point in each stateroom. So if you are bringing too many gadgets with you, I suggest bringing a multi-plug extension. I use this
  • Bug spray, swimmer’s ear medicine and/or motion sickness medicine
  • Books and magazines (perfect for days at sea)
  • Laundry detergent to hand-wash in your sink if you need to (there’s a drying rack in your shower)
  • Umbrella (it rained like crazy when we were in Montego Bay, but we preferred making it a rain dance party)
  • Camera, to capture all those amazing cruise memories. Also, extra batteries if you are shutter crazy like me

Cruising is one of the most stress-free ways to travel and I hope these checklists will make your trip even smoother! What items do you pack for a cruise? Leave your best tips and tricks in the comment section below!