Top 10 Things to Bring on a Caribbean Cruise

We asked Holland America Line Facebook fans to share their “must-haves” when they go on a cruise. Here are the Top 10 responses, along with some other great ideas and unusual suggestions. Is there something not on these lists that you always bring with you? Let us know in the comments below!

Family & friends are tops   when it comes to cruising.

Family and friends are tops when it comes to cruising.

Top 10:

1. Family & Friends: Nearly half of all respondents said that bringing family and friends is top priority when it comes to cruising. Anniversaries, birthday celebrations, family reunions and honeymoons are all great reasons to take a cruise. Whether snorkeling at St. Kitts, kicking back at Half Moon Cay or gathering together for dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, it is precious to make memories with the ones you love.

Onboard Digital Workshops powered by Windows help guests take pro-quality photos.

Onboard Digital Workshops powered by Windows help guests take pro-quality photos.

2. Camera: The best way to record those memories of snorkeling in St. Kitts? A camera of course! Waterproof options are becoming increasingly popular and ensure that not a moment will be missed. Once back onboard, guests can perfect their vacation albums by learning how to take, edit and enhance photos with Holland America Line’s Digital Workshop powered by Windows.

A wide-brim hat is a great sun protectant

A wide-brim hat is a great sun protectant

3. Sunscreen, Tanning Lotion, Hat, Sunglasses: The Caribbean sun can be hot! Savvy guests say it’s important to bring lotion, hats, and sunglasses to protect themselves from the rays. If you forget to bring any of these things with you or want to lighten the load in your luggage, don’t forget that they can be purchased in our onboard shops or during a souvenir run ashore.

4. Passport, Tickets, Insurance: Of course you’re going to need your passport and tickets! Some cruise-goers choose to add traveler’s insurance to their list. The hope is that the trip will go smoothly, but insurance covers forces beyond your control, like loss of job, medical expenses and delayed or lost luggage. If your baggage is lost by the airline, most insurance providers will send it along to the next port, sparing a lot of stress so you can get back to vacation.

5. Cash, Credit Card, Traveler’s Checks: There’s no need to carry currency onboard Holland America Line because the ships are cashless, but you will need to settle your account at the end of the voyage. And when going ashore, don’t forget to bring cash, a credit card or traveler’s checks for those souvenirs, a bite to eat or serious shopping. Currency exchange is offered onboard.

One-piece, bikini or trunks, a swimsuit is a must-have in the Caribbean.

One-piece, bikini or trunks, a swimsuit is a must-have in the Caribbean.

6. Swim Suit: Crystal blue waters are impossible to resist, and you may find that you live in your swim suit while cruising the Caribbean! On shore excursions, guests can swim with stingrays and hike through waterfalls. Whether your out on adventure, or lounging on the Lido deck — suit up, because you’re going to get wet!


7. Excitement, Smile, Good mood/attitude: Once you’ve got your family and friends, your swimsuit and your sunscreen, remember to bring your good attitude! A smile and a sense of adventure can take you far. You’re on vacation with nothing but time to have fun, relax and enjoy all of the experiences that Holland America Line offers.

8. Luggage/Suitcase: In case you do not want to live in your swim suit, luggage is a must. Cruising offers the fashion-forward a variety of occasions for which to dress. Ladies usually like to bring a great sundress for shopping in more cosmopolitan ports like St. Thomas, a t-shirt for a casual day ashore and more formal wear for an onboard date. Those who want to go Dancing with the Stars should be sure to remember their dancing shoes!

9. Meds/Tums/Seasick Pills: Maybe your good attitude opened you up to eating something a little too spicy, or the motion of your ocean view has got you down. There is back-up available in the shipboard medical center, but it’s always best to be prepared. And be sure to remember any prescription medication you may be on so you don’t have to hope you can find a pharmacy ashore.

Nothing says vacation like a good book!

Nothing says vacation like a good book!

10. Favorite Book, Journal: Be it a classic, contemporary fiction, the latest politico or the page-turning paperback, a good book or journal is a must-have cruise companion. E-readers can be great when traveling because you can carry a whole library in your beach-bag. If you don’t have a library with you don’t worry — the Explorations Cafe, powered by The New York Times has an extensive library, along with internet stations and unique travel-related New York Times crossword puzzles.


Good Ideas:

While some of the responses were more common, like sunscreen, some more experienced Mariners shared useful items that they like to have while cruising the Caribbean. Those who have their own dive/snorkeling gear definitely add it to the list of must-haves in the Caribbean. Those who do not own gear can rent in port, or take advantage of planned shore excursions.

Guests also listed a variety of items to keep them entertained between ports, including guitars, digital devices like laptops, and even knitting materials.

Don't forget comfortable shoes!

Don’t forget comfortable shoes!

Fitness fans counted comfortable shoes and active wear among their top priorities. Fitness centers onboard offer a variety of activities to stay in shape while traveling, including Pilates reformer and Cardio Ki Bo Circuit Training, a great combination of Chi-releasing moves including boxercise, kickboxing and aerobic conditioning.

At port active guests can take advantage of shore excursions, like a day hike through El Yunque National Rainforest at San Juan, Puerto Rico, or an eco-hike through the lush forest of St. John. Guests also recommend bringing along a refillable water bottle to hydrate while you hike.

Odd But Interesting:

Some of the more unique must-have answers include a jar of peanut butter to snack on in-between lunch and dinner, a teddy bear, blankie or special pillow to keep the kids happy, and a top hat for the most-formal of formal nights.

A die-hard Devils fan can’t leave home without his Tampa Bay Baseball stats, and a wedding dress is a necessity for onboard nuptials or recommitment ceremonies.

One guest said a doggy is a must-have. Unfortunately, as much as Holland America Line loves four-legged friends, unless he’s a service-dog, he’ll have to stay home.


Join the Discussion


  1. Marcia October 25, 2013 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Extension cord. If there are no electrical outlets by the bed, you will need it if use a medical device such as a cpap, to sleep.

  2. Mary Ann McFadyen October 9, 2013 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    I bring my party face happy happy !!!!!!
    oh yes sunscreen swim suits at least 3
    runners for walking and heels for dancing
    excitement to see all i can see and do well cruising
    Love to go on land to all the port i can I love to shop as much as i am can
    to see how others live is a real teat for me i enjoy all that is possible in life meet new people and make many new friends GOT LOVE IT
    oh oh Ps : i forgot one thing will bring my hubby

  3. chris vaughan October 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    My husband and I bring walkie-talkies. We can stay in touch when we are doing separate activities.

  4. Karen McCarter October 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    I always bring my “Mommy bear”. Its a bear that my sister made for all of us when she passed away and its made with a pair of her pajamas. Why, you may ask … because my Mommy brought me on my first HAL cruise, with several of my sisters, in 2006 and I’ve traveled every year since. It wouldn’t be the same to not travel with her.

  5. Madame DeFarge October 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    i go nowhere without my knitting!

  6. annette baesel October 1, 2013 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    Great list. One correction…that would be “die-hard Rays fan”. We haven’t been the Devil Rays since 2006. Just Rays now.

  7. Marie September 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    I always pack a ton to excitement and an open mind for new experiences and meeting new people. I find that cruising is a great way to connect with people I don’t know. It is great!

  8. Edwin Shelton September 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    My wife, family, and friends have cruised together aboard Princess Ships in the eastern Caribbean, western Caribbean, Alaska, and the Panama Canal. We’ve never experienced anything but a wonderful, pleasurable cruise with excellent food, quarters, and service.

    While we have cruised on other lines Princess and Windstar Cruises are the only ones we even consider when planning a cruise.

    Thanks for making cruises a treat instead of a treatment like some we have wasted our time and money on.

  9. Kevin Jeffries September 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Im thinking of going on another Norwegian cruise to celebrate my 50 th Birthday July 2014. What destinations do you have available then.

  10. Jim Grupy September 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Lets not forget a healthy and open appetite for the week of delicious favorites the Chefs come up with daily. :)

  11. James Prestegard September 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Would like to go throug the Panama Canal.

  12. Joan Hopke September 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    It’s always nice having binoculars available.

  13. Lauretta Jane Raifsnider September 20, 2013 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    I bring nuts (almonds, cashews). Not because HA doesn’t feed us enough but nuts are hard to find on any HA ship. I wish they would be more available in the bars and lounges. Low or no-carb snacks are hard to find. So, I just bring my own.

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