What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

Caribbean cruises are full of adventure and relaxation. Whether you dream of snorkeling Bonaire’s fish-filled reefs or sipping an umbrella drink on Half Moon Cay, our packing list has you covered. If you’re new to the Caribbean or to cruising, filling that suitcase can be a daunting endeavor. Here are the essentials to pack for a Caribbean cruise, from obvious items like sunscreen and swimwear to a spare pair of glasses.

Start with the all-important carryon. It’s tempting to grab your clothes and throw everything into a suitcase, but the more methodical you pack, the better. With cruise travel, it’s vital that you pack a carryon bag with important travel documents and a change of clothes and toiletries. This way, if the airline losses your luggage, you’ll have what you need while you wait for them to ship it to the next port. Add swimwear and dinner wear. Never pack valuables and travel docs into a bag you intend to check—you will need these items for boarding. 

Less is more. Bring less than what you think you need. Unlike with hotel travel, you’ll need the luggage space in your stateroom. If you’re traveling with family, put half of the clothes in one bag, half in the other, so that each person will have clothes if the luggage gets lost. Some ships have laundry service on board. 

Start with the basics. Pack a few swimsuits and a cover-up tunic for pool-side lounging. Undergarments, shorts, t-shirts, skirts, slacks, sundresses. Sandals or flip flops, casual walking shoes for everyday wear and dressier attire for fine dining restaurants (collared shirts/slacks, dresses/skirts). Formal wear for Gala Nights, pjs, workout clothes. And a few light sweaters or a light jacket in case it gets chilly.

Add the accessories. Jewelry, one or two pairs of sunglasses, a watch, sunhats.

What to skip: Flippers, wet suits, bulky snorkel equipment. Gear is usually provided on shore excursions or rented right on the beach, so leave it at home and save room in your luggage. Challenge yourself to unplug and leave the laptop and tablet behind. Holland America Line cautions against the use of garment bags with hanger hooks and has a full list of prohibited items here.

Don’t forget. Important traveler’s documents, such as passport books and identification, boarding passes, vaccine cards (if required). Toiletries, such as toothbrushes. Extra pair of glasses in case yours break or extra contact lenses. Sunscreen. Phone chargers. Medical prescriptions and more than enough prescription medicine so you don’t runout. Cash or credit card for when you’re ashore. (Currency exchange is offered onboard). Refillable water bottle.

Extras. You know what goes well with sugar sand and swaying palms? A beach read, a journal to scrawl in and a camera so you remember every sun-washed second. Preferably waterproof, as our top 10 things to bring on a Caribbean cruise article suggests.

What to Pack for a 10-Day Caribbean Cruise

If you’re going on a longer voyage, pack more of everything and plan to do laundry onboard. Also bring extra entertainment, such as books or travel games for days at sea. 

Not quite ready to pack, but dreaming of the Caribbean? Peruse Caribbean cruises.