How To Pack For a Cruise

I had so much fun sharing a diary of what I wore and what we did on our recent 8-day Carnival cruise (posts here: 1, 2, 3, 4).  Today I’m capping off that experience with a full breakdown of what I packed. If you’ve ever wondered how to pack for a cruise, you’ve come to the right place!

Cruise outfits: swim

The first category: swim wear. If your cruise is in a tropical location, I would start here. I threw 6 swimsuits and 6 cover-ups in my suitcase. I wound up wearing 5 of those swimsuits and 4 cover-ups, pictured. You can also pack less and wash and re-wear items. (Bring travel size detergent, wash in your sink, and hang up on the drying rack located in your shower.)

Your checklist:

-       Swim cover-ups
-       Flip flops
-       Swimsuits
-       Sun hats
-       Sunglasses
-       Beach bag
-       SPF 

Note: no need to bring beach towels, the cruise ship provides those for you!

Cruise dinner outfits

The next category: dinner outfits. This is a compilation of everything I wore to dinner. I didn’t pack any extra outfits – this was everything in my suitcase. Since I drove to the port, I was liberal with how many pairs of heels I packed (5). If you're traveling by plane, I would narrow down your dinner shoes to save space.

Your checklist:

-       Two outfits for formal night. //  My outfits for formal night are the two in the far left column. 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. For more info, refer to the full Carnival dress code.

-       Outfits for the remaining # of nights. //  Our cruise was 8 nights, so I packed 6 "cruise casual" dinner outfits. I went pretty casual in linen pants and a jumpsuit two of the nights, while the other outfits are dressier, something I'd normally wear for a night out. 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!) For more info, refer to the full Carnival dress code.

-       Clutches. //  I carried a “regular” purse onto the ship and didn’t touch it again until we left. Little clutches are perfect to take to dinner, all you need is your room key!

Cruise casual outfits

The last major category: the "in-between" outfits (not swim, but also not fancy). This is what you will wear to travel to and from the ship (#1 and #5 above), outfits you can wear to brunch in the nice dining room (#2 and #4), 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, like San Juan, which is a city tour (#3 above). I repeated the bottom two outfits twice, because I didn't pack enough "in-between" clothes to not repeat.

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

Cruise gym outfits

The last category in my suitcase: work out gear. Totally optional, but every Carnival ship I’ve been on has a nice onboard gym, and they offer yoga and exercise classes. I brought 4 workout outfits, wore one for a swim cover-up, and the three others to work out (pictured).

Your checklist:

-       Gym shoes
-       Gym clothes
-       Empty water bottle (fill it up on the Lido Deck and take it with you to the gym)

Carnival Splendor - taken aboard Carnival Sunshine

I brought one suitcase on our trip. The only things I didn't wear:

-       Two swim cover-ups
-       One yoga tank
-       One swimsuit
-       Sweatshirt (never got that cold) 

What I wished I had packed:

-       2-4 additional “in-between” outfits, including an outfit for sightseeing in San Juan
-       More underwear, because you change so often on a cruise. I didn't run out, but you can never have enough!

More cruise packing tips:

-       Bring an empty bottle to fill up and take off the ship or to the gym. You can also bring cases of bottled water/soda but keep in mind there is no fridge in your room to keep them cold.
-       Snacks like granola bars for when you are off the ship. The only portable snacks on board for the most part are apples and bananas. Also - bring plastic baggies to bring a sandwich off the ship.
-       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 I packed one just in case.
-       HDMI cable if you want to watch movies from your computer in the comfort of your room.
-       Bug spray, swimmer’s ear medicine and/or motion sickness medicine.
-       Reading materials like books and magazines (perfect for days at sea).
-       Laundry detergent to hand-wash in your sink (there's a drying rack in your shower).
-       Umbrella. (Automatic guarantee of nice weather if you bother to carry it!)
-       Camera, to capture all those amazing cruise memories. 

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!

This post was created as part of my collaboration with Carnival. As always, all of the opinions, thoughts, and ideas in this post are my own.