Wondering what to pack for a Caribbean cruise? There is so much variety in a cruise that it can be tricky to fit everything you need into a suitcase. I'm a former travel agent and cruises are my favorite vacations, so I've had some practice at packing for a Caribbean cruise.
Swimwear, formal wear, active wear, and casual clothing are all useful on a Caribbean cruise vacation. It poses a packing challenge – especially when you try to pack light to limit airline luggage fees.
Here are my top tips for packing for a cruise to the Caribbean or Mexico.
Casual clothing is probably what you'll want to wear most of the time. Shorts, t-shirts, sun dresses and other comfortable and casual clothing are appropriate for most activities.
Here are a few tips tips for choosing casual clothes for a Caribbean cruise:
- Pack 2-3 casual outfits – preferably versatile items that can you can mix and match.
- Choose lightweight fabrics that will be comfortable in hot, humid weather.
- Choose easy care fabrics that don't need to be ironed.
- Bonus points for versatile items that can go from day to evening.
Pack at least two bathing suits for your trip. There is nothing worse than putting yesterday's damp suit!
Be sure to pack a cover-up. Bathing suits are not considered appropriate attire outside the pool area. A nice cover-up can take you from the pool to the buffet to your cabin and count as another casual outfit.
Packable wide brimmed hats are popular and will protect your face and head from the sun.
Pack at least two new bottles of good sunscreen and apply every hour or two. Spray sunscreen is fast and convenient, but it runs out a lot faster than the lotion. Pack at least twice as much spray sunscreen as lotion. Pack it in a bag that will be checked at the airport because you can't take a full size bottle of sunscreen through security.
Pro Tip: Pack magnetic hooks to hang on the walls of your cabin to hang suits and towels up to dry. There will be some hooks in your cabin, but there are never enough for a family.
You can buy all these items on the cruise ship, but they will be a lot less expensive if you bring them with you.
DON'T pack beach towels. Cruise ships provide towels at the pool and as you disembark in port.
Every cruise has at least one “formal” night and longer cruises may have two. Some cruise lines follow the dress code more strictly than others. Wear the same formal clothes both nights to save space in your suitcase.
You'll see everything from formal gowns and tuxedos to simple dresses and suits. Wear whatever “formal” means to you! We don't dress up a lot at home, so we enjoy going formal when we cruise.
Want to go all out? Some cruise lines offer tuxedo and dress rentals as an option to packing formal wear. Contact your travel agent or the cruise line to find out if this is an option on your cruise.
You'll find a great fitness facility on your ship, usually with panoramic views of the ocean. Jogging and walking tracks are located on upper decks and many ships have sports courts with basketball and volleyball. Pack athletic clothing and shoes for these activities.
Some ships have special activities like ice skating that require long pants, socks, closed-toe shoes or other specific clothing. Look up required clothing for these activities before you pack.
Select versatile shoes that serve more than one purpose. Shoes that you might want on your cruise include:
- Flip flops for pool or beach
- Sport sandals for casual wear, water shoes or adventure
- Athletic shoes for fitness, adventure, walking or tours
- Dress shoes or sandals for evening and formal wear
Research your shore excursions to make sure you know what type of footwear is required. Active excursions may require closed-toe shoes, athletic shoes, or water shoes. Knowing what you need ahead of time will save you from buying or renting shoes on your trip.
Bring a tote bag or backpack to carry towels, sunscreen, water, cameras and other items with you when you go into port, on an excursion, or poolside. For your safety, bags will be searched when you board the ship each time you visit port. Keep only what you have to have in your bag with you for quick and easy searches.
Take a lanyard to hold your cruise card during the day. This card is your room key and allows you to purchase items on board. You will need it every time you leave or re-enter the ship at port. A small clutch or handbag is perfect for evenings when you want to keep your room key and camera close at hand.
Consider purchasing a waterproof pouch for your phone to keep it sand and splash free. Follow all the instructions and test it BEFORE storing your phone in it.
Pack a lightweight sweater or jacket. Sea breezes can be chilly at night.
What to Carry On
Your luggage will be taken by porter when you arrive at the cruise terminal. It will be delivered to your cabin a few hours after you board.
Keep a carry on bag for anything you want to have with you as soon as you board. Items you may want to carry on include:
- Electronics and chargers
Dry cleaning is available on most cruise lines for an additional charge. They pick up and deliver right to your cabin.
Laundry facilities are also typically available on each deck of passenger cabins, but there is a fee and I would not leave your laundry unattended. Don't pack so light that you have to take time away from vacationing to do laundry.
We love cruise vacations! Knowing what to pack makes it easier to get ready. Bon Voyage!
Save Money on Your Cruise
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