I’ve worked on cruise ships for 7 years. Here are 9 things passengers should pack and 9 they shouldn’t.


On the left, Erica and others standing in front of cruise ship. On the right, two blue-and-white beach towels

There’s no need to pack your own beach towels.Erica DePascale; eyfoto/Getty Images

  • I’ve worked on ships for seven years, so I know what travelers should and shouldn’t pack.

  • Bring sunscreen and hats to protect yourself from the sun.

  • On the other hand, don’t bother bringing beach towels or uncomfortable high heels.

Even though seven days of cruising may sound like a dream, many people don’t know what to bring for the unique traveling experience.

I’ve worked on cruise ships for seven years, so I’ve become quite good at packing for my time on board.

Whether you’re bringing a 70-pound luggage or a backpack, here are the things you should and shouldn’t pack:

Always make sure to pack sunscreen

Bringing UV protection may seem obvious, but the sun in most cruise-friendly places can be very harsh and may have you burning in no time.

If you forget sunscreen, you’ll have to buy it on board or in a port, where it’ll likely be a lot more expensive.

Sea-sickness pills can help with nausea

Cruises usually have sea-sickness pills available on board, but after too much partying and some swaying seas at 2 a.m., you’ll be happy to have your own stash in your stateroom.

Many cruises have a formal night, so make sure you pack appropriate attire if you want to participate

someone putting nude-colored pointed high heels on their feet

Make sure you pack any formal shoes and accessories you may need.Ladanifer/Shutterstock

Although participating in formal night is optional, many cruisers aren’t even aware that it’s on the itinerary.

Whether you choose a gown, a tux, or a simple dress, it’s always nice to hit the town all dressed up.

Lanyards with a cardholder make it easy to keep your key on you

When you step onto the ship, your room key becomes an important companion. It’s how you pay for everything on board, it opens your door, and it’s required to get on and off the boat in port.

They are small and easy to lose, so make your life easier by bringing a lanyard with a holder for the key.

Walking shoes are important on land and at sea

Woman wearing jeans and red sneakers on rocky beach

You’ll likely have to do a lot of walking on the ship.ICHAUVEL/Getty Images

When people imagine cruise footwear, they usually think of sandals. However, ships nowadays are massive, and walking back and forth can add up to a good amount of steps. So you should make sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes.

Also, many shore excursions require sneakers, depending on the type of adventure.

Make sure you have enough clean underwear

There are no self-service laundromats on most cruise ships, so usually, the only laundry option is to send away your clothes for dry cleaning, which is an additional charge.

To save money, make sure you pack enough essentials, like undergarments, to last you throughout your stay.

You can pack your own wine, but don’t forget to bring a corkscrew

You can actually bring a certain amount of wine on board, though the amount varies. However, once you carry it on the ship, you’ll typically be charged a corkage fee to open it.

Save yourself the money and bring a corkscrew to open it yourself.

Protect yourself from the sun with headgear

Brown sun hat on handle of white suitcase

The sun can be very strong in some destinations.Nakayama Toshio/EyeEm/Getty Images

The sun is a lot stronger than most people are used to, especially on Caribbean cruises. I’ve seen the tops of many heads get red an hour into a tour or beach day.

So make a conscious decision to protect your head with a hat or scarf.

Bring some sweaters to stay cozy on the ship

It may seem odd to pack sweaters on a Caribbean adventure, but the ship itself is heavily air-conditioned inside and runs very cold.

Also, some cruise ships have ice-skating rinks, and you’ll be freezing watching an ice show without a sweater.

On the other hand, super high heels aren’t worth the risk

person wearing green high heels with red bottoms

High heels can be tricky on a swaying ship.Dominique Charriau/Getty Images

I’m not saying don’t bring heels — I want you to look fabulous — but excessively high shoes on a swaying ship can lead to injury. I speak from personal experience.

Don’t bother trying to pack alcohol in shampoo bottles

It’s a common ruse that cruisers attempt to sneak on alcohol in inconspicuous containers, like empty shampoo or mouthwash bottles.

Besides the soapy vodka taste, security is trained to look out for these tricks and will confiscate the liquor.

Irons are prohibited on board

Although heated hair appliances are OK, clothing irons are forbidden on most cruises since they’re a fire hazard.

If you pack one, your bag will be flagged and likely confiscated by security until you depart the cruise.

Although they may be romantic, real candles are also a massive fire hazard

lit, white candles arranged on corner of tub

Candles are too much of a hazard.Tatiana Soares/EyeEm/Getty Images

Like irons, candles are a huge fire risk, so they’re absolutely prohibited.

If you’re looking for a way to set the mood for your romantic jacuzzi date, bring battery-operated candles instead.

Even if they’re legal in certain places, drugs aren’t allowed on board

Even though some drugs are legal in certain states, there is a zero-tolerance policy on cruise ships.

This also includes prohibited substances cruisers may find in port.

Trying to bring a gun may land you in legal trouble

This might seem obvious, but I’ve seen passengers try to bring firearms with them multiple times.

Not only will the gun be confiscated, but you and your entire party will be denied boarding. Plus you may face legal issues afterward.

Skip packing beach towels and use the ones provided to you

Two yellow beach towels laid out on the sand

You can get free beach towels on the ship.Michael Edwards/Getty Images

Save some room and weight in your luggage by not packing your own beach towels.

The ship has multiple stations to provide you with towels for your pool or beach day.

You most likely won’t be allowed to fly your drone on the ship

Many cruisers are looking to get a million-dollar drone shot of the ship with a beautiful backdrop, but these devices aren’t allowed to be flown on board.

Although you can bring your drone to use off of the ship, most ports also don’t allow flying without permits. So save the space and leave it at home.

Cruisers aren’t allowed to bring their own fresh produce

Clear, reusable bag with fresh lemons and limes

You’ll have to toss any fresh produce you try to bring.Space_Cat/Shutterstock

Save yourself the headache and leave your fresh fruit at home.

Due to federal agricultural regulations, guests aren’t allowed to bring produce on or off the ship at any point. The cruise will have all the fruits and veggies you need.

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