How to pack for your cruise holiday

Packing for a cruise holiday can be a daunting task, as you need to consider what to pack for a variety of occasions and activities. It’s crucial to strike a balance between bringing enough clothing …

two brown cruise ships on body of water

Packing for a cruise holiday can be a daunting task, as you need to consider what to pack for a variety of occasions and activities. It’s crucial to strike a balance between bringing enough clothing and accessories while avoiding overpacking and lugging around heavy bags.

When planning what to take on a cruise, it’s essential to pack strategically, prioritising versatile and lightweight items that can be mixed and matched to create different looks. This approach not only saves space but also reduces stress and allows you to fully enjoy your cruise experience.

What to Pack

Casual Daywear

When packing for a cruise, it’s essential to prioritise comfortable and versatile clothing for casual daywear. Shorts, T-shirts, bathing suit cover-ups, sleeveless or tank tops, casual sun dresses, and maxi dresses are ideal options for warm weather cruises. By the pool or on the outside decks, you’ll likely see most passengers in swimwear. However, remember that swimsuits are typically not permitted in most public areas, including some outdoor dining venues. Instead, opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics that will keep you cool and comfortable during the day.

If you’re cruising in cooler climates or anticipate rainy weather, pack loungewear such as sporty pants, T-shirts, hoodies, jeans, khakis, capris, and casual tops. Layer with a sweatshirt, sweater, scarf, rain jacket, or fleece to stay warm when venturing outdoors.

Comfortable Footwear

Comfortable and versatile footwear is essential for a cruise vacation, as you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking. Here are some recommended options:

  1. Flip-flops or sandals: Pack at least two pairs of flip-flops or sandals for easy slip-on wear around the pool or on the ship’s decks.
  2. Sneakers or walking shoes: Comfortable walking shoes or sneakers are a must-have for exploring ports of call or participating in active shore excursions.
  3. Water shoes: If you plan on visiting beaches or participating in water-based activities, consider packing a pair of water shoes to protect your feet from sharp objects or rough terrain.
  4. Wedges or dressy sandals: For evenings or more formal occasions, pack a pair of wedges or dressy sandals that offer both style and comfort.

Evening Attire

Most cruise lines have designated formal or semi-formal nights, so it’s important to pack appropriate evening attire. The dress code can range from “evening casual” to “formal,” depending on the cruise line and specific evening.

  1. Evening casual: For women, a dress or nice blouse with slacks is typically appropriate. Men can wear khakis with a polo or short-sleeve button-down shirt.
  2. Semi-formal or informal: Women often wear cocktail dresses or trouser suits, while men opt for jackets (tie optional) with dress pants.
  3. Formal: For formal nights, women may choose to wear an evening gown or cocktail dress, while men typically wear tuxedos, dinner jackets, or dark suits.

Remember to check your cruise line’s specific dress code guidelines and pack accordingly. Some lines may have more relaxed policies, while others maintain a more formal atmosphere, especially during designated formal evenings.

Packing Tips

Rolling vs. Folding Clothes

When it comes to packing clothes for a cruise, travellers often debate between rolling or folding their garments. Rolling clothes can be a space-saving technique that helps minimise wrinkles, while folding is a more traditional method preferred by some. Here are some tips on when to roll or fold:

  1. Rolling:
    • Works well for packing soft bags like duffels, backpacks, or totes
    • Ideal for clothes that don’t wrinkle easily, such as knits, jeans, and t-shirts
    • Allows you to utilise all available space by cramming rolled items into nooks and crannies
  2. Folding:
    • Suitable for hard-sided or structured suitcases
    • Recommended for delicate fabrics like rayon, silk, linen, or items prone to wrinkling
    • Ideal for elegant nightwear, dress shirts, pants, and skirts

While rolling is often touted as a wrinkle-minimising technique, it can still lead to creased clothes. A combination of both methods may work best, folding items that wrinkle easily and rolling the rest.

Precautions before you leave

Medical travel insurance is crucial for cruise holidays due to the unique and unpredictable nature of maritime travel. Cruises often involve multiple destinations, and unforeseen events such as medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or interruptions can arise. In the event of a medical issue, the cost of care on a ship or in a foreign port can be exorbitant. Moreover, missed connections due to delays, lost luggage, or adverse weather conditions can disrupt carefully planned itineraries, leading to additional expenses. Travel insurance provides a safety net, covering these potential financial burdens and offering peace of mind, ensuring that travellers can enjoy their cruise holiday without worrying about unexpected costs or complications.

Packing for Shore Excursions

When packing for shore excursions, practicality and comfort should be the top priorities. Dress in layers to accommodate potential weather changes, and bring items like a lightweight rain jacket or umbrella. Comfortable, breathable clothing and sturdy walking shoes are essential for exploring ports of call.

For beach or water-based excursions, pack a dedicated beach bag with essentials like:

  • Beach towels (provided by the cruise ship)
  • Water-resistant sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Bathing suit cover-up
  • Wide-brimmed sun hat or baseball cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Hand sanitising wipes
  • Mini first-aid kit
  • Daily planner or a photo of the ship’s all-aboard time

Consider packing water shoes, a wet/dry bag, and snorkelling equipment if you plan to participate in water activities. If you have children, include sand toys or other items to keep them entertained during beach days.

Utilising Space-Saving Bags

Space-saving bags, also known as compression bags or vacuum bags, can be a game-changer when it comes to maximising space in your luggage. These bags use suction to remove excess air, allowing you to fit more clothing and items into your suitcase.

Some space-saving bags come with a hand pump, which can be particularly useful on cruises when you may not have access to a vacuum. The hand pump allows you to re-seal the bags after unpacking, ensuring your belongings remain compressed and organised throughout your trip.

When using space-saving bags, consider investing in a luggage scale to avoid exceeding airline weight limits. While these bags can increase the volume of items you can pack, they do not reduce the overall weight.

Remember, space-saving bags can cause wrinkles in your clothes due to the compression process. Plan to iron or steam your garments upon arrival to ensure a fresh, wrinkle-free appearance.


Packing for a cruise holiday requires careful planning and consideration to ensure you have everything you need while avoiding overpacking. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can strike the right balance between comfort, style, and practicality. Remember, the key is to pack versatile and lightweight items that can be mixed and matched to create different looks for various occasions and activities.

Ultimately, the goal is to pack smartly and efficiently, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the cruise experience without the added stress of luggage woes. Embrace the spirit of adventure and enjoy the journey, knowing that you’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure a hassle-free and memorable cruise vacation.


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