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The first time you book a cruise vacation, it can be tempting to go overboard and pack everything but the kitchen sink “just in case”—or to go in the opposite direction and leave out some of the essentials in an attempt to pack light. So how do you find that middle ground and bring the important stuff without packing an enormous suitcase that you’ll regret once you start going up the gangway?


Below is a list of a few essential cruise vacation items. You shouldn’t treat it as a definitive list, but it will hopefully help you start packing and remind you about some items that you might have forgotten otherwise.


Cruise Vacation Must-Haves


Dress code appropriate clothes. You probably already know that you should pack a couple swimsuits and T-shirts or cover-ups for the pool deck, but you’ll most likely also want to bring some formal or semi-formal items for dinner. While many cruises have begun adopting a more relaxed dress code, some still have specific requirements for their restaurants and may even have designated “formal dinner nights.”


Layers. Even if you’re traveling to Hawaii or the Caribbean, you should still pack layers such as a light jacket, a raincoat, and a hat, just in case you hit some inclement weather. If you’re traveling somewhere like Alaska or Northern Europe, you’ll definitely want to pack a jacket, a few sweaters, and long pants.


Phone charger, extra batteries, and power adapter. If you want to be able to use your phone on your trip, you should bring your charger, extra batteries, and—if you’re traveling on a non-American cruise line—a power adapter. If you have multiple electronics that you want to charge, you may also want to bring a power strip and an extension cord.


Day bag. You’ll definitely need a small day bag for any shore excursions and port days. If you plan to do activities such as kayaking or canoeing, you may want to invest in a dry bag to protect your phone, wallet, and other items.


Medicine kit. While you’ll likely be able to find most over-the-counter medicines on the ship, you’ll save money by bringing your own. Pack basics such as ibuprofen, motion sickness medicines, and any prescriptions you may have. (Remember, just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can stop taking your prescription medications.)


Entertainment. While most cruise lines offer plenty of onboard activities and entertainment at just about every hour, you may have days when you’d just prefer to relax—so pack a couple paperback books or magazines for poolside reading.


Toiletries (optional). Your cruise line will provide you with soap and shampoo, but if you have sensitive skin or are picky about the products you use, you should bring your own. You should also pack basics such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, and razor, but if you forget anything, you should be able to buy it on the ship. You may also wish to bring your own hair dryer, as the ones on cruise ships tend to be low wattage.


Cruise Ship Sun Protection


Sun protection. You’ve probably already figured out that you need some kind of sun protection while you’re on your cruise. Even if you’re cruising somewhere like Alaska, don’t be fooled—you can still get a sunburn. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat, and a couple of lightweight long-sleeved shirts to help you cover up.


If you forget something on your first cruise, don’t sweat it too much. If it’s essential, chances are you can buy it on the ship, and if it’s not, you may not miss it. Any packing mistakes you make on your first cruise will leave you better prepared for your next vacation.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”