What to Pack in Your Cruise Carry-On

So you’re going on a cruise – how exciting! The reason you’re probably here is because you don't know what to pack in your embarkation day bag. Good news, I’m here to help! If you’ve never been on a cruise and don’t know what I’m talking about, when you arrive at the terminal to board the ship, the porter will take your luggage and it will be delivered to your stateroom that day. Since it may take some time to receive your luggage, you’ll want to be sure that you have everything you'll need for the exciting first day.

Nine times out of ten, my husband and I leave out of Florida for our cruise, so we fly from Charlotte to Miami. Instead of packing a cruise carry-on and an airplane carry-on, I just combine the two; one bag, dual purpose. I take a backpack so I can be hands-free while getting my ship card, getting food at the buffet, and exploring the ship.

Let’s get started on what you should pack in your carry-on!

Travel Documents – Take your reservation confirmation, luggage tags, specialty boarding access, and any other documentation that you might need. Print everything out and put it in a folder for safe keeping. I will say that I also put our passports in this folder since we both have our Real IDs. Please don’t forget your passports, you will need them when you check-in for your cruise and for when you are getting back onto the ship in ports.

Wallet – This one seems self-explanatory - be sure you have your wallet with ID, credit/debit cards, and some cash with you. I know there’s no need for cash on the ship itself since everything is charged to your room, but it doesn’t hurt to have some with you, especially when going to ports.

Medications – This one goes without saying. Any medications you may or may not need should always be packed in your carry-on in case of emergencies.

Electronics This is a good rule of thumb for flying, too. If you have a camera, phone, laptop, or tablet, keep it with you. It’s so much easier to fly or embark on the cruise with your expensive electronics in your carry-on, rather than have your luggage searched and possibly stolen. I'm speaking from experience here. My parents and I went to California years ago and my dad packed his new camera in his suitcase; well, his luggage was searched and his camera was stolen. Be safe rather than sorry.

Swimsuit, Sunscreen, and Sunglasses – When you get on the ship, after you have lunch, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to go sit by the pool and enjoy the sun. Since your room won’t be ready, pack a swimsuit in your bag so you can get changed in a bathroom and start enjoying your first day! Pack sunscreen with you so you don’t burn; the last thing you’ll want is to get sunburnt on your first day and be miserable for the entirety of your sailing. Remember to also pack some sunglasses to block those harmful rays!

Book and headphones – If you’re anything like me, you enjoy nothing more than relaxing on the pool deck with a drink in hand. My suggestion would be to bring a book for when you want to listen to the ocean, and bring headphones to listen to some music when you just want to zone out.

Change of clothes – Your luggage is usually in your room before dinner, so you can head back to your cabin and get changed, but in some cases, it might be a little bit delayed. Just in case of this, bring a change of clothes with you for this occasion. You don’t want to be by the pool after embarking and not have a change of clothes for when you go to dinner!

Comment below some of your cruise packing must-haves!

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