The Best Tropical Cruise Packing List
Updated: Jul 28
19 Essentials You Need For a Tropical Cruise With a Free Checklist Printable
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Lounge by the pools on deck, join beach-goers soaking in the sun, have fun on excursions, and relax to the max on a tropical cruise getaway. If that sounds like just what you need, this is your sign to book your next tropical cruise vacation!
Visit new places with incredible scenery, meet new people, and enjoy all kinds of food. If this is your first cruise, you’re probably wondering what you need to pack. While similar to many beach vacations, if you're going on an international tropical cruise, you'll need a few extra, very important things.
This is your time to focus on relaxing and soaking up the sunshine, so throw your packing worries out the window. Here is the ultimate cruise packing list with a free printable as well!
The Ultimate Cruise Packing List
1. Sunglasses and Hat
Sunglasses and a hat, whether it's a baseball cap, wide brim hat, or bucket hat, will definitely come in handy on a tropical cruise. If you plan on relaxing on deck while you're cruising around on the ship, you will be in the sun a lot.
Here are some nice sunglasses that won’t break the bank; you might want to rethink taking your most expensive pair as you’ll be on the move a lot. You don’t want to lose your beloved Ray-Bans on the beach of Costa Maya.
You’ll also want reliable sunblock with being in the sun so much on a tropical cruise. This is our top recommendation, the best travel sunblock. No one’s a fan of sticky, heavy sunblock, and we want to respect the wildlife and marine life where we visit, so these are also reef friendly!
Many places now require you to wear reef-safe sunblock, and it’s just nice to be a good human and respect nature. Make sure you bring plenty of sunblock with you, as prices on board the cruise ship and in touristy shops at the ports will be steep.
This is probably the most important thing to pack. If you are going on an international cruise (such as from Miami to Mexico or Jamaica), you will have to have your passport to check in to your cruise and return on the ship after visiting the port locations.
This can also be used as an ID in other countries. If you plan on doing excursions (which we highly recommend!) or enjoying drinks on the beach, you may need your passport to prove your identity or age. Grab a cute and convenient passport holder to keep all of your important things together, like your ID, vaccine card, extra cash, etc.
If this is your first cruise, trust us when we say bring motion sickness or nausea medicine. You can pick up some Dramamine pills or motion sickness patches. If you know for a fact that you get motion sickness, we recommend visiting your doctor before hopping on your cruise.
You can get prescribed ear patches that are more effective and made specifically to stop nausea. I get motion sickness just from sitting in the backseat of a car, so these were a must for me. However, they worked phenomenally. I was able to enjoy the entire cruise without feeling nauseous once.
If passports are the most important thing to pack for a tropical cruise, a swimsuit is definitely second. With access to pools, hot tubs, the beach, and spas, you’ll definitely want to bring a swimsuit. Or two. Or three.
Throw on a swimsuit and a cover-up, grab breakfast, then sit by the pool, enjoy the sun, and jump in for some swimming. If you’re looking for a one-piece swimsuit, perfect for lounging by the pool, or jumping through ocean waves, check out my favorite swimsuit!
6. Shorts or Skirts
While most of the time is spent lounging in a swimsuit, there will be times when you need to throw some clothes on. If you’re heading on a tropical cruise, we recommend sticking with summer clothes. Think shorts or a skirt. Places like Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas stay warm all year round.
If you cruise in the spring or summer, temperatures will likely be in the high 80s to 90s. If you’re going in the fall or winter, it might dip down to the 70s, but you’re not going to need winter clothes by any means. And who doesn’t want to get a nice tan? Grab a pair of my favorite breathable, comfortable shorts!
7. Tank Tops or T-Shirts
Along with shorts, we suggest packing t-shirts or tank tops for your cruise. Stay cool with lighter clothing, and soak up the sun for a nice tan (don’t forget sunblock though!). You can lounge all day in your swimsuit if you feel like it, but know you do have to put clothes on for eating, especially for dinner.
Most cruises have nice dinners. There is assigned seating, set menus, and waitstaff for each table. So be prepared to have some restaurant-ready clothes. Shorts and a shirt are fine for most meals.
8. Cover Up
If you don’t want to have to throw on an entire outfit to walk around the cruise ship or run inside to grab lunch, then make sure you pack a cover-up of some kind. I recommend this romper cover-up that is super easy to throw on over a swimsuit, and it resembles “normal” clothes enough, so I feel totally comfortable walking around the ship or walking around the port towns in it.
Cover-ups are also a must if you plan on doing any kind of beach excursion! If your swimsuit gets wet, it’s not always ideal for bringing an entire outfit to change into afterward, so having a cover-up to throw on until you’re back on the cruise ship works well.
Don’t get carried away thinking about packing just for daytime activities! Pajamas are a must for cruises too! Pack comfy, lightweight PJs. Especially if you’re cruising in the summertime, you’ll want to keep things light, so you’re not sweating in your cruise ship cabin.
If you have an interior room, it can get fairly stuffy with no windows. And you can always ask for bedding if, for some reason, you’re cold at night. Just wait until the ocean waves rock you to sleep…sweet dreams!
Obviously, you don’t want to forget these, so they’ve been added to the list! Generally, cruises are 4 to 9 days, so if you can fit enough underwear to have a pair for each day, you’ll be golden. And don’t forget a bra for mealtime or anytime you might not want to wear a swimsuit.
If you're in the market for new undergarments, check out MeUndies! They have cute and fun patterns as well as solid color basics. Everything I've purchased from them is insanely comfortable and breathable, perfect for a tropical cruise!
11. Dress or Dress Shirt
Going back to dinner time, most cruises have a formal dinner night. You are required to wear nicer clothes for these meals, so make sure you pack a dress, jumpsuit, or dress shirt.
If you’re feeling up to it, you can go all out for these meals. Many people wear their formal outfits, which is fun if you want to get all fancy. However, a summer dress is perfect and doubles as a cute day outfit! I recommend checking with your cruise line, as elegant dining dress codes vary from cruise to cruise.
12. Sandals or Flip Flops
As we mentioned, you want to pack lightweight summer clothes, and the same goes for shoes. We recommend bringing a pair of sandals or flip-flops for spending time by the pool or enjoying the beaches.
I also have a pair of Tevas that join me on every cruise, which I love and highly recommend. They're great for excursions and have lasted well on long hikes. They also make great water shoes. I take them everywhere: the beach, pool, and even summer hiking.
You will be totally fine with just sandals on a cruise, but if you plan on going on more intense excursions, a pair of sneakers or tennis shoes will come in handy. Allbirds is our go-to for sneakers and tennis shoes; they have so many different styles and colors to pick from. They’re super comfy and eco-friendly, and you can machine wash them!
You can ride bikes in some cruise ports, go on day hikes, or just walk as much as you want around the towns. If you have comfortable strap-on sandals like my Tevas, then you’ll be good to go. But you probably don’t want to walk all day in flip-flops or try to bike around for hours in sandals.
14. Day Bag
Another must for exploring the port towns or enjoying an excursion is a day bag. You don’t want to lug around a suitcase or a giant backpack of any kind when you’re wandering around the streets of Cozumel or Grand Cayman or on a car ride to your scuba diving excursion.
Cruise ship cabins are extremely similar to hotel rooms, so in general, there will be shampoo, conditioner, and soap on board for you already (but double-check with your cruise line). Bring any other toiletries you might need, like face wash or a razor, because on board, the prices for these items will not be friendly to your wallet.
To keep our toiletries nice and organized, we use this handy little toiletry bag. Otherwise, it’s a slight disaster. It’s also not a bad idea to bring some basic OTC medications like Ibuprofen. But if you genuinely don’t think you’ll need them, don’t worry about them.
Don’t forget your phone and a camera for your tropical cruise! You can rely on your phone camera if you please, but trust us, you’ll want to snap some pictures of the beautiful coastal cities you’ll be stopping at! Along with your phone and possibly a camera, don’t forget your charger for these items.
You don’t want to get to Jamaica and pull out your camera for a killer photo just to realize it’s dead, and you can’t charge it until you’re back home when your cruise is over. That would not be fun, so bring your chargers! Check out this electronic organizer if you're bringing multiple electronics and chargers; it's helpful in keeping all the cords organized.
It’s not a bad idea to bring a light jacket or a cardigan on a cruise, especially if you’re going in the fall or winter. You might want to bring it to dinner with you or just have it with you on the ship in case you get chilly, even though temperatures will be high if you’re heading south to the Caribbean. If you’re cold-natured like me, you’ll want to have a jacket with you.
18. Long Pants
Along with a jacket, pants are optional and depend on how cold-natured you are. If you’re like me and can wear a sweatshirt in the midwest summer, then you might want to throw a pair of comfy pants in your suitcase.
You can also pack pants as a formal dinner outfit if you’re feeling like it! Pants and a dress shirt would be a great outfit for elegant dinners. Check with your cruise line for rules on elegant dining nights; you might not be allowed to wear shorts!
You can always throw your own beach towel into your suitcase if you have room. We love our travel towels since they pack super small and dry very quickly! We also bring these with us when we go camping and on international trips, so they definitely get their use in.
It’s nice to know you have your own towel if you’re going on excursions. Most cruise lines have plenty of towels on board, and in fact, I’d be shocked if they didn’t. But check with your cruise line to see if you’re allowed to take them offshore when you land at the port towns. Or if you’d just rather know you have a clean towel, take your own!
Cruise Packing List
1. Sunglasses & Hat
4. Nausea Medicine
7. Tank Tops
8. Cover Up
11. Dress Clothes
12. Flip Flops
14. Day Bag
18. Long Pants
Now it's time to get packing! We are big fans of cruises and have made our own packing (and not packing) mistakes. Since we have learned the hard way, we want to share our recommendations with you, so you can relax your entire trip (and not worry about being able to find sandals or nausea medicine at the next port).
We hope you find our tropical cruise packing list helpful as you prepare for your travels. Soak up the sun, don’t forget sunblock, and enjoy your cruise! Where will you be headed? Mexico? The Bahamas? Let us know in the comments below!
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