The Best Caribbean Cruise Packing List

Planning a Caribbean cruise? Then this is the best packing list to know exactly what you need to bring to get the most out of your cruise vacation! 

Cruise ship in the Virgin Islands.

A Caribbean cruise is a relaxing vacation filled with sun, fun, and visiting paradise locations. Although it is a low-key trip all about leisure onboard a ship and soaking up the Caribbean sun, there are things you’ll want to pack for your cruise to make it that much smoother and enjoyable. Knowing what to pack for a Caribbean Cruise beyond the essentials can be a challenge though.

There are obvious necessities to pack, such as light daywear, including sundresses, t-shirts, and shorts. As well as things like a passport, camera, and wallet. Nevertheless, these are common knowledge packing items. As someone who’s taken multiple Caribbean cruises, I created a list of the 25 best items to pack for your vacation that is less common. 

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The Best Caribbean Cruise Packing List

Clothing

1. Evening Attire 

No matter what cruise line you’ve chosen for a Caribbean vacation, you’ll want to come prepared to dress for the evenings onboard the ship. Some lines, like Norwegian, offer freestyle cruising, which means there’s no set attire for dinner. However, other cruise lines request that passengers dress in smart casual on nights. For men, this includes jeans or slacks and button-downs or polos. For women, it can range from dresses to skirts or blouses and pants. 

Most Caribbean cruises will also have some form of a formal night. Pack a few dressier options, nothing as crazy as a black tie event, but along the lines of a glitzy dress or a snazzy shirt. Don’t overthink it, and most importantly, pack what you feel great in! 

2. Comfortable Swimsuits

A Caribbean cruise means plenty of time spent in the water. Whether it's lounging by the pool, a beach day at port, or an adventurous snorkeling excursion. These vacations are centered around water activities and packing several swimsuits is essential. The suits you pack should make you feel confident and comfortable to wear for long periods. 

Of course, there are endless options to choose from, but I exclusively wear Cupshe suits now. They have a myriad of choices on their website and also have several pieces stocked on Amazon. My personal preference is their one-piece, which I wore throughout my most recent week-long Caribbean cruise this past winter. The suits are affordable, comfortable, flattering, durable, and look amazing! 

Woman standing in the water at Magens Bay in St. Thomas for a Caribbean Cruise
One of the many Cupshe suits I wore on my recent Caribbean cruise

3. Sweater Cardigans or Wraps 

The words sweater and Caribbean might not seem like they go hand-in-hand, but on a cruise they do. On my first cruise in 2013, I made the grave error of not having a cardigan or wrap for the evenings and deeply regretted it. Many ships will crank the air conditioner throughout the floors and restaurants, and outside the air can be brisk even in the warmer months. This has been my go-to cruise cardigan as it goes with most dresses and blouses, and I’ve also used this simple wrap in the past. 

4. Swim Cover-ups 

Sailing days = pool days. On the ship, you’ll spend plenty of time by the pool, and packing a swim cover-up is necessary. You’ll want them to pop inside or go to the buffet for a snack to bring back to the pool deck. They’re also perfect to throw over your suit for beach days at the port. 

Accessories

5. Clutch Bag or Wristlet

Technically this falls under evening attire, but you’ll want to pack a clutch or wristlet for nighttime on the cruise. That is unless you have been lucky enough to find dresses or pants that have pockets with room to fit a phone. Otherwise, these bags are small enough not to be an inconvenience while out dancing or going to a show, and you can still have the necessities on you. Think phone, ship card, mirror, lipstick, and you’re set! 

Woman dressed for formal night on a Caribbean cruise.
This wristlet was perfect for nights at sea

6. Sun Hat

The Caribbean sun is no joke, even with the best sunscreen. It’s a good idea to pack a sun hat to protect your head from the strong sun. I love this hat as it’s easy to pack and still looks cute. If a sun hat isn’t your thing, then a baseball cap will still provide coverage on your scalp and is a different option to bring with you on your cruise. 

7. Beach Bag

Spending a few hours on a gorgeous idyllic beach is one of the top activities of a Caribbean cruise, and there’s no perfect beach day without a beach bag. This is easily packable and has enough room for water, snacks, beach towels, and anything else you might need. Another suggested use is for a day at the pool while at sea, to easily store beneath your deck chair. 

8. Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses are essential for any Caribbean Cruise. The polarized lenses reduce glare, which is beneficial as there’s plenty of sun on this trip. Ray-bans are my go-to, they’ve held up for years through countless beaches and snorkeling adventures. They’re also eternally stylish, and you can find great deals for different pairs on Amazon.

9. Waterproof Money Belt 

A money belt to keep valuables secure is a useful product for almost any type of travel. For a Caribbean cruise, I would recommend a waterproof version. Of course, this isn’t necessary on the ship, but at the port, it can be unsettling to leave belongings unattended at the beach or while on an excursion. This belt will fit important items like ship cards, passports, and phones. Plus, if you go in the water, it won’t cause any damage. 

10. Lanyard

On any cruise, the ship card is more than just the card to access your cabin. It’s how you sign up for events, pay for food and drinks, make reservations, and even exit and return onto the ship while docked at port. The card should be on your person at all times, which is why a lanyard can come in handy. Slip the card into the pouch, keep it around your neck, and then you never have to worry about losing it! 

11. Waterproof Dry Bag 

On a Caribbean cruise, I pack and use a beach bag for the pool and the beach. However, for excursions like kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving, I bring a dry bag. These waterproof and lightweight bags pack easily, keep belongings safe in the water, and are convenient to carry. 

Personal Care Products and Medicine

12. Reef Safe Sunscreen

We all know by now that protecting our skin from the sun's rays is vital for our health, and in the Caribbean, you will be in the sun constantly. Sunscreen might seem like one of the most obvious things to pack for a cruise, but what kind of sunscreen and how much to bring is just as important. I suggest two bottles for 2-3 people because buying more on the ship can be extremely expensive. In Caribbean waters the reefs need protecting, the same way our skin does, so packing reef-friendly sunscreen is imperative. Not only are these sunscreens environmentally friendly, but I've found they offer better protection than regular sunscreen. Now I use it no matter where I go! 

13. Bug Spray or Wipes

Most of the Caribbean islands will have a few things in common: they’re likely beautiful and have beaches resembling paradise, but they’re also hot and humid, especially in the summer. In that weather, the mosquitoes are relentless. In the past, I would bring bug spray, but now I only pack these bug repellent wipes for a few reasons. I can bring them anywhere with me, and I always carry them on excursions. Plus, the sprays are foul-smelling, and cruise cabins aren't known for their size. I love that I can use these wipes without stinking up the room and do it quickly. 

14. Motion Sickness Aid: Dramamine and Sea-Band

Being out on the water for extended periods can take a physical toll. When a storm hits or the ship passes through rough seas, it’s not uncommon for even experienced cruisers to come down with motion sickness. Prepare for this by taking preventive measures and packing either or both Dramamine and Sea-Bands. Dramamine is an over-the-counter drug, and Sea-Bands is an all-natural remedy that uses acupressure. Both are known to ease sea sickness.

15. After Sun Care Lotion 

Even when using the best sunscreen, the chances of getting sunburned on a Caribbean cruise are still high. Packing after-sun care lotion will be a lifesaver when you do need it. I once forgot to pack it, and spent a small fortune at one of the stores onboard the ship and vowed never again. This has been my go-to lotion, the aloe Vera helps with a burn. 

16. First Aid Kit 

For any trip, a first aid kit should be included in the packing list. You never know what could happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Although, on a cruise in particular, you’ll want to make sure you have a first aid kit with you as cruise ships are notorious for inflating the price of basic necessities and toiletries onboard. Of course, if you’re seriously injured, you’ll want to visit the doctor on the ship, but for something small, this kit has bandaids, gauze, and antiseptic cream. 

Gear

17. Waterproof Phone Case

waterproof phone case will come in handy for any port activities you might be doing on a Caribbean cruise. If it’s a beach day, snorkeling, or scuba diving, placing your phone in a waterproof case will keep it protected and any pictures taken will still come out perfect. It’s a win-win! 

18. Snorkel Gear

What’s a Caribbean cruise without some snorkeling fun? You might be thinking: why bother buying and packing gear when you can generally rent it from the beach or have it included in the excursion? The fact of the matter is, you definitely can! However, if you’re like me and are fearful of germs and cleaning practices, I suggest bringing your own. It doesn’t take up as much space as you think, and I bring it on every beach destination trip now. I went with this snorkel gear as it was a great package set. 

19. Refillable Water Bottle 

I bring a refillable water bottle for every vacation, but it’s one of the best things to pack for a Caribbean cruise. Some cruise lines charge extra for bottled water, and having a refillable water bottle will save substantial money. Additionally, it’s helpful on excursions to have extra water on hand for normally higher temperatures in the heat. Remember to make sure to stay hydrated in the Caribbean sun! 

20. Portable Charger 

While a portable charger isn’t necessary onboard the ship, it is a handy item to pack for port days. In the cabin, you’ll likely find enough outlets for all your devices, but at a port on longer excursions, a portable charger can be a lifesaver to bring with you. 

21. Waterproof Camera

Capturing pictures while snorkeling or scuba diving is somewhat tricky with a phone. This is why I suggest packing a waterproof camera for crisp photos without the worry of damaging the camera. One of my regrets is not packing one for any of my Caribbean cruises, I would love to look back on those breathtaking experiences in the sea.  

Additional Products

22. Magnetic Cabin Hooks 

A fun fact about cruise cabins is that the walls and doors are made of steel, which makes them magnetic. These magnetic cabin hooks are a good idea to pack to organize any of your papers and documents throughout the cruise. There’s a surprising amount of papers to keep track of on a Caribbean cruise: shore excursion tickets, raffles, and daily itineraries, to name a few. With these hooks, simply pin them to the wall. Also, on some of the heavy-duty hooks, you can hang bags, hats, and other accessories. 

23. Beach Towel Clips 

If you plan on spending time at the pool or lounging on the deck, which I’m sure you do, then you’ll want to pack these towel clips for your cruise. The wind picks up when the ship is moving, and it’s not fun to chase your beach towel across the deck when it’s whipped away from your chair. These keep your towel in place, so you’re always comfy and don’t have to worry about it blowing away when you go for a dip in the pool or hot tub. 

24. Dry Towel 

Your cruise will provide you with free beach towels, which are great for the pool but inconvenient to carry around the port. The free towels are large and bulky, taking up a ton of space in your beach bag. A dry towel is thin, lightweight, and compact making it easy to carry on any excursion. The microfiber material also dries quickly, meaning you aren’t stuck soaking wet while traveling back to the ship. 

25. Sand Resistant Beach Blanket

While on a Caribbean cruise, you’ll probably visit a beach at some point, and one of the best items to bring is a sand-resistant beach blanket. It’s compact, lightweight, and large enough to fit multiple people. The best part is that it’s truly sand resistant. There won’t be endless amounts of sand to clean from your bag or sticking to every last item you packed. 


Caribbean cruises are some of my favorite vacations, and no matter what you pack, you’re sure to have an amazing time. However, I hope some of these items help make your trip that much more relaxing! Let me know in the comments if you’re planning a Caribbean Cruise! 

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6 comments

  • simplyjolayne says:

    I need to get some of those magnetic hooks for our upcoming trip. Great tips!

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      You'll get more use out of them than you can imagine! I would have sun hats hanging with papers pinned to the wall! I hope you have a wonderful time on your upcoming trip!

      Reply
  • Linda (LD Holland) says:

    This is a good list for packing for a cruise. A nice sweater really does help for air conditioning. Or sometimes for standing on deck in the evenings. Hubby always asks why I need a small bag as he stuffs his phone and card in his pockets! Will have to check out a waterproof money belt as an option to a bigger waterproof bag. We bought magnetic hooks for our last cruise and won’t pack without them again! Lots of great tips.

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      Thank you! I never go on a cruise without at least one sweater because I know at some point I will get cold! Yes for the pockets! I wind up using a clutch for every evening onboard! The waterproof money belt is a game changer if you can't have anyone watch your stuff, made me way more relaxed on my last cruise! And the hooks are great when the space is so small!

      Reply
  • Samantha Pearsall says:

    The additional items are a game changer! Never considered bringing magnetic hooks but they really would help now that I think about it. You added absolutely everything you need for a cruise, great list! Also great idea for bringing the motion sickness meds...I would definitely need it haha.

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      It wasn't until my last cruise that I brought hooks and it made a world of difference, not having papers, hats, bags everywhere! The motion sickness are always a good idea just in case! Thanks so much!

      Reply