Caribbean Cruise Packing List

Packing: 101

Cruising is always fun but if unprepared, you'll end up missing an item or two that you wished you would have tossed in your luggage.  That's why I'm here.  I hope to share a few things that I pack for all my cruises, so you'll be set up for success.  Remember that if you're flying into your port, you'll likely need to make a change or two, (especially if you're bringing the beverages or bottle of wine onboard).  Once you arrive at the port, the porters will immediately fetch and run with your luggage.  It's nearly impossible to get those items back once they take them away, so packing what you need in your carry on is essential.  More than likely, you'll get your checked bag after dinner on the evening of your cruise.  It's essential to know this on your first sailing so you aren't without much needed items.

Carry-On Luggage

These items should be easily accessible.  You'll board according to the boarding time on your ticket and most often, your room will not be ready until hours later.  For this reason, you'll need a bit of items with you to kick off your cruise so you're on vacation from the very start of your sailing.  I'll include my list of both carry on & general purpose items that you'll take with you.

  • Travel Documents (Passports -or- Birth Certificates & ID cards)
  • Medications needed prior to bed the day of boarding
  • Lady products & hygiene products needed before dinner
  • Phone Chargers & Electronic Accessories
  • Swimsuit (if you're wanting to enjoy life on the Lido deck)
  • 1-12 pack of beverages (12oz cans)
  • 1 bottle of WINE (750mL bottle) per adult 21 and over <-- read that again
  • Glasses
    • Sunglasses
    • Reading (or Contacts & Contact Accessories)
  • Camera
  • Cell Phone
  • Purse
  • Wallet
About the Beverages:

Drinks such as sparkling water, sodas, energy drinks, juice, and milk, (who brings in milk?),  packaged in cans or cartons, may be brought on board and must be in your carry-on luggage. A  maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12-ounces/354-ml each or less, per person.

Pro Tip: If you don't want to carry all this onboard or you'll need more than a 12-pack while onboard, you just head over to your Carnival account and pre-purchase beverages from the Fun Shops.  They're waiting in your stateroom upon arrival and ready for you to enjoy.  Ask your stateroom attendant for ice and they'll have a bucket ready to serve up your own "Bubbles" package.  The stateroom steward is really awesome about re-filling the ice bucket regularly.

About the Wine:

Carnival allows each adult to take 1-750mL bottle of wine onboard and must be in your carry-on luggage.  Wine.  Yes, wine only. No, not liquor.  Wine. 750mL.  No, not the gigantic sized bottle. No, not a box of wine. You may bring one 750mL standard bottle of wine with you onboard.  Yes, there's a reason I'm repeating myself here.  I live in Texas where we have Liquor stores that sell just that, plus other products.  Our grocery stores only sell beer and wine products.  I send my local clients to HEB, (the (best) grocery store in Texas), and tell them if they can purchase it there, they can carry it with them onboard.  Maybe red or white wine isn't your thing.  Sometimes they have pre-mixed pina coladas or margaritas that are "wine" products, which you can carry onboard.  You'll find a vast selection of mixes, sangrias, ect. that can be taken onboard for the duration of the cruise.

Pro Tip:  Bring a twist top and serve yourself to avoid a corking fee.  A $15 USD corkage fee, per 750 ml bottle, will be charged should guests wish to consume their wine or champagne in the main dining room, specialty restaurant or bar.  So pour yourself a glass in your stateroom and waltz that joker to dinner with you if you're mindful of onboard charges to your Sail and Sign account.

More about Carnival's alcohol policy?  Read here.  

Packing Your Checked Luggage

Your checked luggage will have everything you need for the cruise.  From clothing to hygiene products, you'll need it onboard.  All staterooms will have shampoo and body wash mounted in the shower.  If you aren't biased to particular products, leave yours at home and use what's available onboard.  You won't risk a bottle coming open in transport and losing some product in the suitcase.

Hygiene Products:

  • Toothcare
    •  Paste
    • Brush -I can't tell you how many times this didn't make my luggage.  Double check, folks.
    • Floss
  • Make-up
  • Lip Stuff (Chapstick, lip stick, lip sunscreen, gloss, ect)
  • Nail Care (File, clippers, and whatever you may need- polish, clear coat, remover pads, ect.)
  • Razor & blades
  • Tweezers
  • Medication (Melatonin included)
  • Jewelry
  • Undergarments
    • Bra (and whatever you need for those evening gowns & cocktail dresses)
    • "Make me skinny" accessories
    • Underwear
  • Pajamas
  • Hair Care
      • Hair Brush
      • Straightener (Curling Iron or whatever you use)
      • Leave In Conditioner

Pro Tip: Bring leave in conditioner instead of conditioner.  You'll use significantly less leave in conditioner that you would the standard rinsing conditioner.  I'll even bring a small (4oz) pump-spray of detangler to use after getting out of the ocean.  I have really thick hair that gets cumbersome to take care of, so if this works for me, I'm sure it will work for you and save you some space.

Great Items to Have for Shore Excursions

  • Backpack, collapsible daypack, or carrying bag
  • Rain jacket or poncho and/or small umbrella (I'd suggest getting a small pack of ponchos from Amazon)
  • Sunscreen.  Body. Lips. Face.  Caribbean sun is no joke.  Don't even take the chance.
  • Insect repellent.  (Needed for some excursions- hiking, waterfalls, adventure, etc.)

Items for Onboard

Sea days are tons of fun and there's a lot to do on the ship, don't get me wrong.  Some of my best memories onboard a cruise are sitting with my entire family playing an old family game of 10 Pennies, (sorta like Phase 10), with the whole family.  Don't discredit the idea of doing something traditional that you can do at home on one, (or all), of those Sea Days.  Here's a few things that you may want to bring to use onboard:

  • Books and magazines
  • Cards or Dominions
  • Binoculars (to see the wildlife in Alaska or explore the Pirates in the Caribbean)
  • Towel Clips (perfect for the Lido Deck)
  • Tumbler or Water Bottle
  • Fan (for your room if you like a little breeze or white noise when you sleep)
  • Power Extender or Extension Cord

There are usually only one outlet in a room (standard outlet), so if you are charging multiple devices or using a hair straightener, you'll need some extra room for plug-in appliances and accessories.  Whatever you use, make sure you bring something that can add a few extra USB ports or plugs if you're someone with a cell, smart watch, and have another warm body in your cabin.  Otherwise, you'll find yourself prioritizing the cell that has the least amount of battery life for power privileges.

Working while cruising?

Make sure you come prepared: (These are always in my carry-on)

  • Laptop & Charger
  • Mouse & Charger (or batteries)
  • Ear buds & Charger
  • Watch & Charger
  • Writing & Notes
  • Cell & Charger

Packing Clothes:

At last.  This is the hardest for any first time cruiser to determine what to carry.  Hidden in lock and key lies the secret list of what should be brought onboard your sailing.  Don't worry.  We've got you.  You'll have a formal night onboard each sailing.  On 7-day cruises, you'll have two formal nights.  Typically, the first is the more "formal" of the formal nights onboard.  Some will dress to perfection, while others will be headed to the buffet to skip the need to dress up for the evening.  Personally, I love a great reason to dress your best with those travel companions and enjoy the evening.  As you pack, you'll have normal daytime clothes that you'll wear out and about on excursions or around the ship.  We head back to our room and change each evening for dinner so we're fresh and looking sharp.  What you pack is on you, but knowing you'll need two outfits a day is the key to being prepared.  Shore excursions will consist of a swimsuit and cover up for women, while men wear a t-shirt and swim trunks.  This will vary depending on style, daily activities, and interest; however, if you're a beachgoer, you'll be dressing as suggested.  Once back onboard, you'll wash up and put on some closed-toed shoes, a collared, (or dressier shirt), and head to dinner.  You may wear the same 3 swimming trunks and just need t-shirts for each day of sailing, plus night dinner attire.  It all depends on personal preference.  But usually days are t-shirts, shorts, and flip flops, while nights are "date night" attire in the main dining room.  If you eat in the Lido Marketplace, (the buffet), anything goes except swimsuits.  They require a cover-up/shirt & footwear, otherwise, we'll call it super-relaxed.

What to Wear - Daytime Attire

Don't get too caught up in this.  You'll catch me in a swimsuit with shirt & shorts (or sundress/cover-up), plus flip flops.  It's your everyday wear to do whatever you have going on during your sailing.  Around the ship, you may be playing Bingo or hanging by the pool.  Wear what you would for this sort of activity.  Plan regular daily outfits to wear for Sea Days and Shore Excursions.  Here's some ideas for a daytime outfit:

  • Work-out Attire (if needed) --They've got a running track and gym onboard.
  • BOTTOMS: Shorts/capris/khakis/jeans
  • TOPS: Tee shirts/polo shirts/blouses/tops (can be short sleeved or sleeveless)
  • Summer dresses, sun dresses, etc.
  • Bathing suits & cover-up
  • Hat/visor/sunglasses
  • Comfortable rubber-soled flat shoes/sneakers/water shoes/non-slip boat shoes with traction
  • Light-weight sweater or jacket (some evenings can be cool or a rare cold day in the Bahamas)
  • For cooler weather, clothing that can be layered, scarves and gloves.
  • If visiting religious sites in Europe, ladies must cover their knees & shoulders

Pro Tip about Footwear:  ***Select activities/shore excursions may require closed-toe shoes or water shoes***  Check the details. The use of any footwear with wheels is prohibited on board Carnival ships

Mega Deck Party Pro Tip: Be sure to bring a red or blue outfit or top for our Mega Deck Party.  This is a party onboard each sailing.

What to Wear - Evening Attire

There are lots of options to wear for dinner.  Think "date night".  You don't want to go too crazy but you want to dress like it's your first date.  What would you wear?  That's exactly what you will wear to dinner in the main dining room.  You'll see a wide variety of what folks wear here.  I'd suggest Henley shirts being the "most casual" option for men going to dinner.

Following is the dress code in the main dining room(s) for both men, women and children:

“Cruise Casual” Dress Code

This is for all "normal" (not formal) dinners in the main dining room on the ship.

  • Men: sports slacks, khakis, jeans, long dress shorts & collared polo shirts
  • Women: summer dresses, casual skirts, pants, capris, dress shorts, jeans blouses and tops
  • Not permitted:
    • Cut-off jeans
    • Men’s sleeveless shirts
    • Tee-shirts
    • Gym or basketball shorts
    • Baseball hats
    • Flip-flops (Women can get away with this one.  We have all sorts of dressy sandals. Men cannot.)
    • Bathing suit attire
“Cruise Elegant” Dress Code (formal evenings)

How many are onboard, you ask?

  • 2-day to 5-day cruise: 1 per sailing “Cruise Elegant” evening
  • 6-day or longer cruise: 2 per sailing “Cruise Elegant” evening

The first “Cruise Elegant” evening is typically scheduled for the second or third evening of the cruise & the second “Cruise Elegant” evening is the second or third evening prior to the end of the cruise, itinerary schedule permitting.  Remember the first night is the "most elegant" of the two formal nights.  By the second formal night, everyone must be tired.  There are tons of options to dress up or down.  Bring a lightweight sports coat and tie to fit right in on either night.  You can dress up as much as you like but if you're going to the main dining room, don't spoil the fun by not being prepared, or worse, getting turned away.

  • Men: dress slacks, dress shirts, and a sport coat; men may also wish to wear a suit & tie or tuxedo
  • Women: cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts & blouses; ladies may also wish to wear an evening gown
  • Not permitted:
    • Jeans
    • Men’s sleeveless shirts
    • Shorts
    • Tee-shirts
    • Sportswear
    • Shorts
    • Baseball hats
    • Flip-flops
    • Bathing suit attire
Specialty Dining Dress Code

The Steakhouse:

  • The dress requirements for the Steakhouse follows the dress code specified for the main dining room(s)
  • If the evening is specified as “Cruise Casual,” shorts are not permitted.

Please Note: All guests are expected to ensure their clothing and accessories are respectful to fellow guests. Specifically, items worn during the cruise should not contain any message that may be considered offensive or contain nudity, profanity, sexual innuendo/suggestions. In addition, clothing/accessories should not promote negative ethnic or racial, commentary, or hatred or violence in any form.

Holidays & Events

  • In December, you'll want to be prepared for the “Ugly Sweater Contest”, with something that won't leave you sweating all night.  You'll find Santa hats, matching pajamas (especially on Christmas day), and seasonal attire on nearly everyone is in month of December.  Add that to your packing list.
  • Bring a great Costume for the “Frightfully Fun” Halloween cruises.  Folks really go all out so you'll be shocked at what you'll see on a Halloween sailing.
  • Show your team spirit when there are big sporting events.  Don't worry.  You won't miss the Super Bowl while onboard.

Carnival Journeys

Carnival Journeys cruises feature Throwback Sea Day, in which you go back in time to relive the ‘80s so dig out those outrageous outfits! On cruises six days and longer, you can channel the ‘80s vibe in our ‘80s Rock-N-Glow Deck Party.


Did this make life a little easier?  Hopefully so. Let me plan your next cruise.  I never charge booking fees and love getting folks onboard.

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Brenda Lofton Huffman
(281) 468-8189

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