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When I was thinking about what to pack for a cruise, I thought my head was going to pop. Cruise ships are like a mini floating towns with a lot going on every single day. For example, in one single day I went to the gym, had a swim, played mini golf, got shown up by 10 year olds on the rock climbing wall and finished the day off watching a film on the top deck right before formal night in the Sapphire Dining Room. I mean, how many outfits is that? And I hadn’t even got off the boat yet!
Now, I know what you’re thinking- girl you need to get some upper body strength if kids are stronger than you!
Ok, maybe you’re not thinking that… but you are perhaps wondering where on earth to start when it comes to packing, right? Well, because cruises do have a lot going on you’re going to need a fair range of items if you’re looking to do a bit of everything. My South Pacific cruise with Royal Caribbean was my first ever cruise so I sure as heck was gonna make the most of it all!
Luckily, as I’ve been travelling full time for the last 18 months, I’ve got pretty good when it comes to packing for multiple occasions. So I’ve put together this cruise packing checklist along with some top tips to make packing for your cruise a little less complex so you can focus on all the glorious food and cocktails you’re going to have!
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Things you don’t need to pack for a cruise (or can’t anyway)
Let’s start with the easy part i.e. the stuff you don’t have to pack at all! As the ships are basically floating hotels, you’ll find all the usual amenities such as towels, hand towels, face cloth and a hairdryer. There are also refillable shampoo and shower gel dispensers (kudos to Royal Caribbean to not wasting plastic on miniatures) although the shampoo was kinda tough on my hair and I was glad I bought my own. The towels can also be burrowed when leaving the ship to visit the islands so you don’t even have to worry about packing a beach towel.
There are also some items which are not permitted on board the ship, but they’re just a couple of things. No power boards/multi sockets are allowed to avoid power surges and Royal Caribbean only allow one bottle of wine per person to be taken on the ship with you. So there’s no chance of taking crates of beers on with you because you’re gonna get it taken off ya!
Drones have also been a bit of a controversial topic when it comes to cruises as not all cruise lines will allow them on board. Royal Caribbean initially stated that they are only permitted on board as long as permission to fly from each of the locations was granted but have since taken drones off the prohibited items list completely. If you have a drone and are wanting to take it on a cruise with you, be sure to check out the restrictions on the cruise line website otherwise there’s a chance it could get confiscated when you go through the baggage checks at the cruise terminal.
The process of getting your luggage to your cabin
Great news here, you don’t have to do anything! When I arrived at the cruise terminal, I just had to fill out a luggage tag, stick it on my bag and hand it over. Over the next few hours once everyone is on board, all the luggage gets dropped off outside your cabin (or stateroom as they’re actually called) and voila!
When it comes to getting off the ship at the end of the cruise, I could either take my own luggage off myself or leave it outside my cabin the night before and it gets collected and taken off the ship. As there is no weight limit for luggage on cruise ships, this is great news if you’re a self confessed over-packer, or holiday shopper.
Cruise essentials that will make your trip so much easier
Where to buy these essentials from
Amazon is really my go to place for items like these as I love the review system it has to reassure me I’m buying something decent, and also because of Amazon Prime. If you’re a bit of a last minute kinda person then Amazon Prime guarantees next day delivery so you can get your cruise essentials really fast.
- Reliable luggage: As you might have to fly to the cruise starting destination, you’re going to want reliable luggage to keep your belongings safe. The Lojel suitcases are insanely durable, scratch resistant and come in a range of sizes and gorgeous colours. I’ve seen videos of people stamping on these cases and even throwing them across balconies and they still lived to tell the tale!
- Travel Adapter: I remember back in the day when you had to buy a different adapter for each country, but those days are gone my friends! This handy all-in-one universal adapter is the only one you’ll need no matter where you’re going.
- Packing cubes: If you don’t use these already then these are going to change you’re packing game. You can buy a set with a range of sizes included and they are just a great way of organising all your clothes and stop them from rolling around your case in transit. If you’re really looking to maximise space in your suitcase, you can even get hold of compression packing cubes which squish everything down using the double zip system.
- Refillable water bottle: With drinking water available all over the ship, it makes sense to bring your own bottle to fill up. It’s also really handy and a way to save money when you’re exploring the islands, rather than having to buy bottles of water in single-use plastics.
- Something to keep your Seapass in: Your Seapass is a small card you get when you board the ship and it’s used for paying for things and also as your cabin room key. Many people keep theirs on a lanyard so you always know where it is.
- Travel Insurance: This is something that you should never travel without! I personally use World Nomads as they have fantastic cover in terms of activities and they also allow me to buy insurance when I’m already outside my country of residence.
My 9 day cruise packing list for the South Pacific
Where to buy clothes from for your cruise
Before I go ahead with the cruise packing list, I thought it would be handy to give you some online shops where you can get really great clothes that will be perfect for a cruise, at an affordable price. I personally love shopping online as it saves trawling shops for something that may not even exist, or more frustrating, exist but not in your size! Here are some of my favorites online stores.
- Amazon: I know it may not seem like the obvious place for clothes but it really does have some fantastic items on there. I love to use it for specialty items that aren’t necessarily ‘in’ at the high street retailers and because you can find some fantastic deals on there.
- Boohoo.com: Boohoo offers a great selection of clothes and accessories so you can easily get your stock of basic items right up to going out-out outfits sorted. They also quite often have sales on or offer free delivery.
- H&M: I’ve been a long time fan of H&M because I just love the prints they have on their clothes. I also really like that they have a sustainable and ethical clothing line.
- ASOS: As with all of these stores, ASOS regularly has sales and offers super quick delivery too. It’s a great website to go to as it’s full of popular brands and the clothes are really lush.
Day clothes for when you’re on the boat
Everything is pretty casual in the day time on the boat so I would recommend keeping things simple and comfy. You’re also (hopefully) going to be sailing through some glorious warm sunshine too!
- Skirt x 2: I live in skirts and they are great way of putting together a day-to-night outfit for a cruise too. ASOS have a great selection of patterns and lengths so you’re sure to find something for you.
- Singlet/t-shirts x 6: I like to have a few t-shirts and singlets in different colours that I can mix and match with both my shorts and skirts to maximise the number of outfits I can make. I also like them to be cotton so they are nice an breathable in the hot South Pacific. Boohoo.com has a huge selection of tees and singlets to choose from ranging from basic styles to quirky patterns and great day-to-night options.
- Shorts x 2: I don’t think you can go wrong with a classic pair of denim shorts for a holiday so be sure to pack your favorite pair. Additionally, I like to pack a light weight cotton pair to wear on the beach or around the pool as they dry really quick.
- Dress/Playsuit x 3: I love dresses and playsuits as they’re the perfect thing to look good with minimal effort. Yes I’m that lazy when I’m on holiday! I would recommend having one dress that can go for either day or night time and a couple of everyday ones. ASOS nails the day-to-night look when it comes to dresses and also has some really cute casual ones too.
- Long sleeve top x 1: I think it’s very British of me to pack a long sleeve top for a South Pacific cruise but it’s always better to have one just in case! I like to go for a pretty shirt I can wear with jeans or shorts if it’s chilly.
- Jeans x 1: Again, this is a ‘just in case’ item but you’ll be so glad you have a pair of jeans if it gets chilly! They can also, of course, be paired up with a nice top for the evenings if you want.
- Cardigan/jumper x 1: Personally, I love a cardigan as I just can’t pull off the jumper/skirt look without looking frumpy AF, but just be sure to bring one item to throw on in case it’s cool on deck.
- Flip Flops: For the longest time I always bought the cheapest flip flops I could find, but since buying my first pair of Havaianas, I haven’t looked back. And my first pair lasted me 5 years! They’re durable, have grip on the sole and are come in loads of awesome styles. They’re well worth the price.
- Sandals: On the cruise, my idea of making things a bit more formal is to stick a pair of sandals on instead of my Havaianas, and to be fair, that was fine even in the main dining room. I like a neutral tan sandal as they go with everything.
General evening wear
Aside from the formal nights, the evenings are pretty relaxed. Shorts are not permitted in the main dining room but there’s no real dress code for the buffet other than shoes (you might laugh, but this cruise ship was coming out of Australia where shoes seem to be optional in life). There are shows on each evening and plenty of bars to choose from so it depends how you want to spend your evening. Oh, and there’s also a nightclub on board!
- 3 x evening outfits: Although ideally your day time clothes will also double up as evening outfits, if you really like to dress up for the evening, definitely pack a couple of specific going out-out outfits. I tended to wear a casual kind of dress like these ones and Tom went for a casual shirt either with shorts or jeans.
Evening wear for formal nights
Tom’s parents are seasoned cruisers (this was their 28th cruise!!) and it’s standard to have a couple of formal nights on the ship. You don’t have to attend them but it’s a fun evening and on ours, we also got the chance to meet the captain. Some people go all out and glam up the dress code has been relaxed somewhat from the Titanic days of suits, jackets and ball gowns.
- More formal outfit x 1: I didn’t go over the top at all for the formal nights and just opted for a dress that I would probably wear for a nice dinner, which is essentially what it is anyway! Some people went for a nice Maxi dress like these but I went for something more along the lines of a little black dress with some jewellery.
- Nice pair of shoes x 1: The formal nights were the only time I wasn’t in sandals or flip flops so one pair is enough. Lots of ladies had heels on but I just took a nice pair of flats like these with me. So if heels aren’t your thing, don’t worry about it!
- Formal trousers x 1: Shorts are not permitted for the formal nights so be sure to pack a pair of suit trousers or chinos to wear with a shirt.
- Nice shirt x 1: Both Tom and his Dad wore a work shirt for the formal evenings so I recommend taking a smart shirt like these on ASOS with you that goes with your trousers.
- Smart shoes x 1: As it’s a formal event, I recommend bringing a smart pair of shoes as trainers and flip flops are a no-go on the formal nights.
We stopped off at 4 different islands on the 9 day cruise so that’s a lot of beach time! It can get pretty hot (as you would hope) on these little islands so they’re great for swimming and relaxing in the sun.
- Swimmers x 2: I absolutely love H&M swimwear as they always have a huge selection of both one pieces and bikinis. It’s always my go-to shop for these items and I always find they last well for a good few years which is awesome.
- Sarong/caftan: Whether you’re as pale as me or beautifully bronzed, it’s important to get your skin out of the sun. I live in my caftan on the beach so highly recommend getting one to put on over your swimmers. ASOS have loads of really cute ones to choose from and they stock them all year round too.
- Swim Shoes: Yes, as unattractive as they are, they can be so good if you love getting in the water. The last thing you want to do is cut your foot so these are the best solution. They’re also super affordable and come in heaps of colours.
- Hat: Not just because cute sun hats look awesome in Instagram photos, but also to keep the sun off your face.
- Sunglasses: A few years ago I decided to stop buying cheap sunglasses from clothes shops and actually get a pair that protected my eyes. I love SunglassHut as they are global and at most airports and they have a huge selection with UV protection to stop the sun damaging your eyes.
- Beach Bag: As someone who is trying to reduce the amount of single use plastics, I always have my folding bag-in-a-bag with me, and that’s what I use as my beach bag. They’re awesome as they take up no space in your suitcase and can be washed and reused after your holiday for every day things again. You can get some really gorgeous patterns as well for super cheap on Amazon.
- Snorkel and Mask: Eeek can you believe that I didn’t take one? What a bummer! I did find that you could hire snorkels on each of the islands but save yourself the agro and money by packing your own.
- Hanging toiletry bag: I like to have my toiletries and make up all in one bag and find my hanging toiletry bag is perfect for this. It has enough compartments to fit all my make up, brushes, tooth brush and refillable bottles I use for shower gel and shampoo. This is the one I use and I love it!
- Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel: I recommend getting some refillable bottles for your favourite products as they’re lighter then the full size bottles and you can use them again for your next trip!
- Moisturiser: I found the air conditioning on the ship was to be quite cold and drying so I was glad I packed a decent moisturiser. In the day I would always use Hamilton SPF 50 facial suncream and in the evenings I would use Rosehip Oil to really treat my skin.
- Hand cream: I don’t usually bother with hand cream but they really encourage everyone to use handsanitiser on the ship to prevent bugs spreading. I personally don’t think you can go wrong with cheap and cheerful Vaseline.
- Reef safe sunscreen: This stuff is super important if you plan on doing a lot of swimming around the islands. Many normal sunscreens contain chemicals that go into the water and harm the corals, so getting one like Tropical Sands biodegradable and reef safe sunscreen is really important.
These are just your standard basics so I’m not going to go into detail here. Just so you also know, there is a doctor on the ship as well.
- Rehydration Salts
- Pain killers
- Antibacterial wipes
- Motion sickness tablets
- Motion sickness wristbands: I have been skeptical about these little wrist bands for a long time but after spending a day feeling like I was going to throw up over the side of the ship, I bought some. And guess what, they actually work! If you’re worried about getting seasick on the cruise, be sure to get some in advance as they were pretty pricey to buy on board.
Tech and other items
Your cruising the South Pacific, and boy are these places photogenic! Here’s all the tech Tom and I carry between us.
- GoPro: We use a GoPro Hero 5 but these have come on so much since this. The new GoPro Hero 7s are incredible and offer amazing photo and video quality as well as stabilisation so you can get some really good stuff on this tiny little thing. If you’re only going to bring one camera, I would recommend a GoPro!
- Drone (if allowed on board): For the cruise Tom took the DJI Spark, which is an awesome drone for its size, and they have come down a lot in price. Since the cruise, Tom has upgraded to the DJI Mavic Pro which has definitely been worth it.
- Camera: I use my Sony a6000 for both photos and video and absolutely love it. The drone is Tom’s baby, and my Sony is mine. It’s small, light and produces awesome quality photos. I highly recommend it!
- Kindle Paperwhite: If you love to read on holiday then a Kindle Paperwhite is a no-brainer The matt screen means you can read it even in bright light and they are also waterproof! Hop onto the amazon kindle store before you go to stock up on books too!
- Cable organiser: For all the tech it’s a great idea to get a cheap cable organiser from Amazon so all your cables are in one place.
Woahhhh ok, that was a long one! I really hope this helps all of you first-time cruisers (or seasoned cruisers) to avoid packing meltdown! If you have any questions about cruising or what to pack, please drop a comment below and I’ll get right back to you, hopefully with something useful, or at least vaguely entertaining! Don’t forget to get your free checklist too!