Gear Guide: Ultimate cruise ship packing list

gear guide ultimate cruise ship packing list gearguidecruise2Vacations are one of the best parts of summer, but they can also take a lot of planning and work to organize. If you want to ditch the planning phase all together, booking a cruise is one of the best ways to go. Hop on a ship in a beautiful locale and you have everything from food, amenities, and lodging taken care of, as well as pit stops in other great spots. Most of the large cruise ships have pools, mini golf, restaurants, nightlife, and spas right onboard, so what’s not to like? If you are taking a longer cruise, the ship will likely stop in various ports along the way, allowing you to make your way to land and explore. Whatever kind of cruise you choose, remember to pack the items on this list and you’ll be a happy cruiser the whole trip.

Clockwise from top left.

Hitting the road this summer? Make sure to check out our new weekly gear guides with tech-inspired packing lists for your next adventure, like music festivals and camping trips.


Unless you are going on an Alaskan cruise (also awesome), chances are you will be doing a lot of swimming and sunbathing aboard your ship. When you dock in other locations, you might also get a chance to take in a beach or snorkel near the shore. One of the best things about a relaxing vacation is definitely the opportunity to have some fun in the water and catch some rays, so don’t forget the appropriate swimwear. For the guys, we like the classic stripes on the Saturdays Jailbreak Trunks ($75) from J.Crew.

Tablet or e-reader

Although many cruise ships offer cell phone and Internet service, it will usually cost an arm and a leg, so we would recommend avoiding it unless there is an emergency. This means that something like an iPad will lose a lot of its functionality, but if you have games and movies already downloaded on your device, it could still provide hours of entertainment. We love our iPads, but for a cruise we would rather take a handy Kindle full of relaxing reads. Books are perfect for a cruise ship and the Kindle ($114) will save you tons of packing space.


Part of the fun of a cruise is taking in the beautiful surroundings, so make sure you can catch every detail with a good pair of binoculars. If you ever get bored, why not head out to the ship deck and scan the horizon? You might see something great. Just in case you take these near the pool, snag these REI XR 8 x 25 Waterproof Binoculars ($80).

Waterproof all-terrain shoes

Packing space for a cruise is limited, and you often don’t know what kind of activities you’ll run into during your trip. A pair of waterproof all-terrain shoes like the Keen Newport H2 ($95) will comfortably take you from walking in port cities or adventurous hikes to playing in tropical waters. The durable shoes will easily work for almost any activity, although we recommend a pair of dress shoes for evening events. Just in case you thought these were appropriate.

All-purpose tote

Whether you are heading into a town for off-boat activities or just heading to the pool or outdoor restaurant, chances are you are going to want to be prepared with the appropriate supplies. Pack a lightweight all-purpose tote with pockets like this L.L. Bean Adventure Tote ($20), which is made from durable nylon that’s also water-resistant; perfect for taking all your essentials to the pool.

Portable DVD player

Because laptops are mostly a lost cause on a cruise ship, save some precious space and pack a small portable DVD player instead. The small size will come in handy for watching movies in your cabin or entertaining the kids. If you are too tired to participate in the evening’s ship activities, take a night off and relax in your cabin with a movie night on something like this Philips 9-inch Widescreen TFT-LCD Portable DVD Player ($130).

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