20 things to pack in your cruise carry-on

Nothing is like that moment when you step onto a cruise ship to begin a long-awaited vacation.

While you have a cocktail and lunch, the crew loads and begins delivering luggage to thousands of passengers. This may take some time, usually a few hours.

Given this time frame, everything you need for this first part of your day, items like flip-flops, sunglasses and valuables should be in your carry-on.

To make sure nothing critical gets overlooked, here are our top 20 tips on what to pack in your cruise carry-on.


Identity documents such as a passport, driver’s license or birth certificate are among the most important items to carry in your hand luggage. Be sure to check with your cruise line well in advance if you need a passport for your itinerary.

Cruise line documents

In addition to ID, another essential document is your cruise pass (the equivalent of an airline boarding pass) for each guest in your travel party. Don’t forget your cruise line’s baggage tags that you have printed off and which must be attached to your baggage before handing over to port.

Covid-19 related stuff

Unfortunately we are still dealing with Covid-19 protocols for cruising. These vary by port of embarkation and itinerary, so monitor communications from your cruise line carefully to ensure you know what is specifically required for your cruise. Have on hand all required negative Covid-19 test results, certificate of recovery and proof of vaccination.

It’s convenient to have health records on your phone, but hard copies can sometimes be more accessible. Scrolling through your phone, especially if you have multiple people, can be a bit of a hassle.


Although you probably won’t need them on board, you may need to wear masks in some terminals or just want to have them on hand, especially in busy areas like elevators. Ideally, carry one mask per day for each member of your cabin.

Additionally, mask mandates can change quickly. Caught off guard by many, Cyprus quickly brought back mask mandates last week, affecting Mediterranean crossings visiting the sunny port.

Money/credit cards

Even though guests prepay for most cruise items, it can be beneficial to have a credit card for purchases at port or for anything that appears like a sparkly ring at your favorite jeweler in St. Thomas. .

Always a good idea to carry some cash, especially small bills, for tips or small purchases.

Telephone and electronics

A smartphone is essential for travel, especially for cruise apps to make reservations and book activities.

Tablets/laptops may be needed for work, family check-in, or just watching a movie and relaxing in your cabin at night. Fragile equipment should be carefully packed in your hand luggage.


At some point, electronic devices need to be recharged, and this can happen before your bags arrive on your statement.

Be sure to include all of your chargers for electronics. Many people also include a battery for easy recharging on the go.


Be sure to bring all prescription medications and anything else you may need before you receive your baggage, such as seasickness or headache medication,

These should never be stored in checked baggage and, to be on the safe side, allow a few extra days in case of delay.

Wipes / hand sanitizer

Even before the pandemic, many people like to travel with wipes and hand sanitizer. It never hurts to have them around, especially if you’re traveling with young children who get their hands on everything.

If you’re short on space in your carry-on, most brands offer smaller travel sizes that slip easily into a side pocket.


Whether you need glasses, contacts or want to protect yourself from the glare of the sun, don’t forget to pack appropriate glasses.

A hardcover eyeglass case is a good option to protect against damage while traveling.

Kids stuff

If you’re going on holiday with young children, make sure you have enough supplies until your luggage arrives. Pack enough diapers, baby wipes, extra clothes, a light nap blanket, sippy cup, baby food and formula.

Don’t forget that special stuffed animal or cozy blanket for naps or to help calm a not-so-happy cruiser.


Most cruise lines allow passengers to bring a limited amount of beverages such as wine or bottled water. These must be brought in hand luggage; everything in the suitcases will be taken out. Beverages must be sealed and in their original containers.

Check with your cruise line to see what is allowed. for example, MSC Cruises does not allow passengers to bring drinks on board.

Clothes and shoes

Pack a bathing suit, flip flops, or anything else before your luggage arrives.

If you want to access some highly sought-after activities first, like riding a roller coaster or trying your hand at the rock climbing wall, be sure to bring appropriate clothing and footwear.


There is always a debate as to whether it is a good idea to travel with beautiful jewelry on vacation. Whatever you bring, you should never put valuables in your suitcase. Store them safely in your hand luggage.

This also applies to watches, fitting parts or anything else of a similar nature.


If you’re going to head to the Lido deck to sunbathe or take a dip in the hot tub, it’s a good idea to pack sunscreen, a hat, and a blanket. The first exposure to the sun sometimes results in a nasty burn, which is no way to start a cruise.

Emergency snacks

Good for children and adults of all ages, especially if you arrive at the port much earlier than your boarding time or have an unexpected delay in boarding.

Bring only pre-packaged snacks like protein bars or cereal packets. No meat or anything that can spoil as cruise lines have rules about what food can be brought on board. This also applies to homemade products like Grandma’s famous chocolate chip cookies.

Basic toiletries

It can be nice to freshen up and brush your teeth after lunch, so include a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, or whatever makes you feel good.


Small, but often very useful, a pen is ideal for quickly jotting down useful information or something you don’t want to forget. This can be a good idea when visiting guest services or planning activities and entertainment.


Super popular with cruise passengers, lanyards are an easy way to keep track of your cruise map without having to fit in your carry-on bag each time.

Ziploc bags

One of my must-have personal travel items, Ziploc bags are so useful in a variety of situations.

A convenient way to keep documents safe and dry in your carry-on, organize your chargers in one place, or keep some wet/dirty items separate from the rest of the contents, it’s always good to store them in your handbag.