Cruise control: Prepare before you set sail [Checklist]

Setting sail on the high seas is one of life’s great adventures. But packing for a cruise holiday is a little different to a road trip or an airport carry-on. Here’s how to prepare for a cruise – to ensure you’ve got all your travel essentials sorted

What you need to pack

Travel documents

When going on a cruise overseas, you’ll need a valid passport and any required visas. But you should also bring another form of ID, such as a driver’s licence. Make sure to keep your travel insurance details handy as well, in case of an emergency details handy as well, in case of an emergency. 

It’s a good idea to make photocopies of all your travel documents, and print out information about your flights, hotel, and cruise bookings. You might also bring a list of important phone numbers, including your credit card company and emergency contacts back home. 

It’s also a good idea to keep scanned copies of all your travel documents on your computer, phone or cloud storage.

Medications and health essentials

Your cruise ship should come stocked with medical supplies, but it’s still best to come prepared so you won’t have to leave your room if you’re feeling unwell. In addition to any prescription medications, it could be wise to pack some tablets for sea sickness and indigestion, as well as pain relief tablets, hygiene products, and a basic first aid kit

Insect repellent, sunscreen, and after-sun care products like aloe vera gel will come in handy if you’re planning to spend a lot of time on the deck or if you’re headed for the tropics.

It also might be worth doing your research on what your cruise ship’s protocol would be for any Covid-19 situations that may arise, while you’re at sea, so you’re aware of your options and any mandatory requirements.

Clothing and accessories

Your choice of clothing will depend on where you’re going, but it’s best to have flexibility in your wardrobe and pack clothes that layer well. 

For laidback days, sunglasses and a sunhat are a must to help reduce UV damage. Also, bring comfortable loungewear and slip-on slip-off sandals for relaxing onboard as well as walking shoes for sightseeing onshore. At nights, you’ll be transitioning to smart casual, as many cruise ships have a dress code in the bars and restaurants. 

Be sure to check the weather and pack a good selection of tops and bottoms in breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, merino wool, and silk. Don’t forget to pack enough underwear, a couple of swimmers and pyjamas – both for warm and cool weather. Plus, bring your activewear if you’re planning to hit the ship gym. 

Cabin essentials 

Like a hotel, your stateroom or cabin will have basic toiletries like handwash, soap, and shampoo, but you’ll still need to bring things like deodorant, moisturiser, toothpaste, mouthwash, haircare products, and shaving supplies. You might also want to pack sleeping aids like earplugs and an eye mask to help block out any distractions for sound sleep.

While there’s no shortage of entertainment on a cruise ship, you may consider bringing reading materials and a travel journal for those lazy afternoons spent poolside. For onshore excursions, it’s also good idea to have a water bottle handy for hydration, and a small backpack or a tote to carry your day essentials.  

Payment and currency exchange

Generally, most cruise lines are cashless, so instead of paying for things as you go, you either buy credit or a package in advance, or else pay a bill at the end of your cruise. Many won’t accept travel money cards, but you can still bring your credit or debit cards for when you’re onshore. 

You’ll probably also want to carry some cash for tipping and transfers, and to use onshore (depending on your destination). Large cruise ships have ATMs and exchange offices, but you might be better off withdrawing money in the local currency or ahead of time. Of course, you don’t want to carry around wads of cash either so make sure you budget for how much you think you’ll spend on treats for yourself as well as gifts to take back home.

Electronics and gadgets 

Along with your mobile phone and charger, you may need a travel adaptor especially if your cruise is part of an international journey. Don’t forget to pack chargers for your laptop or tablet, plus spare batteries, and memory cards for your camera. You might also want a separate alarm clock and portable music device with headphones, if you don’t use your smartphone for these.  

And if you want to be able to charge all your devices at once, you should bring a power board, preferably with built-in USB ports. 

Safety and security 

For security reasons, your luggage will be X-rayed – and there are some things you’re not allowed to bring on board. These include sharp objects, flammable liquids, clothes irons, electrical extension cords, coffee makers, candles and incense, and of course anything illegal.  

To keep your belongings safe, consider using luggage locks and clear labels. Pickpocketing is rare on the ship but can happen in any busy tourist destination, so pack a secure day bag and money belt for your cash and documents. 

Travel insurance

No matter how prepared you are, some things don’t always go to plan when you travel – from missed connections and lost luggage to a medical emergency. That’s why travel insurance can prove essential.

Before choosing a policy, make sure it offers cover for cruise travel, onshore destinations and planned activities. Consider whether Real Travel Insurance might be suitable for you by getting a quote online.

Download our checklist now and make packing a breeze.

Cruise control: Prepare before you set sail [Checklist]