If you’ve travelled abroad a few times, there’s no doubt you’ve learned to be a packing pro – whether you’re going to hit the slopes on a skiing or snowboarding break or whether you’re going for a sunny pool-and-beach holiday or anywhere in between. But if you’ve never been on a cruise, how do you know what to pack? Is it the same as packing for a jet-setting holiday or does it differ? We’re here to let you know how and what to pack for a first-time cruise.
The benefit of cruising is you can often depart from UK-based ports, which means you can choose the nearest one to you and you don’t have to pack for a flight to meet your cruise.
One of the most popular ports in the UK is Southampton but there are other ports and cities of departure. Here’s a list of some of the UK-based ports. You can discover which destinations you can visit from each of these ports by doing a little research.
- Bristol – Port of Bristol-Avonmouth, England
- Cardiff – Port of Cardiff, Wales
- Dover – Port of Dover, England
- Dublin – Port of Dublin, Ireland
- Dundee – Port of Dundee, Scotland
- Edinburgh – Port of Rosyth (Edinburgh) or Port of Leith (Edinburgh), Scotland
- Greenock – Port of Greenock (near Glasgow), Scotland
- Harwich – Harwich International Port (London), England
- Hull – Port of Hull, England
- Liverpool – Port of Liverpool
- London – Port of Tilbury, England
- Newcastle – Port of Tyne International Passenger Terminal, England
- Oban – Oban Ferry Terminal, Oban, Scotland
- Poole – Poole Cruise Port (Dorset), England
- Portsmouth – Portsmouth International Port
- Rosyth – Rosyth Cruise Terminal (Edinburgh), Scotland
- Southampton – Port of Southampton, England
- Tilbury – Tilbury Cruise Terminal (London), England
Popular cruise destinations
There are many, many cruises out there. There are cruises to many coastline destinations such as various countries in the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Morocco, Croatia, Turkey, etc), the USA (Florida, New York, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Alaska, Texas, etc), Canada (Niagara Falls), the British Isles, Northern Europe (like Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Gibraltar, Norway, etc), Greek island cruises, Caribbean cruises, Hawaiin cruises, Baltic cruises, Iceland and Ireland, Guernsey, world cruises, and even speciality cruises like Disney! You can do a little research about the places you’d like to see, how long you’d like to go, and which countries this cruise visits.
Of course, where you go will determine what to pack so be sure to jot down items you’ll need for each destination.
The benefits of departing from UK ports
Many no-fly cruises depart from the UK, which means you avoid busy airports and long-haul flights – and also baggage restrictions (more on that later). You don’t have long security and passport checks (but, naturally, you’ll still need to bring your passport and any visas you’ll need), no official luggage limits (you can bring as much as you can carry), and often there’s free car parking available so you can drive yourself, your family/friends (if applicable), and all your luggage directly to the port and hop on the ship! But be sure to check if the car park is free became some cruisers say that car parking is often an expensive yet hidden cost.
When departing from the UK, those with mobility issues and those with young children may have an easier time navigating cruise ports directly onto the ship. There are fewer complicated travel arrangements to navigate.
Plus, many UK ports offer mini-cruises that last anywhere from one to three nights if you want to get the luxury experience of a cruise in a truncated period.
No baggage or weight restrictions
So, back to this point which is a huge one for us: no baggage restrictions. Tired of trying to cram only 20 kg of luggage into your suitcase? (Check out our blog on flight luggage restrictions and suitcases here.) Well, with a cruise, if departing from a UK port and you don’t need to take a flight first, you get the luxury of having no baggage restrictions, unlike airlines. Plus, your bags are less likely to go missing.
If you’re going on a cruise for a few weeks or even a few months, travelling from the UK will save you money because you can pack more of the items you need without worrying about weight restrictions – or even the number of cases. But do remember you’ll be staying in a cabin!
What to pack for your first-time cruise
Here’s our advice on what to pack for your first-time cruise.
Check the weather at your ports
The first port of call (no pun intended) is to check the weather at your destinations. That way, you’ll know what temperature to pack for. Be sure to pack items that you can layer. It won’t always be sunny so be sure to pack a raincoat too. Consider what items you’ll need for each location and also what you’ll need on deck. Plus, you want to consider how long you’re going for and which items you’ll need for each day.
Many seasoned cruisers say that some of the most essential items are bags! It may seem strange but you’ll need bags such as a backpack or beach bag to carry items around when you disembark and visit various cities worldwide. You’ll need a bag for dirty laundry, a bag for wet swimsuits or visiting beach destinations, bags for snacks, extra carrier bags for miscellaneous items and so on.
If you’re stopping off in a city, you may want some backpacks to carry the items you need for the day. If you’re disembarking for a beach day, you might want a roomy beach bag. Do you need a waterproof phone case to keep your cards, phone, and extra cash safe? Consider packing one! Do you need some bag for life shopping bags to pack souvenirs? Do you need a waterproof bag to carry items you want to keep dry (not just one to keep wet things in) such as your camera and other electronics (especially if your cruise includes kayaking)?
Additional food and drink (optional)
Check what’s happening on your specific cruise but not all cruises are all-inclusive and not all cruises have everything you like on board. For example, if you’re a die-hard Diet Dr Pepper fan, and you love to drink one every day, they may not have that on the ship, so you’ll want to bring your own.
Most cruise lines carry a limited variety of soft drinks so if you have your favourite flavour or brand, you might want to pack your own and if it’s not all-inclusive, you’ll save some money too since the cost of extras is significantly higher on a ship than on your land-based shop!
Some ships allow passengers to bring soda and water onboard and others have limits so read up on the limits. Plus, you can bring a collapsible, insulated cooler which will be handy for beach days.
Some lines allow you to bring your own wine if you wish as well. Royal Caribbean, as an example, allows two 750 ml bottles of wine or Champagne per cabin and Disney, as another example, allows two 750 ml bottles of wine or six beers per cabin whilst Carnival only permits one bottle of wine per adult. If you want to bring bottled alcohol on board, check your ship’s limits and requirements.
Also, if you want to pack snacks, especially if you’re travelling with children, find out what’s permitted and what isn’t but you might want to pack non-perishable snacks such as cereals, crisps, chocolate, sweets, granola bars, etc.
First aid kit
Although cruise lines will have first aid kits, it’s a good idea to pack your own small first aid kit which includes plasters, seasickness tablets, pain killers, alcohol swabs, antibiotic ointment, cough drops, heartburn medication, upset stomach meds, hand sanitising wipes, and so forth. Items that you’re used to back home might not be readily available in a foreign port so it’s a good idea just to pack a small kit of essentials.
A power strip for extra plugs
Many cruise ships built pre-2014 are notorious for not having enough plug sockets! With all of the gadgets modern people carry about (Smartphones, Apple Watches/FitBits/Smartwatches, cameras, electric toothbrushes, Age-defying laser, Tria 4X laser, laptops, tablets, etc), then that means you need a place to plug them all in, so it’s a good idea to bring your own power strip (check out if you’ll need a plug adapter on board) but you’re not allowed to use any power-surge protected strips, so keep that in mind. A portable external battery or charger might be handy for charging USB items.
New cruise ships have enough electrical outlets and USB ports but older ships don’t so be sure to look up what you’ll require.
Power adapter and converter
Most cruise ships have outlets for both 110V and 220V outlets so you often do not need a power adapter or converter but the power strip will help! But if you’re going to stay at hotels off the ship, you may need both adapters and converts.
Fun door magnets (optional)
Many cruise lines such as family-friendly cruises like Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival allow travellers to adorn their cabin doors with decorations and magnets. This fun travel hack gives your stateroom some flair and, if travelling with children, it can help them spot your room easily! Places like Etsy or Amazon allow you to purchase personalised magnets with your names, too! But other sellers just sell generic packs of cruise line door magnets in different themes if you don’t want anything personalised.
Key card lanyard
Many ships require cabin keycards which act as your ship ID and your onboard cruise account. You often need to swipe these when you leave the ship for the day, when you return, and when making any onboard purchases (unless you’re all-inclusive). These keycards sometimes unlock your room, so packing a keycard lanyard is an easy way to keep track of your key. Some cruise lines provide them for guests (so check) and others don’t.
Download your cruise line’s app
This isn’t an item to “pack” but you’ll want to download your cruise line’s app or the specific ship’s app (if they have one) to your smartphone before you set sail. You can view the ship’s deck plan, the daily schedule, add your dinner reservations, look at excursion options, and more. Knowing what you’re doing and when can help with the packing list and making sure you’re bringing the right items.
Water shoes or aqua socks
Many cruises visit warm-weather destinations like beaches or lakes, so water shoes (or aqua socks) are essential, especially if you don’t know if the beaches will be white sand, pebbly, or rocky – and they come in handy for swimming in the shallows. They’ll also come in handy on board when swimming, especially if the pool deck is slick.
Daytime clothing, activewear, pool and beachwear, evening wear, and bedtime wear
Depending on what activities you’re doing during your travels plus onboard time, you might need several changes of clothes each day you’re away. Laundering clothes on board can get expensive (but look it up just in case) so you might want to pack more options so you don’t have to pay to launder as many items.
For example, a typical day on board the cruise might include an outfit for breakfast and lunch, swimwear and a cover-up for hanging around the pool, and an upscale outfit for your evening meal and cocktails. When out exploring, you might need hiking gear, beachwear, an outfit for moseying around a city, and for an evening meal on the ship – and maybe even a comfier post-meal outfit plus a jumper for when the temperature on board drops.
Many cruises have themed nights or upscale restaurants and it’ll be time to pull out that ball gown or evening dress – or tuxedo – that you got on sale that one time and thought you’d wear someday! Now’s your time to shine and look a million bucks; after all, it’s your holiday. Consult your cruise line dress code for the expected style for evening wear.
So, when packing you might need a jumper and scarves and clothes that are good for layering for when the temperatures drop, activewear if you’re hiking, including breathable trousers, long-sleeved water-resistant shirts, rashguard shirts for surfing or being on the beach, swimwear, a raincoat or poncho, shorts and t-shirts or dresses or whatever day wear you’ll need, evening clothes, trainers and/or walking shoes, sandals, eveningwear shoes. Think layers, think mix and match outfits, and think about re-wearing as many items as you can (as long as they’re not too sweaty and/or gently worn); your fellow cruisers (as there will be so many) will not remember if you wear the same outfit three days later.
Plus, no matter which cruise ship you book, you’ll often be invited to a theme night or two. Disney cruises have Pirate Night, Norwegian cruises have a White Hot Night, and Carnival has an 80s Rock ‘n’ Glow Deck Party. Look up what theme nights your cruise has and pack accordingly!
Again, consider the type of cruise and the weather forecast. For example, an Alaskan cruise will require lots of layers, warmer clothes, waterproof outerwear, winter hats, gloves, and so forth whilst a Caribbean cruise will require summer clothes with light layers and a jumper if the temperatures drop in the evenings – and maybe a raincoat.
For pool deck swimming days, you’ll want a couple of swimsuits or swimming trunks at least so they can dry between uses – as well as cover-ups if you’re grabbing a bite to eat between swims. Don’t forget your suncream!
Ships are also equipped with gyms, outdoor tracks, and fitness classes, so you can pack your activewear to work out so you don’t have to skip your fitness regime on holiday! Plus, that activewear can be used for kayaking, biking, and other active pursuits when in city ports.
Plus, don’t forget your favourite pyjamas or sleepwear. For footwear consider what activities you’re doing. If you go on long walking excursions in each port, you’ll need a comfortable pair of trainers or flats. You might need sandals or flip-flops for around the pool, and a pair of high heels or formal brogues for the evening.
When packing, be sure to lay out your outfits and plan what you’ll wear each day. For example, can a pair of shorts or jeans be worn three times? What tops, jumpers, and outerwear go with each outfit? Will you wear your eveningwear more than once? What about sundresses or skirts and tops? For cruise trips, err on the side of over caution when it comes to packing. Since there aren’t any luggage restrictions, it’s a good idea to have an item you may need rather than come up short.
Here’s a quick packing list for men and women. Consider items that children and teens need separately as children often require extra items and changes of clothing – thankfully, their clothing doesn’t take up as much room.
- Shorts/light trousers (such as linen)/capri pants
- Jeans/khakis (if not too warm)
- T-shirts/polos/blouses/tank tops
Formal or eveningwear
- Dress shirts/button-up shirts
- Cocktail dresses/gowns
- Dressy pantsuits
- Hats/sun hats
Beachwear and activewear
- Swimsuits/trunks/spare swimsuits
- Workout clothing/activewear
- Comfortable shoes for walking
- Dressy shoes to go with eveningwear
- Speciality footwear (hiking boots/wellies/water shoes)
- Glasses/sunglasses/contacts/glasses cases
- Waterproof bags/wet bags/dry bags/shopping bags
- Beach bag
- Phone cases (waterproof)/lanyards
- Plastic bags/ziplock bags
- Collapsible cooler/collapsible tote
- Luggage locks
- Laundry bag
- Laundry kit (detergent/wrinkle release spray/stain remover)
- Facial cleanser/toner/skincare products/moisturiser
- Lip balm
- Razor (or not if you’ve been using Tria’s 4X hair removal device)/shaving cream
- Contact lenses/case/solution/eye drops
- Nail file/clippers/tweezers
- Cotton balls/cotton pads/Q-tips (or the environmentally-friendly versions)
Hair and make-up products
- Hairbrush or comb (check out our hair trends blog)
- Hairstyling tools (if allowed)
- Hairstyling products
- Hair accessories
- Makeup (check out our makeup trends blog and the hottest new products)
- Nail products such as nail polish/remover (check out our nail trends blog for manicure and pedicure ideas pre-cruise)
- Makeup remover (if not using cleanser)
Health and safety products
- Suncream/aloe vera/after sun
- Insect repellent
- Feminine hygiene products (or reusable products like a moon/lily cup and reusable period knickers like Thinx/Modibodi plus a waterproof bag for post-rinse)
- Birth control (if using)
- First aid kit
- Seasickness remedies
- Hand wipes/hand sanitiser
Purse/wallet/money belt items, documentation, and contact information
- Purse/wallet/money belt with cash (in whichever currencies you need)/ATM card/credit cards
- Driver’s license/international driver’s license
- Medical insurance card
- Travel insurance information
- Travel documents (cruise boarding passes/airline tickets/hotel information/itinerary, etc)
- Printed or personal luggage tags
- Maps and directions (or calling your phone company to make sure your phone will work abroad)
- Travel guides/phrase books (or appropriate phone apps)
- Prescriptions/list of medications/medical history
- Copies of passport/important documents/credit cards, etc
- Important phone numbers (credit cards/emergency contacts/cruise line customer service, etc)
- Addresses/email addresses for friends/relatives
- Small notebook/journal with pens
- Mobile phone/smartphone and charger
- Laptop/tablet charger (if bringing)
- Camera/lenses/memory cards/batteries/camera charger
- Voltage adapters (if staying at hotels pre- and post-cruise)
- Alarm clock/music and music player (if you need a separate one from your phone)
- Power strip
- Headphones/wireless earphones/charger
- Waterproof phone case
- House keys/car keys (kept somewhere safely)
- Snacks/chewing gum
- Alcohol/soda/water and cooler (if you’re taking extras on board and if these items are permitted and in permitted quantities)
- Reusable water bottle
- Earplugs/sleeping mask/travel pillow
- Reading material (magazines/books/eBooks/charger for eReaders)
- Antibacterial wipes
- Snorkel equipment/goggles/nose plug
- Children/baby gear (if travelling with children) such as nappies/toys/games, etc
Don’t pack these items
There are a few items that you should always leave off your cruise packing list. They include the following.
On cruises, there’s a “naughty room” – those who haven’t been on a cruise before might not know! This room is where the crew keeps and quarantines any luggage that includes banned items. Those items could be alcohol, electric kettles, weapons, etc. As we said in our tip earlier, you need to check if you can bring alcohol and how much. Generally, many mainstream cruise lines allow you to bring water, soda, and a bottle or two of wine on board, but you aren’t always allowed beer, cider, or spirits.
Candles and heat-generating electrical appliances
Safety is forefront on a ship, so items with flames like candles (unfortunately, not even your Tria Beauty “Me Time” candle) or heat-generating electrical appliances like irons, steamers, tea kettles, and the like are banned for onboard use. Check with your cruise line because sometimes even curling irons and flat irons are banned.
Drones and kites
You might absolutely love your drone shots for your family TikTok, but you’re not allowed to bring drones on board or kites – any items that are to be deployed in the air around the ship are prohibited.
Guns and knives
This should be an obvious one, but you’re not allowed to bring knives or guns onboard. Some cruise liners do allow knives up to a certain blade length but check before you pack.
Always do your research before you leave the port. Find out what you can take on board, where you’re going, how long you’ll be away, the various dress codes in the restaurants (especially for the evening), and the weather when you’ll be away. Pack accordingly. Of course, with this long list of packing essentials, it may seem daunting to pack for a cruise, but once you learn, you’ll be as old-hand as packing for flights. Safe travels!
Let us know on Tria Beauty UK’s social media if you’ve ever been on a cruise, where your favourite destinations are, and what your packing must-haves are. If you’ve not been on a cruise yet, tell us where you plan to go!