The best luggage for a cruise vacation, what you need and what is nice to have.

The Best Luggage for a Cruise Vacation

If you are a first-time cruiser, you may be wondering what is the best luggage for a cruise and what packing accessories do you need?

When preparing for a cruise vacation there are two types of luggage that are essential and the there are several other useful pieces that will help keep you more organized.

The best luggage to take on a cruise vacation and cruise packing accessories.

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Essential luggage for a cruise

The absolute must haves are:

1. Large suitcase

You will definitely need a larger suitcase, especially if you are cruising for a week or more. 

With longer cruises there is a good chance you will need a second suitcase for extra space.

If you are doing a short 3- or 4-day cruise you may be able to get away with carry-on luggage.  In that case, you could use a smaller suitcase or maybe even duffel bags.

If you need to purchase a new set of luggage, be sure to get a roller bag with spinner wheels.  I prefer a hard-shell suitcase over the soft-shell suitcases.  But that is just my personal preference.

Helpful tip – On the first day of your cruise, when you get access to your stateroom, one of the first things you will want to do is unpack.  Store your empty suitcase under the bed.  This is a great space saving cruise hack.

 2. Carry-On bag

The second essential piece of cruise luggage is a carry-on bag.

When you first board the cruise ship you won’t have access to your checked luggage for several hours.  Crew members will deliver your bags to outside your cabin door later that day.

Your carry-on bag will have important things like your travel documents, medications, bathing suit, flip flops, and other carry-on essentials you can read about here.

Your carry-on bag will be a smaller bag like a

  • Small backpack
  • Beach bag
  • Tote bag

You can then use this same small bag to take with you on shore excursions and to the pool deck.

What to pack in your shore excursion bag?

When we travel, I use this beach bag as my cruise carry-on and my husband uses a backpack.  This way we can use either bag on port days.

If it’s a beach excursion we take the beach bag.  If we are doing more exploring, then we will take the backpack. 

This beach bag is a great option as it has 2 outside mesh pockets for easy access to a water bottle and an umbrella.  It also has a zippered closure and 3 interior pockets with zippers.  Plus, it’s cute.

While these might be the only 2 pieces you NEED, there are several other bags, packing accessories and luggage you may WANT to bring on your next cruise.

If you budget is tight, take the above 2 pieces and enjoy yourself.  But if you’d like to be more organized then you will find these cruise items helpful.

Best luggage for a cruise

3. Hanging toiletry bag

Hanging toiletry bags are very popular with experienced cruisers.

Bathrooms in cruise cabins are on the small sidewith little room on the sink counter tops.  Toiletries spread all over just takes up too much space. 

A hanging toiletry bag helps keep your basic toiletries organized and hung up, out of the way, on the back of the bathroom door.

This one is a good option and comes in several different colors.

4. Garment Bag

A garment bag is a great way to pack your clothes for the formal nights.  The dress code varies between the cruise lines. 

A garment bag can also help keep your formal wear less wrinkled.

How to stay wrinkle free on a cruise has more great tips.

5. Travel purse

When travelling, I always use a different purse than my day to day one. 

I prefer to use a travel purse that:

  • Is cross body
  • Has several different zippered pockets
  • Is not too big

Mine is similar to this one.

I can keep the passports for the entire family in one pocket. (And no, I don’t trust my husband to carry his own 😊) This way I am not in and out of that pocket which means less chance of one falling out.

I put our boarding passes in a separate pocket and cash in another.

In the main pocket I put my cell phone, aluminum card holder, and lip balm.

In my opinion, this is definitely one of the best purses for a cruise.

If you are cruising internationally you may want to consider a PacSafe bag.  These are the ones my teenage daughter and I bought for a Mediterranean cruise.  We sadly haven’t had a chance to use them yet as our cruise was cancelled twice because of Covid.

Mine is the Vibe 200 but in all black.

6. Cruise purse

While my above purse is great for travelling to and from the cruise port.  I also pack what I call my “cruise purse”.  It is super small but the perfect size to carry on the ship. 

I bought mine in Puerto Vallarta, I believe it was, but this one is very similar.

I like that I can wear it cross body (so hands free) and I use it to carry my cruise card, phone, and lip balm

Best packing accessories for a cruise

In addition to the best cruise luggage, there are some great packing accessories that will make your life easier.

7. Packing cubes

Packing cubes can help keep things organized in your suitcase and help stop clothes from sliding around getting wrinkled. 

Use packing cubes to keep the things you need at the pre-cruise and on departure day.  This saves you from rummaging through and making a mess of your neatly packed clothes before your cruise even starts.

One of the best packing tips is to pack some of each family members clothes in each other’s suitcase.  This way if one bag ends up lost, you have at least a change of clothes or two.

Packing cubes makes this easy.  The best way to stay organized is to purchase different colors for each family member.

They come in different sizes.  There are even compression packing cubes to get the most out of your suitcase space.

8.  Electronic accessories organizer

An organizer for electronic devices is a good idea.

Keep all your cords, cables, headphones, and camera accessories organized and in one spot.

9. Shoe bag

There really is no way to avoid packing shoes.  On a cruise, one pair of shoes isn’t going to cut it.

You may find Best Shoes for a Cruise a helpful article.

A shoe bag will keep your shoes away from your clothes if you aren’t using packing cubes. 

An alternative to a shoe bag is a good old plastic bag. 

10.  Jewelry organizer

If you like to wear a lot of jewelry on vacation, then a jewelry organizer is something you may want to consider adding to your packing list. 

It will help keep your earrings, necklaces, and other small items from becoming a tangled mess.

11. Fanny pack

A fanny pack is another personal item option if you are flying to the cruise port and also to use on the ship to carry your cruise card.

6 Ways to carry your cruise card lists other ways.

12. Passport holder

A passport holder with RFID blocking technology will help keep your important documents safe.

13.  Aluminum card holder

An aluminum card holder is something I use everyday and not just when travelling. It is another travel essential to help keep your personal information safe.

14. Cruise line luggage tag holders

You will be required to have cruise line specific luggage tags on all your checked luggage when you arrive at the cruise terminal.

Luggage tag holders are the best way to attach these to your cruise bags.

Cruise luggage tags – What you need to know has links to the luggage tag holders for the major cruise companies.  Each cruise line has different sized tags.

15. Regular luggage tags

You will also want to have regular luggage tags on all your pieces of luggage, especially if you are flying to your cruise departure port. 

The cruise line luggage tags don’t have your contact information, such as phone numbers, should your bag be misplaced.

A final note, when deciding on what luggage to bring on a cruise, if you are flying in, check with the airline regarding the amount of luggage you can bring.  Often the airlines have greater restrictions on the amount and weight of luggage.

In the end, choose the right luggage pieces for you and enjoy your cruise vacation.