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.

Coolife 3-Piece Lightweight Hardside Spinner Luggage Set with TSA Lock

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 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.

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.

ESVAN Original Water Resistant Large Tote Bag for Gym Beach Travel, Upgraded, White, Pineapple

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.

BAGSMART Travel Toiletry Bag for Women, Hanging Toiletry Bag with Hook, Travel Cosmetic Makeup Bag Travel Organizer for Accessories, Shampoo, Full Sized Container, Toiletries,Grey-Medium

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. 

MATEIN Garment Bag for Travel, Large Carry on Garment Bags with Strap for Business, Waterproof Hanging Suit Luggage Bag for Men Women, Wrinkle Free Suitcase Cover for Shirts Dresses Coats, Black

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.

Cochoa Small Women Real Leather Crossbody Triple Zip Vintage Sling Handbag Purse Travel Crossover Shoulder Bag Handmade (Olive Green Washed Vintage)

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.

Pacsafe Citysafe Cx Anti Theft Convertible Crossbody, Black

Pacsafe Metrosafe LS100 3 Liter Anti Theft Shoulder Bag - Fits 7 inch Tablet, 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.

CHIC DIARY Straw Crossbody Bag Women Weave Rattan Shoulder Bag Beach Shoulder Purse with Tassel (#03-Brown)

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. 

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.

Well Traveled 8-Piece Deluxe Compression Packing Cubes for Travel - Maximize Space in Luggage with HybridMax Double Capacity Design, Luxury Suitcase Organizer Bags, Large, Small, & Medium Set, White

8.  Electronic accessories organizer

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

BAGSMART Electronics Organizer Travel Case, Small Cable Organizer Bag for Travel Essentials, Travel Tech Organizer as Travel Accessories, Cord Organizer for Phone, Power Bank, SD Card, Black

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.

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

Shoe Bag,Mossio Large Waterproof Shoe Organizer with Zipper for Men & Women Beige

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.

KElofoN Travel jewelry case Travel jewelry box Travel Jewelry Organizer Jewelry holder organizer Small Jewelry Organizer Box Gift for Girls Women with Mirror Christmas gift(Pink)

11. Fanny pack

MAXTOP Large Crossbody Fanny Pack Belt Bag for Women Men with 4-Zipper Pockets Gifts for Enjoy Sports Yoga Festival Workout Traveling Running Hands-Free Wallets Waist Pack Phone Bag Fits All Phones

12. Passport holder

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

13.  Aluminum card holder

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.

Royal Caribbean Luggage Tag Holders by Cruise On [4 Pack] Fits All Royal Caribbean Ships & Tags for Cruises in 2023, 2024 & 2025

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.