The only things you need to pack in your cruise carry on for embarkation day.

Ultimate Cruise Carry On Packing List: Cruise day essentials

Are you planning a cruise vacation and wondering what to pack in your cruise carry-on bag?  In this article, we’ll provide you with a complete cruise carry on packing list, covering all the essentials you will need to start your vacation off right.

A well-prepared carry-on bag will make your embarkation day a breeze, as you’ll have everything you need for the first few hours of your cruise while you wait for your checked luggage to arrive outside your cruise cabin, which can be a couple of hours.

The only things you need in your cruise carry on bag.  A cruise carry on packing list
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Cruise carry on packing list

This cruise packing list covers all the essential items you will need to have in your carry-on for the first day.

1. Travel Documents

ALWAYS keep your important documents with you, NEVER in your checked luggage. These documents include:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s license or photo id
  • Credit cards
  • Cruise documents
  • Airline confirmations
  • Travel insurance
  • Vaccine documents (if still needed)
  • Travel visas – if needed

I prefer to keep these on my body until they can be locked in the safe in the cabin.  A cross body purse or a fanny pack is perfect for this. 

2. Medications

Prescription medications should always be in a carry-on bag whether you are boarding a cruise ship or an airline.  Keep your prescriptions in their original containers and pack more than you will need in-case your trip gets unexpectedly extended.

3. Cruise Lanyard

Cruise Lanyard for Ship Cards,Cruise Lanyards with ID Holder Key Card Badge & Waterproof Ship Card Holders (4 Pack)

3. Valuable items

This would include personal items like electronic devices, a camera, expensive jewelry and even your cell phone. 

By the way, be sure to switch your mobile phone into airplane mode before sail away to avoid unwanted charges.

4. Lip balm

I don’t go anywhere without lip balm.  Consider one with SPF for your cruise.

Sun Bum SPF 30 Sunscreen Lip Balm | Vegan and Cruelty Free Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Lip Care with Aloe and Vitamin E for Moisturized Lips | Variety Pack |0.15 Ounce (Pack of 3)

5. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is another important item that you should add to your cruise carry on packing list.  There is a good chance you will want to spend some of your first few hours on the ship’s pool deck soaking in the atmosphere and sun. 

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion | Vegan and Hawaii 104 Reef Act Compliant (Octinoxate & Oxybenzone Free) Broad Spectrum Moisturizing UVA/UVB Sunscreen with Vitamin E | 8 oz

6. Sunglasses

Oakley Women's OO4079 Feedback Aviator Sunglasses, Polished Chrome/Prizm Grey Gradient, 59 mm

7. Sun hat

It is a great idea to carry on your sun hat, for both sun protection and keeps it from getting scrunched in your suitcase

Lanzom Women Wide Brim Straw Panama Roll up Hat Fedora Beach Sun Hat UPF50+ (Khaki) One Size

8. Bathing suit

If you aren’t wearing your swimsuit under your clothes on embarkation day, pack it in your cruise carry on bag. 

Having a bathing suit in your carry on, or better yet, wearing one on embarkation day will allow you to enjoy sunbathing or the water activities such as the pool, hot tub or waterslides.

9. Swimsuit cover up

HARHAY Women's Summer Swimsuit Bikini 2023 Beach Swimwear Crochet Cover up

10. Flip flops

If you aren’t wearing flip flops or slip-on sandals to board the ship, then add these to your cruise carry on packing list.  You will be glad you did.  Hanging around the pool deck in running shoes isn’t ideal.

More cruise carry on packing list essentials

11. Under garments

If you are planning on wearing your swimsuit under your clothes to board the ship, throw a pair of undies in your carry on. You will want something dry to change into if you choose to eat anywhere other than poolside.

12. Change of clothes

Add a change of clothes to your cruise carry on packing list

It is a smart idea to have a change of clothes with you, especially if you are flying to your cruise departure port.  I use one of the smaller packing cubes to pack a change of clothes.  This packing cube then goes in my airline carry on and stays in for my cruise carry on.  This keeps things more organized.

In the unfortunate event that luggage is lost or delayed, at least you have an outfit change.  For myself, I like to choose a sundress that can be worn day or night.  One that adheres to the dining room dress code. 

13. Towel clips

O2COOL Bocaclips - Beach Towel Clips for Beach Chairs, Patio and Pool Accessories - (Cocktail) 2 Count

There are just so many cute designs, I couldn’t decide which I like best.

O2COOL Bocaclips - Beach Towel Clips for Beach Chairs, Patio and Pool Accessories - (Flip Flop) 2 Count

14. Bottles of wine

Be sure to check with your cruise line before departure whether they allow you to bring a bottle of wine and what are the restrictions. Policies can change.

Cruise carry on bag

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

If you are still wondering why, you need a cruise carry on in the first place.  When you first arrive at the departure cruise port, one of the porters will take your checked luggage.  This is why cruise luggage tags are so important.  It is customary to tip the porters.

You will proceed into the cruise terminal with just your carry-on bags.  This is why it is critical that your travel documents are NOT in your checked luggage. 

The cruise staff will later deliver your suitcases to outside of your cruise cabin door later that afternoon or early evening.  The cruise luggage tags have the information the crew members need to deliver them to the right cabins. 

Since most of the time you won’t have immediate access to your cabin right away you don’t want to pack too much in your cruise carry on bag, but do want enough to enjoy your first afternoon on the ship.   

If you are planning your first cruise, I hope this list of cruise essentials to add to your cruise carry on packing list has been helpful. 

What to pack in your cruise carry on bag.  You will need these essentials for the first few hours before your luggage arrives.

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