What to pack for a Caribbean cruise

What to pack for a Caribbean cruise

CRUISE TIPS: The islands of the Caribbean are a colourful collection of vibrant cultures and breathtaking scenery. Each island has its unique history and features and so cruising makes for an easy breezy way to see several in a short period of time. There are many beautiful ports to visit and a huge variety of shore excursions to take, so here’s what to pack for a Caribbean cruise.

what to pack for a caribbean cruise ships in port


While on a Caribbean cruise you can expect to be spending lots of time relaxing by the beach, shopping for souvenirs and participating in fun activities such as swimming, snorkelling, jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, boating, ATVing, ziplining, hiking, biking and more.

The Caribbean has a desirable year-round climate with warm temperatures, minimal rain and lots of sunshine and so a hat and sunglasses are essentials to pack for a Caribbean cruise, as well as light clothing for hot sunny days.

what to pack for a cruise to the caribbean boardwalk to the beach

Beachwear that does double-duty

Pack swimsuits and coverups for your Caribbean cruise. Whether you wear a swimsuit under your clothes or pack one in a backpack, it’s highly likely that you’ll be near a beach or harbour and want to take advantage of the warm beautiful sea.

If the items can do double duty, that will save on suitcase space. Shorts that can also be a swimsuit are ideal. Pants that can convert to shorts – by unzipping the leg parts – are convenient. Loose-fitting sundresses that can do double-duty as swimsuit coverups also saves packing space.

Casual clothing and fabric choices

What to pack for a Caribbean cruise should include a variety of casual clothing options from shorts and T-shirts to capris and sundresses. Choose clothes that are lightweight and keep you cool. Cotton or cotton blends, and not polyester, are best and won’t take up too much space in your suitcase. However, pack extras because you might be wearing two T-shirts a day if it’s very hot – one for on shore and a fresh one when back on board.

Also consider clothing that will cover your bare arms, shoulders and chest if you’re susceptible to sunburn. Likewise, if your shore excursion involves a jungle hike, ziplining or something like ATVing, you might need to wear long pants for protection.


sandals for what to pack for a caribbean cruise

When it comes to footwear, sandals, sneakers and loafers will likely be your go-to items most days and if sandals are ‘sport sandals’ that can do double-duty because they have a good tread, you’ll appreciate their versatility. Also consider bringing water shoes that can be worn when swimming to protect your feet from shells, rocks and coral. They pack quite flat and will be well worth the protection they provide – as well as double as sandals if needed.

Backpack or beach bag

A comfortable and spacious backpack is important when going ashore while during a Caribbean cruise. Keep it lightweight due to the heat, but large enough to hold beach essentials such as a towel, sunscreen, water bottle, flip-flops and possibly snorkel gear. Also ensure the closures are secure so things don’t fall out easily.

Keep in mind to leave space in the backpack for any souvenirs you may buy and include a couple of hooks so you can hang some items on the outside – such as a towel, snorkel gear or sneakers – to save space on the inside. Also pack a spare plastic bag to put wet items in so you don’t damage your valuables such as camera equipment or documents such as a passport.


When it comes to what to pack for a Caribbean cruise for when you’re on the ship, most cruise lines prefer general dress code of Business Casual, with a little more formality for dining, and a little less formality being permitted for outdoor deck activities, relaxing by the pool or at outdoor dining venues and bars. Visit your cruise line website and search “Dress code” to get an idea of your cruise line’s expectations at their specific venues.

holland America Nieuw Statendam dining room view from stairs

For example, some cruise lines may require men to wear a jacket and/or a tie in some dining rooms or specialty restaurants on certain nights such as Formal Night. Other lines may be fine with collared shirts and dress pants – but not jeans. Jeans may be permitted for very casual dining venues, bars and on deck activities only. Jeans should always be clean and not tattered or stained.

For women, dresses, skirts and pants, paired with blouses are best for dining, lounges and entertainment hubs – and pack a shawl or light sweater due to the extreme air conditioning at these venues.

Footwear for both men and women include dress shoes or loafers for men and for women dressy sandals, high heels and loafers. Sneakers are generally not permitted in formal dining rooms, but might be allowed at casual restaurants and bars. Sneakers, like jeans, should be clean and in good repair.

Also consider an overall colour theme such as black and white clothes to offer greater ability to mix and match. Black items do well for evening wear and white clothes for casual day wear. When used together they always match.

It’s best to bring at least one complete dressy outfit so that you can get into any of the venues – better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. And if you’ve forgotten anything, the ship likely has a shop that can outfit you in something that’s acceptable – such as black dress pants and a white shirt for either men or women – until you can go ashore and shop for what you prefer.


Carry-on luggage

carry on luggage what to pack for a cruise

For your carry-on luggage keep your important documents in a safe place that can be easily reached for officials who need to check them frequently. Also pack a spare outfit that could be worn for site-seeing, as well as restaurant dining on the ship in case your luggage gets lost or delayed and takes a day or two to catch up.

Medication and essential toiletries also need to be in your carry-on luggage and if for some reason your carry-on must be gate-checked for your flight, keep medication in one small bag that’s easy to pull out and carry by hand on board.

Reduce clothing wrinkles

While many people like to roll their clothes to reduce wrinkling, it doesn’t always conserve space due to the gaps in between. Instead, try laying each item open and flat such as an unfolded shirt with the sleeves hanging over the sides of your suitcase and the collar at the top.

Layer all your shirts or blouses open and on top of each other in the same way and tuck in all the sleeves altogether along the sides of the case. Also use the circumference of your suitcase for shoes with heels in the corners.

For pants and skirts, alternate where waist bands go. Arrange so that half the waistbands are at one end of your suitcase and the other half are at the other end, or stagger the location of belt areas like a waterfall to balance out the bulk.

Packing cubes

Another packing style many travellers like is using packing cubes to keep similar items together for great organization in your cabin. But cubes might mean fewer items will fit in your suitcase simply due to the construction of the cubes taking up space.


For more information on what to pack for a Caribbean cruise, here are detailed FREE Cruise Packing Checklists – one for men and one for women – that you can download and print. They include items appropriate during the pandemic to keep you safer.

Cruise packing checklist poster V2