What to Pack for a Cruise

luggage prepared for a cruising holiday

Making sure you’ve packed smart is an important part of having the perfect trip. However, from cruise wear to travel accessories, knowing exactly what to pack for a cruise can be tricky.

We’ve learned a lot from our cruise partners, so we’ve put together a cruise packing list to help you get ready for your trip. We’ve also got a few tips on what to wear on a cruise ship.

Cruise Essentials

With different types of ships and itineraries available, the things to pack for a cruise vary from trip to trip. Below is a quick list of cruise essentials we would recommend you take on any voyage.


  • Cleverly packed carry-on bags (holding everything needed for your first day)
  • Toiletry and clothes organisers
  • Zip-lock bags to minimise leaks


  • Passport and Visa
  • Sun protection (e.g. sun screen, sunglasses, and a hat)
  • Sea-sickness medication (just in case)
  • Prescription medication (in original packaging)
  • A doctor’s letter stating the medication you’re on
  • Ear plugs


  • Camera with extra camera batteries and memory cards
  • Chargeable phone batteries
  • A closed coffee mug for hot drinks
  • Binoculars to see wildlife and sights closer

Travel Insurance

It’s important to have the right support during an unexpected incident on holiday. That’s why travel insurance is another cruise essential for your trip.

RACV Travel Insurance offers a wide range of products to cater to your trip and budget. Our customer service also runs 24/7, meaning we’ll be there for you at any time.

Preparation Tips

Being fully prepared for your cruise means more than packing well. Here are some extra preparation tips you should follow so that your cruise holiday doesn’t run into any nasty surprises.

  • Passport: Must be valid for 6 months after your scheduled return date
  • Visa: You are responsible for obtaining a Visa or approval to visit all ports, even if you don’t plan to step ashore.
  • Vaccination: Check with your doctor or specialist travel doctor if you require and special vaccinations or medications.
Woman in cruise wear enjoying sunset on deck

Cruise Packing Lists by Type

River cruises

If your river cruise is hopping between several ports, you’ll want to be prepared to disembark quickly and explore each new space. These are a couple of items you should make sure are ready to go:

  • Reliable backpack
  • Passport holder
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Local currency (or your credit card)

You’ll need to provide your passport and documentation at most ports. Keep them handy and secure in an easy-to-carry bag.

Tropical cruises

If you’ll be sunbaking on the decks of the ship or jumping onto stunning beaches, you’ll need to pack for a tropical climate. For any trip in the sun, this is the crucial cruise packing list:

  • Sun protection (e.g. sun screen, sunglasses, and a hat)
  • Breezy daywear
  • Poncho or rain coat
  • Insect repellent

Although you’ll be travelling in the heat, nights can get cooler on the decks and storms can bring strong winds. Taking a light jumper will prepare you for those unexpected chills.

Winter cruises

Whether you’re cruising during winter or just to a cold destination, keeping warm will ensure you enjoy every moment. To get the most out of your winter wonder trip, make sure you pack the following:

  • A warm and water-resistant coat
  • Many layers of clothing
  • Smartphone-sensitive gloves
  • Comfortable, enclosed footwear

Even in the cold seasons, it’s important to remain conscious of the sun. Ensure you take plenty of sun screen and have sunglasses handy for those glary, snow-white sights.

Cruise Wear

Working out what to wear on a cruise ship can be a challenge. But packing a dynamic range of outfits to suit different scenarios is possible. You’ll mostly need to pack cruise clothing for days on board, on-shore excursions, and formal nights.

Day-to-day clothes

Get comfortable and take advantage of casual wear when you’re on board. Daily clothing items should include:

  • Light pyjamas
  • Exercise clothes
  • Bathing suits
  • T-shirts and shorts

When it comes to deciding on footwear, choose shoes or sandals with a good grip (preferably with a rubber sole).

On-shore excursions/activities

Depending on your itinerary, you’ll be journeying to some incredible places across the globe. And with so many exciting day trips and excursions available, you won’t want to miss out because you don’t have the right clothing. These are a few excursion items you may end up needing:

  • Hiking boots (store in a plastic bag)
  • Active wear
  • Clothes comfortable to walk in

If you won’t be hiking and don’t need boots, still pack enclosed shoes. Some ports will need you to wear protective shoes as you pass through them.

Formal nights on cruises

Many cruise liners host elegant balls and world-class performances, and with each of these comes strict clothing guidelines. This is a basic frame to follow for formal cruise clothing:

  • Formal event or performance: Men should wear a tuxedo or dark suit and tie, while women should wear an evening dress.
  • Smart-casual bars or dining:  Men should wear a suit jacket and tie, while women should wear a cocktail dress.

Dress codes may include their own specificities for formal cruise wear. So it’s important to check the individual dress codes from your chosen cruise liner.

Australian Cruises

RACV Travel Insurance Tip: If you’re heading on a cruise that will stay in Australian waters or only call into ports in Australia, you’ll still require an insurance policy that includes medical cover. When you’re on board the ship, their medical providers won’t be registered with Medicare (check with the individual cruise provider).

For the right cover, you’ll need to select an Australian Cruise as your destination. That way we’ll be able to provide you with medical and evacuation cover for when you’re at sea, but not if you go to a medical provider while in port in Australia.

Please note: The Domestic policy does not include any medical cover. We’re a general insurer and are unable to cover medical costs in Australia. So when it comes to cruises, the Domestic policy isn’t suitable.

Packing for a cruise doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Just take some time to look at the finer details of your itinerary, then plan your outfits and items accordingly to create your own personal cruise packing checklist.

*Disclaimer: Benefits are subject to the terms and conditions (including the limits, sub-limits and exclusions) of the insurance policy. Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (ABN 44 004 060 833) is acting for Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd. (ABN 80 000 438 291 AFSL 246 548). Please read the Combined Financial Services Guide and Product Disclosure Statement carefully to understand what this policy covers. Words with special meanings.

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