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A few months ago, the Momma To Go Family took an amazing 7-day Holland America Cruise aboard the ms Veendam. We travel a lot, and for us, this was a true vacation! But because we were hitting the high seas (without a Wal-Mart around the corner) I really, really spent a lot of time researching everything we needed to bring! And it is true, if you realize mid-cruise you need something, you are either going to be out of luck, or have to pay a premium in the cruise gift shop. We ended up having everything we needed (and not much more) so I am so excited to share with you my cruise packing list and the best cruise packing hacks!
Cruise Packing List and Cruise Packing Hacks
What to pack for a Caribbean Cruise
Our family has taken three Caribbean cruises – our Holland America cruise was a round trip Caribbean itinerary from Ft. Lauderdale. We sailed to Dominican Republic, Half Moon Cay (Private Island), San Juan and Grand Turk. We sailed the Norwegian Getaway out of New York City to Florida and the Bahamas. Most recently we took a Disney Cruise from New Orleans to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica!
2022 UPDATE – Curious about the healthy return to sea? Then check out my review of my trip on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam ship in November 2021, my review of Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas (Complete with an RCCL-specific packing list) and seven reasons to sail on the Disney Wish.
TAKING A DISNEY CRUISE? There are definitely specific things you will want exclusive to DCL – Check out my Disney Cruise Packing List.
On these itineraries, it was hot, and obviously clothes-wise Caribbean attire might be different from other itineraries. So I am going to start this post with warm-weather specific items, then dive into general cruise packing list.
Clothes – Besides any formal nights, you will be wearing very casual clothes. Cruise outfits are very laid back! Pretty much each day, be it at sea or an island excursion, we woke up, put on swim suits and a cover up. For a 7-day cruise, each child had three swimsuits and mom brought four.
Sandals – With that said, flip flops were the main shoe during the day. No need for anything fancy!
Sunscreen – This is probably the most important item, and the one you don’t want to have purchase in the boat’s overpriced gift shop. We brought 5 bottles of sunscreen AND a face stick. We did not use all of the bottles, but we were glad to have them!
Hat – A cute sun hat, or a baseball cap of choice is essential for blocking out the blazing Caribbean sun. For me, my hat also helped with windy hair blowing all over!
General Cruise Packing Tips
Again cruise wear for women is VERY casual. Honestly, I was walking around in a swimsuit all day, maybe utilizing a cover up to go inside, maybe not. But we grown-ups did dress up each night for dinner. Our 7-night Holland America cruise had two “formal nights.” I brought a nicer dress, and although I did bring heels, I ended up wearing my Tory Burch sandals most nights. Just easier to walk around the ship. We learned the hard way that men could not wear shorts in the dining room on formal night, so double check with your cruise ship’s specific dining room guidelines.
For the non-formal nights, I wore a cute sundress, or Capri pants and a top. Hubby wore jeans or linen pants and a polo shirt. He wore sandals or dress shoes to dinner.
Because I like to workout, I did bring workout clothes and sneakers. Each morning, I opted to walk the outdoor track on the sixth floor of the ms Veendam. Be sure to download your favorite music or podcasts if you are not purchasing the internet package (we did not).
WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BOOK A CRUISE USING A TRAVEL AGENT (And lucky for you, I am one!)
Choosing a cruise can be tough. There are so many different lines and itineraries, different ships and room categories. Some lines have better food, more drink options, and more entertainment than others. Of course, there is your budget to consider as well!
For those reasons, it’s always best to consult with a travel professional to help find the perfect ship for you next vacation. And the best part? My services are free!
Cruise Stateroom Essentials
This was the packing area I was most concerned about – how to make the most of our tiny, stateroom, especially for a family of four.
Check out our video tour of our stateroom on the ms Veendam.
I will say, now having sailed on a newer ship, Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady, those cabins are more well appointed with outlets, USB chargers, etc!
Cruise Packing List
European electric converter– There was only one US outlet in the stateroom. ONE. Let that sink in. By bringing my European adapter (which I already had from my Italy trip) we DOUBLED the number of outlets. Yes, from one to two, but every bit helps!
Double (or Triple) usb charger – Again, one outlet, so you want to maximize that for sure! If you have a multiple USB charger you could charge multiple devices at the same time. Even though we did not buy the Wi-Fi package, we still used our phones to take photos and listen to music. My kids had their iPad for the flight, pre-loaded with movies and games.
Nightlight – At night, the stateroom is pitch black. Baby girl always travels with a nightlight and this was a time when we all appreciated having it.
A battery-operated clock – strangely enough, they don’t put clocks in the room! I always need a clock when I sleep, so we brought a small one that we already had. I brought one that plugs in, which was annoying because I had to keep unplugging it during the day so we could use the outlets for other things, and then plug it in at night, setting the time again. Bring a battery operated one – one less thing to have to plug in!
Sound Machine – my kids sleep at home with a sound machine and we ALWAYS travel with this one. The cruise ship walls are VERY thin, so this was certainly an essential for us.
Two Bottles of Wine – Yes, you are allowed to bring on board one bottle of wine per adult. The wine was nice to have while getting ready for dinner and you definitely save some money by bringing your own.
General Cruise Packing Hacks
Lanyard with ID holder – While on board, you will lock away your wallet in the stateroom safe and pretty much just walk around with your key card. That card serves as your on-board payment card AND your room key. I purchased these cute pirate lanyards to wear my cruise key card!
Note if you are sailing on the all new, adults only, Virgin Voyages, you will get a bracelet that will act as your room key and cruise card!
PS I also use these same lanyards/card holder when we visit Universal Orlando to keep our tickets and ExpressPass!
Cruise Luggage Tags – Back in the early 2000’s I cruised several times with family & friends. Pre-cruise, you would be sent nice tags to attach to your bags. Now, what the cruise lines do is email you a PDF of your luggage tags for you to print at home. Which means you are essentially attaching a piece of paper to your bag to ensure it gets both to your stateroom during embarkation and back to you after debarkation. To make the tags sturdier, pick up a set of these cruise luggage tags! Plus, you can reuse them for other things when you return home!
Med Kit – At times, I may serendipitously have some Advil or a Band-Aid in my bag, but after having fallen ill in California and seeing little man fight the stomach bug while we were in Florida, I decided to put together a little medical kit for this trip. I took a small Le Sport Sac make-up pouch and picked up trial sizes of Dramamine, Advil, stomach relief, anti-diarrhea medicine and Band-Aids. Just in case!
Downy Wrinkle Release – There are several things your stateroom will be supplied with, including a hair dryer. One thing you will not find, for safety reasons, is an iron. So to deal with wrinkled formal wear, I picked up a trial size of Downy Wrinkle Release. You can grab one at Dollar Tree, or snag a bottle on amazon!
Highlighter – You probably booked a cruise in part because there is SO. MUCH. TO. DO. And all the to-dos will be communicated to you through the cruise newsletter that arrives in your room in the evening, listing all of the activities for the following day. I threw a highlighter in my bag so I could look through the newsletter once, highlighting any activity that we were planning to do, or might be interested in. That way during the day, it was easy to scan through what fun stuff we wanted to do! Yes, I know I am a bit of a nerd!
Hair Detangler – Now this is something I use all the time at home, but never think to pack for a trip. And man, I WISH I had some hair detangler on our cruise. For baby girl, the combo of being in and out of the water all day, along with the sea breeze on the boat, left her hair in such tangles. One afternoon I had to spent a lot of time working conditioner through her hair in the tub, trying to detangle the mess!
Waterproof Watch – As someone who relies on their phone for time keeping (and my phone remained locked in the safe for much of the trip) I brought along my waterproof Ironman watch. I also wear this watch all summer for working at camp since its completely waterproof and you don’t have to worry about swimming with it! Perfect also for days ashore, when you want to make sure you make it back to the ship on time!
Reusable Cups – At the buffet there is always water, coffee and tea available (even when the buffet is not serving food). You will for sure want to stay hydrated and caffeinated! So I brought along my Camelbak water bottle (as I always do pretty much wherever I go) and my Contigo coffee mug. If you are a hot beverage drinker, TRUST me you will want to bring your own cup. Not even just for the portability, but the coffee mugs offered are probably 4oz size. Even at breakfast I would take two cups at a time! You might also like a personalized Yeti Tumbler!
A reusable tote – On our trip, Holland America gave us a branded reusable tote (it was in our stateroom upon embarkation). But be sure to bring a smaller bag to tote your book, sunglasses and sunscreen up to the pool, and to have a bag for when you go ashore.
Door Decorations – Cruise Ship Door Decorations are super popular on a Disney Cruise, but cruisers on other lines decorate their door as well. This is a great way to help find you room!
A good book, or two – I found the lack of internet the perfect time to reconnect with some books. On this trip, I read both Ivana Trump’s new autobiography (hey random I know, but I grabbed it at the library right before I left!) and this Elin Hildebrand novel (which I COULD. NOT. PUT. DOWN). I would definitely stock up on a few books or magazines before setting sail!
We LOVED our Holland America cruise (UPDATE: I just came off my eighth cruise, on the Disney Wonder) and my kids ask almost daily when are we going on another cruise! I hope you found this cruise packing list helpful, and leave a comment if there is anything you think I left off the list! Bon voyage!