What to Pack in Cruise Carry On Bag

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Wondering what to pack in your cruise carry on? We’ve put together a guide on what to carry on a cruise in your bag on embarkation day. We’ve outlined the essential things to carry on a cruise when you arrive at port and embark on your journey. We’ve also got some tips on choosing the right cruise carry on bag for your needs.

When you’re cruising, your luggage gets checked in at the port and you board the ship with your carry on only. Your luggage will be delivered to your stateroom once boarding is complete so you won’t see your suitcase until much later in the afternoon. For this reason you should pack you carry on for embarkation day wisely to ensure you have everything you need for your first few hours on board the ship.

During your first few hours on board you’ll want to hit the buffet for lunch, explore the ship and relax on deck, at the bar or in the pool. You’ll have your cruise carry on bag with you this whole time but won’t have access to your checked baggage so bear this in mind when packing your cruise carry on bag.

Our list of what to pack in cruise carry on bags will help you get organized and start your trip out smoothly. You’ll find a printable version of our cruise carry on list at the bottom of this post.

This list covers what to pack in your carry on bag for embarkation day if you’re checking a bag. If you’re wondering how to pack for a cruise in a carry on without checking a bag head over and read our guide.

What to Pack in Your Cruise Carry on Bag for Embarkation Day

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What to Pack in Cruise Carry On Bag for Embarkation Day

  • Cruise documents – Printed copies of all your cruise documents are essential. It’s a good idea to put them in a plastic folder like this or folded in a travel document organizer like this.
  • Passport
  • Pen – For filling out documents on the day
  • Wallet – Make sure you get some cash out before your cruise for tipping and whilst in ports
  • Valuables – All your valuables (iPad, jewelry, extra cash) should be in your carry on bag as sometimes luggage does go missing between the port and the ship
  • Camera
  • Medications – Pack your medications in your carry on bag for safety reasons
  • Lanyard – For your ship card once you board
  • Book / eReader – For reading in the queues, while you travel or once you get on board. AKindle Paperwhite is best for bright sunlight.
  • Phone charger
  • Powerbank – Useful if you’ve had a long travel day to charge your phone/camera so you don’t miss getting pictures on the first day!
  • Waterproof Phone Case – This is one of our top ten best items for cruising!
  • Sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Swimsuit & Coverup – A bathing suit coverup like this is great for cruising.
  • Sunscreen – This one is the best!
  • Soda Cans – Most cruise lines allow you to bring on soda in cans. This must go in your carry on luggage though so you’re stuck with it until you can access your stateroom. For this reason, we suggest using a wheeled suitcase for your cruise carry.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baby wipes
  • Clorox Wipes – To wipe down your stateroom upon entry
  • Water bottle – Bring a refillable water bottle so you can stay hydrated in embarkation queues and once you’re on board.
  • Sweets or snacks – Something to sustain you while you’re in the queues for embarkation or to bribe kids to behave!
  • Change of clothes – In case your luggage is lost or your spill something on your outfit. If you’re traveling with kids you’ll definitely want a change of clothes for them also.


Which Cruise Carry On Bag to Choose

Here are a few tips on which carry on luggage for cruise will work best for you:

  • Backpack – A lightweight backpack works great for embarkation day. It keeps your hands free to wheel your checked luggage through the airport & port. Backpacks are also useful for more active excursion days once you’re cruising. We like lightweight backpacks like this that actually fold up up when not in use to save room in your cabin or when you’re traveling home and no longer need it.
  • Tote Bag – Tote bags are ideal easy cruise carry on bags for embarkation day. It’s easy to whip your documents in and out when checking in. They’re also ideal for swim gear and can be used on excursion days as well. You can get cute cruise-themed totes like this or go for a more sturdy tote bag like this.
  • Suitcase – If you’re carrying soda cans or have limited ability to carry a bag on your shoulder or back for a long period then go for a small wheeled suitcase like this.


Cruise Carry On Checklist Printable

Cruise Carry On Checklist Printable

You can download and print our cruise carry on checklist here.

If you would like to use the spreadsheet version you can view it here. (Just save a copy for your own use.)

Questions on What to Carry on a Cruise for Embarkation Day

We hope this has helped you work out what to pack in a carry on bag for a cruise. When we took our Carnival cruise carry on items like this were essential to having a smooth embarkation process and a good first day on board. If you have any questions about what to carry on a cruise then do let us know in the comments below or by joining our Facebook group.



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