It’s a question I see repeated on so many cruising boards: What do I pack?  And as I am now 47 days away from Disney Cruise #21, I thought I would give you an idea of what should find its way into your luggage as you head out on the high seas.

(As my upcoming is a 7 night, I will be working from that number, so if your cruise is longer or shorter, adjust accordingly.)

Sunscreen – #1 priority.  My cruise will be in the Caribbean, but it does not matter where you are headed.  Protect your skin.  Yes, even if Alaska is your destination – I ski and still get sunburned in the winter when it is 20 degrees out.  Bring multiple bottles or tubes so you can reapply as needed.  The worst thing I have seen people do is go all out in the sun on the first day and ruin the remainder of their cruise by being in pain and unable to enjoy the outdoors.  And yes, it is available onboard in the gift shops, but you will pay a premium.

Passport – Yes, it is possible to use a birth certificate if you are on a closed loop cruise (meaning it starts and ends at the same US port), but should anything unexpected arise on your trip, a passport is the gold standard.  Medical emergency on an island and you are hospitalized as the ship sails away without you?  You will have a seriously hard time working with local authorities to allow you to travel from the island.  Better to be safe than sorry.

Water shoes – My cruise is heading to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Falmouth, and Castaway Cay – water shoes make any beach destination a joy.  Serenity Bay at Castaway is one of my favorite places in the world, but the first thirty feet out into the water is dicey.  Water shoes can be found everywhere – Walmart, Target, Amazon.  I got mine from Amazon for $12.

Running shoes – I know, I know, you’re on vacation.  And that’s fine, you do you.  But me?  I am up before the crowds each morning to hit Deck 4 and earn my indulgences.  Deck 4 on all DCL ships is the walking/jogging track.  Please observe the signs indicating the direction you should be going.  I also run the stairs top to bottom each day, and very rarely take the elevator unless I am in towering heels.  The fitness center on board is free and can also help balance out those mojitos and free ice cream cones.  Earbuds and an armband – I love listening to music while I work out, so the ear buds and an armband for my Iphone are mandatory.

Two Bathing suits – Yes, two.  On a cruise, I practically live in a suit and cover up during the day.  So while one is drying in the cabin, I have a dry one to put on each day.

Cover up – at least one bathing suit cover-up.  That way I am presentable when I go inside, grab lunch, etc.

Shorts, skorts, and t-shirts, oh my – The rest of my day time is usually spent in shorts and a cute top.  And there has never been a cruise when I don’t buy something new in the shops.  Cruise casual is the name of the game during the day.

Pirate Night Gear – Yes, I am 53.  Yes, I still enjoy getting dressed up for Pirate Night.  You will be very surprised at how many adults get into the spirit.  It is a fun evening with a show and fireworks at sea.

Light jacket or sweater – They crank the A/C in the dining rooms and the movie theater and I am always cold, so I always bring an extra layer.

Evening purse – small, elegant with just enough room for my phone, Key To The World card, and lip gloss.

Walking shoes – getting off the ship and exploring the ports of call is always a fun time.  Don’t ruin it by wearing anything that rubs, chafes, or fall off your feet easily.

A Full Length Gown – I stress that formal and semi formal nights are optional.  But for the Sharp family, we always dress nicely for dinner (no shorts, tennis shoes, or t-shirts)  On this 7 night there is a formal night and we will all be playing along.  Gowns for the ladies, tuxes or dress suits and ties for the gents.  It is fun to get so dressed up once in a while, plus the pictures are always wonderful.

4 or 5 other dresses – Again, we dress nicely for dinner – part of it is that it conveys a level of respect to our server team.  We also visit the adult only restaurants Remy and Palo where the dress codes must be followed.  That being said, you do you.  Cruise casual is fine in the main dining rooms, but no bathing suits, muscle tank tops, or ripped up jeans or shorts.

Dress shoes – Here I try to make them multipurpose to cut back on the number of pairs.  Black heeled boots and black pumps are a must for me.  This cruise I will also be taking gold pumps to match the formal gown.

Jewelry – Whatever I decide to bring to wear in the evenings.  And don’t fret about safety.  Every stateroom has a safe in the closet.

Kindle – Sea days were made for laying in the sun or finding some shade and reading.  I am sure to load up the latest books before leaving port.

Tide pods and dryer sheets – I will do laundry once during the cruise.  While they do sell detergent and fabric softener in the laundry rooms, it is easier and cheaper to bring my own in a Ziplok.

Sunglasses (two pair) – Murphy’s Law dictates that you will either lose or break your sunglasses on vacation.  I always travel with a back up pair.  They are available in the gift shop, but I love having my style at the ready.

Medication – Any medication we take regularly will go in our carry-on.  And we always pack some preventative travel sizes for headaches, tummy issues, etc.

Makeup, nail polish, etc – The usual suspects I wear day-to-day.  And a small bottle of nail polish remover for quick fixes of anything that gets chipped.  Cannot go to the Captain’s Reception with chipped nails, mind you.

Sound machine – I found the perfect one years ago.  About three inches across, but drowns out any noise and we all sleep like babies.  Rohm Portable Sound Machine $19.99

A small duffle – we inevitably come away with gifts from DCL and souvenirs.  This makes the packing panic vaporize when you can just pull out another bag to put it all in for travel back home.

Cash – while everything onboard can be charged to your stateroom, we always carry some cash for tipping the DCL bus driver on the way to/from the port and for shopping/cab rides off the ship.  Everything else – gratuities, souvenirs, adult dining, etc, is charged to our room and the card on file.

Magnets – We love to decorate our stateroom door (as do so many people).  Past DCL magnets come with us, as well as the personalized one our son makes for us each cruise.  Last time we were our favorite Avengers.

Gallon plastic Ziploks – just in case a bathing suit is still damp when you go to pack at the end of your cruise, this will protect your other clothes.

Things you do not have to pack:

Beach Towels – this gets asked a lot.  Save the packing space.  Onboard there is an endless supply on the pool deck, and if your port days include beach time, they are available as you leave the ship.  At Castaway, towels are readily available just as you leave the ship as well.

Soy or almond milk – They are both available at the buffet, in the main dining rooms, and through room service.

Shampoo/Conditioner/Lotion – All provided in your stateroom.  So unless you are loyal to the kind you use at home, you do not need to pack any.

Hair dryer – Disney has Baby Bliss dryers in all the staterooms.  They even have an attachable diffuser for curly girls.

Multi outlet additions – no need.  There are plenty of AC and USB outlets throughout the room.

Food – Unless your child needs to have something at the ready, food is 24 hours a day (room service) and everywhere.  From milk for your fridge to warm cookies at night, to burgers, fries, and pizza up on deck to sealed Crustables to take ashore with you, more food is the last thing you need to bring.

Water or alcohol – both available in abundance.  Should you want to bring your own, it must be in your carry-on.  Bring as much water or soft drinks as you can carry, but only two bottles of wine or six bottles of beer are allowed per adult.  Again, soft drinks and water (not bottled) are free on board, and alcohol is pretty reasonably priced.

Closet organizers – many people bring them, but then are surprised at how much closet space and drawer space a stateroom actually has.  We hang all our nice clothes, then as they are worn, they are rolled up, placed back in a packing cube, and stored in the luggage under the bed.

Bug spray – Not necessary, and available as you exit the ship at all ports.

Optional Items

Autograph books or something for signing – If you have small children, chances are you will find yourself in the character greeting lines many times.  People bring pillow cases, wooden anchors, photo mats, and autograph books of their own.  But don’t fret if you forget – the gift shop is loaded with autograph books and pens for just a few dollars.

Costumes – You will see many little kids in Princess dresses and Pirate gear brought from home.  But many adults do the Disney Bounding thing as well on a cruise.  Your cruise – your choice!

Treats for crew – Many people like to bring special treats to leave for their stateroom hosts (besides the auto-gratuity) like stamps, candy bars, Starbucks gift cards, etc.

A cruise is all about relaxing.  So make your lists ahead of time, cross things off as you pack them, and then once onboard, exhale and bring on the Drink O’ The Day.

Ahoy, mate!


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