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The Beginner’s Guide on What to Pack for a Carnival Cruise

By Ryan | Tips

what to pack for a carnival cruise

You have your holiday time from work agreed and you finally booked the Carnival cruise of your dreams. Now, you are probably wondering what to pack for a Carnival cruise? As with any question like this one, there is no one hard and fast rule. Different cruises go to different destinations, with different weather, at different times of the year, and of course, each cruise may or may not have a special theme.

Carnival cruises go to a variety of destinations: The Caribbean, the Bahamas, Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda, the Panama Canal, Canada & New England, Alaska and Europe. There is going to be quite a variation in the weather between these places. For example, Alaska and Hawaii make a big contrast. The clothing you need for these trips will vary a lot.

We are not going to go too much into these kinds of details in this article (check out the checklist for your destination). Rather we will be identifying the most important things you need to have on hand regardless of your destination.

What to Pack for a Cruise – Essentials

Carry On Luggage

You will need a lightweight carry-on bag which you can keep with you when you embark the ship. Your main luggage will need a little time to be brought to your cabin (don't forget to tag your main luggage so it arrives as planned).

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  • First and foremost you should not forget your passport! I did that once, trust me you end up going home and missing the holiday you planned, which is a real bummer. Your passport should have 6 months or more left before expiration by the end of the cruise. If in doubt get a new one before the cruise
  • Travel Documents – Depending on your nationality, and where you are going on your cruise you may need other travel documents in order to disembark at the different stops along the route. You can check the website of your cruise and they will give you more information pertinent to the destination and your nationality.
  • Tickets, insurance documents, phone – any other important items you will need with you before your main luggage arrives.
  • Cash – you will need cash for excursions and other extra's you might want while on board, make sure you bring cash with you, the ship ATM's can be very expensive to use. You can use a money belt to safely carry cash.
  • House/ Car Keys – Don't forget to keep your house and car keys (if relevant) safe. If they get lost on the ship you are going to be really blessed if you find them again. Stash them in a safe place and don't forget where the safe place is! The last thing you want when you get home is to be calling the locksmith. Yup, I had to do that once too!
  • Any Medication you need to take – You should keep your medication with you in your carry-on bag, and they should be kept in their original packaging. This is because if there is any kind of medical incident the onboard doctor will need to know what medication you are taking. Without the packaging, he can't know for sure
  • Toiletries – soap, toothbrush, toothpaste. Any personal toiletries you can't do without for the trip. Consider using a toiletry bag for convenience.

Main Luggage

Check with your cruise if there are any luggage restrictions or maximum dimensions. Do try to keep your main luggage light though. You are not going on a 6-month journey!

Also, while the ship doesn't limit your luggage in the same way airlines do, if you are taking a flight to meet the ship your luggage will need to meet the airline specifications.

  • Clothes – Daytime can be casual wear appropriate to the weather of your destination. Evenings are casual too. However, there are usually a couple of nights where you are invited to dress up for the occasion, so bring at least one or two nice outfits. Top Tip: To save space roll up your clothes in the suitcase, you will fit a lot more in! Some packing cubes could be a good idea, too.
  • Other Toiletries – You can pack other large toiletries like shampoo, sun cream etc in your main luggage
  • Things You Can't do Without – Do you have a favorite pillow you can't sleep without, or you can't go a day without reading, or perhaps you have another kind of hobby you like to do daily. Make sure you bring along anything you personally might need on the cruise. Whether it's your juggling balls, yoga mat, or War and Peace novel.
  • Goodies for the "Specials" – Every cruise will usually have special events you can get involved in. Usually, these might require dressing up. You can check which specials will happen on your particular trip. Every cruise has a mega deck party and guests must wear red or blue to join in. Every cruise longer than 6 days will throw an 80's Rock n' Glow party, make sure you pack 80's style to make the most of the bash: think big hair, leg warmers, neon, massive gold chains.

What NOT to Pack for a Cruise

Other than the woodcarving you are currently working on, the most important things NOT to pack for a cruise are dangerous items.

There is a whole long list of prohibited items which you should probably check. Although really, does anyone actually go on a cruise with nunchaku?!

In short, you should NOT be taking:

  • Narcotics in any form.
  • Any kind of weapon, even something not officially a weapon like a bb gun, or paintball gun.
  • Any dangerous or flammable chemicals (i.e. petrol, paint thinner etc).
  • Large batteries.
  • Any items which have a heating element unless supplied by Carnival cruises (i.e. portable kettle, electric blanket etc).
  • Compressed gas (i.e. gas tanks, dive tanks, aerosols).
  • Flying devices – be it a toy or something for grownups like a drone.
  • Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), satellite phones, lasers
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There is another category of items you should not pack, not necessarily dangerous things but things that could be dangerous or otherwise go against the ship's policies.

The list offers some entertaining reading and interesting insights into human behavior. I expect these things made it onto the list for a reason! In short if said thing could cause an accident, better not to bring it.

  • Alcohol or other drinks – they want you to buy from them obviously!
  • Hookah
  • Handcuffs, candles, incense. Ah-hem.
  • Bicycles, surfboards, boats, canoes, inflatable kiddie pools
  • Heating pads
  • Shoes with wheels (rollerblades, heelies etc)
  • Kava
  • Fish – if you make a catch on an excursion your fish must be shipped home. I had to chuckle at this one!

Useful Tips for Cruise Goers

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    Take your sense of adventure and fun.
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    Take advantage of the excursions.
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    Take a dry bag for your valuables when you go to the beach.
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    Want to have a drink but not at the high cruise ship rates? Have a glass of wine or beer at the port.
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    Get the best rates by choosing cruises during term-time.
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    Bring some change with you so you can give tips to staff easily and when you want.
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    Go for cabins in the middle of the ship and as low as possible if you are prone to getting seasick. If you get seasick take a walk on deck and focus on the distant horizon
  • Don't stay in your cabin the whole time.
  • Don't just rely on the ship organized trips, you can  research and arrange independent trips from the boat.
  • Don't rush to embark or disembark, wait until the queues die down and then head on or off the boat.
  • Don't forget to take some silly outfits for the theme parties.
  • Don't be tempted to overeat with all the food, after all, you have time on board to try everything.
  • Don't forget sickness can sweep quickly through a ship, use hand sanitizer and wash your hands well regularly

What to do Before a Cruise

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As the big departure day approaches don't let excitement cloud your judgment.

Make sure you are all packed, print all the documents you will need on the cruise, and ensure you have some cash to take on board.

You can make a last minute checklist to use the morning of departure for all the things you can't pack until the departure moment – like toothbrush, toothpaste, house keys etc.

Tie up any loose ends to do with work. Set up an automatic e-mail vacation response, answer any urgent messages during the week before you leave, and let people know you will be away.

Get the house ready for your absence. If you have pets make arrangements for them, leave a spare set of house keys with a trusted friend or neighbor, and make sure someone will come to water your plants.

If you are cruising in the winter make sure you turn off the water, so you don't come home to burst pipes.

Lastly, don't get too bogged down in all the practical things you have to consider. Spend some time dreaming and planning excursions for the stops you will make on the cruise.

Ready, Set, Cruise

A cruise is a wonderful way to explore and discover the world in nice, easy, manageable portions. Along, the way you have the opportunity to meet like-minded people, to party, have fun, explore new places, and enjoy a fantastic vacation to remember for the rest of your life. Enough said, get planning, get booked, and get packing!

A little pack planning goes a long way, and I hope this article has been helpful. Do you have any packing tips for cruise newbie's? What was your most dramatic packing disaster? Do let us know in the comments.



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About the Author

Hi, I'm Ryan Smith, a solo traveler, and founder of with a bunch of friends. I love going outside, reading books and talking to people.