7 Essential Things to Pack for a Cruise to the Caribbeans

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Cruise ship and how to pack for one

7 Essential Things to Pack for a Cruise to the Caribbeans

Packing can always be one of the hardest parts about a trip so I thought I’d give you my opinion on the 7 essential things to pack for a cruise. Our cruise was to the Southern Caribbeans so we are talking warm weather and lots of sun.

Quote of the day: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Andre Gide

When I say essential things, I am talking about clothing that you may not wear ordinarily. For example, of course you need to take some tops, bottoms and underwear, but to me that’s obvious and not part of this list. Also keep in mind your activities may differ from mine, so I will also include reasoning for my suggestions.

I did receive a reader’s request to know what we actually packed for our vacation. So keep your eyes peeled for a separate post showing the contents of all three of our suitcases. Of course, each of them will include these 7 essential things that we packed for our cruise.

Essential things to pack for a cruise to the Caribbeans

Essential Things to Pack for a Cruise

1- Scarf

I’m sure some of you are wondering why in the heck you would need a scarf on a Caribbean cruise. Well, first, I always wear at least one scarf on the plane. My favorite for the plane ride is one of my Pashmina scarves. I don’t wear them much for blog photos but you can see my turquoise one in a previous black and white post.

Granted I am always cold, but even if you don’t need it for warmth in the airport or on the plane, it can be a wonderful pillow for those airplane seats. Heck, sometimes I even use it behind the small of my back to try to make the seat more comfortable.

You still might need your scarf on the cruise ship too. Many of the eating areas are air conditioned. In fact, I almost always took my Pashmina scarf for dinner and would use it as a wrap. You’ll see it in our outfit photos.

The reason scarves are one of the essential things to pack for a cruise is because they are lightweight and yet so versatile. Especially since there are many types, shapes and weights of scarves. I wore one around my neck since they can be lighter than necklaces.

Insider tip: Take a large, square or rectangle scarf along with a thin, silk scarf since they are so different. Even if you don’t wear them, you haven’t wasted much room in your luggage. Like my husband always says, “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

2- Skirt

I realize that life is way more casual nowadays, but a skirt is really an essential for a cruise. Of course, you could resort to a dress instead, like we showcased for our Alaskan cruise last year. However, since we styled our dress 3 different ways last year, I wanted to try a skirt this time.

Why do I think a skirt is essential? Because most women our age aren’t as comfortable with shorts anymore. Sure, you can wear capris, but a skirt can actually be cooler. You get air circulating around your legs with a skirt.

You can easily wear your skirt to any dinners and maybe even on an excursion or when shopping. That’s what we showed when Nancy, Charlotte and myself wore our skirts for two different events.

Insider tip: Keep in mind it can get windy where you are traveling. If you’re going to wear your skirt on an excursion, you might be better off with a straight one or longer one so you don’t flash everyone. Either that or wear biking shorts under your skirt just in case.

3-Comfortable Walking Shoes

You may not think there is much walking on a cruise but it certainly depends on what you do. It also depends on the size of the ship you’re cruising on. Our ship had 2000 guests and 1000 employees and I’d consider it large. So even the days of hanging out on the ship, you can do more walking than you think.

As for the days you go into port, you can walk quite a bit. Most excursions or tours will give you the skinny on how much walking to expect. But even walking from the ship to the port shops and taxis can be a distance.

I consider it better to have the comfortable shoes just in case. That’s why I only took Walking Cradles for all 4 of my options. I did the same thing when we visited NYC this fall. My mom even had one of her pair of Walking Cradles sandals and Nancy had her Jambu sneakers. You’ll get to see these in more posts soon.

FYI, I am a Walking Cradles ambassador which means I do get a commission off any shoes you purchase through my link. You can also get 15% off, if there is no other sale that trumps that discount. You can always try the discount code, JODIE15 to see if it’ll work.

Insider tip: It’s not always easy to find sandals to buy at this time of year, then again, if you do find them, many are discounted. I bought one pair of my Walking Cradles for only $30.


I consider a topper one of the essential things to pack for a cruise. Again, you may question my line of thinking just like with a scarf. But hear me out.

First of all, if you are traveling from a cold environment to a warm one, you need some coverage when you take off and then get home. And as I said in the scarf section, most airports and airplanes are chilly.

Once you get to your vacation area, it might not be worn much. However, I will report that both Nancy and Charlotte wore their cardigans to dinner quite a bit. The cruise line kept the restaurants air conditioned. As for me, I had 2 kimonos packed for this cruise and wore them to bits. In fact, I bought another one at a pop up shop on the ship.

Insider tip: Your topper could also act as your sunscreen if you bring one that is lightweight and has sleeves.


When you are visiting the Caribbeans, you can expect sun, sun and more sun. Even when it’s raining, it doesn’t last long. Granted, if you are hoping to get tan, then you might disagree with this being one of the essential things to pack for a cruise.

However, at this stage of the game I’ve told you how I’m embracing my pale skin. So my goal is to keep the sun away from my face especially. While I also use sunscreen (and this is the one we took on the cruise), I always think a hat is extra protection. Especially if you are sweating off your sunscreen in the heat.

Of course, if you are like my mother, and think a hat messes up your hair too much, then a visor works wonders too. It doesn’t protect the back of your neck as much from the sun, but at least your face is covered.

Insider tip: If you have a sun hat, I would recommend one with a chin cord in case it’s windy. The other option is to make sure the hat can be tight if pulled down. The last thing you want is for the wind to blow it into the ocean. If your hat doesn’t have a cord attached, many times you can add your own.

Another Insider tip: There are packable versions of the visors and sun hats if that is your concern. Yet it’s not hard to pack the other hats either. I just put them upside down in my suitcase and stuff the head with soft clothes to keep it’s shape.


Of course you need at least one swimsuit if you’re going on a Caribbean cruise. In fact, I would suggest taking at least two. Every large cruise ship has at least one pool for you to enjoy. Even if you’re not a swimmer, there’s always the hot tubs which are wonderful for sore bodies from traveling.

Why take two suits?? Because many times the suit may not be dry for the next day if you are swimming a lot. Or visiting the iconic beaches. This way, you will always have a dry swimsuit to wear.

Insider tip: It used to be impossible to buy a swimsuit in the off season. Thankfully online shopping has changed all that. Trust me, Amazon always has some for sale.

Insider tip 2: If you upper body and lower body are two different sizes, you might benefit from a two piece. And that doesn’t mean it has to be a bikini. You can get a tankini top in one size and then bottoms in a different size.

Insider tip 3: If you don’t want to wear a swimsuit, you can also cover up with a rash guard shirt or even a sun shirt like I’ve showcased in the past. The advantage of these is you don’t need to worry about sunscreen as much. At least for the top half.

7-Cover up

Of course taking a swim suit means another essential is a cover up. Of course, you can always just wrap one of the ship’s towels around you, but most of us feel more comfortable in a real clothing item.

Insider tip: Just because this is on the list of things to take does not mean it HAS to be a separate item. Many of your other pieces can do double duty as a swim suit cover up. For instance, you could wear your kimono, wrap your big scarf around your body or even wear one of your skirts or dresses over top. Just make sure you’ve thought about which ones would work for this essential.

8- I’m adding an extra! My Shapeez Tankee Short bra.

These are the only bras I took on our trip because of the comfort factor. I knew we would be busy all day and then all evening, so I didn’t want that feeling of needing to take it off.

Now that I’ve been wearing these, I rarely wear my traditional bras. Heck, this item was a post that was one of my most popular last year. And I was reminded to include this when one of my readers just emailed me to tell me she is a new believer in Shapeez. Judy said, “It is 100x better than what I have now; hated to take it off tonight.” So if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Judy?

I reached out to the company to request that my discount be extended through the end of February, and it will be. So if you want to try one, use the code JODIE10 for 10% off.

Insider tip: The hardest part is the different sizing. If it’s your first time trying Shapeez, make sure to not only follow the directions, but if you’re not sure, contact them. They can be very helpful.

That’s my list of the 7 essential things to pack for a cruise. I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts. Of course you’ll be seeing all of these pieces on us in the next couple of weeks too.

7 essential things for to pack for a cruise

Photo credit: Rob Filogomo Yes, my hubby took these photos!

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