11 Must-Pack Items for a Cruise to the Caribbean.

All aboard! I know, I'm cheesy. #noshameinmygame.

I went on my very first cruise earlier this year with Norwegian Cruise Line to the Caribbean and definitely learned a ton about what to pack (and also what not to pack!). I booked my ticket on a whim a few months beforehand and hadn't really thought of what I'd be bringing. For the most part, I had what I really needed, but I definitely wished I had put a few other things into my suitcase too.

Here are the absolute essentials I wish I had brought on my cruise to the Caribbean (or to any tropical place): 

  • Your passport. Make sure you have identification with you at all times when you leave the ship. You'll need this to get back on board after you port. 
  • A big day bag. I had a backpack that was helpful, but it would have been great to have an all-purpose bag that I didn't mind throwing in the sand or shoving a wet towel into. I would definitely recommend bringing this in addition to your suitcase and taking full advantage of it on your first day on the ship. Your luggage will be checked before you board and will not be delivered to your stateroom until much later in the day, so pack a big day bag with a bathing suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, a charger, etc. 
  • Sunblock. Bring more than you think you need. You won't regret it. Pack at least two bottles of spray-on sunscreen and you'll be making avoiding sun damage easy. The application is so much easier than a lotion and will help you get those hard-to-reach places like your back. 
  • Resealable plastic bags. These are just a great idea to travel with no matter where you're going, but especially on a cruise. They take almost no space and will be used over and over again for everything from protecting your phone when a rogue wave crashes into your day bag or throwing wet clothing into before you head back to the ship. 
  • Reusable water bottle. The tap water may not be safe to drink in certain countries and can also be expensive, so a reusable water bottle is a must. Fill up before you leave the ship and rest assured that you'll be able to stay hydrated all day long.
  • Workout gear. My ship had a kick-butt rock-climbing wall, a court for playing soccer, and a great gym among tons of awesome classes. I love working out, but was trying to save space and only packed one pair of gym clothes and some low-top Converse. Let's just say that combination wasn't exactly ideal for a ten-day cruise. You don't have to bring a dozen gym outfits but two options and a real pair of athletic shoes will definitely come in handy. 
  • Quick-dry cover-up. I'm the genius that didn't bring a single real beach cover-up to the Caribbean. Yes, really. Please learn from my silly mistake and bring a few cover-ups that dry quickly. They'll make a huge difference and are totally worth it! Opt for simple single-color ones that can be worn often.
  • Sunglasses options. Bring a few pairs in case one pair breaks or just to mix up your look on deck and at port. I only brought one pair of sunnies (rookie mistake) and a screw came loose in them early on. Queue lots of squinting whenever I was directly in the sun (also known as all the time because I was on a cruise to the Caribbean). Mixing it up with more than one option is a simple way to add some variety to your look without taking up much space. Also, mixing up your sunglasses will help save you from awful raccoon eyes sunglasses tans. Let's just say that quite a few people on the ship looked a little crazy three days into the cruise because they'd been in the sun too long with a pair of oversized sunnies.
  • Two or more bathing suits. This is the one area I actually did well on - I brought five of them with me! Why? Because I legitimately wore a bathing suit 75% of the time on the cruise and 100% of the time at port. Also, I loved wearing one-pieces as tops on the ship and just threw a pair of high-waisted shorts over them during the day. While you don't need to go swimsuit crazy like me, I would recommend bringing a minimum of two so you can wear one as the other dries. If you're not sure about which ones to pack, bring an extra along just in case. I rolled them up and stuffed one in each tennis shoe to save space. I would also recommend bringing at least one conservative bathing suit. The crowd on my cruise in January was much older than I expected and I was very grateful to have brought a few simple one-pieces instead of a more revealing one with tons of cutouts or a plunging neckline.
  • Simple pieces that can easily be dressed up or down. Cruises have become much more casual in the past few years, but I would still recommend bringing at least one dress or romper in white and another in black that can serve as a base for something more formal. The cruise I was on had a "wear what you want" feel, so I only packed more casual looks. However, the majority of the cruisers showed up in their finest in the evenings (we're talking tuxes and full-on gowns), and I often felt a little underdressed. Fun fact: I wore a white swimsuit cover up to an all-white party on board because it was the only white thing I had. Mind you, some of the hilarious people I met actually made make-shift togas out of their bedsheets. Yes, they were in a fraternity, and yes, I thought it was amazing. Since my days of toga parties are long gone, I was really grateful that I decided last-minute to bring a simple black off-the-shoulder romper. I dressed up with different accessories for evenings on the ship and ended up wearing it at least five different times!
  • Portable charger. I'm not a fan of staying attached to your phone or electronics while traveling, but I definitely love taking photos of new cities and documenting my adventures. Bring a portable charger with you so you always have a little extra juice.

What are your must-pack items for a cruise to the Caribbean? What do you wish you had brought? 

Melanie Sutrathada shares her 11 must-pack items for a cruise to the Caribbean..png