What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise | by Travel + Leisure

2023-01-05 15:21:50 By : Mr. Nathan mong

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Finally booked yourself on a Caribbean cruise? If all you can think about is frozen drinks, pool parties, gorgeous waterfalls, beach bonfires, and snorkeling, we get it. It’s easy to get lost in the daydream of everything you'll experience on your cruise. That’s why we’ve created this handy list of must-pack items so you can focus on the fun. 

From swimwear to sandals to sun protection, we’ve picked out essentials to save space for in your suitcase, including Reef’s incredibly comfortable Water Vista Sandals, Herschel Supply Co.’s Fifteen Hip Pack, and Tempt Me’s Deep Plunge V-neck Monokini — a swimsuit that looks fabulous on nearly all figures. For the rest of our Caribbean cruise essential picks, refer to our complete packing list below.

As with any vacation, you’ll want to pack according to the number of days you’ll be traveling. Since cruise cabins are often small, you’ll likely want to travel as light as possible while still making sure you’ve got your bases covered for the length of the trip. Check if your ship offers laundry service or has self-serve laundry available for anything you might want to wash and wear, like swimwear. 

Regarding type of clothing, in addition to your swimsuits and flip-flops, you might want to pack some formal wear. Most cruises will have at least one official formal night, and some may even have themed nights. Check your itinerary to make sure you pack the appropriate attire — and then double-check the dress code. Luxury cruise lines may have a stricter dress code than, say, Carnival or Royal Caribbean. 

And don't forget to consider the weather. Weather, especially during the rainy season, can change from island to island and port to port. Pack sufficient options, including a rain jacket or poncho, to cover your needs for however many stops you have and various weather outcomes. 

Why We Love It: This sundress flatters all sizes and features adjustable straps for your perfect fit as well as pockets. 

What to Consider: We’ve found that the material can vary between patterns. 

When you’re in the humidity of the Caribbean, opting for spaghetti straps is a must. Angashion’s Summer Bohemian Spaghetti Strap Midi Dress offers a classic sundress style that flatters all shapes and sizes. The faux-buttons and easy pullover design make it an effortless option to throw on in a pinch by the pool (or the morning after a late night out). 

The adjustable straps help you find the best fit for your bust size, while the midi length is ideal for wearing in windy situations. Plus, the price is right, making it easier to stock up several of the 37 different colors and patterns available to wear on your cruise — and back home. Just note that the material can vary between styles and will either be soft and bouncy or slightly stiff out of the bag (but a few washes can help soften it up).

Price at time of publish: $34 

Why We Love It: There are loads of playful, cruise-worthy designs to choose from, all with a fun and flirty 5.5-inch inseam length. 

What to Consider: The interior mesh lining inseam may not leave things roomy enough for some folks.

If you’ve been searching for that perfect short short length with bright and colorful designs fit for a fun-in-the-sun cruise, look no further than Chubbie’s Classic Swim Trunks. Made from 92 percent polyester and 8 percent spandex, these trunks are sturdy with just the right amount of stretch that hugs the thigh. Bright and bold pattern options range from neon flamingos and teal alligator graphics to early ‘90s pastels and patterns. The elastic waistband sports a drawstring for an ideal balance of stretch and security, and there’s even a zippered back pocket to hold your valuables. These trunks have an interior mesh lining that keeps things feeling snug — possibly too snug for some. 

Price at time of publish: $70

Why We Love It: It’s light, airy, and loose-fitting — perfect for hot and humid Caribbean weather. 

What to Consider: Sizing runs about one size large and there are no pockets.

Why stick with the same old crocheted pullover cover-up when you can stand out on the sand with a stylish jumpsuit? This wide-leg and airy jumpsuit cover-up takes you from beachside to barside with minimal effort. The low-cut sides give this jumpsuit an extra airy and sexy feel that we love in sticky and sunny humid weather. A detachable high-waisted ribbon belt adds a welcomed touch of style and sophistication compared to the usual cover-up. And it’s available in standard, petite, and plus sizes — just be sure to order a size down as this garment runs large. One thing that could make this cover up even better? Pockets. 

Price at time of publish: $118

You'll want a pair of comfortable sandals for easy slip-on and slip-off as you go from pool to beach to restaurants. And don’t forget to pack for possible shore excursions you might take. Hiking shoes may not be top of mind when you’re thinking of a Caribbean cruise, but you won’t want to miss out on that gorgeous waterfall hike just because you don’t have adequate shoes. And remember the formal nights — you might want to add a pair of dress shoes or heels to your wardrobe.

Why we love them: These shoes are made from a breathable knit material that is 100-percent waterproof, and the shoe itself is stylish. 

What to Consider: They need to be hand washed and air dried.

Vessi’s lightweight Everyday Move sneakers tick numerous boxes, helping to save space in your suitcase. You get the comfort, style, and support of a walking shoe, with the added bonus of a 100-percent waterproof material and thermoregulating layer that keeps your feet dry. These shoes are clutch for Caribbean island hiking excursions around waterfalls, cruises during the rainy season, and if you’re hitting the ground or ship decks right after a rainshower. One downside? Unlike the Weekender Sneaker, these shoes aren’t machine washable and are air dry only. 

Price at time of publish: $145

Why we love them: They’re more sophisticated than Crocs and just as comfy.

What to Consider: These sandals run wide and there are no half-sizes.

Crocs have been having a moment, but the truth is they don’t suit everyone’s taste. Reef’s Water Vista Sandals are a water-friendly take on the brand’s popular Vista slide sandals. Trade the holey clog for these ultra-comfy — and cute — sandals with espadrille-style texture and adjustable velcro heel straps. Pack these shoes with snorkeling trips, wet cruise decks, pool days, and rainy weather in mind (though you can wear them just about anywhere with just about any outfit). If they get muddy or you spill a drink? No problem, just rinse them off. Take note that there are no half sizes and these shoes tend to run a bit wide.

Price at time of publish: $60

Why We Love It: The memory foam soles mold to your feet for a perfect, comfortable fit. 

What to Consider: The leather straps can be prone to warping if overly exposed to water.

Rainbow sandals have a history and reputation for being durable and comfortable. The wide leather strap rests comfortably on the top of your foot, the arch support is exceptional for a sandal, and the thong doesn’t blister between your toes. Thanks to the memory foam soles that continually mold to your feet, these flip-flops only get better with age — be sure to break them in for a few days before you set sail (you can soak them in warm water and wear them a bit to jump-start the process). These flip-flops are a great fit for sand, sun, and beach (and many brand loyalists wear them everywhere), though constant, prolonged exposure to water may eventually warp the leather.

Price at time of publish: $56

These are the essentials to bring to make sure you stay safe, hydrated, and comfortable on your cruise and any excursions you may do. If you plan on snorkeling or diving at multiple ports, it may be worth bringing your own gear in addition to these items to save money or guarantee proper sanitization. 

Why We Love It: They are a smaller and softer-shaped version of the original Ray-ban Wayfarer and have excellent clarity and UV protection. 

What to Consider: The bridge width is fixed at 18 millimeters and may slip down some people’s noses. 

The New Wayfarer from Ray-ban is a hit with folks who love the Original Wayfarer Classic style but find them a bit too big on their face. The New Wayfarer sunglasses have a fractionally smaller lens but sport a noticeably slimmer and more ovular frame that looks good on round and angular faces alike. (Don’t worry, they’ve still got the telltale Wayfarer metal accents in the corners.) These are our top picks for a cruise vacation because the nylon frames are durable and the coated lenses feature crisp clarity and color contrast and offer 100-percent UV protection. Lens width is available in 52-millimeter, 55-millimeter, and 58-millimeter sizes, but the bridge width is set at 18 millimeters and may not stay up on all noses. 

Price at time of publish: $151

Why We Love It: This water-resistant zippered pack is available in 28 different colors and patterns and is the perfect size for keeping cruiser essentials ready at the hip. 

What to Consider: The 2-liter pack is a one-compartment-for-all design with no interior pockets. 

During your cruise, you’ll likely be looking for a simple way to keep all of your essentials at the ready without carrying a bag. Enter the Herschel Supply Co. Fifteen Hip Pack, a stylish and convenient solution for carrying around your sailor card and all of your personal effects such as lip gloss, cellphone, seasick medicine, sunscreen, business cards, and passport in port without having to worry about misplacing them. The adjustable clip strap can be worn around the waist or across the body. The compartment measures 7.75 x 2 x 6.25 inches and doesn’t feature any sectional pockets, but it can fit up to a size six diaper or kid-sized snacks — a big bonus for cruising parents in the case of an emergency.

Price at time of publish: $32

Why We Love It: It’s breathable, reusable, and comes with a pack-down carrying case. 

What to Consider: Only one side has a pocket which can cause an uneven (and annoying) weight distribution.

Caribbean cruises may sell travelers on the promise of bright and sunny days, but the truth is you may encounter some showers, either fleeting or full-on, during your vacation. Luckily, when the clouds come out, it’s time to shine for the SaphiRose Hooded Waterproof Rain Poncho. We love how this reusable, 100 percent polyester rain poncho remains breathable when humidity is high, and has hidden thumb loops to keep it in place over your arms. It’s also windproof (key during storms), and features a hood with two adjustable elastic pulls, a waterproof zippered side pocket, and handy color-matched pouch. We do wish that there were pockets on both sides, though. Carrying anything too heavy, even just a phone, can pull the poncho to the side.

Price at time of publish: $30

Why We Love It: It is IPX8 certified to use up to 100 feet underwater so you can take pictures and video with your phone while snorkeling. 

What to Consider: Your phone's fingerprint sensor will not work while in the pouch. 

We’re big fans of the ProCase Universal Floating Waterproof Phone Pouch because you can still easily use your device when it’s in the pouch. Protecting your phone from accidental splashes or underwater adventures is as easy as slipping it into the pouch and snapping it shut. The clear window design makes for easy picture taking and review, and most touchscreen functions of the phone remain intact (fingerprint recognition does not work). It comes with a detachable lanyard to loop around your neck, while the built-in air pocket keeps your phone buoyant and easy to find in water. It fits phones measuring seven inches or less (diagonally across), including the iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S21. If your phone has a bulky case, you may need to remove it before using the pouch. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Why We Love It: A reef-friendly SPF 50 mineral sunscreen with less white residue? Yes, please. 

What to Consider: The final result may look different depending on how light or dark your skin tone is. 

Thinksport was already in our good books when it came to reef-friendly sunscreens, but we’re even more in love with this brand’s new Clear Zinc line of Mineral Sunscreens. With the same 80-minute water-resistance and broad spectrum protection but made with porous micron-sized zinc oxide powder that’s non-harmful to marine life, this mineral sunscreen reflects less light than ThinkSport’s original formula, resulting in even less residual white cast. This product goes on white and then produces a more transparent result on light skin, but cruisers with medium to dark skin are more likely to have some level of residual white cast. You can also opt for the SPF 30 version, but when you’re this close to the equator, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Price at time of publish: $17

Why We Love It: It’s the easiest way to carry around your beverages both on and off the ship. 

What to Consider: You’ll want to bring a cleaning kit to keep it sanitary.

Bringing your own refillable bottle on a cruise is one small thing that makes a huge difference, especially if you’re sailing in a sun-drenched destination like the Caribbean. Large cups can be hard to come by on a ship and they’re a hassle to keep with you. Designed with 18/8 pro-grade stainless steel and a lightweight screw-on cap, the Hydro Flask Lightweight Trail Series water bottle weighs less than an ounce and keeps you hydrated without weighing you down. Use it on and off the ship to keep water (or other beverages) chilled for up to 24 hours — just remember to wash it out every now and then, particularly if you’re on a lengthy cruise.

Price at time of publish: $59

At the bare minimum, your essential packing list for a Caribbean cruise should include light and breathable daywear, a cover-up, swimwear, sunglasses, sun protection, and comfortable non-slip sandals. Luckily, cruise ships almost always have shopping on board and you can usually purchase anything from basics to ballgowns. 

Prohibited items will vary by cruise line and ports, but it’s safe to say that elicit drugs, weapons, and combustibles are not allowed on cruises. Always check with your cruise line and ship for a complete list of items that are not permitted on board.

Most cruise lines have a limit on the type and quantity of alcohol or beverages you’re allowed to bring with you on board at embarkation and at port. Always check with your cruise line and ship for specifics.

Travel + Leisure writers are shopping, fashion, and product experts who use personal experience and customer recommendations to choose the best items for shoppers. Katherine Alex Beaven is a former cruise editor whose favorite Caribbean cruise destination is Aruba. She compiled this essential list of what to pack for a Caribbean cruise from her own personal cruise experience, word-of-mouth recommendations, and extensive product research. 

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