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What to bring on a Caribbean cruise? 23 essentials to pack

In:
11 Oct 2023
By: 
Calista Kiper

What are things to bring on a Caribbean cruise that you might not bring on other cruises?

wonder-magens-bay-beach

The Caribbean is a region that includes a multitude of beautiful islands and coastal areas, all near the Caribbean Sea and large systems of coral reefs.

The Caribbean is also known for balmy weather and comfortable temperatures, making the region a preferred cruising destination.

So, if you’re planning to join a host of cruisers who choose the Caribbean as their destination, how should you prepare?

No matter what area of the world you’re traveling to, it’s important to pack appropriately. We offer a full cruise packing list on our blog, but it’s important to be specific about the area of the world you are visiting. 

Read more: I've been on 12 Caribbean cruises, and I see passengers making the same 14 mistakes. Here's how to avoid them.

Since every place is different, you’ll want to prepare specifically for your journey.

Valley Church Beach in Antigua

What items are important to bring to the Caribbean? We’ll go over a selection of 23 important things to pack on your Caribbean cruise.

Read moreWhat to bring on a cruise to Alaska

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1. Sunscreen

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Places close to the equator, like the islands of the Caribbean, are subject to stronger UV rays. 

And you’ll spend plenty of time in the sun on your visit: on the ship’s deck, at the beach or a pool, or exploring an island excursion.

The heavy exposure to the sun can leave you at right for a bad sunburn. Getting a severe sunburn could ruin even the best visit to the Caribbean, forcing you to stay indoors while you heal and miss out on the fun.

Be sure to plan ahead by protecting yourself with a strong, high-SPF sunscreen, such as Banana Boat Sport Ultra SPF 30.

It’s also best to pack reef-safe sunscreen to protect local coral reefs from being bleached by the chemicals inside your sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens are a great option to protect the environment around you.

2. Aloe vera

Aloe

If you forget a high enough SPF sunscreen and end up with a bad sunburn, aloe vera gel is a natural healing method for soothing the burn, healing skin faster, and getting rid of that redness for any vacation photos. 

This could be important for a visit to a Caribbean island, as you’ll likely want to make the most of your time on the island instead of heading home to grab a salve.  

Read more: 22 unpleasant cruise ship problems you aren't prepared for

Amazon makes its own house brand aloe vera that should do the trick.

3. Insect repellent

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You’ll be spending lots of time outdoors, so don’t forget an insect repellent.

Bringing your own bug spray to repel insects will prevent you from having painful bug bites and keep you focused on your fun excursions ahead.

You can buy a travel-size insect repellent to ensure it's handy to keep around.

4. Beach bag

Hyc00 Travel Duffel Bag

A large bag, such as a tote bag, is a helpful addition if you're planning on seeing the beach on your Caribbean stop.

A beach bag should be big enough to hold towels, swimsuits, extra clothes, water, snacks, sunscreen, and more. We like the Tainehs Mesh Beach Tote Large Bag.

Make sure that you bring one with enough space to pack everything you need ahead of time.

5. Your seasickness medicine of choice

dramamine-comparison

Whether you use Bonine, Dramamine, seasickness patches, or even ginger candies, it’s important to remember your seasickness medicine.

This is always helpful for your time spent on the cruise ship, but don’t forget that your boat adventures could continue in the Caribbean!

If you have a tender to take you ashore or any boat ride as part of your planned excursions, seasickness medicine will keep you feeling healthy.

6. Sunglasses or sunhat

sunglasses

Don’t only protect your skin from the sun—keep your eyes safe, too!

Wearing sunglasses will protect your eyes from UV rays and allow you to enjoy the beautiful sights on your trip.

If you wear glasses or would like to keep items off your eyes, try a sunhat instead for some extra shade.

7. Your own snorkel gear

snorkel-mask-amazon

If you’re planning on snorkeling at all in the Caribbean, consider bringing your own snorkeling gear.

This will save you money and time as you won’t have to purchase an extra set of gear. You’ll be able to jump right into the clear water and start searching for reefs and tropical sea animals. 

Especially if you’re planning multiple trips to the Caribbean, having your own snorkel gear is a great investment. 

9. Passport or ID 

Passport

While some Caribbean islands are U.S. territories (like the U.S. Virgin Islands), most of them are separate countries. 

Like with any international travel, this means that you will need to be prepared to deal with immigration on your visit. 

To be properly prepared, bring a passport or at least a valid ID and make sure that you are allowed on and off the island.

10. Breathable clothing

It's most likely that the weather will be hot and humid on your trip to the Caribbean. You should be prepared to sweat!

The best dress for this type of weather is flowy, breathable clothing (not necessarily short and tight).

Read more: Best travel clothes for women on shore excursions

Look for casual and lightweight pieces such as palazzo pants, open shirts, skirts, and other light clothing. 

Fabrics such as cotton, silk, and linen are best.

11. A swimsuit cover-up 

PerfectDay-SwimUpBar

Of course, you'll want to go swimming and spend a lot of time by the beach on your trip. 

But don't forget about all the other fun excursions you can experience: shopping, tours, restaurants, parties, museums, and more.

To prepare for all the onshore experiences you'll have, be sure to at least bring a swimsuit cover-up or even a change of clothes.

Packing a simple cover-up like a T-shirt, jacket, or dress will ensure that you are appropriately dressed for any occasion you decide to join in.

12. Sandals or flip flops

flip-flops

If you’re not planning on doing much walking or sporty activities, I recommend some warmer, open-toed shoes like sandals or flip-flops. 

Shoes that are easy to slip on and off are best for beach days. And open-toed shoes will help your feet stay cooler in the hot weather. 

These Weweya sandals are very comfortable while still being stylish and should work well at the beach or in the sand.

Ultimately, pack a well-made, waterproof pair of open-toed shoes to help you stay dry, keep cool, and shake off sand.

13. Water bottle

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We mention this item a lot in packing lists, but it's worth mentioning again for excursions out onto ports.

While you can, of course, purchase water from wherever you’re visiting, prices can be high in touristy areas. And it’s often inconvenient to stop your vacation to try to find a store.

Instead, keep yourself moving and saving money by bringing a packed water bottle ahead of time. You can fill it up at the Windjammer and other complimentary locations onboard, then bring it off the ship with no issues.

And since the weather will most likely be warm and sunny, it will be important to stay hydrated.

If you’d like to pack ice along in your water bottle, a Yeti or Hydroflask will keep your water cool all day long.

14. Walking shoes 

sneakers

Some of my favorite shore excursions have been tours of different islands. 

On these tours, you can walk around and listen to the guy and explain some of the history and background while also seeing the sights and historical buildings around you. 

It's a great way to get some fresh air and some much-needed exercise in the middle of a sedentary cruise.

However, you'll want to be sure that you have the right kind of shoes for this excursion. Picking out a good set of exercise or walking shoes will help you have a great experience and keep your energy up during your tour.

15. Waterproof bags

Ziploc bags

From disembarking the cruise ship to relaxing at the beach, you'll still be interacting with the water for most of your trip. 

It's important that you keep your essentials safe by using a waterproof bag or at least a waterproof phone case.

Read more: 5 things I purchased for a cruise that I regretted buying

16. Rashguard

rash guard

A long-sleeved athletic shirt, like a rashguard, can serve as a multipurpose tool for many needs. It can protect you from rashes, sunburns, chafing, and even jellyfish stings!

This is also a great option for water sports like surfing or jet skiing, which you’ll want to take advantage of on a visit to the Caribbean.

17. Sweater

This option isn't quite so intuitive, but pretty soon, you'll understand why it’s on the list. 

Tropical cruises can be quite warm during the day, but you'll find that the air conditioner pumps quite high on the cruise ship at night. 

It can get surprisingly chilly indoors on your cruise ship, so be sure to bring a sweater or a cardigan so that you aren't too cold while indoors. 

I find that the cabin and nighttime dining locations can be the coldest places on your cruise.

18. Long sleeve shirt and pants

Pile of belongings

Another lesser-known way of beating hot weather is by wearing long sleeves and long pants. 

Light-weight, long clothing can be most effective for protecting you from the sun and fending off bugs like mosquitoes.

If you’re doing any hiking or climbing, especially into the rainforest, consider wearing long sleeves and pants to protect yourself.

Your skin will thank you later!

19. Poncho 

poncho

Many tropical places experience a rainy season or a hurricane season that features heavy storms with lots of wind and rain.

In the Caribbean, this season could fall anywhere between May and October, with frequent, short thunderstorms on summer afternoons.

Considering that these storms arrive almost 6 months out of the year, it’s best to plan ahead by bringing a poncho or other rain gear. 

You never want to be stuck inside your cruise ship because you didn’t prepare for the weather!

20. Umbrella 

Personally, I don’t like wearing a poncho. 

They get hot and heavy when you’re experiencing a humid tropical rainstorm.

If you’re like me and prefer something lightweight that you can hold, an umbrella is a great option to help prepare for the rain. 

Read more: We asked our readers what one thing they wish they packed for their cruise

21. Water shoes

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To help you prepare for all your possible water activities—from kayaking to boat tours—consider bringing a pair of water shoes.

This mesh footwear will protect your feet while allowing any water to flow through them instead of just pooling inside your shoe.

For more intense water activities, they’re a great way to make sure your feet are protected without getting soaked or slippery.

22. Power bank

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Without a doubt, having a phone on you is important for any kind of travel.

You’ll be able to use it to find directions, get information on shore excursions, take photos of your beautiful surroundings, and even read books by the beach.

And having your phone go dead in the middle of a trip onto a foreign island could be the death toll to a lovely port day, depending on how much you were relying on it.

To prevent being cut off from your source of information, pack a phone charger or, even better—a power bank. I like this Anker portable charger as a good option.

Bringing a power bank will allow you to charge your phone anywhere without having to spend the time to find a compatible port. 

Many power banks fit right into your bag. I like to charge my phone in my bag as I’m leaving the ship and then unplug it when the charge is high and I’m ready to use it on the island. 

23. Portable fan

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To help beat the heat, consider bringing a portable fan. Handheld fans that are small enough to fit in a bag still provide enough power to fan your face when it gets scorching.

Remember that you'll spend time on deck on the cruise ship on hot beaches, where you want relief from the heat. 

A handheld portable fan can be a helpful addition that provides instant relief and cool air.

23 essentials to pack for a Caribbean cruise

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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