What Should You Pack for a Cruise Ship Contract?

Cruise ship packing is always very stressful and difficult, especially when you have to pack for contracts that are longer than six months or include multiple itineraries. If one has never worked on a cruise ship before and could benefit from some advice on how to pack, below are some important tips I have learned over time that have been really helpful for me.


  1. Try to pack as little as possible. This is easier said than done, but believe me you’ll be thanking me later when you realize you don’t have enough room to store your clothes in your cabin or when you have to carry two suitcases, a carry-on, a full back pack, and a purse up the gangway.


Most of the time when working on cruise ships, one shares a cabin with a roommate having a bunk bed and a small washroom. Depending on the cruise line company and class of ship, the storage available in the cabins may vary. In the past I have had a small closet that included drawers, along with the bunk bed and washroom. Sometimes you have a drawer or two under the bottom bunk and some storage for suitcases. Additionally, there is a desk that will have some drawers and maybe even shelving above the desk. This is a great place to put miscellaneous items or beauty products. The washroom has a medicine cabinet with a mirror on the front to store hygienic items. It is important to remember that all of the storage space above fills up very quickly with the needed items and that cutting back on outfits and non-critical items is crucial.


The bunk bed from my previous contract. Notice that behind the pillow is a cubby for books and/or electronics


Bunk bed from my previous contract with drawers underneath. These drawers are great for storing shoes.


I have learned that packing mix and match items are very smart and don’t take up as much space. Also, I have learned that solid color clothing matched with blacks can turn into so many outfits and much less space in a suitcase. I always pack a black pair of dress pants and beige khakis, matching a variety of shirts from dress to casual. That way I am creating a plethora of outfits while saving room for more items in my luggage. As foot footwear,  packing black flats as well as another comfortable close-toe shoes (ie. Toms or Keds) are highly recommended items to pack for a cruise ship. Heels are always difficult to pack for females because we always want to bring too many pairs. To be frank, one should only pack two pairs, which should be plain in style to match multiple outfits. Some cruise lines prefer that you have closed toe even in heels. I usually take one pair of heels black and the other pair nude. If you have a special outfit for a gala night (ie. New Year’s Eve) it is OK to pack those special shoes too. You need to figure out if you are on a contract that will have such special occasions.


The closet on my previous contract. Hangers were included as well as mirror.


  1. Communicate with previous employees.It is important and smart to communicate with employees who have lived on the cruise ship before and find out if they have anything they can leave behind. This tip is always helpful because one can avoid purchasing certain items the night before embarking the ship, resulting in carrying less things onto the ship. Additionally, when communicating to previous cruise ship employees, make sure to ask things like:
  • Are the walls in the cabins magnetic?
  • Does the cabin contain power bars?
  • Are there cork board in the cabins?
  • Is there a functioning lock box in the cabin?
  • What type of outlet/plugs does the ship have?

If an employee says they will leave some items behind, make sure you ask them what these items are so you don’t end up with a repeat purchase. As for cabin walls, if they are not magnetic I highly suggest investing in command strips and silly putty. Power bars always need to be checked by security when you board the ship, so be prepared to lay out all electronics and power bar(s) on the bed for full inspection, if they were not already taken during boarding. Finally, if there is a functioning lock box available in the cabin, make sure to put all valuable items insides such as a wallet, jewelry, identifications, and personal electronics. If there is no lock box in the cabins, I suggest investing in a lock that can potentially be used on the outside of a drawer (I have been in cabins that had drawer handles that could fit a lock). If neither of these options are available,  I suggest investing in a lock box you can place in a drawer or closet space.


Desk and shelving from previous contract. A fridge does not always come with the room.


  1. Miscellaneous items are always important to bring. Many times on a cruise ship you will have a lot of extra down time to do whatever you choose. The ship offers so many activities for guests but sometimes it is nice to just spend time alone.

Personally I love to read books but didn’t want to pack a stack of heavy books. Therefore, I’ve invested in a mini iPad that has the kindle application as well as the iBook application. By having this device, I was able to store a large quantity of books, podcasts, and any other materials of interest, while saving a large amount of space and weight in my luggage. Additionally, I can easily take my iPad anywhere on the ship to read, whether I’m in my cabin or in a  guests coffee lounge. In regards to movies and television series, I recommend investing in a hard drive. Many returning employees on ships have hard drives and like to copy movies from peers to add to their collection of entertainment. A hard drive also allows you to save storage space on a laptop or tablet and is conveniently portable. Depending on the individual and how many TV series or movies they want to have/watch, I would recommend purchasing a one or two terabyte hard drive. Moreover, I would several cases of laptops crashing while at sea. I have witnessed more than one employee lose contents of their laptop. Thus, I am now super conscious of that scenario potentially happening to me.

Some other electronics that you may want to bring onboard are cameras (polaroid, digital camera), a go pro, video game console and head phones/ear phones for ones who like to work out at the gym. Please be aware that if you want to play games they should be ones that do not require WIFI. That being said, miscellaneous items don’t always mean electronics. Activities such a knitting, coloring, origami, puzzles/brain teasers, yoga/meditation, or learning a new language are hobbies that one can do while on a ship. There are many applications that can be download onto a device such as workouts, word searches, cross words, trivia games, board games,  and language tutoring applications. If you would rather not have electronic versions of the above, then you can always invest in coloring books, origami paper, playing cards, yarn and knitting needles, yoga matt, or word search/sudoku, crossword, puzzle oriented books. One important item I found incredibly useful to bring is a journal! While at sea, it is very easy to fall into patterns of boredom and isolation, making you feel like you need to escape. Writing in a journal helps to express thoughts and feelings and can often provide that needed escape. It can be a tool to vent your sad or negative thoughts as well as helping to remember happy moments.


Some electronics I always pack: laptop, tablet, and two hard drives (one for backing up laptop and the other for movies/television series/etc.)


  1. Personal items and necessitates are always considered staples on the packing list. These items can range from medications to daily hyenic items. The list of these items vary from person to person, so below is a list of the things I would advise to bring in case you do not know where to start:
  • Medications (SEA SICKNESS PILLS, Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol/Tums)
  • Vitamins (B-12 and Iron for ladies, C, or any other supplement you take)
  • Glasses/ contact lenses
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth paste and floss
  • Deodorant and body spray
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash
  • Hair brush and/or comb
  • Hairspray/gel/ styling products
  • Hair styling electronics (hair dryer, flat iron, curling iron/wand, crimper etc.)
  • Nail clippers (do not pack in carry-on)
  • Band aids
  • Cotton swabs
  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen (depending on itinerary)
  • Body lotion
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Laundry detergent/pods and dryer sheets
  • Disinfectant wipes


Medicine cabinet from previous contract.


This seems like a long list and a lot of things to fit in a suitcase and carry-on. However, you can always purchase some of these items when you arrive at the home port of the itinerary or pick up some of the items over time at ports the ship docks into. When it comes to fancier items such as a kettle, coffee maker, steamer, iron, heating pad, enhanced bedding (memory foam) and speakers/clock radios, Please check with your production manager before bringing these items on so you are not surprised when you board your cruise line. Another item that is important for international employees to highly consider packing is an outlet convertor.  Each cruise line has different outlets for electronics depending on the location of the ships itinerary or where the ship was built. Generally, most ships have your standard American outlets, some ships have European outlets and many ships have both.


  1. The forgotten items that can make your cruise ship contract golden. When cruise ship packing, I will suggest some items that are often overlooked, resulting in, “man I wish I packed that!”:
  • Watch (traveling through multiple time zones throughout a contract will make a watch one’s best friend)
  • Small pair of scissors
  • Duel wine opener and bottle opener
  • Small sewing kit
  • Zip lock bags (a life saver when packing hygienics)
  • Plastic bags (for wrapping up shoes)
  • Tooth brush case
  • Luffa
  • To- go cup of some sort (coffee mug/ shake bottle)
  • Air freshener of some sort (specially for the washroom)
  • Dawn dish soap in a travel bottle (gets make up and stains out of clothing)
  • Highlighters (great for schedules or important reminders)
  • Baseball cap (works wonders for bad hair days and the sun on port days)
  • Loose cardigan or poncho/wrap of some sort (ships are always freezing from the air conditioning, so having one or two of these can be very helpful)
  • Luggage tags that have two different addresses (one side as your home address and the other as the ship address/training address)


Cruise ship packing can be overwhelming at first but once completed, it is extremely satisfying. The amount of times I had to re-packed for my first cruise ship contract is embarrassing, but now that I have a better understanding of what is really needed and what is helpful, I can confidently pass on my knowledge to whomever reads this blog. If you have any questions or want to hear more about this subject or another topic, feel free to contact me at info@laurenlerant.com. I hope this information was helpful and wish you happiness with your future endeavors! xo