• Jenn Kehoe

Top 4 Things to Pack in Your Carry On for Your Cruise

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

The excitement of preparing for a cruise is half of the fun (okay, not half - but it's a huge adrenaline rush deciding what to wear, packing your bags, and everything else!). There are several things that are easily replaced if you forget to pack them, but there are some things you MUST pack in your carry on if you want to see them while you're on the ship or if you even want to get on the ship, for that matter!

With that said, here's my list of the top 5 things you MUST NOT FORGET to pack in your carry on:


I cannot stress this enough. This is a non-negotiable. Without the original documents in your hand you will not board the ship. There is absolutely nothing worse than planning your cruise and the buildup of excitement only to be told at the port that you won't be allowed on board. In my years, I've heard of cruisers leaving the port to race home to find their documents and then racing back to the port. I've heard people being denied for not having proper documentation. So here's what you ultimately need:

1. Passport - I will always and forever recommend my clients to have a passport when they are traveling. I understand they are expensive, however, imagine missing the ship at a port and having to figure out how to fly home. It will be an absolute nightmare trying to get home, much less the next port on your itinerary. Be sure to check this page for the latest information on how to obtain your passport!

2. Government-Issued Photo ID or Driver's License - Some cruises do not require you to have a passport, however, you must have your photo ID. Your ID must be valid and unexpired.

3. Birth Certificate - For cruises not requiring a passport, you must present your photo ID and a government-issued birth certificate. Now, let me clarify: the birth certificate must be original and certified by a government authority such as your local Vital Statistics office. A birth certificate from the hospital will not be sufficient.

4. Name Change Documentation - If you have changed your name, you'll need to bring documentation of the change with you. This acts as a paper trail to show why the name on your birth certificate does not match the name on your government-issued photo ID.

5. Notarized Permission to Leave the Country - In the instance that you are traveling with a minor, it is typically required to have a notarized letter from a parent (or both parents) if they are not attending the cruise. For instance, if two individuals are divorced and one parent wants to bring their child on a cruise, the second parent should notarize a letter with consent to travel. Now, there is a caveat to this - if there is no second parent with legal claims to the minor (due to sole custody, deceased, etc.) other relevant paperwork, such as a court decision, death certificate, birth certificate naming only one parent, would be useful to bring in place of the notarized letter. This will expedite Homeland Security processing.


As with flying, all medication should be packed in your carry on luggage. If there is no other thing you take from this blog (besides the legal documents up above), let it be this - all medication should be in the prescription bottle with your name clearly printed. I know it is tempting to separate pills into the daily containers and only taking the amount of pills you'll need for your trip, but this is safety and security situation. First, and foremost, in the instance something happens and your trip is extended for one reason or another, you need to make sure you have enough medication to cover yourself, and secondly, they do not want illegal narcotics on the ship. Additionally, in the event of an emergency, on-board medical staff can quickly identify the medications you are taking when they are in the prescription bottles. So, to save yourself time and to get on the ship quicker; leave it in the prescription bottle and pack it in your carry on.

Wine, Sodas, and Bottled Water

Some cruise lines allow you to bring wine/champagne bottle (750 mL bottle), cans of soda, or bottled water onto the ship with you. Don't pack this in the luggage you give to the porters because it will be confiscated during the security screening. You know, that bottle you were going to open for your anniversary dinner at that fine dining restaurant on the ship? Carry it onto the ship. Nobody wants to receive that little piece of paper in their luggage saying they can pick up their expensive bottle of Cabernet at the end of the cruise. Likewise with the soda and bottled water. Make sure they're all sealed in their original packaging and containers - security will inspect the water to make sure it truly is water.

Swimsuit and a Change of Clothes

You've made it through security. You've checked in. You've got your room keycard. You've made it onto the ship - but your stateroom isn't ready yet. Now what?! Luckily for you, you've read this blog and you've packed a swimsuit and an extra change of clothes in your carry on. You're going to make your way up to the buffet, grab yourself some lunch and hang out by the pool until your cabin is ready. No need to worry about the towel, you can borrow one from the pool area (just be sure to return it!)

Ready to begin planning your next cruise? Contact one of our cruise specialists to book your best vacation yet!

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