If you have never been on a cruise before, your first one can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many things to do to prepare and you want to make sure you pack everything, to the point that you will probably pack too much like I still do. These tips are going to help you prepare for your first cruise without feeling like you are ready to pull your hair out by the time you are done.

Things to Pack

Every cruise I take I do end up overpacking a bit, but there are a few essential things you don’t want to leave behind. One thing to remember is that you can do laundry on the boat or pay to get it done if you want to. It can be a bit expensive, but you will never be stuck without clean clothes to wear. You are going to want to pack all of your cutest clothes, but don’t forget sometimes you just want to throw on a t-shirt and a pair of comfy shorts.

Make sure you take a highlighter with you. Every day they put the Carnival Fun Times in your room and you will want to highlight things you want to do. If you are on certain cruises, then they have this option with the Carnival HUB App as well. Also, make sure to take a lanyard or plan on buying one on the ship. This is perfect to carry your card around in because you will need it all the time to pay for things or get in your room.

If you are on a five day or less cruise, there is one formal night and on a seven-day cruise, they have two formal nights. Make sure that you bring along something to wear on these special nights.

You will want to take some cash with you for when you are at ports, but you won’t need any on the cruise ship at all. Everything is taken care of with your card, including the tips. Don’t stress about needing money in other currencies, because this won’t be an issue. Any port you stop at will take your American money happily and probably more of it than you planned to spend. Who can resist a shot glass and a t-shirt at every port?

Don’t forget all of the bathroom essentials. You will want sunscreen, aloe vera gel, tampons, toothpaste and more. You can buy some of these things in the gift shop on the boat, but you do not want to spend those prices! If you do forget something, it is cheaper to buy them in port if you can wait.

Make sure you take a backpack along with you. This is something you are going to want to take with you when you stop at a port and venture out on your shore excursions. You can take water from the ship with you along with their towels, so have a bag to take it all along.

Bring Your Own Alcohol and Soda

You are allowed to bring one bottle of wine per adult in your cabin. This can save you a lot of money, so make sure you bring it. I have learned a very valuable lesson, though. It is best to bring something with a screw-on lid. They will check your wine and we took some that we love from a local winery before. It was corked and they thought that we might have opened it up and then put other alcohol in the bottle. You can’t take on any other alcohol, and if they think you are they will take it from you. Even bring your own corkscrew because they charge on board to open it for you.

If you plan to drink a lot, drinking in port is always cheaper than drinking on the ship. They do offer an all you can drink package, but it just doesn’t seem worth the price to us, so we don’t pay for that one. We have found that it is nice to get online and order bottled water and some alcohol delivered straight to your room. The water is really cheap and the alcohol costs a bit more but can end up cheaper than buying premade drinks on the Carnival cruise ship.

Everyone is allowed to bring in their own soda as well. They do also offer a package that is for soda, and this one is worth the price if you are someone who drinks soda all day long. A 12-pack per person is allowed and they will open this up to make sure you didn’t hide something else in the package. This can save you money if you are willing to carry this with you on the boat.


Documentation and Paperwork

When preparing for a cruise, you will hear that you don’t need a passport. Personally, we made the decision to go ahead and get them. Think about it. What if you get stranded in the Bahamas during your trip? You are going to want that passport to get on a flight and get back home.

If you decide not to go with a passport, then you will need to bring along your birth certificates. Carnival Cruise Line has a list of what documentation will work on their site, so if you are cruising Carnival check it out, or find the same one for your cruise line.

You will need to sign in to your online portal and print out your boarding passes to get on the ship. You will also print out luggage tags that go on every suitcase or bag you take on the trip. The first couple of cruises we went on, we simply used packing tape to tape them up and put them on our bags. Last time, I ordered really cheap luggage tagsthat you can slide the paperwork in to and this worked way better for us. It made it where we didn’t lose any of our luggage tags, which helps reduce the chance of the cruise line losing your luggage.


Most of all, relax and have fun! A Carnival Cruise is something you will never forget and you will be ready to book your next one before you even get home. They say booking on the ship can save some money, but we haven’t tried it that way just yet.