Boarding a cruise has its own set of luggage rules & guidelines that cruise passengers should know. In fact, boarding a cruise ship is completely different from boarding a plane.
When it comes to packing for a cruise, your cruise carry on bag is essential on boarding day!
In this post I go over the cruise luggage rules, tips, and do’s & don’ts for embarkation day. You’ll also know what to pack in your cruise carry on bag for embarkation.
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Cruise Boarding Day Luggage Rules & Packing Guidelines
1. Pack a Carry On Size Luggage or Tote Bag
It’s important to pack a carry-on bag or suitcase to bring with you on embarkation day. This is because when you arrive at your cruise terminal on boarding day, you’ll drop your checked luggage with porters.
The luggage will go through security, then placed onto the cruise ship and delivered to your cabin several hours after you board.
Your embarkation day bag should have everything you might need for the first day of your cruise.
2. Rules for the Size of Your Carry On Bag
There are no strict rules for the size of your cruise carry on bag. However, all luggage needs to fit through the security scanners and xray machines in the cruise port terminal. These are similar to the airport baggage scanners most people are used to.
A small duffel bag, weekender bag, backpack or 20-21″ carry on luggage are all fine.
Carry On Recommendations:
3. TSA Liquid Rules Don’t Apply
A question that’s frequently asked is “Can I bring full size liquids on a cruise?”.
Good news! Cruise ships don’t have the same TSA liquid rules (3:1:1) as airplanes. Therefore you aren’t limited when it comes to the size and amount of liquids and creams you pack for a cruise.
That said, if you’re flying to the cruise port, be sure to follow the airline rules and guidelines.
4. Boarding with Luggage
Some people wonder if they can avoid checking their luggage with the porters, and can simply board with all of their belongings.
While you can board with carry on size luggage, larger suitcases that don’t fit in the security scanners won’t be able to pass. Something else to consider is that you need to keep your items with you until you can access your cruise ship cabin.
On embarkation day, often you can board, eat lunch and explore your cruise ship, before your stateroom is ready. If you do bring your luggage with you on boarding day, make sure you’re able to bring it around comfortably for at least an hour or two.
Related: How to Pack Light for a Cruise (or Carry-on Only)
Medication, along with other first day essentials should be brought on with you as you embark. Make sure to pack your prescription and over the counter medications in your embarkation day luggage or carry on bag.
Most cruise ships don’t require passengers to bring medication in prescription bottles or original containers. However, depending on your cruise itinerary or the country you are traveling to, you may need to do so.
Although not a requirement, many cruise line websites do suggest bringing original prescription containers as well as a list of medications. It’s also a good idea to bring a few extra days of medication, in case of any potential travel delays.
You can check the TSA rules for flying with medication for more information.
6. Passports & Government Identification
One of the worst mistakes any cruiser can make is to pack passports or government identification in checked luggage, rather than in a carry on or personal bag.
A passport and/or government ID is required (check the requirements) to board your cruise ship. Unfortunately, if you don’t have them with you, you can be denied boarding.
Always have your passports and documents in your handbag or passport wallet to avoid potential problems.
Recommended: Travel passport wallet RFID protected (see 4.5* reviews & price on Amazon here)
7. Wallet and Credit Cards
Bring a wallet with money, including small bills for tips, as well as your credit cards. Once you are able to access your cruise ship cabin, be sure to place your wallet, passport and other valuables in your stateroom safe.
Related: 12 Things to Do as Soon as You Get Into Your Cruise Cabin
8. Bringing Beverages Onboard a Cruise
Something that surprises many first time cruisers, is that most cruise lines allow guests to bring a small amount of non-alcoholic beverages on board.
This can vary by cruise line. However, it includes a small quantity of soda or pop (such as 12 cans of Coke or Pepsi) and water bottles.
Something to note is that more cruise lines are making an effort to reduce single use plastic water bottles onboard. They may not sell or allow these to be brought onboard. It’s a good idea to bring an insulated resuable bottle for water or coffee as an alternative.
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9. Bringing Wine
While most cruise lines don’t allow alcoholic beverages to be brought onboard, an exception is wine. Many popular cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises, allow passengers to bring 1 bottle of wine per person on embarkation day. A corkage fee may apply.
10. TSA Locks
If you choose to lock your luggage, make sure the lock is TSA approved. You can purchase a TSA lock or you may have an integrated TSA lock in your carry on or checked luggage.
While not a necessity, a cruise lanyard or cruise card holder (phone pouch) is a very useful cruise essential. The fact is, you’ll need your cruise card several times a day. From opening your cabin door to paying for drinks, your cruise ship card will be used a dozen times or more, every single day.
Having my cruise card on a lanyard has helped me to never lose my cruise card (which definetely happened in the past!).
Recommended: Cruise lanyards
12. Prevent Seasickness
Prepare for potential seasickness by packing a few items in your carry on luggage. If you’re prone to motion sickness, you may want to use a scopolamine patch (consult your physician) or take an over the counter medication like meclizine (generic form of Bonine).
Related: How to Prevent Seasickness on a Cruise: 10 Effective Remedies
13. Children’s Items
Be sure to pack a few toys or other items to keep your kids busy on the first day of your cruise. If you have children in pull ups or diapers, be sure to pack a diaper bag with wipes and other essentials. Don’t forget a change of clothes.
14. Chargers & Wires for Electronic Devices
It might be several hours until you have time to fully charge your devices. So, make sure to pack a portable charger for your phone, as well as other electronic items.
I’m loving my iWalk charger, which is small and able to charge my cell phone even while I use it.
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15. Packaged Snacks
There’s a lot of available food on cruises, so don’t feel like you need to bring extra snacks. However, if you do get the occasional craving for candy, chips or other snack foods, you might want to bring this along.
Sealed packaged snacks are permitted to be brought onboard on embarkation day.
16. Change of Clothes
While you’ll likely get your luggage before dinner on the first day of your cruise, bringing a change of clothes or an evening outfit in your carry on suitcase is a good idea.
This way, you can change and get ready whenever you like. Your outfit is less likely to wrinkle as well.
17. Optional Items
Optional items to pack in your embarkation bag include sunscreen, sunglasses, AirPods, a book or kindle, personal toiletries or make up, hair appliances, etc. Remember to keep all valuables like jewelry and electronics in your carry on bag.
Related: 23 Essential Things to Pack in Your Cruise Carry-On Bag
Video: 12 Cruise Embarkation Day Luggage Rules All Cruisers Must Know
Things You Can’t Bring on a Cruise on Embarkation Day
While there are a lot of things you can bring on a cruise, there are a few prohibited items that might surprise you.
Here is a short list prohibited items to be aware of:
- Surge protected power bars (non-surge protected power bars are permitted)
- Illegal drugs or substances
- Small electrical appliances that produce heat (hair appliances are exceptions)
More prohibited items can be found here: 30+ Banned Items Not to Bring on a Cruise
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Final Thoughts on Cruise Embarkation Day Luggage Rules All Cruisers Must Know
If you’re going on a cruise it’s important to know about the luggage rules and what to pack for embarkation day. While the exact items you’ll need for the first day will depend on weather and itinerary, this is a good guide for boarding day.
What do you make sure to pack in your cruise embarkation day luggage? Please share your tips and questions in the comments below.
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I always either wear a swimsuit over an appropriate swim coverup, or pack my swimsuit on Embarkation days. That way if I want to cool off in the pool I can.