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It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in March and the day before my flight to Fort Lauderdale. I was headed on my first cruise, a 30 Before 30 goal, and had no idea what to pack. Sure, I’ve written packing lists for loads of places – from San Francisco to Ireland – but none of them helped me pack for my trip.

In my heart, I’m a temperate climate gal, raised in Alaska. I love layers, being covered up, and have a tendency to break out in sun rash after about five minutes. The truth is that don’t own much that I can wear in the Caribbean without breaking out in a sweat after 2.7 seconds.

After scrounging around through some bins of ‘out-of-season’ clothes, I threw a few colorful dresses and skirts in my bag and hoped for the best. In the end, I was pretty comfortable through my 10-day Caribbean cruise, and feel confident advising you how to pack to look cute without weighing your luggage down. (Yes, I know the crew will bring it to your cabin – that’s no excuse for overpacking!)

A few last minute notes before we dive into the packing list:

  1. Unsurprisingly, the Caribbean is hot. Light, flowy clothing is a must, especially on port days.
  2. It’s also humid and muggy, and can sometimes even be rainy depending on the time of year. Clothes that are made of quick-drying material are going to fare better and wrinkle less in your bag.
  3. It can be pretty breezy in the mornings if you rise early to see the sunrise. For this, I’d throw a cool windbreaker in your bag, like this one from the North Face.
  4. When in doubt, pack two of everything: two suits, two shorts, two sandals – things will get damp from hopping out of the pool, and you’ll want to mix up your wardrobe. Luckily, everything you need to pack folds up small, so there’s no reason to stuff your bag full!
  5. This packing list is, for the most part, focused on “on-boat” and leisure shore excursions. If you are planning adventure experiences while you travel, try this packing list for multi-destination adventure travel.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it. Here’s a packing list inspired by my own packing list from my recent Princess Cruises trip in the Caribbean.

What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

Two words: coral and floral. The Caribbean is the perfect destination to embrace your feminine side and blend in with the foliage.

  • Tank tops. The two super-cute floral print tanks at the top of my packing list have a secret surprise – they’re tulip back too! That means you’ll get great ventilation when the temps get hot.
  • Base layer tanks. Always required. You know this already from this packing list for long-term travel. And this one for San Francisco.
  • Accessories. You definitely need a Panama Hat, especially if you’re cruising through the Panama Canal, as I did. Cute sunglasses like this floral pair (or more conservative black pair) are also important to protect your eyes. Finally, some funky Jamaican earrings will really give you a Caribbean vibe.
  • Swimsuits. You’ll want two swimsuits, so one is always dry. Channel your inner hibiscus and opt for this cute floral one-piece. Mix conservative and hip with this black scalloped one-piece – which you can see my blogger friend Kerrie wearing on her Instagram here.
  • Skirt. A light skirt goes a long way on a Caribbean cruise. You can cover up at the pool, or head into port wearing something comfortable in the heat. This pleated pink skirt is perfect for port stops like Cartagena, Colombia with all its colorful walls.
  • Day bag. You’ll need a bag to throw your sunscreen, sandals, and wallet in for sea days spent on the Lido deck. This adorable sloth bag makes me want to head straight back to Costa Rica!
  • Full-length dress. You’ll want to pack a full-length dress for formal dinner nights aboard the ship. This one from Awesome21 is affordable and rolls up super small.
  • Tops & shorts. In addition to looking super cute, you’ll also want some comfortable clothes for lounging around the ship. I love this lace tulip-back top in a cool white, paired with colorful J.Crew shorts. (P.S. The 5″ inseam is a must!)
  • Shoes. Add a pop of color with some strappy sandals for days in port, like these deep sea-blue ones. Be sure to have a pair of flip flops for by the pool, and some close-toed flats for formal dinners too.

You can easily fit all of these in a carry-on bag while making your whole trip painless and fashionable. You may want to throw in an extra dress or two if you plan to eat at the specialty restaurants aboard the ship, too. Other than that, save that extra luggage space for souvenirs like floral print dresses and the sun hat you’re going to fall in love with while at port in Aruba.

Bonus: If you’re on the fence about options for staying connected while on your cruise, I recommend checking out Skyroam. Their mobile hotspots can allow you to connect in each port country (basically every country in the world) so you can switch off shipboard wifi (save those minutes!) while pulling into port and check your email/post to social media on faster services. I have a full review coming soon, so stay tuned!

I spent 10 days aboard the Coral Princess on their Panama Canal cruise itinerary. You can see more on the Princess Cruises website, and book your trip here. This post was created in partnership with Princess Cruises.

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