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The Ultimate Essential Packing List for a Four-Day Cruise

In my opinion, a three or four-day cruise is the perfect length of time for a first cruise. That way, you’ll have enough time on board to really figure out if cruising is for you, without the commitment of a longer cruise. It’s much less of a commitment so you aren’t taking as much of a risk with your vacation. Whether you are traveling on your first four-day cruise, or are an avid cruiser, proper packing for a cruise is essential.

While there are some stores onboard cruise ships, their selection is often limited. In addition, they are only open when the ship is at sea, due to cruise port restrictions. So, it can be difficult to replace anything that you may have left at home – especially something that is very essential.

In this post, we’ll give an overview of the cruise essentials you’ll need for your four-day cruise. In addition, at the end of the post, we provide our packing lists for a cruise. These contain two lists – one is a master list and the other is an individual list per person. You’ll need one copy of the master list and then copies of the individual list for everyone besides the person packing the master items.

Disclosure: I’ve been on some complimentary cruises and have paid for many of my own. This post contains affiliate links and a purchase through one of these links may result in a small commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.

Three cruise ships docked with mountains in the background and buildings in the foreground

4-Day Cruise Packing List

Review Cruise Ship Details

Before you get started packing, you’ll want to review the specifics of your cruise ship. What types of restaurants will you be dining in? Is there a dress code for any of the restaurants? Is there a formal night in the main dining room?

While most cruises are typically pretty casual, there are sometimes events, theme nights, and/or restaurants where you’ll want to have nicer apparel or themed apparel (like Pirate Night on the Disney Cruise Line). You won’t want to be surprised by this once you arrive.

Also, check to see if there are any prohibited items. Some will not allow you to bring a power strip, for instance. These prohibited items may be confiscated until the end of your sailing.

You may also be able to do laundry on board. Some ships have laundry rooms while others offer a laundry service. However, for a 4-night cruise, this is probably not something that you’ll want to spend time doing. Remember that there is typically not too much room in a stateroom, so you won’t want to overpack.

Type of Cruise

It’s also important to take the type of cruise into account. For a Caribbean cruise, for instance, you’ll need bathing suits and shorts (and perhaps a light jacket for the evenings). But if you are going into a cooler climate, it’s more important to be sure to pack warmer clothes and accessories.

Going on a Viking Ocean Cruise? Check out this Viking Ocean Cruise packing list.

Pack a Day Bag

When you go on a cruise, you’ll be able to check your bags at the port. They’ll be delivered outside your stateroom later in the afternoon on embarkation day.

You will, however, want to pack a day bag that contains all of your essential items, like travel documents, medications, chargers, a change of clothes, and a bathing suit. Fill the bag with any items that you’ll need on the first day. But, remember that you will need to carry this bag with you until you are able to get into your stateroom, so make sure that it isn’t too heavy, especially if it’s a tote bag.

Bathing Suits

Going on a warm-weather cruise? You’ll definitely want to pack bathing suits for the whole family. If you will be visiting the beach, or plan to spend time at the pools onboard the ship, it’s probably best to pack more than one. That way, you won’t have to worry about putting on a wet bathing suit.

Most cruises have a clothesline that you can stretch above the shower/tub. You can use that to dry your suit, but it usually takes more than a day or so for them to fully dry.

Don’t forget to pack other sun items, like a sun hat, cover-up, and flip-flops.

White beach bag on bed with white bedding

Wet Bag

Because your swimsuits may not be fully dry when you are packing to come home, it’s a good idea to pack a wet bag in your suitcase. You can toss any wet clothes into the bag, and then put them right into the washing machine when you get home.

You can find swimsuit bags on Amazon.

Nice Outfits

When I cruise, I typically wear casual clothes during the day. Then, I’ll change into nicer clothes in the evening. Whether or not your cruise has a formal night, you may want to wear something a little less casual for dinner. Don’t forget the dress shoes to match.

Once your bags arrive in your stateroom, unpack them right away. Pull out any of your clothes and hang them up. If they need to be ironed, do that on the first day (if there’s an ironing room) so you won’t have to worry about it once your vacation starts. It’s always good to throw in an extra outfit in case you change your mind once the cruise starts.

Sunscreen and Bug Spray

Sunscreen and bug spray are especially important if you are cruising to the Caribbean. While the ship’s stores will often offer these items, they are usually more expensive and options will be limited.

Keep in mind that the sun is really strong in the Caribbean. So, you’ll be applying sunscreen multiple times per day, especially if you go in the water and towel off. If you are prone to burning, you may also want to include an after-sun lotion.

Shore Excursion Items

Are you planning any shore excursions? If so, look at the specific details to make sure that you pack everything that you’ll need during your day trip. For instance, if you are going zip-lining, you’ll probably need to wear closed-toed shoes. You may also want to bring your own snorkeling equipment.

Be sure to pack a bag appropriate for your shore excursion. That way, you won’t have to tote your carry-on or day bag when you may only need a few things like your passport, credit cards, and ID.

Cell Phone

Before you leave on your trip, you’ll want to make sure that you have checked with your wireless carrier to see what your options are. If you are leaving the country, you’ll either need to put your cell phone into airplane mode or will need to purchase an international/cruise plan.

Most cruise lines also have apps that you should download onto your phone before leaving. If you are going to be using a cruise app on your phone, you’ll want to also make sure that you have packed a portable charger. That will ensure that your cell phone is fully charged, especially when you leave the ship for a shore excursion.

If you are going to have your cell phone around the water, consider protecting your phone with a water-resistant case. There are some inexpensive options available on Amazon.

Water Bottles

It’s easy to forget to drink the appropriate amount of water whenever you travel. But when you are in warm, sunny weather, it’s especially important to stay hydrated. While you can purchase bottled water on any cruise ship, many offer complimentary refill stations.

I’d recommend bringing a refillable water bottle, which you can refill at the airport and on board the ship. You should also be able to bring this full bottle with you when you are at the various cruise ports of call on your cruise.


Your key card is typically the most important thing that you have with you on a cruise. It’s your room key, identification, and payment method. In many cases, you can leave your credit cards and wallet in the stateroom safe and just carry your key card with you.

Many guests find that having a lanyard to hold your keycard is the best way to keep it safe and with you at all times. Ships typically sell them in the gift shops, but if you have one at home, you may want to bring it with you.

Here are some fun options on to purchase in advance of your trip.

Pink packing cubes of different sizes

Beach Bag

Visiting the beach during your 4-day cruise? You’ll definitely want to pack a beach bag that you can load up with beach towels, sunscreen, reading material, and other essentials for your day in the sun.

I really like this beach bag from Aloha Collection (from Amazon). It’s easy to wipe sand off of and is water-resistant. It can also be used as a carry-on bag for your flight, and a day bag for your first cruise day. Make sure you wipe it down after it gets sandy so you don’t carry sand with you home. Pack some Ziploc bags to use for any items you want to keep clean and dry.

Packing Cubes

Because of the limited space on cruise staterooms, I find packing cubes to be especially helpful. They can easily be taken right from your suitcase and placed into the drawers or shelves of the stateroom. Purchase separate colors for each member of your family so that you can keep things organized.


Your stateroom will probably come with some complimentary toiletries like soap or body wash and shampoo. But, if there’s something you especially want – especially related to shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer, you should bring it with you. For instance, I travel with my own travel-sized hair conditioner because there usually isn’t enough in the room. Most essentials can be purchased in the gift shop, however, the selection will be limited.

I suggest packing a hanging toiletry bag, which will be easy to transport. I usually hang mine off a towel hook in the bathroom.

In addition to these specific items, be sure to pack everything you’ll need for your vacation. I always recommend starting with a packing list. Once you write things down, it will be easier to track what you’ve packed, what you need to shop for, and what you have. You can download our packing lists here.

More Packing Tips Resources: Looking for more packing tips and recommendations? Here are all of our posts including packing lists, product recommendations, and ideas for specific trips.

White and black striped tote on a white bed

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