Carnival Cruise Packing List – The Ultimate Guide

Carnival Cruise packing list

Carnival Cruise Packing List: Exactly what to pack for your warm-weather Carnival Cruise (+ one MISTAKE to avoid!)

Are you setting sail with Carnival Cruise Line to a warm-weather destination soon? Maybe you’ve booked your cruise but are now staring at an empty suitcase with that sinking feeling. We’ve got you! How many swimsuits should you pack? What should you wear at night?

There are some unique things about cruising with Carnival, and we’ll cover those specifics so you’re ready for an amazing “fun ship” adventure! I’ll share our Carnival Cruise Packing List & essential items you NEED if you’re cruising on Carnival’s fun ships and everything will be linked throughout this article for easy shopping. If it’s your first cruise, you might want to read our 9-Easy Packing Steps Article, before you start your Carnival Cruise Packing List.

We’ll cover embarkation day essentials to ensure a stress-free start to your cruise, how to dress on your Carnival Cruise and in the ports, and on theme nights, as well as some practical and fun extras to make your cruise smooth and enjoyable! You’ll want to read until the end for advice on ONE CRUCIAL mistake to avoid when cruising with Carnival. 

Be sure to shop our Amazon Store for:

DISCLOSURES: As a heads-up, this article contains affiliate links for items to add to your Carnival Cruise Packing List, and we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through them. However, don’t worry—this doesn’t affect the price you pay for these items.

Let’s address those burning questions about packing for your Carnival Cruise.

Do I Really Need a Packing List (It Seems So Easy to Just Throw Things in a Bag)?

Carnival Cruise packing list - sun screen
Carnival Cruise packing list – sunscreen

While you certainly can wing it, a Carnival Cruise Packing List can be a lifesaver. Here’s why:

  • Peace of Mind: A list ensures you don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, medications, or that killer outfit for formal night. No scrambling at the last minute or unnecessary on-board purchases.
  • Maximized Space: A list helps you avoid overpacking. You’ll know exactly what you need, preventing that stressful “suitcase won’t close” situation.
  • Time Saver: Packing becomes a breeze. No more rummaging through drawers wondering what you might need. Just follow your list and hit the road (or rather, the sea!)

Creating a list on your phone is fantastic! There are even handy packing list apps available.

How Are Carnival Cruises Different?

Carnival Cruise Line is known for its fun, energetic atmosphere. Here’s what sets them apart:

  • Themed Nights: Get ready for awesome themed nights! Pack something that fits the vibe, whether it’s neon for the 80s deck party, a white dress or dancing on deck, or island wear for a tiki or deck party.
  • Casual Vibe: Carnival offers a more relaxed feel compared to some cruise lines. Pack plenty of comfortable clothes for lounging and exploring ports.
  • Nonstop Activities: Carnival is packed with fun activities, from poolside games to live music and dance clubs. Pack your swimsuit, dancing shoes, and your sense of adventure!

By understanding Carnival’s unique flair, you can tailor your Carnival Cruise packing list to ensure you have everything you need for an unforgettable cruise experience. So whether you’re a seasoned Carnival Cruise lover or a first-time cruiser, a packing list will help you approach your Carnival cruise with confidence!

Embarkation Day Packing Essentials

Carnival Cruise packing list day 1 Essentials
Carnival Cruise packing list day 1 Essentials

First things first, let’s conquer embarkation day

What should you pack in your carry-on bag on day 1? There are three main things to think about so you can get straight to that sailaway party in style! Add these to your Carnival Cruise Packing List for a SMOOTH and fun first day!

First, the necessities: your passport, cruise documents, and ID—think of these like your boarding day crew! Keep them secure and easily accessible in a carry-on bag. You’ll also want some small bills for tipping the luggage porter at the cruise port and, totally optional, some luggage tag holders to pop your luggage tags in and attach to your suitcase!

Next- Pack any medications you need for the first day, just in case your checked luggage arrives a bit later. And finally, think about being without your checked luggage for a few hours. What items will you miss? If you’re going somewhere with warm weather, like the Caribbean or Mexico, you might want to pack a swimsuit, sunglasses, and cover-up in your carry-on bag.

Your checked luggage might be a little late to your cruise cabin, but you’ll be ready to hit the pool deck the second you board. Whatever you do, make sure you’ll have whatever you need to hit that sailaway party! HOT TIP: Keep your embarkation day bag LIGHT. Pack either a very lightweight backpack, or something with wheels in case you have to lug it around for a few hours.

Embarkation Day Essentials Checklist

  • Passport or applicable ID
  • Cruise documents (boarding pass)
  • A Pen
  • Small bills for tipping
  • Luggage tag holders
  • Medications
  • Anything you’ll want until evening! 

What to Wear on a Carnival Cruise

That covers day 1. Now, let’s talk about what clothes you should bring on your Carnival cruise. Carnival is all about keeping it FUN and casual, so you can focus on relaxed, comfy, resort-wear-type clothing. Think shorts, t-shirts, activewear, swimwear, and comfy shoes by day. At night, for dinners, wear what you’d wear on a casual date. For guys, casual pants and collared or more dressy t-shirts, and for women- sundresses, casual pants or capris, and cozy date-night-casual outfits are perfect. Here’s some clothing ideas from Amazon to get you started. We have plus size selections too, as well as a list of our favorite shoes for a cruise.

Here’s a basic framework you can follow. For women- 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of jeans or long pants, 5-7 t-shirts or tank tops, a few sets of activewear if you’re going to the gym or doing active stuff in port. Then, 5 casual dresses or dinner outfits of your choice, 2 formal dresses, 2-3 swimsuits, and 2-3 swim cover-ups. For shoes, think one 1-2 pairs of sandals or flip flops, some nicer sandals or wedges for dinners, a pair of sneakers, and one pair of more glamorous shoes for those two dressy nights. You get the idea.

Carnival Cruise packing list - beach wear
Carnival Cruise packing list – beach wear

HOT TIP: If you plan to participate in activities like Bolt, or the ropes course, add close-toed shoes and activewear to your Carnival Cruise Packing List.

Sample Clothing List for a Warm Weather Cruise (Caribbean, Bahamas, or Mexico)

  • 3 Pair Shorts
  • 1 Pair Jeans or Long Pants
  • 5-7 T-Shirts and/or Tank Tops
  • Activewear
  • 5 Casual Dresses or Dinner Outfits
  • 5 Formal or “Dressy” Outfits for formal nights
  • 1 Sweater or Wrap for Chilly Evenings and for your flight
  • 1 Hoodie or Sweatshirt for cool evenings (can also be used on the flight)
  • 2-3 Swimsuits
  • 2-3 Coverups
  • Shoes: 1 sandal or flip flop, nicer sandals/wedges for dinners, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of dressy night shoes 
  • Jewelry & Accessories (we suggest leaving valuables at home)
  • Purses 
  • Pajamas 
  • Undergarments

Let’s discuss those elegant nights—or “dress to impress” evenings. While Carnival is known for being a super casual cruise line, it does have optional dressy nights. You’ll have to decide if you want to make room in your suitcase for formal wear. Eliminating formal wear can be a way to pack less and shorten that Carnival Cruise Packing List if you must!

Carnival Cruise packing list - Formal night examples
Carnival Cruise packing list – Formal night examples

While you could skip the fancy wear entirely and go to casual restaurants or the buffet on those dressy nights, getting glammed up is part of the fun of a carnival cruise. For guys, pack Dress slacks, dress shirts, and maybe a sports coat. You could also wear a suit or tux, and some people do. For Women: Cocktail dresses, pantsuits, or elegant skirts and blouses. Really, think about anything ranging from fancy dates at an upscale restaurant to prom night. It’s up to you!

If you’re wondering what the actual dress code is, Carnival says that the following types of clothing are NOT Permitted in the dining room on a dressy night:  Cut-off jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, shorts, t-shirts, sportswear, baseball hats, thongs (flip-flops) and bathing suit attire.

Be sure to shop our Amazon Store for Luggage, Toiletries and Beauty, Shore Day Bags, Clothing for men and women, Plus-Size Clothing, Shoes, Motion Sickness Remedies, Stateroom Essentials, and Deck Party and Theme Night ideas!

What NOT to wear on dressy night:

  • Cut-off jeans
  • Men’s sleeveless shirts.
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Sportswear
  • Baseball hats,
  • Thongs (flip-flops)
  • Bathing suit attire

How do you know how many dressy nights there are on your cruise? The length of the cruise determines the number of elegant cruise evenings in the dining room. The first Cruise Elegant evening is usually scheduled somewhere between the 2nd and 4th day of the cruise and the second Cruise Elegant evening is scheduled closer to the end of the cruise, often on a sea day. On a 3-5 Day cruise, there’s one Cruise Elegant evening, and on a 6 Day or longer cruise: two Cruise Elegant evenings.

Carnival Theme Nights and Deck Parties

Carnival has theme nights on their cruises, and they typically don’t sell stuff for you to wear to those parties.  So, if you’re into the themed deck parties, pack some neon and 80’s wear for the Rock & Glow and 80’s parties. You can take this as seriously (or not) as you want. We’ve seen full-on Axel Rose and Madonna get-ups, but you could go as simple as a little pop of neon and some high bangs if you want to pack light. Sometimes there are tiki deck parties, wear red, blue, or white deck parties, and decade parties too, so check your favorite cruise line message board OR Facebook group for your cruise for the most up-to-date parties on the schedule. Here are some great Amazon Theme Night ideas to add to your Carnival Cruise Packing List.

Port Day Essentials- Stuff to Pack for a Great Day Ashore

Carnival Cruise packing list - shore day
Carnival Cruise packing list – Shore day

So you’re on the ship, and now it’s time for some port day fun! 

Let’s move to the next step in our Carnival Cruise Packing List- building the perfect bag for your shore days. Here’s some Shore Day Bags ranging from practical to FUN. Start with a small backpack or lightweight shoulder bag, nothing too big. Sun protection is key, so pack a reef-safe, high-SPF sunscreen and a shady hat to keep you cool. Don’t forget your sunglasses too. Staying hydrated is a must, so bring a reusable water bottle you can refill on the ship or at the port.

You’ll probably want to capture those unforgettable memories with your camera, so pack a fully charged battery and extra memory card to ensure you don’t miss a shot. Pack a portable charger with built in cables (works on many types of phones!) on excursions if you’re using your phone, like we do!

Getting some local currency beforehand or grabbing cash from an ATM at the port will ensure you can snag those perfect souvenirs or enjoy a local meal. But most of the time, US dollars are widely accepted and will get you by in port.  Small bills are always handy for tipping or unexpected purchases, so pack lots of $1 and $5 bills!

Comfortable Shoes are essential for exploring ports, whether you’re hitting the beach in sandals or venturing out for some sightseeing in sturdier shoes. Pack some travel-sized hand sanitizing wipes (these are the BEST!) to keep your hands clean throughout the day, especially before eating. We created a list of our favorite cruise shoes to add to your Carnival Cruise Packing list.  

Shore Day Essentials List

  • Small bag or backpack
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Water
  • Swimwear/cover-up
  • Camera/phone
  • Portable charger
  • Cash/credit cards
  • Comfy walking shoes
  • Waterpoof phone/valuables case for beach days
  • Hand sanitizing wipes

We’re getting close here- you’ve almost got EVERYTHING you need for your Carnival Cruise Packing List. The last few things you’ll want to consider are toiletry items and a few things to make your stateroom more cozy.

Toiletries are kinda personal, so we suggest making a list of things you use daily and packing travel sizes of those toiletry items, but you’ll find some inspo on our carnival cruise packing list that’s linked below. Most people pack toothpaste & a toothbrush, deodorant, makeup, shampoo and conditioner, and other haircare stuff, and any basic over-the-counter medications you might need- like pain reliever or heartburn relief.

HOT TIP: Conditioner is an essential item to pack, as Carnival Cruise Line does not typically provide it! Also, curling irons and flat irons for hair are allowed at Carnival cruise ships in the United States, but clothing steamers and irons are NOT. You can shop our Amazon Storefront for Toiletries and Beauty Inspiration, too!

Toiletries & First Aid Packing List

  • Toiletry Bag
  • Toothpaste/toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup & Skincare
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Haircare items
  • Comb/brush
  • Hot tools (curling iron/flat iron)
  • Body lotion
  • Razor
  • Shaving cream
  • Bandaids
  • First Aid Essentials (pain relief, etc) 

Keeping your Stateroom Organized

To keep your cruise cabin more tidy, pack a pop-up clothes hamper and a few magnetic hooks to keep things off the counters and easy to access! We have a discount code in the description for custom magnets and hooks, but be aware that cruisers have shared with us that some of the older Carnival ships have walls that don’t work well with magnets.

Carnival Cruise packing list hamper
Carnival Cruise packing list – pop-up hamper

I’d pack a few anyhow and try different surfaces in the stateroom. You can find all the stateroom essentials you need in our Stateroom Essentials Amazon Idea List. You don’t need to add much to your Carnival Cruise Packing List to make your stateroom comfortable, and most of the above items take up VERY little space.

Stateroom Essentials List

  • Pop up hamper
  • Magnetic hooks
  • Magnetic clips
  • Chargers
  • Discount on custom magnets & hooks – use code CTT10 for 10% off your order at Magical Day Creations

Crucial Carnival Cruise Packing Mistake to AVOID!

Now for that packing mistake, we mentioned earlier! Trust me, this ONE thing can ruin your comfort on a cruise, and we’ve had to learn the hard way. That mistake is packing brand-new shoes on your cruise. Our advice is to wear your shoes around the house and WEAR THEM IN for at least a few weeks before your cruise. Even casual shoes like flip-flops and sandals can rub your feet and leave you miserable, so wear those shoes in, or prepare to pack a lot of bandaids. 

We hope you enjoyed these tips and found some helpful things on the Carnival Cruise Packing List!

As you build your Carnival Cruise Packing List, be sure to shop our Amazon Store for:

We’ve included a downloadable Caribbean/Mexico packing list below to get you started.

DOWNLOAD a printable packing list here.

Read more CruiseTipsTV articles here.

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