Cruise Packing – 5 Things We Do Differently

family with two children Crusie packing

Cruise Packing – 5 Things We Do Differently When Driving to Port

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Pack the Drinks!

Likely the biggest change we make when driving to port is packing beverages. Not all cruise lines allow you to bring your own soda, water & wine/champagne onboard, but some of our favorite homeport cruise lines do (like Princess & Carnival), and this can be a GREAT way to save money on your cruise.

While we don’t pack our own beverages every time we cruise, we do like to leverage the option when suitcase space & flights aren’t standing in the way. We’ll typically pack sodas & champagne, and order our water on the cruise line website in advance of the cruise. The bottled water is typically priced fairly, AND who wants to schlep all that extra weight, when you can simply have the bottled water waiting for you in your stateroom. It’s super important to check your cruise line’s beverage policy while planning, because each cruise line has their own restrictions.

Cruise packing alcoholic beverage

For example, Carnival’s Liquor and Beverage Policy states that guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages on board that are packaged in glass or plastic bottles. But, sparkling water, sodas, energy drinks, juice, and milk, packaged in cans or cartons, may be brought on board and must be in the guest’s carry-on luggage. A small quantity is considered a maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12 ounces each or less, per person.

What about alcoholic beverages? Here’s what Carnival Cruise Line does & doesn’t allow:

Guests are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages on board with the following exception – at the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day only, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring one 750 ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne, per person, in their carry-on luggage.

Outside this exception, all liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and such items will be confiscated and discarded and no compensation will be provided. Guests sailing with us on back-to-back cruises are entitled to bring the same quantity as stated in this policy, per cruise. The additional quantities will be stored for safekeeping at the start of the first cruise and will be given to the guest as each following cruise begins.

As we mentioned, before you pack, be SURE to check your cruise line’s beverage policy because some lines don’t allow beverages at all, and policies occasionally change!


I’ve been teased a lot for this one, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

Crusie packing foam soap

When we drive to our cruise port, I’ll typically pack my own pump bottle of hand soap. Why pack your own liquid soap when the cruise line provides bar soap? Well, the idea of a week without battling the small, slippery, gooey bar soap provided by the cruise line is worth the $2.00 investment in a nice pump-style hand soap, and it’s just a little luxury that makes our stateroom feel a bit more homey & cozy. Some cruise lines have wall-mounted pumps in the bathrooms, so this is definitely a little luxury, but we’ve found that our whole family likes having our own choice of scent & brand of soap on hand.

[amalinkspro type=”image-link” asin=”B0831S37KC” new-window=”true” apilink=”″ img-size=”160,160″ addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” alt=”Michel Design Works Mini Foaming Soap 3-Pack Set (Palm Breeze, Beach, Palm Breeze)” alignment=”aligncenter”][/amalinkspro]

Go Bigger!

Because we typically pack “carry on only” when cruising, driving to your cruise port allows us the option to pack full sized toiletries, where flying to port would limit us to TSA required tiny 3.4 ounce bottles. While this typically isn’t an issue for things like shampoo and conditioner, because we can pack multiple bottles of the stuff, it is SO nice to have full sizes of certain items.

Crusie packing

For us, it’s mainly SUNSCREEN that we tend to pack in full size quantities when we drive to port! If you read our packing Hits & Misses article, you may recall that on a recent cruise, we really blew it in the sunscreen department. Packing full size bottles we purchased at home (vs. inflated hotel & cruise ship priced bottles) really is nice. Of course, there is a third option, and that is to purchase toiletries and sunscreen AT your port of call prior to the cruise. I.e. – stop into a drug store before your cruise and grab all the toiletries before getting on the ship. But for packing organization purposes, it’s just easier to buy it at home.

Pack Less Light (kinda)

You know we LOVE to pack carry-on only, but when driving to port, “carry-on” takes on a new meaning for me. I can pack “less light” and still technically be in carry-on only mode. My husband would disagree, but we won’t go there…!

What does that look like when driving to port? Well, for me, it means MORE SHOES (just an extra 1-4 pairs, LOL). Shoes are typically the item I minimize most when flying, because of bulk & weight.

Cruise packing accessories shoes

It also means, packing drinks, as we already mentioned above. The bottom line is, when driving to port, I’m far less concerned with the weight and bulk of my luggage, because long airport walks, overhead bins, and tight flight space just aren’t a consideration. I might “upsize” my luggage choice to include a nice mid-size suitcase, instead of a carry on (gasp!), or schlep an extra carry on, in addition to a backpack. You get the idea.

Embarkation Day Necessities

Rather than packing a fight carry-on bag, driving to port allows us to put our focus on our embarkation day carry on bag. What you put in this bag is totally up to you, but we generally pack things we can’t live without for the first 5 hours of our trip.

While it’s rare, some cruise ships are slow to deliver luggage on day 1, so I always prepare by taking things I’ll need before dinner-time, as a general role. This varies by destination, but may include:

  • Passports & boarding docs (nowadays, that may mean vaccine proof and/or a clear COVID test)
  • Sunglasses
  • Swimwear
  • Clothing for dinner onboard (I consider this SUPER optional because you can wear casual clothes on night one!)
  • Sunscreen
  • Toiletry bag (hey, I may want to brush my teeth!)
  • Cameras
  • Wine/champagne/water/sodas (this is a requirement- beverages cannot be checked)
  • Medications
  • Phone & device chargers
  • USB Charging hub
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We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on driving to your cruise port! We have dozens of packing videos on our YouTube Channel, and invite you to browse through to see if you can score some tips & tricks!

DISCLAIMER: This article contains affiliate links, and we may earn from purchases.


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Sheri and her family are cruise content creators focused on providing practical tips and advice to new and seasoned cruisers. CruiseTipsTV’s audience enjoys following Sheri and her family as they travel the world by ship creating travel films. Sheri has visited destinations like Japan, Mexico, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean, and has experienced 33 cruises on 6 cruise lines. She was named one of Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 10 Travel Influencers Changing How We Vacation in 2018 and 2019. Sheri has been quoted in the New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, Prevention, and Business Innovator Radio. Her YouTube Channel, CruiseTipsTV has over 87,000 subscribers and 17 million views.