Photo: MSC Cruises/Conrad Schutt

What I Packed for a Five-Day Caribbean Cruise

Caribbean Technology + Gear Cruises
by Katie Scott Aiton Jun 25, 2024

Packing for a cruise is similar to putting together a capsule wardrobe for a resort. You need the practical basics, but it should also be a fun process. This is the opportunity to shrug off your sweats and celebrate your wardrobe. No dress is too flashy; no sandal too glam. Unlike a land-based vacation, however, you must consider that shops will undoubtedly be less accessible. Sure, all mega cruises have onboard shopping, but much like airport stores, expect extortionate rates for basics like SPF and clothing stores catering to a mystery demographic with designer belts and frumpy coverups.

I recently took a five-day cruise from Miami through the Bahamas to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and back to the US. This was my first time cruising with MSC as a Yacht Club guest (their premium vacation package), so I used the opportunity to treat myself to some luxe essentials.

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My experience on the MSC Seashore Caribbean cruise

Yacht Club Members have access to the privet pool deck. Photo: MSC Cruises/Ivan Sarfatti
The iconic Swarovski crystal staircase leading to the Top Sail Lounge in Yacht Club. Photo: MSC Cruises/Ivan Sarfatti
Ocean Cay MSC Reserve is MSC's private island playground where guests can enjoy activities such as paddleboarding, kayaking, diving and a twilight lightshow. Photo: MSC Cruises/Conrad Schutt
The specious Yacht Club suite. Photo: MSC Cruises/Ivan Sarfatti

MSC Yacht Club feels more like a luxury boutique hotel rather than a mega-cruise ship. It launched in 2008 on over half the company’s fleet and offers guests a more elevated cruising experience with five-star suites, an exclusive pool deck, restaurant and cocktail bar, priority check-in and out, ushered excursions, access to the pools and saunas in the spa area, and a private butler and personal concierge. Tickets also include 24-hour room service (although the menu is extensive, you can order anything you want) and a premium drinks package that includes high-end cocktails and wine.

You will want to have a few smart items when packing for Yacht Club. Dining is formal. But although there will be those at cocktail hour in their freshly pressed, tucked-in finest, I could still show a little of my personality, which is very much dressed-down chic. For this, I opted for neutral shift dresses, high-waisted shorts, and linen cropped t-shirts coupled with chunky gold jewelry and a splash of color with my shoes and clutch. I carefully considered cabin space, choosing items (especially skirts and dressy shorts) that I could mix and match and wear on more than one occasion. I also invested in several skincare products, a moisturizing spray, and a lovely SPF. As I said, you must ensure you have the basics, especially regarding toiletries.

Here’s a selection of my favorite things on my Caribbean cruise packing list, which will be in my suitcase for warm-weather cruises to come.

What I packed for a five day Caribbean cruise

Kurt Geiger sandels

My Kurt Geiger sandals (one pair in patent leather bubble gum pink and these rainbow slip-ons) are unforgivingly loud and playful. They get a mixed response, but I adore that about them. To me, the range screams luxury cruise. Both have the iconic gold signature eagle head, which is supposed to represent strength and courage — perhaps you need a little of that to proudly strut the pool area in the colorful collection. Other than the design aesthetic, these can be thrown on during the day (especially the flats) or dressed up for the evening. They bring character to any outfit. Best of all, besides my Birkenstocks, they are my most comfortable sandals.

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A foldable bag

Photo: Amazon/ QTKJ

MSC Yacht Club suites come with a pool bag, which is a surefire way to spot another fortunate guest outside the Yacht Club area. You’ll want to have a day bag to explore the ship. For me, this needed to be less casual and cumbersome than the day pack I flew in with, but it also foldable, so it didn’t take up too much space in my suitcase. I have a collection of totes I use for daily shops to the market, but I upgraded to a more stylish, lined straw shoulder bag. It’s multifunctional in that it’s smart enough for the dining room at lunch and practical for port excursions and the pool.

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Fjallraven hip pack

fjallraven fanny pack in green

Photo: Fjallraven

The fanny pack has made a triumphant return. They are back with a vengeance, and rightly so. Wear it with your bikini to store your SPF, sunnies, and cabin key card, or pop it on for a quick excursion with your ID when disembarking the ship. It’s a great alternative if you don’t want the bulk of a shoulder bag and keeps your valuables secure and essentials close to hand. If you’re going to go branded (and you don’t need to, as there are so many plain-colored styles for under $10), have a look at the range from Fjallraven. Fjallraven’s have some neat internal pockets and are weather-resistant.

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A page turner

Book The Woman in Cabin 10 essential for a Caribbean Cruise Packing List

Photo: Ruth Ware

Outside excursions, I spent most of my time sipping on a spritz poolside reading. I’m not ashamed about my vacation book list, it’s packed with page-turners like Ruth Ware’s Cabin 10, which tells of a murder at a luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship. Perhaps a little on the nose, but luckily, no one was thrown overboard during my sail.

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Isle of Paradise tanning drops

I’m in my late 30s, and in the sun, I’m wearing a hat. I also don’t always want to wear make-up, especially during the day. So, I swear by the Isle of Paradise tanning drops for a natural, sun-kissed glow. They’re easy to use, give a beautiful tan, and help even out skin tone. All you need to do is mix a drop or two into your night cream and apply it to your face and kneck – just remember to wash your hands after application.

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Dr.Jart Ceramidin Cream Mist

Dr.Jart+ moisturising spray essential for a Caribbean Cruise Packing List

Photo: Dr.Jart+

The other spritzing I was doing by the pool was using Dr. Jart’s hydration cream mist. It’s been my go-to moisturizing spray for a couple of years, and I’m never in the sun without it. The formula is lightweight, combining a water layer for instant refreshment with a moisturizing oil layer for deep hydration. My skin also tends to get sensitive in the heat, and this spray instantly calms it down.

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A neck lanyard

Photo: Amazon/ POCKT

I gave in and purchased a lanyard by my second cruise. Your cruise card is essential. It unlocks your cabin, acts as your onboard currency, and grants access to various areas—and a lanyard keeps your card constantly around your neck, allowing for easy swiping and eliminating the need to fumble in pockets or bags.

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Away That Day Hamptons one-piece

This swimsuit can be hard to get hold of. I had to wait a couple of weeks for the white to come back in stock, and I’m so glad I did. It’s the most comfortable one-piece I’ve ever owned, and it’s crafted from a luxurious textured fabric that holds everything in place. I also dressed it up with high-waisted shorts, a knotted shirt, and wedges for lunch in the main dining room.

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KORA Organics Silky Sun Drops mineral sunscreen serum

This SPF serum by KORA Organics — the skincare brand founded by Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr — is water-resistant and lightweight, making it comfortable to wear throughout the day, even in the Caribbean sun. I took another SPF spray for my body, but I wanted something a little extra for my face and neck (it contains antioxidant-rich botanicals like raspberry seed oil and chia seed oil, which can help protect your skin from free radical damage caused by sun exposure.) I love that the drops are lightweight and fast-absorbing, and the bottle is small (30ml). It’s perfect for slipping into your carry-on, so you have some SPF to hand while waiting for your luggage to be delivered to your cabin.

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The Reformation Jessi linen dress

Your cruise will likely have a white party, so I packed this linen shift dress by The Reformation. It’s slightly oversized but meant to be, hangs beautifully, and feels simply luxurious. The only drawback is the fabric. Linen is tricky enough with a steamer on hand, but because there are no irons on board, I took a wrinkle-releasing spray, and it worked a treat.

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