How to pick the best luggage for cruise travel

The best luggage for cruise travel is reliable, practical, and highly functional. And after many years of traveling and the inevitable mishaps along the way, you learn to appreciate how much good quality and smart choices can change your vacation experience.

Luggage of poor quality may result in zips breaking, wheels falling off, and handles snapping under the weight of it all. It can quickly become your worst nightmare at any time during your vacation.

Storage compartments placed awkwardly, too small, or just too many can make you feel unorganized, where you are continuously searching for or misplacing things. All resulting in being unnecessarily stressed during your journey.

And let’s face it, when you finally reach your port, embarkation day can be stressful enough without dealing with broken, ripped, or worse still, missing luggage items.

Streamline your cruise luggage for an organized journey

What kind of traveler are you? Are you the minimalist who takes five base pieces of each type of clothing, adds a couple of accessories, and can mix and match during your vacation?

Or are you an over-packer who needs a replica of your home wardrobe and bathroom items, all in miniature versions? And perhaps you start stressing three months before you leave home about how exactly you will squeeze in every item on your cruise packing list.

Try and think streamlined. And try to plan and not be the last-minute packer. Choose your favorite clothes and pack only essential bathroom kits. Your destinations do have shops if you are missing anything.

Try and make your life simpler while you are away. That way, you will focus more on relaxing and enjoying fun experiences.

What luggage do you need on a cruise vacation?

Large check-in suitcase

One large suitcase within the recommended size of checked luggage for most airlines. That is 62 inches/158 cm when you add your suitcase’s length, breadth, and width.

These days, most good suitcases come with packing compartments, separate packing cubes, and compression bags. Areas within the suitcase let you pack shoes away from your clothes, and waterproof toiletry sections help avoid mishaps if the baggage handler at the airport is careless and your favorite shampoo leaks.

Luggage tags and lock

Add to this a good quality secure luggage tag and a lock. The latest kind is secure but gives airport personnel easy access without breaking the lock should your suitcase be chosen for a random check. It does happen.

The right size cabin bag

Your cabin bag should be small enough to be lifted into an overhead compartment. Some of you will prefer a hard case, others a softer option that can be wheeled or slung over your shoulder.

Either way, a sturdy handle, and wheels are essential for easy maneuverability at the airport and to save your shoulders and back. Be sure to check size and weight restrictions with your airline. That said, it need to be light enough that you can lift it yourself into the overhead on board.

Small personal bag

Take with you a small personal bag to carry your travel documents, valuables such as wallet and cell phone, identification, and medicines.

Ideally, the bag is small enough to be comfortable, lightweight, and neatly fit with your cabin bag. Buy a bag with a side sleeve that fits over the handle of your cabin bag. This will avoid having to carry anything over your shoulder. Again, think streamlined.

A long wait at the airport, a lot of walking from A to B, and queuing for flights, transport, and check-in at the port are made so much easier if you are not wilting under the weight of luggage.

The top attributes of luggage for cruise travel

Today’s brilliant designs, plus durable, lightweight material, and smart luggage accessories mean there is no reason not to handle your luggage with ease. If you can get it right on the outside and streamline what you pack inside, your luggage logistics will be problem free from now on.

Buy durable, and save yourself money in the long run. Good quality luggage for cruise travel will not need to be replaced for many years.

Ideally, luggage for a cruise vacation with hit the top 5 attributes below:

  • Durable material that is also lightweight, so your bag itself doesn’t add too much to your total weight allowance
  • Divider pouches and built-in pockets
  • Compression straps to ensure you can make the most of the space available
  • Expandable sides so the suitcase can be compressed when empty for easy storage in your cruise cabin
  • Weight indicator so you never get caught out incurring extra fees for being overweight at the airport

The best-checked bag or suitcase

  • Choose between medium or large sizes, depending on whether you are a minimalist
  • Opt for a robust and durable polycarbonate exterior
  • A cushioned handle is best for easy maneuvering through the airport and cruise ship
  • If you prefer a soft-sided suitcase, make it collapsible with a zip-front opening and smooth rolling wheels.

The general rule for the size of a suitcase for international flights is baggage size must not exceed 62 inches (158 cm) when you total length + width + height.

Top choice of carry-on luggage

  • A carry-on roller in a sleek, hard shell is hard to beat for the knocks it may take on the aircraft.
  • While you may like the comfort of a soft carry-on, be sure it has wheels, and the material is cleanable.
  • A separate side zip pocket for storing your phone, iPad, and charger leads is a big plus.

The average size of a carry-on is 22″ x 18″ x 10″/ 56 x 45 x 25 cm but can vary slightly from airline to airline.

The best personal/day bags for onshore cruise excursions

  • Make your day bag double up as a handbag when traveling, and take a packable, small clutch bag for carrying your cards and cell phone to the restaurant each evening on board.
  • A tote or a duffel bag is your best option.
  • If you are a family with tots in tow, there are some practical and stylish totes bags that double up as diaper bags with all the space you need for baby’s essentials while on the go.
  • Any choice of day bag should have an outside sleeve that slips easily over the handle of your carry-on roller. That way it becomes portable and stays with the rest of your hand luggage.

Backpacks for hands-free travel

  • If you prefer a backpack instead of a shoulder bag, choose one or the other, not both
  • One main compartment and one front pocket keeps in simple
  • Add 2 side sleeves for a water bottle and little extra items you need at hand

Stay-dry and waterproof packs

  • A waterproof aqua pack is ideal if you are planning shore excursions on or in the water
  • The lanyard should be long enough to be worn over your chest and shoulder, not around your neck
  • If you need similar but a larger version, opt for a waterproof dry bag instead

Smart extras to compliment your luggage for cruise travel

Packing Cubes

A set of packing cubes is for cruise guests who like to be highly organized or who, perhaps, are taking care of the family’s luggage and not just their own. These handy bags will quickly become an indispensable part of your packing routine. Buy them once and they will last you for ages.


A sports pack that fastens securely around your waist during onshore excursions is an ideal hands-free solution. Keep your valuables safe while you enjoy hiking, trekking, and action-packed adventures.

Click to read our full packing list for tips and ideas on what to include in your cruise luggage!

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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