So many exciting destinations, so little space! Packing for a cruise can be like working an intricate jigsaw puzzle, but it does get easier as you gain the invaluable experience of, “Oops, I won’t forget that next time!”
If your voyage is going to take you through numerous changes in temperature and activities, here are some packing tips that the seasoned cruise aficionados swear by.
Check Your Ship’s Dress Code
The first piece of the puzzle is determining your cruise line’s dress code. Some take formal dress night very seriously; others allow more relaxed, smart and classy casual attire. Even if your ship has a dress-up night, there will probably be a casual dining or room service option if you decide to opt out.
Luggage for the Savvy Traveler
Cabin space is very limited, so choose lightweight, soft-sided luggage that can be flattened or stored under the bed after you unpack. Invest in some packing cubes that will keep everything in your non-structured bags neatly folded, wrinkle-free, and organized. Once on board, store the cubes on shelves so you know exactly where to find your underwear and socks, folded shorts and tops, and electronic gadgets.
A collapsible sweater bag with shelves can hang in the closet and hold several items that you don’t want to squish in drawers. Pack toiletries in a hanging toiletry bag, and bring at least one over-the-door shoe bag for the closet that folds up flat when not in use.
Pack a few extra hangers, including a 5-clip skirt hanger, and bring a foldable duffel bag that can be checked on your return trip for transporting all those fabulous souvenirs.
A tote bag or small backpack is essential for carrying your camera, water bottle, books, and sunscreen on trips around the ship, for time at the pool, and on shore excursions. Use this same tote as a carry-on filled with everything that you might need for your first several hours after boarding while you wait for your luggage. Bathing suit, flip-flops, a cover-up, medications, and toiletries can all be close at hand. If you board your ship wearing a resort-casual outfit that can see you through dinner, you’ll know that you’re prepared for the first half-day of your cruise.
Smart Wearable Essentials
Keep your color scheme as simple as possible for maximum mix and match potential. Bring versatile tops that can be dressed up with jewelry and scarves for dinner and worn sightseeing the next day. Some manufacturers, such as Chico’s and Jostar, specialize in attractive and lightweight cruise wear that can go from day to night, is wrinkle-free, and air dries in no time. Long jersey dresses and easy skirts in solids or colorful animal prints are super comfy and classy.
Think layers for handling varying temperatures, and pack one good cardigan. Remember both sun hats or visors and cold weather caps and gloves. Don’t forget workout clothing if you plan to use the gym. Flip-flops, one pair of dressy dinner sandals, and a sturdy pair of walking/hiking/athletic shoes should cover all of your footwear bases.
Remember that most ships have some type of laundry service, and you can pack a small container of laundry detergent (or use the ship’s shampoo) to rinse out your essentials in your bathroom sink in a pinch.
While you may choose to “unplug” as much as possible while you’re on vacation, chances are good that you might want access to your:
- Portable music player
- Camera and video camera
- Portable game player or book reader
- Alarm clock
- White noise machine
Many cabins have just one electrical outlet that is not necessarily in an easy-to-reach location, so bring along an extension cord, outlet multiplier, a plug with multiple USB ports, and a power strip for charging several devices at once.
Other Nice to Haves
- Night-lights are very handy for use in dark, inside cabins to help you make your way safely to the bathroom.
- Biodegradable, sea-life-friendly sunscreens are often required for snorkeling and diving excursions in regions with delicate reefs.
- Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or seasickness pills can be pricey on board, so bring a stash.
- Batteries and memory card for your camera.
- If you’re a light sleeper, don’t forget your earplugs and eye mask!