One of the biggest advantages to cruising is that you only have to unpack once. You can visit several countries without having to live out of your suitcase. With storage space being somewhat limited on board and airlines not only charging for checked baggage, but overcharges if your bags are heavy, it’s important to learn how to pack light for a cruise.
Beginner cruisers often freak out about what to pack for a cruise, but the reality is they probably have everything they need. Plus, if for some reason you forget something it’s likely to be easily at hand in the ship’s store or at shops within the ports.
The two most important considerations when packing for your cruise are:
• Where you’re cruising
• What ship you’re sailing on
Most cruise lines have become more casual allowing onboard guests to wear t-shirts, shorts, jeans, and bathing suits (with cover-ups) pretty much anywhere on the ship. There are obvious exceptions such as if you do a sit-down lunch in the main dining room where restrictions are common. On the luxury cruise ships, this casual approach may equivocate to polos and khakis, sundresses, and other designer wear. What you wear at night varies by the ship you are cruising on and where you would like to dine. Many ships have formal nights held twice a week. Not all weeklong itineraries hold formal evenings but a lesson for first time cruisers is to use the term “formal” to a small degree.
Really, semiformal is a more appropriate term to use. Men can typically get by wearing a dark suit and women, a cocktail dress. Many cruise lines offer advice on what to wear depending on what ship you are cruising, too. For example, Oceania Cruises indicates a country club casual attire on board, which means you dress up a little more at night than you did during the day. As many of the cruise lines do, Oceania offers a great blog and tips for cruisers setting sail with them.
Most cruise lines do offer laundry and dry cleaning services with a typical 24-hour turnaround. When you arrive in your cabin, a price list will break down the laundry services more in-depth for you. These convenient services are handy for those who prefer to pack extremely light, but you should expect to pay about $1.50 per sock, $3 per T-shirt, and $7 to dry clean a shirt. Carnival, Princess, and Holland America just to name a few do offer self-service washing machines and dryers.
If you are particular about products you use on a daily basis consider bringing your own in approved 8oz travel size containers. If you aren’t as particular, your cabin will have soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion. If you happen to forget other toiletries such as toothbrushes, razors, sunscreen, etc. most ships have those items available for purchase.
American operated ships are well equipped with 110 and 220 AC current. One thing to keep in mind if you are traveling internationally on-board a non-American cruise line, you will want to verify if you need an adapter for your electronic devices. Most cabins have a couple outlets but if you’re an electronic guru bringing multiple devices, consider bringing along a small power strip.
An important tip for first time cruisers is-pack a day bag on day 1! Many times it can take up to 8 hours for your luggage to be delivered to your cabin so fill the bag with all essentials such as medications, documentation, etc. Always pack your camera and binoculars, especially if you’re on a cruise where you are likely to see wildlife. If you are planning on any shore excursions, take into consideration that you may need to dress appropriately if your excursion requires a lot of walking or hiking for example. To cut down on the attire that you bring, here is a tip for ladies on board. Jewelry and scarves allow you to wear simple dresses, such as a little black dress more than once. For men, wearing dark colored pants or shorts that can pair with different shirts each night will help cut down on attire as well.
Whether you are heading on a warm, sunny, tropical cruise or an Alaskan cruise, let’s break down what to pack based on the climate.
For warmer weather cruises, here are the top 10 items to pack:
• T-shirts, polos, blouses
• Shorts, sundresses, slacks
• Bathing suits/cover ups
• Sandals and or comfortable walking shoes
• Sweater or shawl
• Mosquito repellent
For colder weather cruises, here are the top 10 items to pack:
• Jeans and/or long pants
• Sweaters, fleece pullovers, warm vests
• Waterproof jacket
• Sock cap and or gloves
• Walking shoes/cold weather, waterproof boots
• Swimsuit (for hot tub)
Cruising is a great way to celebrate a significant birthday, anniversary, or a vacation filled with memories of a lifetime. A safe environment, excellent value for your money, the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, fine dining, and witnessing open-waters only visible from the sky. With that said, enjoy your first cruise and may many more be in your future.