November 28, 2017

How to pack for a cruise

So you’re hitting the high seas! Good for you. I’ve done 10 cruises now and each are so different and wonderful, that I’m not sick of them yet.

But there are a few tips you need to know about how to pack for a cruise. Ready?

Carnival Cruise ship

My sister is all set to go on Carnival docked here in Jamaica

Here are my top tips for what to take on your cruise:

A day pack/bag: Your luggage needs to be put outside your cabin door the night before you arrive at your final destination. Take a small cabin bag or day pack that you can also use on shore excursions for your nightwear and toiletries to avoid leaving the ship looking like a hipster in pajamas. Also pack your swim suit and casual clothes in it on Day 1 so if your bags arrive late to your room, you can head out to the pool without having to wait.


Day bagI have now opened my online Travel Store and this backpack would be ideal as a day pack for walking, hiking, cycling, shopping and also serve perfectly as your overnight bag before you disembark. Shipping is only available in NZ, sorry.



Cruise ship luggage

With 3000 passengers, the luggage loading is an astonishing feat of organisation!

Clothes: Here we go!

Ladies, you want to pack light so your clothes can be unpacked into the drawers and cupboards, so smart casual is the go. Mix and match pants and tops/tunics and a couple of sun dresses. Pack something for 1 or 2 formal nights. Usually I go black on black and bling it up with jewellery (it’s so easy for us girls!). Don’t bring heels. Seriously, teetering around on deck is not a good look and unless your shore excursions consist of the theatre, you don’t need them.

Gentlemen, jeans and casual tops are fine for day wear on almost every ship. (I can’t actually think of one they’re not, but want to hedge my bets). Bring button shirts for evening meals and on formal nights you’ll need a jacket and tie (or a bow tie if you’re so inclined). You’ll need dress pants too, but they don’t take up much room.

Formal wear: Most cruises include formal nights so you may want to throw in a little black dress and couple of different coloured pashminas or scarves to make it look like a new outfit. Men, if you don’t want to pack a jacket you can often rent one onboard. Formal nights mean dinner suits or tuxedos. Of course, some ships’ formal nights are not as posh as this, so once you’re booked, check on their website as to dress code. They’re fun (spot the ladies in their gowns and tiaras!) so get amongst it and enjoy the bubbly!

Sensible shoes: I’ve already explained that ladies don’t need heels, but I will allow one pair for formal nights (I know, I’m generous). But you will certainly need some good walking shoes for excursions. Also a pair of flats that are good enough to wear to dinner is essential (I had to borrow my cousin’s on our last cruise).

Gym gear: If your chosen ship has a gym (most do) then bring your trainers and if you’re anything like me, you can wash your clothes in your shower and hang them either on your deck to flutter in the ocean breeze, or in your room with the air conditioning on full roar and they’ll be dry in no time.

By the pool: Pack a couple of swimsuits so you don’t have the nasty job of pulling damp togs on when you want to hit the pool again. Take a hat, sarong and jandals (thongs/flip flops for my international readers) and sunscreen. You can dine poolside in this getup and wrapped in a sarong will likely be fine at the lunch buffet.

Laundry: Most ships will have a laundry that you are able to use (except perhaps the really posh ones where your cabin attendant will take your clothes to have them washed for a fee). Take a small packet of laundry powder to either use in the main laundry or in your room for hand washing.

Binoculars on cruise ship

With your binoculars you can zoom right in on an acropolis like this one. Gold!


Binoculars are a great idea wherever you are cruising. Spot the whales breaching in Alaska, see the far off Italian village before anyone else, find a castaway lost at sea…. Take a good book (or 2). I prefer the Kindle as I can load any number of books on and they’re much cheaper and lighter than taking them from home. Take your iPod as some cabins have iPod docks (check this online with your cruise ship once you know where you’re going).

Power adapter: Depending on what ship you’ll be on that could be an American or European converter. Don’t take a power board (which I always pack to use in hotels) as these are considered a fire hazard and a no-no. I sell a Universal Adapter in my Travel Store.

Walkie Talkies are a suggestion from a reader who says they’re great for finding each other – especially your teens!

Shoe holder – those ones that hang over a door, is a great tip I’ve seen for storing all sorts of whatnots like sunscreen, yes shoes, makeup bag (if it’s small!), little foldaway umbrella. Because you’ve unpacked for the week or two, you can end up with a lot of clutter on your table. I like this idea.

Highlighter pen. This is a great suggestion for marking on your daily schedule (which is delivered to your room each night) which activities you want to do!

Ship nebulizer

Breathing assistance comes at a hefty price!


If this post was helpful, you’ll love this one: 11 things NOT to do on a cruise!





This post is sponsored by my good friends at Francis Travel Marketing who sell a huge range of cruise itineraries. Click here for their latest specials>>>

About Megan Singleton


Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio every week and a few newspapers and mags from time to time. I set off on this travel writing journey 18 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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