So you’re hitting the high seas and going on a cruise and now it’s time to pack? This post covers my best tips for what to pack for a cruise.
Good for you, I hope you love it. I’ve done more than a dozen cruises now and each are so different and wonderful, that I’m not sick of them yet.
But if you are wondering what to take on your cruise, there are a few tips you need to know about how to pack – and what to leave at home.
A day pack/bag:
Your luggage needs to be put outside your cabin door the night before you arrive at your final destination.
Some ships will let you take your own luggage on and off, but if they don’t you’ll need to 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.
What kind of luggage is best on a cruise ship?
If your cabin is small you’ll probably prefer a suitcase that opens from the top and not fully in half as the latter takes up so much more room. Most soft shell suitcases are designed with top opening, and some hard shell ones.
However since you will be onboard for several days, you could just fully unpack into the cupboards and drawers and put your luggage under the bed or in the closet. Much easier all round!
Update: on my last cruise I had all my clothes segmented and packed into packing cells so I just unloaded them into the shelves in my cabin closet. I was unpacked within 5 minutes!
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Cruise clothing: 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 skirts with tops/tunics and take a couple of sun dresses. Pack something elegant for 1 or 2 formal nights or specialty restaurants. 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, shorts 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, or some cruise lines 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. Your butler may be able to provide a loaner (thank you Silversea!)
Formal wear: Many 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 or borrow one onboard. True 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 onboard is essential (I had to borrow my cousin’s once). Flip flops with a little bling can usually cover all bases.
I limit myself to just three pairs of shoes on most of my trips.
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.
Or if you’re actually anything like me, they won’t get used and you’ll unpack them when you get home…
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 or barbecue.
Laundry: Some ships will have a laundry that you are able to use (although these are being phased out and your cabin attendant will take your clothes to have them washed for a fee).
I usually take a small packet of laundry powder to use in my bathroom for hand washing.
What to take for Entertainment on a cruise:
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) for sitting by the pool or on your balcony for some quiet time.
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. Note that you may not be allowed to 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 as no one wants to have their cellphones on global roaming. Because, yes, even out in waters around your own country you hit “global” charges.
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, 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!
If this post was helpful, you’ll love this one: 11 things NOT to do on a cruise!
And feel free to visit my Travel Store for my curated collection of luggage and accessories for cruises >>
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>>>