As you get ready for your upcoming cruise, you will want to think carefully about your packing list. Storage space is limited in cruise ship staterooms, and you will also have to deal with your airline's checked baggage policies, which may include fees, if you must fly to your embarkation point.
Cruise Packing Considerations
Weather at your destination is an important factor, but the activities and tours you'll participate in also affect your packing list. If you are cruising to Alaska, you will be able to dress casually when ashore, and you will need rain gear. On a European river cruise, you might wish to bring a daytime outfit that covers your knees and shoulders if you plan to go into any churches. In the sunny Caribbean, you'll need beachwear and sandals.
Length of Cruise
You will, of course, need more outfits if you are taking a longer cruise. Some cruise lines offer self-service laundry, which will enable you to wash clothes during your trip, but others do not. Be sure to find out about laundry service on your particular ship before you start to pack.
Cruise Line Dress Code
The third factor you must consider is your cruise line's dress code. Some cruise lines are very traditional, offering at least one formal night per cruise. Others are much more relaxed and may not include any formal nights on your itinerary. In addition to looking at evening dress codes, you should also check requirements for poolside and dining room attire.
On your first day aboard ship, your bags will be brought to your stateroom – eventually. If you plan to swim, exercise or read, be sure to pack the necessary clothing, sunscreen and other required items in a carry-on bag so that you will have them with you. You should also hand-carry your passport, travel insurance information, prescriptions, glasses or contact lenses, camera and motion sickness medication as well as any electronics or valuables. If you are sailing on a large ship, you might even want to pack your dinner outfit, in case your bags do not arrive in time for the evening meal.
Activity-Specific Packing Tips
Most cruise lines require you to wear some kind of cover-up when walking from the swimming pool to your stateroom. If you plan to do a lot of swimming, consider bringing two bathing suits so that you have time to dry them thoroughly between swims. Remember to pack sunscreen.
Whether you do an hour-long workout or take a yoga class, you will want to pack comfortable exercise wear for the fitness center. Tuck an extra plastic bag into your suitcase for storing your workout clothes if you don't plan to do laundry on the ship.
If your ship does have formal nights, men will need to bring a suit, dress shirts and ties (or a military dress uniform), and ladies will need to bring dressy pants outfits (think black pants and an evening top or sweater), skirt outfits or cocktail dresses. It's perfectly fine for ladies to wear the same dressy pants or skirt and swap out evening tops. You can even wear the same top and accessorize it with scarves, jackets and jewelry. Remember to bring dress shoes.
Smart Casual Nights
Some cruise lines have "smart casual" nights in addition to or instead of formal nights. Men typically wear coats and ties, while ladies wear dresses, dressy skirt outfits or pantsuits. Again, you can save on space by wearing the same trousers, skirt or pantsuit and changing shirts, ties, blouses and accessories.
Pack comfortable walking shoes, a hat and an umbrella for shore excursions. Closed-toed shoes may be required on certain shore tours; check with your cruise line. If your itinerary includes hiking or climbing, break in your boots or shoes well before your cruise departure date. Be sure to look at the weather forecast before making your final packing decisions.
Of course, you will need some basic items for your stateroom. These might include:
- Alarm clock (most ships do not provide them)
- Power strip (helpful for charging electronics, scooters and electric wheelchairs, as a typical stateroom has very few outlets)
- Sunglasses for on-deck time and shore excursions
- Motion sickness remedies
- Lightweight jacket or sweater (ships tend to be a bit chilly)
- Extra camera memory cards and batteries
- Chargers for electronic items
- Night light, especially if you have an inside stateroom
- Laundry soap
- Extra bag for souvenirs
Items to Leave at Home
- Flammable items
- Towels (your ship has plenty)
- Weapons, large knives and long scissors
- Liquor (consult your cruise line for specific rules)
- TSA-prohibited items, if you are flying to your embarkation point
- Illegal drugs