Packing for a cruise
Packing for a cruise is different than packing for any other trip. First off, you can bring more luggage onboard, although you need to be able to get it off by yourself. Also, if you are flying, you will need to check the airline guidelines and go by those. I suggest one large check in suitcase, and one carry-on per person.
It’s not too bad when you are embarking. You will give your check on luggage to the porter, and they will take care of getting it to your room sometime in the afternoon of the first day on board. A dollar a bag tip is customary for the porter. But getting off of the ship is another story. You will pick up your luggage at the bottom of the escalator in the terminal, and then have to carry or roll it through the customs line and out to your shuttle bus or car. Not as easy.
What to pack?
What you pack clothing-wise will depend on where you are cruising to. We always go to the Caribbean, so what we pack would be different from what you’d pack for an Alaskan cruise. Most of your time on a cruise ship will be casual, so pack accordingly.
For the Caribbean, in your checked on luggage pack shorts, capris, light slacks, cool tops. Don’t forget your swimsuit and a beach bag! Beach Towels will be provided, so don’t worry about them. You can even take them off the ship, but don’t lose them or they will charge you.
Dress smart casual for dinners in the main dining room, and bring a light sweater or a jacket. Some areas of the ship can get a bit cool. I always bring one or two pairs of dress pants and a few dressier blouses/shirts for dinner in the main dining room. But you can get away with jeans most nights. Tank tops are not permitted in the main dining room.
There is usually at least one elegant night in the main dining room, so pack a nice dress or pantsuit for women, and a suit or dress slacks and nice shirt for men. Be sure to bring comfortable shoes, you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Bring a hat and sunglasses, you will be out in the sun a lot. And don’t forget plenty of sunscreen. You can buy it on the ship, but it’s very expensive. And of course, antiperspirant.
Alcohol and drinks
You can usually pack one bottle of wine or champagne per person in your checked in luggage. Check your ship for their regulations. No other alcohol can be brought onboard. Check your cruise line for their policies on bringing canned soft drinks on board. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you can put a luggage tag on it and leave it with the porter, sometimes you have to carry it on board.
For an Alaskan cruise think warmer and layering. I’ve heard that it can get pretty cold on deck in Alaska, even in the Summer.
Roll your clothes to minimize wrinkles
Think about rolling your clothes up so that they will not be as wrinkled and you can fit more. I roll my outfits (shirt and shorts) together to make it easier when I unpack.
Don’t forget your toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. There is shampoo and body wash in the shower, but it’s not always the best quality. I always pack small bottles of all my normal toiletries. In my small toiletry bag, along with body wash and shampoo, I include nail polish remover pads, nail polish, makeup, nail clippers, a small sewing kit, lotion, and a bottle of Purel that I can keep with me. There should also be Purel stations all over the ship. Don’t forget lots of bandaids for those blisters, and some antibiotic ointment. And small foldable tote bags are great for bringing souvenirs home.
Items that are not permitted
Please be sure to check on your ship’s website the items that are not permitted to be brought onboard the ship. Things like firearms, knives, irons, coffee makers. If you try to bring them on in your luggage, they will be confiscated. I even saw someone try to bring a hookah onboard from port. It was not permitted and they had to throw it away. So be pro-active, go to your ship’s website, and search for prohibited items.
Make sure that you have the ship’s luggage tags on each of your check-on bags. Laminate or tape the tag good to protect it, then staple it well around the handle so that it will not come off. Or you can buy special holders for luggage tags.
In your carry-on luggage pack your sunscreen, bug repellant if you’ll be doing outside hiking, medications, your passport and cruise documents plus a copy of your passport. (I also email a copy of my passport and my itinerary to my daughters, just in case). I cannot emphasize enough, DO NOT pack your passport and cruise documents in your check on baggage, you will need them for check in.
Don’t forget a swimsuit so that you can swim before you get your luggage. Also in your carry-on pack your jewelry, anything valuable, your cameras and your tablet. You can buy basic medications on the ship, but they are more expensive there. I always take my RX meds, Immodium, Dramamine, Tylenol, Advil, and some other of the basics that we use. I always put some of the medication in a small Ziploc bag and label the bag, then put that in a bigger bag. It saves a lot of space and I’ve never had any problems doing it that way.
You may want to pack a change of clothes if you have room. We’ve always gotten our luggage before it was time to change for dinner, but once in a great while I’ve heard of someone not getting their luggage by then. Better safe than sorry.
Also, in your carry on, bring any cash that will not fit into your wallet. Credit cards can have fees in some of the Caribbean Islands, so I try to bring enough cash. I bring a lot of small bills, mostly dollar bills and five dollar bills, I put them in envelopes, and we split the money between our two carry-ons. All of the Caribbean Islands that we’ve visited accept American Currency. Just be careful of what country’s change you get back. That’s why we keep the denominations small.
Other items to pack
Some other items that I pack include a battery powered alarm clock. There are no clocks in the room. If you have a window or balcony room, bring a clip to clip the curtains shut, and if you want to sleep late, an eye mask is great. A sound machine just in case the neighbors are loud. Earplugs for the same reason. We like to bring straws because that way you can buy a can of soda at port and not put your mouth on it. I’ve gotten sick before from the ice that the can of soda was sitting in.
And wet wipe packets and small tissue packs just in case the bathroom facilities in foreign ports are not the best. For women, a fanny pack or a purse that closes for port days. Bring a small power strip without a surge protector, there is usually only one plug in the cabin and you may want to charge more than one thing at a time. If you need them, a small nightlight and a curling iron will be handy. There is usually a small hotel-like hairdryer in the cabin in a drawer. I have short hair, but I hear that it’s not great for drying long hair. It’s fine for mine. You can bring a hair dryer if you think you’ll need a more powerful one.
In the water
Also, if you’re going to be doing anything in the water, and you want to have your phone with you, invest in a waterproof phone pouch. You can bring any snorkel gear that you have with you, or you can usually rent it ashore.
You may also want to bring a highlighter so that you can mark off what you want to do on the ship’s daily itinerary. I pack lanyards for my sign & sail card, so I don’t lose it. Binoculars are great for watching the other cruise ships pass by. Large compression bags are great for putting dirty laundry in, and squeezing the air out of. I got mine at the dollar store, and they make it easier to find space for souvenirs on the way home. And don’t forget an umbrella or rain poncho. If you bring it you won’t need it, right?
Another thing that we do (we drive & stay at a motel the night before) is to pack clothing separately for that night and the next day, along with an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, pj’s, etc., and then we leave that bag in the car with the dirty clothes we had from the night before. That way we’re not having to pack for the first day in our check in luggage, and also, we’re not trying to find what we need in the luggage that is packed for the trip. That can get annoying quickly.
Click here to see my Amazon page for some ideas of what you may want to pack for your cruise. If you have more ideas, feel free to comment below.