How to Pack for a Cruise – 9 Must Read Tips
TIP 1 – WHERE To START YOUR CRUISE PACKING
For some people packing for a cruise can be a daunting and many simply hate the task. Others love it as it means they are one step closer to enjoying their next cruise adventure! The good thing is that once completed; you can simply sit back look forward to your cruise vacation with all the beautiful ports of call you will experience. If you plan your packing well, your cruise essentials will be taken care of and you will not have to worry about forgetting a thing.
Fret not, to help you with this task, we have developed a printable cruise packing list of essential items for your cruise which you can grab below. Anyone who has forgotten some vital thing and then had to purchase it at twice or three times the price on the cruise ship or in a port of call will know that such a list can be invaluable
There are several factors which could affect what you need to pack for your cruise.
- The region in which you are cruising in – Hot or Cold Climate
- Flights – Your airline may have tight baggage limits
- Length of your voyage – Anything for a 3-day taster to a 180-day world cruise
- Your planned activities – walking, hiking or just lazying in the Sun
TIP 2 – Weight Restrictions on a cruise
Although cruise lines don’t generally impose limits on the amount of luggage, you can take on your trip, for health and safety reasons there are limits on the weight of each piece of luggage which is usually 50 lbs or 23 Kg. The other consideration is the amount of space in your stateroom to store your luggage.
From experience, we have found that you can generally store up to 4 medium-sized suitcases under a double bed. If there isn’t sufficient space to store your luggage, many cruise lines will offer to do this for you in one of the crew storage areas. Of course, if you are flying to pick up your cruise ship, you will need to comply with the airline’s baggage allowances.
We always take a set of digital weighing scales with us to avoid any issues with overweight bags. Our little gadget has paid for itself over and over again.
TIP 3 – WAYS TO PACK FOR A CRUISE
Some people say “travel light”; just pack a small case and hope for the best. This strategy might be okay for a short three or 4-day taster cruise, but our experience is exactly the opposite, and we thoroughly recommend having a system and working to a plan. We also hate the end result which is quite often a jumbled mess of creased clothing.
That means using a Cruise Packing List and methodically checking all the things you might need. If you are on an extended cruise vacation travelling through various climates, you may need several sets of clothing. On a recent trip to Antarctica, we started our journey in San Antonio, Chile, where the weather was hot with temperatures in the nineties, so we needed light clothes, shorts et al. In contrast, once in Antarctica it was freezing. We required several layers of protective clothing to stay warm.
The bottom line is that packing your suitcase for a cruise is a very personal task. Some prefer to pack as many clothes into their luggage as possible, while others are paranoid about making sure garments do not get creased or wrinkled. Maybe, like us, you prefer to be more organized?
DIVIDE YOUR LUGGAGE. For those travelling with a spouse or companion, always divide your checked items into two suitcases. That way, if one is lost, you will both have some clothes to wear. It would be terrible for your spouse to have all of his/her clothes and you to have nothing but your carry-on. Also, be sure to carry-on anything that you cannot live without for a couple of days (medicines, swimsuit, clean underwear), just in case your luggage is lost or delayed.
TIP 4 – PACKING GADGETS AND TOOLS
Everyone has a view when it comes to cruise packing. Seasoned travellers say you should roll your clothes, but others recommend folding them into a bundle. Another school of thought is to use some of the fantastic travel tools available like packing cubes or compression bags.
We consider ourselves efficient and well-organized packers, relying on all the well-known space-saving tricks like stuffing shoes with socks and wearing bulky items on the aeroplane. With so much choice in the way you pack, we have developed a system of our own.
- Packing Cubes for underwear, socks and other small items
- Pack-it Folder to shirts, tops, skirts and lightweight jackets
- For other things, we tend to wrap them in lightweight dry cleaning plastic bags which we found is a great way to avoid wrinkles
TIP 5 – CHOOSING THE RIGHT LUGGAGE
Having tried many types of luggage, we have standardized on soft-sided expandable cases. We also like the four-wheel spinner cases with telescopic handles as we have found that we can manoeuvre these with ease.
To ensure no-one else picks up our luggage by mistake, we use colourful bands around each case and robust, highly visible luggage tags.
We have recently upgraded our main suitcases to these superb Samsonite 4 Wheel Spinners.
Carry On Luggage
From experience, we have learned that you don’t necessarily always have access to your cabin for several hours after boarding. Despite the best efforts of the crew, your luggage may not show up until later in the afternoon or evening. The larger mega-ships are renowned for this.
The items in your carry-on might be the only possessions you have on your first day on board, and so it is essential to get this right.
Lost baggage is also another concern. Make sure you pack a change of clothes and essential medication or toiletries in your carry on bags.
There are two reasons for this. First, if your luggage gets mislaid by the airline while you are in transit to your cruise, at least you’ll have some basics with you. Sometimes it can take a while to reunite you with your luggage. Secondly, if there is a delay in the delivery of your luggage to your stateroom, you’ll have a change of clothes so that you can enjoy all the onboard activities right away, rather than waiting for your bags to turn up.
TIP 6 – WHAT NOT TO PACK FOR YOUR CRUISE
CRUISE LINE RESTRICTIONS
Cruise lines have lots of rules about what you can and can’t carry onboard — which means there are plenty of things that you should never pack for a cruise. Always check out the cruise line policies before your travel.
Our Tips for What Not To Pack
- Power Strips. When you pack for a cruise you need to consider how you will charge your tech devices. (Phones, tablets, cameras — the electronics seem to multiply.) Be careful when packing a power strip, even though some passengers may swear by them. Cruise lines are very cautious about fires on board and are wary of some Power Strips. Our article “The End of Power Strips on Cruise Ships?” covers this issue in detail.
- Hardcopy Books. Most cruise ships have well-stocked libraries and also dedicated areas where customers leave their unwanted books for other cruisers to enjoy. It is normally quite easy to find something you like but if you must, take only one real book and you will save space and weight on your packing. The best solution is to use a Kindle or other eReader.
- Weapons: This one goes without saying, but any form of weapon – knives, gun, pepper spray, tasers are all banned. Along with your fellow cruise passengers you are all there for the same reason – to have a good time and not to concern yourself about self-protection.
- Technology that might get you in trouble – drones, mobility aids (unless you have a medical need) – no segways, roller skates or hoverboards!
- Household appliances: Anything with a heating element is a no-no. That included irons, coffeemakers and other such appliances. It is best to leave them at home. Every cruise line has absolutely everything you could possibly need, and as mentioned before there are strict policies about the use of such items on board.
TIP 7 – OCEAN CRUISE PACKING TIPS
It wasn’t so long ago that most ocean cruise ships had quite formal dress codes, including regular “Black Tie” events. Times have changed out of all recognition, and now only a few upmarket luxury ships still maintain this formality. Today most of the mass-market cruise lines have relatively causal dress codes and some even promote their version of casual like “country club casual”.
One of the first things you should consider is where on the formal-casual scale you want to be, based on the cruise line. Luckily, smart casual attire like pantsuits, long dresses, chinos and button-up shirts are acceptable in most onboard restaurants these days. And if a formal night is not for you, there are still restaurant buffet options for meals where you can dress down.
Then, you need to decide how comprehensive you want your wardrobe to be. We pack what we feel is right for us and certainly do not go over the top. Other couples we know will go all out to be the best-dressed people on the ship. Ultimately, it’s your decision on what’s most comfortable for you to wear on vacation, and therefore to pack.
One way to reduce the number of clothes to be packed is to use the onboard laundry service. Most cruise ships offer some kind of service, and many luxury lines even have a guest laundry where you can do your laundry. All cruise lines offer a full service, but this can be quite expensive. For repeat guests, the laundry service is quite often a free perk.
TIP 8 – WHEN YOU GO ASHORE
This one is straightforward as you need to pack for the climate in your cruise destination. Most people make the most of going ashore and take in as much of the local sights and sounds as they can. For most people, this means being active. You’ll be walking around during shore excursions, and that means you need to pack comfortable walking shoes and clothing on your cruise, even if you won’t need them on the ship itself. Make sure you pack appropriately for any shore excursions.
When it comes to how light or heavy you travel, think about where you will be. For example, the Caribbean is hot pretty much all the time, and the Mediterranean in summer can come close. But the weather in other popular areas such as Alaska, New England, and European rivers is a bit more variable. Your best bet is to check the weather forecasts just before you pack for your cruise, and always prepare for rain. Some other cruise itineraries can be more casual than others. These include places like Hawaii, The Caribbean, Mexico, French Polynesia and Asia.
TIP 9 – OTHER ITEMS YOU MAY NEED TO PACK
When it comes to personal-care products and accessories, most people overpack their travel toiletry kit. From experience, we have found that most cruise ships provide a fantastic array of complimentary toiletries plus you can buy toothpaste, batteries, and tissues in most places around the world.
Technology is now an essential part of our lifestyle for many people who need to go online every day. If this is important to you, check out what internet facilities are available on your ship. Then don’t forget to pack travel adapters and chargers for all your devices. Be careful with power cords and extension leads as some companies now ban these. You can read our article “the end of power on a cruise ship” to learn more about this issue.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
Our recommendation for what to pack for a cruise is simple. Have a plan and use a system to make sure you take the right items with you. Have a system and use a packing list and the myriad of travel accessories available to help you cope with this task.