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What are the Best Packing Tips for a Cruise?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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The best items to pack for a cruise are those that you'll actually need and use. When packing for a cruise, consider the weather conditions of each port of call and what type of clothing, footwear and other items you can see yourself needing or using each day both on and off the ship. For example, on a cruise to Alaska, you may need a heavy jacket and hiking boots for your ports of call activities, but if you're cruising to Bermuda, a windbreaker and comfortable walking shoes or sandals are what you should pack. A crucial consideration when deciding what to take along for a cruise is how formal your ship is plus what activities the ship offers. While your specific cruise ship and ports of call activities will influence the exact items to pack, there are excellent general packing tips that fit all cruises.

1. Have multiples or back-ups of your important items. Pack at least a day's worth of clothing and toiletry items such as sunblock in your carry-on in case your checked luggage gets lost. Have all your important documents such as your passport, visa, airline ticket or e-ticket confirmation, proof of vaccinations and medical insurance cards in your carry-on, but also have copies of these in your checked luggage and with someone at home. If you wear contacts or prescription glasses, packing back-ups of these in your checked luggage is a good idea.

2. If you really need something, pack it or you could pay the price. Make a master packing list far in advance of your trip. Find out information from airports and cruise lines about what to pack and what not to take. For example, if you're instructed to pack toiletry items in clear small plastic bottles inside a clear case, be sure to do so. Not following rules and instructions could result in delays. Read up on the customs, activities, weather and other details about the ports of call you'll be visiting and use this information to further guide your packing.

When you've gathered all the information you need, imagine yourself living through your cruise days. If you start with the morning and end with the evening, you're likely to remember to bring items and clothing you're likely to use such as an alarm clock, swim wear with cover ups and flip flops and your digital camera. Once you have the list, add the related items to bring with each item such as the charger to pack for your cell phone. Keep reviewing and revising your master packing list as your cruise vacation gets closer. If you forget to pack something important, you may not be able to purchase it at all during your vacation -- or it may be much higher in price.

3. Don't overpack clothing. Forget the bulging suitcase that won't close properly and concentrate on packing only what you'll be likely to wear each day of the cruise. Contact the cruise line ahead and you may find that the ship's laundry service or self-laundry facilities will allow you to pack enough for half the cruise and then launder those items to wear again for the second half. If you think in terms of separates that work well together, you can create different looks for each part of the cruise.

Remember that formal nights and informal nights can mean different things depending on the cruise line. Choose the cruise vacation that fits the way you want to dress. For example, many luxury cruise ships are often formal in their dress code, while a more informal cruise ship may have a resort casual clothing policy.

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Discussion Comments

By rosequartz — On Jun 02, 2011

There are clothing companies that offer cruise-wear for ladies. They include pants, skirts, tops and jackets that are wrinkle-free and are easily rolled up in a suitcase and never look the worse for it.

Not to mention how nice these pieces look combined with a few great chunks of jewelry and accessories. You can pack light with this type of clothing. Chicos is one of the Florida-based companies that offers this kind of ease in travel-wear.

By seafoam — On Jun 01, 2011

If you're going on a cruise with say, a family of five, you'll need to check everyone's suitcase to prevent mini-meltdowns later. This is not like packing boxes for moving, it's more immediate, more defined: each day will require specific clothing for each person.

Map out what your family will be doing each day (as much as possible). Include more than one bathing suit and plenty of options for clothing changes in a day. This is not to say bring *everything* but bring options. Especially if you start out the day at the pool, attend a luncheon, game of golf and end up at a semi-formal dinner and dance later in the evening.

And if you're still hungry at midnight, you'll need a light wrap or jacket to make it there and back without getting chilled. Options make the world go 'round!

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