So you're going on a cruise, or planning to, and you're wondering what you should pack to make your life a little bit easier. No problemo. We've got you covered!
First off, packing for a cruise depends on two things: your destination, and the cruise line. Basically all cruise lines have some kind of dress code be it casual, "smart casual," or otherwise. Luxury lines require a higher level of dress code for both daytime and nightly dining while the more relaxed cruise lines, such as family cruises, opt for smart casual dining in the main restaurant with the odd formal night here and there. So, here are a few tips on how to pack for the best cruise imaginable!
Know the dress code: Some ships don't allow short shorts to be worn anywhere but the pool deck and fitness rooms and most require swimwear to be covered up anytime you aren't by the pool. Restaurants will not serve you if you are wearing swimsuits, tank tops, or you're barefoot. Cruise lines like Celebrity require all diners to dress in "smart casual" meaning a skirt or pants and blouse for ladies and khakis/trousers and a collared shirt for men. Disney lines are almost always "cruise casual" meaning cruisers can basically wear anything but tank tops and swimwear during the day to restaurants and such. The dress code certainly depends on the particular cruise line so check with your travel agent or with the cruise line to know before you go.
Most ships also have formal nights. The number of formal nights depends on the length of your journey and, of course, the ship. Celebrity cruises have 1 formal night for trips lasting 2-6 days, 2 for trips lasting 7-11 days, and so on. Princess cruises don't have any formal nights for trips lasting less than 5 days while Disney lines have optional "dress-up" nights and themed parties. Formal wear typically includes cocktail dresses, gowns, and nice pantsuits for women while men are required to wear tuxedos, suits, or dinner jackets with slacks. Most cruise lines have formalwear rentals for men if you didn't bring any.
Know the destination: Europe and Bermuda both generally have nice-casual dress codes, meaning you should probably stick to modest or conservative clothes while touring. Golf courses in Bermuda still have strict dress codes which require khakis, collared shirts, etc. Other places like the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, and Hawaii are all pretty relaxed, allowing you to wear flip flops and tank tops practically anywhere you wish. However, make sure you have conservative wear while touring museums, historic sites, churches, etc.
If you are planning on doing any sort of activities away from the beach you should remember to bring walking or hiking shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and if you're going to Alaska or Europe, take a sweater or jacket and long pants. Rain is almost always a possibility wherever you're going to take an umbrella if not a raincoat. Also, some ships have unique activities on board like ice skating as in the case of Royal Caribbean, which requires long pants and socks, so check out the activities and required clothing.
Toiletries and sundries: You might not think about bringing your favorite soaps or shampoos but many of the cruise line cabins have basic pump soaps and/or small bottles of mystery brands. If you're at all picky about what you wash with, bring your own. The hair dryers in the cabins are also notoriously weak so if this annoys you, again - bring your own. The ships will sell you whatever you've forgotten be it razors, shampoo, toothbrushes, or even hair dryers but they will raise the price exponentially.
You can also consider doing your laundry on board, though some cruises have extravagant dry-cleaning fees. There are some cruises (i.e. Carnival, Princess) that have self-service laundry facilities while some people wait until they make port and wash them at local laundromats. Some people have even taken to "recycling" their clothes by using products like Downy Wrinkle Spray or taking small travel packets of detergent and washing clothes in the sink.
Remember the basics: Sometimes it's hard to know what you're going to miss once you get on the big open sea but here are a few things you don't want to forget. There are some ships that don't come with alarm clocks and if you don't want to hassle with a wake-up call, bring your own. If you plan on using your phone, make sure your phone company won't charge you for roaming whilst in foreign waters. Other basics you should bring include a small first aid kit (over-the-counter meds are expensive on ships), batteries, extra camera memory cards, sunscreen, ear plugs, power strips (cabins usually only have 1-2 plug ins), and binoculars if you might see wildlife. Don't forget all of your favorite technology like tablets, e-readers, digital cameras, and cell phones along with their chargers. If you plan on doing a lot of shopping, bring extra foldable bags to fit all of your new goodies. Summer reading, travel guides, journals, and puzzle books are also fun to have poolside or at the beach.
Pack Light!: This is the number one rule for cruise ship packing. Save space in your luggage for new purchases by mixing and matching outfits. Wear your heaviest, bulkiest shoes while traveling to the ship and maximize space by putting smaller items, like socks, inside bigger items, like shoes.
Arrive on the ship with a small carry-on, possible the bag you plan on using for day travel. In here put a swimsuit, change of clothes, necessary toiletries (toothbrush, etc.), travel documents (very important), and medications. Checked baggage tends to take up to 8 hours to reach your cabin and you don't want to be left stranded without your necessities.
Finally, just have fun! If you ever find yourself confused or worried about what to pack, give us a call and your travel agent will straighten everything out.