Whether your goal is to avoid checked or excess bag fees by packing light, reserve your in-port shopping for souvenirs rather than necessities, or simply make sure you take everything you need on your next vacation, here are our top tips for packing for a cruise.
Tip 1: Pack your carry-on bags wisely.
Pack a change of clothes and important meds or toiletries in the bags you will take on the plane and personally transport onboard. This is important for two reasons: First, if your luggage gets lost by the airline on the way to your cruise, at least you’ll have some essentials with you. It can take a while for your luggage to be found and then shipped to the next port of call. Second, in case your suitcases are delayed in being delivered to your cabin, you’ll have a bathing suit or dinner attire on hand and can enjoy all the onboard activities right away, rather than waiting for your bags to show up.
Tip 2: Pack your checked luggage wisely.
Be smart about your checked bags, too. If you tend to overpack, lay out all the clothes you think you’ll need, then only pack half the clothing and three-quarters of the shoes. If you’re travelling with family, consider packing half of your things in one suitcase and half in a separate one (and have your spouse and kids do the same). That way, if one bag gets lost, then everyone will have some clothing — rather than one person having nothing. To save space, roll your clothes rather than fold them. Finally, never pack valuables in your checked bags, as they could be stolen. Carry all cameras, electronic games, jewellery and prescription medicine in your carry-on.
Tip 3: Know the dress codes.
If you love to dress up, some lines do offer tux rentals so you don’t have to pack your own. But while some folks still dress to the nines (formal gowns and tuxedos) for ships’ formal nights, most people dress more informally (suits for men and cocktail garb — flowing pantsuits or little black dresses — for women). “Resort casual” is now the ubiquitous evening dress; think date night, with men in slacks and buttoned shirts (no jackets) and women in everything from sundresses to skirts or slacks with cute tops. Even jeans are now a staple in many cruise ship dining rooms. Check out our comprehensive feature on cruise line dress codes.
Tip 4: Consider doing laundry onboard.
If you want to pack light (and do laundry en route), make sure to read our cruise reviews; not all ships offer self-service laundromats. The ones that do have such facilities usually don’t offer them for free, and it can get expensive. (Cruise lines often offer complimentary laundry and pressing services to suite guests and top-tier past passengers, so it pays to be loyal.) You can always save on laundry costs by bringing travel detergent and rinsing out underwear and shirts in your cabin’s bathroom, or packing a bottle of travel-sized Febreze to get one more day’s use out of a gently worn outfit.
Tip 5: Don’t assume your favourite toiletries will be in your cabin.
You’ll always find basic toiletries onboard, such as soap and shampoo. In main cabins on some cruise lines — Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival — toiletries offered are limited (in some cases to pump bottles of mystery soap affixed to the shower wall). You might want to make room in your luggage for your favourite brands. Same goes for hair dryers. Most staterooms come with weak dryers, so if you’re picky, pack your own. Another tip: Never unpack your toiletry kit. Leave it filled with travel-sized bottles and an extra toothbrush or razor. When it’s time for your next cruise, all you need to do is top off or replace the bottles — rather than wasting time collecting items and possibly forgetting something.
Here are some useful cruise packing tips.