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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Perry

5 Essential Cruise Packing Tips

A lot of first-time cruisers wonder what they need to pack for a cruise, and while what you’ll be taking will depend on the kind of cruise you’re taking, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind while packing for a cruise so you can be prepared without overpacking.

What to Leave at Home

First of all, pay attention to the things that you don’t – or can’t – take on your cruise. Your cruise line will have a list of prohibited items that you shouldn’t pack. While some of them may seem obvious, there are a few items guests sometimes don’t think of. Depending on the cruise line, you may not be allowed to take power strips, travel clothing irons, or large coolers. Most cruise lines also restrict the types and quantities of alcoholic beverages that can be brought onboard. Your travel consultant can let you know about the specifics for your cruise line.

Also, you don’t need to take items that will already be included with your cruise. For instance, items like pool and beach towels, basic bath products, and hair dryers are typically already included in your stateroom or on the ship for your use.

Keep Your Destination in Mind

What you decide to pack will also be determined by your destination. If you’re embarking on a Caribbean cruise, you’ll want to have clothing appropriate for warm temperatures as well as swim suits. If you’re heading somewhere colder, be sure to have a jacket or coat, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts packed. Be sure to check the weather for your destination before you cruise to see what temperatures will be like.

Also, keep in mind any activities you’ll be doing on your cruise. If you’ll be enjoying a day at the beach, be sure to bring your beach gear, and even some water shoes. If you’re going out exploring a port or hiking, be sure to have sturdy and comfortable shoes. A poncho or travel umbrella is also a good idea for destinations or seasons that typically have rain.

Pack Layers

Weather at sea can sometimes change quickly, or change as you sail further north or south. A great way to be prepared for different types of weather while still keeping room in your suitcase is to pack layers. Have some items that you can layer over other outfits when if it gets chilly, which can happen in the evening, even in the Caribbean – or sometimes you just need something warmer if the air conditioning feels chilly. A great way to also maximize your suitcase space is to bring clothing items that you can mix and match throughout your cruise, so that you can use items multiple times rather than filling up your suitcase with different whole outfits for each day.

Note the Dress Code

For most major cruise lines, dress codes are fairly relaxed. Most of the time the dress code is ‘cruise casual’, or what you would expect to be wearing comfortably on a cruise – shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, capris, jeans, etc. For dinner, most cruise lines do have a few requirements. At the very least, they ask that you not wear swimwear, tank tops, and in some cases, shorts to the main dining rooms for dinner. Some cruise lines have slightly higher requirements and do not allow torn jeans, baseball caps, or T-shirts in the dining room. For most cruise lines, it’s unlikely you’ll need formal wear to go to dinner, but do be sure to take a look at your cruise line’s dress code to be sure that you have items to wear to dinner.

Note that some specialty restaurants may have different dress requirements than the main dining room. Most cruise lines also have at least one formal night per cruise, though on some cruise lines these are optional, and there are always other dining options if you don’t want to participate. For specifics, contact your travel consultant.

Pack a Carry-On

When you first board your cruise, attendants will take your luggage and it will be transported to your stateroom. This can take a while, so it may be afternoon or early evening before your luggage arrives. Be sure to pack a carry-on bag with anything you’ll need immediately, such as important documents and medications. You may also want to pack dinner clothes, if you plan to change for dinner, or you can also pack swimsuits if you’d like to hit the pool right away. Then, you can use your carry-on bag for anything you need while going ashore later in your cruise, as well.

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