“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” -Susan Heller
There are two types of travelers in my house. One traveler starts to pack a few weeks before the trip, making sure that we have all of the must-haves to make our trip comfortable. The other traveler is famous for packing the night before we leave for a trip and has become a legend because he once traveled without packing shirts. (True story!) So, when you pack, which traveler are you? The planner or the night before packer?
No matter which packing style you claim, these are a few packing tips that I recommend for your next cruise.
Don’t leave home without it
There are some basic and essential documents that you will absolutely want to make sure that you have close at hand for your cruise before leaving home. Remembering these will ensure that you actually get onto your ship with very little fuss. Make sure that you don’t leave home without these:
-Passports for everyone in your party.
-Any paperwork required by your cruise line such as a Sea Pass (or load your cruise line’s app onto your phone).
-The cruise line issued luggage tags (to ensure that your luggage meets you at your stateroom) or in case your tags get ripped off in transit, be sure that your suitcase is clearly tagged as yours.
Pack a tote or Backpack
After dropping your suitcase with porters at the terminal, it may take a while for your suitcase to follow you to your stateroom so packing a bag with anything you will want as soon as you get on board is a great idea. That gear might include any valuables or important medications that you’d like to keep close, swimsuits, and other gear you might want if you’d like to jump into the open pools and spas, or maybe just a comfortable change of clothes and your flip-flops so you relax after a long travel day.
As we cruise, I use a tote or backpack to throw supplies into before we head up to the pool deck or as we leave the ship for an excursion. A bag of some type is a great place to drop a book or tablet, sunscreen, sunglasses, your sea pass, camera, or any other gear you’d like to have with you as you plan to relax. I try to select a bag that my husband will be willing to help me carry on excursions.
At the end of your cruise, you will have options regarding how to get your suitcases off of the ship. Do you want to walk off with your luggage or would you prefer the ship staff to collect your suitcases the night before so you can collect them in the terminal as you come off of the ship? We choose to have our suitcases collected on the last night of our cruise. For that last night, I keep minimal supplies that we need to get dressed the next morning including any valuables, toiletries, and any vital supplies like medications and our Passports. For the minimal supplies we keep, my trusty tote helps me to get them off the ship. If we drove to the terminal, that tote is tossed into the backseat or if we’re flying, I will not hesitate to open my suitcase as we collect our suitcases in the cruise terminal and put any of these supplies back into my suitcase.
The whole reason that most people love cruising is the escape to somewhere warm and tropical. That likely means that you will find yourself relaxing in a hot tub, splashing in a pool, or burying your toes on a sandy beach at some point. Don’t forget to pack the gear you will need to have fun.
-Sunscreen (take care of your skin, especially if this will be your first time in the sun for the season)
-Cover up to wear from your room to your pool or hot tub of choice
-Towel Clips (to keep your towel secured to your chair)
-A good book
3 Items that make our cruises easier or more comfortable
Lanyard: If you have one already, pack it. I take a lanyard for my sea pass card so I don’t lose it and to that, I add my ID as we leave the ship for shore excursions. If you don’t have a lanyard, you can buy one on board.
Ear Plugs: This might be a strange suggestion to some but hear me out (sorry for the pun!). Don’t get me wrong, cruising is usually a relaxing way to travel. My husband and I enjoy a quiet, peaceful cruise vacation and while we enjoy the fun on the ship, we often find ourselves seeking out quiet spaces to relax. Also, a fact of life on a cruise ship can also mean noisy neighbors or a memorable rear-facing suite directly under an all-night lounge (which we called the “Boom-boom room”) so we know that getting a good night’s rest on a cruise ship can be a challenge. A set of earplugs can be a lifesaver!
We have also opted to stay on the ship when stopping at a port we have visited many times before and we enjoy the feeling of having the ship to ourselves. However, if you’ve never stayed on a ship in port before, you should know that the crew often does their safety drills on port days. This can often mean repeated, rather loud announcements over the Public Address system that breaks the peace and quiet you might be hoping to find on a port day. This is where my trusty earplugs make another appearance. No worries though, while they are loud, these drills don’t go on for too long.
I also make sure to have my earplugs handy on sea days when the pool spaces and solariums are crowded. You may experience your neighbors chatting loudly around you or a live band playing loudly at the poolside nearby, making for a less than ideal reading or napping environment. A pair of earplugs could muffle all the commotion around you enough that maybe you can enjoy your time on deck too. I make sure to pack a couple pairs of earplugs, just in case.
Raincoat: A light raincoat is always a great addition to your travels, no matter what vacation you take. In the tropics, rain showers come and go quickly so a raincoat is a great addition to your suitcase and excursion day bag. We have taken trips in the past where our raincoats have simply traveled in the suitcase and never saw the light of day. However, there have been some trips that have been saved because our raincoats were close at hand. For us, it’s a “just in case” item that I consider essential when packing for any trip. If you don’t use it, GREAT!
When I was a kid, my grandparents enjoyed cruising. In those days, cruising was much more formal than it is now. My grandmother wore her beaded gowns and my grandfather wore a tuxedo to dinner. That is not for us! We are not formal people and while it’s fun every once in a while, we don’t enjoy being fussed over. Thankfully, formal night on today’s cruise ships can be as formal as you want or if you’re like us, you can skip it. We like to get dressed for dinner but the suit and party dress aren’t for us. Luckily, if you enjoy getting all dolled up, just remember to pack all the pretty stuff and have a great evening! Depending on the cruise line your travel with, you may have a formal night or two and there may be dress codes for dinner in some areas of the ship. Do your research and know what to expect for your cruise. Other cruise lines offer the flexibility of a “dress up or not” night and on those cruises, you can see fellow cruisers in suits and gowns while others are still in tee shirts and shorts. Oh, and if you don’t get dressed up that often at home, you might consider grabbing a ship’s photographer to document the event.
Items to avoid packing for your cruise
Fire is a major concern on a cruise ship. With that being said, all of the items below are not recommended or are prohibited.
Hairdryer: the cruise line will provide a hairdryer for you and if you don’t see one, ask your room steward. No need to worry about packing your own.
Extension cords or gang plugs: If you’ve packed an item like this and it is discovered in your luggage or carry-on, the cruise line will confiscate these items and hold them for you to claim at the end of your trip. Plugs are limited in your stateroom so if you have multiple devices to charge, consider a charging block with multiple USB outlets. If you need an extension cord for a medical device such as a CPAP machine, be sure to fill out a special needs form well before your cruise through the cruise line’s website and speak with your room steward once on board. Also be aware that some devices, like cell phones, are known to run hot when being charged and have been known to spark fires. Some cruise lines will ask that you do not charge a device that is unattended.
Heating pads: Again, fire is a concern with something like a heating pad so if discovered, it will be confiscated and held for you to claim at the end of your cruise.
The best part of a cruise is that once you’re on board, you can unpack and “move in.” Most new cruise ships have good closet and drawer space so there is room for all of your stuff. I must confess that taking one or two too many shoes is an area I have yet to master when packing for a cruise. But no matter where your cruise takes you, I hope this list helps you as you get ready for your vacation.
Enjoy your cruise!