If you have never been on a cruise before – or even if you have – tackling the question of what to take on a cruise can be the most stressful part of your holiday. The diverse destinations, variations in weather, number of activities, and different dinner dress codes can play havoc with your normal packing routine. But with our guide to packing for a cruise, you’ll be strolling onboard secure in the knowledge that everything you need is safely in your suitcase. Remember: buying any of these items while onboard can be expensive, so make a detailed list before you go and double-check that you’ve packed it all.
Packing essentials for a cruise
As well as all the important and valuable items, your cruise packing list should include a change of clothes plus your toiletries in your carry-on bag. If there’s a delay while your suitcases are being delivered to your room, you can have dinner or start an activity straight away without having to wait in for them.
With a limited amount of luggage space and a limitless range of situations to dress for, deciding what clothes to put on your cruise checklist can be a daunting task. Sporting activities, on-shore excursions, poolside sunbathing, and a range of restaurants and events, can all weigh heavy on both the mind and the suitcase. Thankfully, most cruises will have a fairly relaxed attitude to clothing in the daytime – shorts, t-shirts, jeans, sundresses – and you should pack similar clothes to those you’d take on a beach holiday.
Dressing for dinner
While dressing for the daytime is fairly simple, dressing for dinner can be a bit more tricky. Most cruises will have a dress code that can change according to restaurant and date, so check your cruise line for specific requirements. In general, your cruise packing list should include evening clothes you would feel comfortable wearing in a smart restaurant – suit and tie for men; dresses, skirts or trousers for women. Many cruises feature a ‘gala’ or ‘elegant’ night that encourages guests to dress up, which may mean tuxedos and evening gowns, but smart casual is usually fine.
The weather out at sea can vary dramatically, so put plenty of clothing you can layer – t-shirts, cardigans, sweatshirts, rain jackets, even fleeces, hats and gloves if you’re going to pass through somewhere cold on your journey – on your cruise packing list. Best to look carefully at your ship’s itinerary and think about the various climates you will experience.
Unless you’re staying in a luxurious suite with plenty of storage and shelf space, it’s likely you’ll run out of room fairly quickly. So if you want to keep small items such as toiletries, hairbrushes and medication handy, consider adding an over-the-door shoe bag to your cruise packing list. Many people also take extra hangers in case there’s not enough, as well as an empty bag to pack souvenirs or any clothes they buy on their trip.
One of the joys of cruising is the amount of time you have to yourself, so make sure you put plenty of books and magazines on your cruise checklist. Your ship is likely to have a number of books to buy or borrow, but their selection may not be to your taste. If you’re more high tech and pack your e-reader, tablet or laptop then don’t forget the chargers.
With all the food and drink on offer, it’s unlikely you’ll get through an entire cruise without needing an occasional painkiller or indigestion tablet, so put a small first aid kit on your cruise packing list, which includes a selection of the things you normally keep in your medicine cabinet at home. And if you don’t have your sea legs yet, make sure you pack some seasickness tablets too.
Onboard hairdryers can often be the low-power version, so pack your own hairdryer if you want a good blow dry. Small, secure backpacks are great for carrying personal items around port or on the ship. Clothes freshener can revitalise a worn suit or dress without having to dry clean it. Zip-lock bags are good for preventing wet swimwear from soaking other clothes, or for protecting travel documents or electronic items from the elements. Oh, and don’t forget to put your mobile in airplane mode to prevent any unwanted roaming charges.