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Cruising 101, Part 4: What to Pack

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

This blog series is for travelers who are beginners to cruising. Cruising 101

Part 4: What to Pack

* Note (very important): Check the FAQs for the cruise line you will be on. Read what is not allowed on board to avoid unpleasant surprises. My blog is just general information, for beginners. * Updated: Many cruise lines do not allow your own bottled drinks except for one bottle of wine per adult per cabin. This includes water, even when you return on port days. You might be allowed to pre-purchase bottled water that will be waiting for you in your stateroom. * Basic Info: Your luggage is checked in at the curb (download your luggage tag before you get to the port). Your bags may not be delivered to your stateroom until late afternoon. Cruise luggage tags help to keep the printed tag on your bags.

* Take a small bag to board the ship: perhaps the same one you would take off the ship for excursions: swim suit, workout clothes, music player, book, camera and medication. When you board, most areas are available and you can have fun right away (except for your stateroom). You'll go straight to lunch, actually. Remember, you won't see your luggage until later, so make sure you have what you need for a couple of hours. All Aboard!

Luggage can be stored under the bed

* Clothing: Most ships have reasonable limits, but there are security and weight concerns. This blog entry will refer mostly to 5-10 day cruises. My tip: pack as if you were traveling on an airplane. With experience, you will realize how much stuff you don't need:

• 2 outfits per day: casual wear for daytime and something slightly dressier for the evening, depending on your activity. Outfits (especially shorts/pants/skirts) can be repeated, it's OK. Keep the climate in mind. There might be a passenger laundry, others have laundry service. Both will have a fee.

You might want to change for evening activities

• You may want to exercise. Bring 2-4 changes of workout clothes and the small travel packets of detergent to rinse them out. Or use the ship-provided shampoo, it works well.

• Bring at least 2 swimsuits, 1 coverup (or t-shirt/shorts) and 1 pair flip flops/sandals. You will need to rinse out the suit after a day at the beach, so while one is drying, the other is ready to go. PS: as tempting as it is, do not hang your swimsuit on your balcony to dry.

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• Part of the cruising experience is dressing up for dinner. Your newsletter will tell you when it is an elegant/formal evening. Nowadays, that simply means a collared shirt with dress pants for the men and a skirt, dress or dress pants for the ladies. Or, go all out and dress formally. It's a good night for portraits.

• There may be special days. Be prepared for all-white parties, pirate deck parties, ugly sweater parties at holiday time.

• Medications/vitamins (check with the cruise line about oxygen tanks).

• Sunscreen, insect repellent, lip balm, hand sanitizer, pocket-sized tissues

• Small umbrella (or poncho) and always, a versatile jacket/sweater.

• Small sizes of your favorite beauty items. Shower gel and shampoo are provided, but I prefer to bring my own. Save even more money by filling your own travel sized bottles.

There are plenty of options, but since I travel with body oil, it was a challenge to find a travel bottle that will survive the oil, be leakproof, won't pop open while the luggage is being transferred (but put it in a sandwich bag anyway) and is not glass. Also, containers with clips are always helpful.

You'll need items to take off the ship

* Electronics: Staterooms generally will have one 120V outlet (USA) and one that may require an adapter. I carry my voltage converter always. I also carry a USB hub so that I can charge more than one device. Extension cords and strips are usually not permitted. You might want: phone, camera, tablet/laptop. Blow dryers are provided, but curling/flat irons may or may not be allowed.

* The Internet: If you need to communicate with the landlubbers, access the shipboard internet cafe or use your device. Each cruise line is different: some sell time by the week, others by the minute. Tip: service is really slow on days at sea, so be patient. If you want to use your own service, honestly, you won't probably get a signal. And if you do, your company will charge rates for using your phone or hot spot at sea, so, check before you leave so that the price does not surprise you. * Other items: If you are very active, you will need your snorkeling mask and your scuba gear but you won't need workout gear beyond clothing. I bring my own mask and snorkel because a snorkel goes in one's mouth. Enough said. As for working out, there is a fitness room on the ship and a small track to jog or walk (usually on the lido deck, so go early). Or, if it is a beach day, run on the beach!

* Day packs: There are many day packs that can be worn across the body. Some people pack their money and cards under their clothing in a money belt. Every place warns against pickpockets, do not take these advisories lightly. A water bottle carrier with pockets is helpful.

* Kids: For little ones, excessive toys and books are not needed: the kids clubs have that. You may want a tablet for videos in the stateroom at night (download what you need before you leave). For babies, try to bring what they need because the shops on board and at the ports can be pricey. However, some cruise lines will let you order diapers to be delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day.

Shops will be at ports and in town

* Finally: The ship's shops are open only at sea, not when the ship is docked. You can buy emergency items either on board or when you are in port. They tend to cost more, of course, but items are available. The key is to learn to live without some things and to remember you are not moving away from home, just vacationing.

This article is my personal opinion. I am a travel agent. I am an Amazon Associate. If you purchase something through a link, I might earn a commission at definitely no extra cost to you.

Happy Travels!

Other Articles in This Series:


Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

All text and photos copyright Marcia Crayton All Rights Reserved 2023

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