So you have booked your cruise and now it’s time to think about packing. What should you pack? How much to pack? What not to pack?
Before You Pack
First things first before packing I recommend you ask yourself the following three questions.
1 – How much can I take on a cruise?
If you are driving to the port don’t worry about weight. Most cruise liners don’t have a limit and restrict it to a “reasonable amount”. Bring as much as you can handle and fit in your cabin. If you are doing walk off at the end of your cruise remember you will have to transport you own cases off the ship. Also think about the people who will be taking your case on board and taking it up to your cabin, there is never any need to over-pack.
If you have transfers or flights booked check what the limitation on luggage is. We have been stung before with weight limits and have been left with a hefty overweight luggage bill!
2 – What’s the dress code?
Each cruise will have a different dress code. This can vary from no dress code such as liners like NCL to a strict enforcement of the dress code such as Cunard. So it’s important to know what type of dress code your cruise requires. You can usually find this information on the liners website.
Remember to also check the dress code of any specialty dining venues you may have booked. You wouldn’t want to miss your booking because you don’t have the correct attire.
Also check if there are any formal nights on your cruise. Most cruise lines will have at least one formal evening on-board. This may be only contained to the main dining rooms. The enforcement of formal night can also vary with some cruise liners refusing entry to the dining rooms if you are not in the correct attire.
There may be also a themed evening, such as the pirate night on Disney Cruise Line or White Night on NCL which most people get dressed up for.
3 – What can’t I take on-board.
It’s good to also check what you can’t take on-board. Cruising is different to a resort vacation and has restrictions on what is and what isn’t allowed. This varies so check your cruise liner’s website prior to packing to see a full list of restrictions.
Once you are ready to pack start with thinking about hand luggage. When packing your hand luggage, we advise you make sure you have all your essentials in it such as documentation, money and medication. Think about the things you will need for the journey.
It can take a few hours until your main luggage is transferred to your cabin so we pack swimwear and a change of clothes so we can use the pool along with a small amount of toiletries to freshen up when we arrive. Your main luggage will usually be delivered to your cabin door after dinner on the first night.
Documents & Money
It’s common to hand your suitcase to the staff kerbside of the port before checking in. Or if you have a fly transfer your luggage may be transferred to the ship from the airport so make sure you have all your cruise documentation, passports, visas (if needed), insurance documents, medication and credit cards/money in your hand luggage.
We have a travel wallet that we can keep everything in. We suggest you also pre-fill any documents if you can before be arriving at the port to speed up boarding.
We also pack a pen as sometimes you have documents to fill or landing forms if you are flying to the port.
We always take a photocopy of our passports, documents and credit cards and leave these in the safe in our room in case my cards get lost or stolen. You will probably never need them but it nice to know you have them.
As well as our passports, we take photo ID. When leaving the ship at port you usually just need a form photo ID such as a drivers licence (usually only adults need this – but check with your cruise line)
For our main bag, we have a few things that we feel are essential on a cruise and some items that we have found handy to have. We have put together a separate post on our full packing list for you to see.
When packing for a cruise we always pack layers. This is ideal particularly if you are on a cruise which goes from a cold to warm climate. Remember that you may be heading to the Caribbean but it still can be cool inside with the air-con or on an evening when its breezy on deck.
We advise you to pack separates so you can interchange your outfits meaning you can take fewer clothes with you on your cruise. Don’t be afraid to wear the same outfit twice. Ships always have a laundry service and if there is a self service launderette on-board you can make use of it.
Even if you don’t wear socks or long trousers we advise you take them. Some activities such as ice skating or rock climbing require you to be wearing socks or long trousers.
We always take a poncho, raincoat or fold down umbrella just in case we encounter bad weather. We find an umbrella or poncho is ideal as it can be folded down and takes up minimal space.
You will need some good walking shoes or trainers. Cruises, particularly those with port days, have lots of walking involved and whilst flip-flops are great for the pool they are not ideal or comfortable in port.
If you don’t have a drink package you can usually bring on a certain amount of alcohol for consumption in your cabin. This keeps costs down and we enjoy having a drink (or two!) on the balcony whilst watching the sun set. Check your cruise line for the allowances and how it should be packed to bring on-board.
Make sure any glass bottles are packed carefully, we use shoes at each end of a bottle to provide support and avoid any breakages.
We like to use a hanging toiletry bag. You can hook it up in the bathroom and it saves space. As well as all the standard toiletries, we also take the baby powder as its perfect for getting sand off your feet. If we are in a humid climate we take an anti-chafing stick or anti-sweat roller deodorant as well as our normal deodorant.
We also take hand soap for the bathroom and hand sanitizer. We find the ones with a clip are handy to carry around.
Cabins are small and sometimes have no access to fresh air so we also take a room freshener. We choose a different scent each holiday which reminds us of our cruise.
We always pack for every scenario so we take a wide range of medication for every need. When you are on a land based vacation you can pop to the pharmacy but when you are on a cruise you’re limited to what is available on-board on at ports which can be limited and almost always at a premium price.
We always pack pain relief, nasal spray, rehydration powders, diarrhoea relief, constipation relief, plasters/band-aids, antibacterial cream, mosquito repellent and most impotently indigestion relief as you will be eating lots of food and drink on-board.
It’s essential to also pack anti-sickness medication. There are different types and we suggest testing which one is best for you prior to sailing – or you could bring a few different types with you.
We always have a bag with our pool/beach essentials in. These include our sun/tanning lotions and after-sun lotions, pool shoes, flip flops, towels and sun hats. We use this bag exclusively for the pool and have a separate bag for port days. We can then just leave these bags packed without the need to pack and unpack each day.
For shore excursions, I advise a bag with a reliable zip and even better an additional latch to deter any pickpockets. You could even buy anti-theft backpacks and accessories.
Other items we always bring include a Kindle with plenty of books loaded and a portable charging brick to charge our devices when we are in port.
One thing we can’t live without is our portable speaker. It’s so nice to listen to our music when we are getting ready or lounging around the cabin.
There are some things we only pack for a cruise holiday, some are rarely used and some may seem rather odd. These essentials include items such as pegs, zip lock bags, room freshener, a lanyard, and highlighters. You can see the full list of Handy Cruise Essentials and why I bring them in this post.
We like to pack some treats for our cabin steward. We try to bring things unique to the UK and we find it is an as a nice way to introduce ourselves to them.
Once we are packed and ready to go we add something like a ribbon or strap to our cases to make them stand out when we collect them at baggage reclaim. Remember to add your details to your case. A handy tip is to slip your business card into the details holder as this is easier to read than handwriting.
We also take a photograph of our luggage in case it goes missing (non pun intended! ;).
One last thing before we go is to download any apps, movies, music or books we may need on-board on in port. Most cruise liners have an app you use on-board to see menus, activities and on some you can make restaurant reservations. If there is any mapping or translation app you want to use in port – download these before travelling. Some mapping apps allow you to download the map so you can use it even without an internet connection.
What do you pack for your cruise?
Are there any handy tips you have when you pack for a cruise? If you have any questions or comments please pop them in the comment section below. We love hearing from our readers so please share your knowledge!