What Should I Pack?

You’re planning your first cruise and you don’t know what to bring. Well, there’s the obvious of course: you need clothes and toiletries and money, but what kind? How much? A cruise is a different kind of vacation, and as such, you may want to pack for it in a different fashion.

First, let’s address the ‘how much’ question. There is no restriction on how much luggage you can bring onboard a cruise, although obviously everything has to fit in your stateroom. Some cruise lines will take your empty suitcases away and store them for you at the beginning of your cruise, returning them at the end of your journey. As such, it would seem that you should bring as much as you want! However you should consider the logistics of getting all of these things to and from your cruise.

First, if you are flying to your cruise departure port, or flying home from your final port, you will have to abide by airline baggage restrictions and fees. While the cruise ship does not limit your possessions, the airlines surely will! If you are driving to and from the cruise ports, you will be more flexible, but then you are still limited by how much you can fit into your vehicle.

Another consideration is disembarkation, and how quickly you will want to get off of the ship when the cruise is over. The fastest disembarkation is always to walk off with your own luggage as soon as the ship has cleared customs. This means that you will have to carry every piece of baggage yourself. If you feel that you might want to pursue this option, then it is a good idea to take a hard look at the amount of luggage that you bring.

Once you’ve determined your desired quantity of baggage, you will need to figure out what to put inside. Clothing is obvious, but the types of clothing will vary depending upon the weather you expect to encounter on your journey. Look at the weather forecasts before you leave, as well as the historical highs and lows for each port city you will visit. Some cruises will require only one climate-type of clothing, while others (such as winter cruises to Hawaii or the Caribbean, or summer cruises to Alaska or Northern Europe) may require attire for multiple temperature levels.

At a minimum, you will want to bring a rain jacket (heavier or lighter, depending on your cruise) with a hood, a light sweater or cardigan, night wear, a bathing suit, daytime/casual dinner clothing, and formal night attire. You will also need to look at the kinds of activities in which you intend to partake while in port. If you plan to enjoy multiple water excursions, you may wish to bring more bathing suits, or invest in rashguards, board shorts and water shoes. If you’ll be spending a lot of time outside in hot weather, put some serious thought into bringing a hat, preferably one with a chin strap. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking, or golfing, or spending time in the gym, these activities would also require special attire. Additionally, you will have to consider that you will want to be in the main dining room each night, where shorts and jeans are not permitted. Lastly, you must consider how much you wish to participate in formal nights, and bring appropriate attire for those occasions.

When packing toiletries, don’t forget the 3 oz rule for liquids if you are flying. Cruise lines will usually provide shampoo, conditioner and lotion for passengers, much as you would receive in a hotel, but you will need to bring other toiletries yourself. The cruise ship will have a small (but expensive) selection of toiletries in the gift shop onboard, if you forget anything. Most importantly, don’t forget to bring any medications you are taking, as these may be difficult to acquire while you are traveling.

Money is important, but you need to ensure that you have the correct currencies. Some countries (such as the Caribbean nations) will generally accept $US, but other countries may demand their own currency. Check this out in advance and if possible, bring currency with you. It is usually cheaper and more convenient to have currency on your person when you arrive in a country than to try and get it when you disembark in port.

Other items that you may wish to pack might be a camera (your vacation will be fabulous and you’ll likely want something better than a smartphone camera to capture the memories), a tablet or laptop computer (to keep in touch with family and friends via internet in port or onboard), a night light (if you’re in an inside cabin), lanyards (to carry your cruise card), sunscreen, sunglasses, and reading material (for relaxing by the pool or beach).

In my next blog, I’ll give tips for packing light (traveling with only carryon bags).