How to Pack for a Cruise
If you’re new to cruising, the idea of planning your dream vacation might feel a bit overwhelming. First you’ve got to choose a cruise that suits your style, then you’ve got to pick the right kind of cabin.
Then there are excursions to book, before and after cruise travel plans to lock down, and oh, yeah — at some point you’ll need to pack your bags.
A cruise offers a wide variety of experiences — from salsa dancing and zip-lining in the rainforest to wine tastings and pool parties — all packed into one epic vacation. So the struggle in figuring out what to pack is real.
You could pack 10 bags with everything you could imagine needing. But there are good reasons to pack smart and light when you cruise:
- Cabins are relatively small with limited storage
- Fewer bags make for more comfortable and less stressful travel
- Many items you might need are available on board
Although you could probably survive with just a toothbrush and a swimsuit, some of us require a bit more when it comes to clothing and other essentials.
So how can you pack smart and still bring everything you want on your cruise? Look no further than the cruise packing hacks from the cruise experts at CloudBlue.
We’ve cruised more times than we can count, and over the years we’ve put together a list of tips to make packing for your cruise a cinch.
From making the most of your carry-on and staying organized to some clever cruise packing hacks, here’s our guide and packing list for cruises that’ll keep your bags light so you can travel in ease and comfort.
Utilize Your Carry-On
Your carry-on is the bag you can bring to your room as soon as you board the ship. Your main luggage will be loaded by the ship’s crew, processed, and arrive at your cabin some hours later.
This means two things:
- You can use your carry-on to fit more essentials, and
- You need to make sure your carry-on includes everything you’ll want in those first few hours of your cruise.
If you plan to hit the pool ASAP, put your bathing suit in your carry-on. Worried about seasickness or on a prescription schedule? Pack your medicine.
If you want kick off your vacation with a toast, you’re allowed 1-2 bottles of wine in your carry-on. Plus, wine is liable to break while being handled in your checked bag, so might as well not take any chances!
Prepare for Cool Nights
You may be headed out on a tropical cruise vacation, but the deck of a ship on the open water can still get nippy.
Be sure to bring appropriate layers so you can stay comfortable from sunrise to sunset and late into the evening.
Roll Your Clothes
No matter the type of clothing or the type of bag, rolling your clothing tightly (like a sleeping bag) before packing it saves space and minimizes wrinkles.
Protect Your Dressy Attire
If you plan on packing some evening wear, you’ll want to be sure to protect it. Here are a few tips:
- Turn your suit jacket inside out to keep the outside clean
- Wrap dresses in plastic
- Roll a belt and insert in the collar of button-up shirts to keep the collar from getting crushed
Bring a Travel Mug
A travel mug or bottle with a leak-proof lid is great for coffee, tea, or water from the ship’s dining hall. You can walk around the ship with your favorite beverage with no worries about spilling. And you won’t have to keep buying bottles of water whenever you’re thirsty.
Include a Cloth Tote Bag
This comes in handy for excursions at port or just strolling to the hot tub with your towel and sunscreen in tow.
Don’t Forget a Pen
This may seem silly, but at the beginning and end of your cruise you will likely have to fill out customs forms and other simple paperwork. Rather than waiting around for the one pen that’s getting passed around, bring your own.
Bring Ear Plugs
If you’re a light sleeper, these are a must for an undisturbed good night’s rest. Between deck noise and late-nighters in the corridors, you’ll be thankful you brought these along.
Pack Seasickness Medication
Many people cruise fine without ever feeling the symptoms of seasickness. But if you aren’t sure whether or not the rolling ocean will leave you laid up in your cabin for a day, then bring some Dramamine to curb the effects of motion sickness.
Tag Your Luggage
Luggage tags are a “plan B” in case the ship’s applied paper tags fall off or are misplaced.
Want a “plan C”? Take photos of all your luggage in case it goes missing. Easier to show a photo to the ship’s crew than try to describe your bag as “plain, black, um…rectangle-shaped?”
Stay Charged with a Power Strip
Many cabins include only a handful of outlets. If you’ve got more than just a phone to plug in, bring a power strip along. Just make sure it’s not a surge-protected one, as those typically aren’t allowed on cruises.
Organize Your Jewelry
Earrings, necklaces, and rings tossed into your luggage can make for a tangled mess at the bottom of your bag. Here are some tips to manage your jewelry:
- Use a pill case or mint tins to store separate pieces or types of jewelry — rings in one, earrings in the other
- Prevent tangled necklaces by cutting down one side of a straw lengthwise and stringing the necklace inside
- Clasp a set of earrings to a button to keep pairs together
Make Freshening Up Easy with a Hanging Bathroom Organizer
The bathroom in your cabin will likely be a tight fit. Bottles of shampoo, jewelry, make-up, and all the rest will make for a lot of clutter if you don’t have a way to organize it.
A simple bathroom organizer that hangs over the door offers lots of pockets to keep all your stuff straight and easy to access — and it packs flat, so it shouldn’t take up much space in your bag.
Keep the Bathroom Fresh with Deodorizing Spray
A small spray bottle of bathroom air freshener is a simple way to keep everyone in your close quarters from having to plug their noses every time someone flushes.
Wear a Watch and Set It to “Ship Time”
Your ship may travel in and out of different time zones, but ship time stays consistent during the entirety of a cruise. All onboard events, excursions, and arrival/departure times will adhere to ship time.
You might not mind the idea of missing the boat when the day’s port of call is a tropical island destination. But just in case you actually like your job back home, stay on schedule with a watch set to ship time.
Cover Up with Sunscreen
Lighten Up with a Nightlight
An unfamiliar cabin in the middle of the night can be quite dark. If you’ve booked an interior cabin, it might be pitch black. A battery-powered nightlight helps you avoid stumbles in the unfamiliar cabin.
Plus, if you’re traveling with kids, the light offers a comforting glow and helps prevent bumps and bruises.
Traveling with Medical Equipment
If you use equipment such as a wheelchair, walking aids, oxygen tanks, etc., most cruises are more than accommodating to special needs travelers.
Typically, all mobility equipment is allowed on most cruises. Be sure to contact your cruise line and ask about your equipment in advance, as some may have programs where you can rent the equipment you need through a third-party, so you can leave yours at home.
Traveling with a disability is about more than just being able to bring your medical equipment, though. There’s room accessibility, bathroom size, service animal policies, and more to consider. We recommend using a travel agency that specializes in cruises to ensure you book the optimal cruise for your needs.
Other Tips for First-Time Cruisers
Packing your bags is just one of the first steps to kicking off the perfect cruise vacation.
From what to do before you leave the house and arriving at the pier to disembarkation, we’ve put together a guide for every cruise rookie to be fully prepared for fun during your first cruise.
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