What Should I Pack for a Cruise?

Your first cruise is around the corner, and you’re trying to decide what to pack. We can help! There are certainly are a few standard vacation items that belong in your suitcase, and additional recommendations may come in handy when you least expect them. We at Dreamlines have compiled a list of expert tips to help you pack for your cruise.

Download printable packing list

Clothing and footwear: dress for the weather

In general, you should dress for the weather of the destination you’ll be visiting, just like any other trip. Cruising to the Caribbean or the sunny Mediterranean? Don’t forget shorts, sandals, and swimwear. On a cruise to Alaska, on the other hand, you may encounter chilly weather – especially in late spring and early fall – so be sure to pack a jacket and waterproof shoes. Comfortable walking shoes are a must for any destination you’ll be traveling to, and you’ll also want a swimsuit. Even on cruises to destinations with cooler weather, your ship will undoubtedly have at least one swimming pool and hot tub on board.

Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat are also important. Water, sand, and snow all reflect the sun, so be sure to prepare for the elements before embarking on your cruise.

The essentials: passport, camera, and motion sickness medication

There are also a few other items to take into consideration when going on a journey at sea. Besides your travel documents and a camera, a pair of binoculars can also be a good idea. They’ll come in handy if you like looking out over the open ocean and searching for wildlife, such as whales, dolphins, and sea birds, or other ships that come your way. Thanks to new stabilization technology, the motion of the ship is much less noticeable on deck than in the olden days, but there’s always a chance of encountering rough seas on your trip. Cruise ship travel is typically calm and smooth, and seasickness is very rare. However, if you’re prone to motion sickness, talk to your primary doctor or local pharmacist about motion sickness medication. Chewing gum might also be a good idea. The ship’s doctor can also provide additional help if you start to feel woozy during your cruise.

Optional, but nice to have: magnets and lanyards

Some other useful items that you might want to have on your cruise include magnets and lanyards. Why? Well, ships are mostly made of metal, so magnets can be a handy way to pin brochures, postcards, and the ship’s daily schedule right onto your cabin wall. And a lanyard can be a useful way to carry your ID card to avoid losing it. Your ID card is your room key, your personal ID, and your method of payment for the length of your cruise. To keep it safe, you can either bring a lanyard with a plastic sleeve to hold it, or else ask at the reception if they can punch a hole through it, so you can put it on a string.

Electric adapters and chargers for your electronic devices

If you are doing a pre- or post-cruise adventure in a country outside of the US, power adapters can be handy items to take with on your cruise. While most cruise lines have North American-style two-prong power outlets, some European, British, and Australian ships may not, so you’ll want to ask your cruise consultant what kind of electrical outlets will be on board and pack the appropriate adapter beforehand.

A hair dryer will usually be provided in your stateroom, so you can save the suitcase space and leave yours at home. If you want to bring yours anyway, check with your cruise consultant to make sure the ship has the right type of voltage and outlets to safely operate your device.

Evening wear: fancy dining and Formal Nights

You’ll also want to bring appropriate clothing for evening activities on board. Some cruise lines, for instance, require that passengers dress up for dinner when dining in a sit-down restaurant. Some even have daytime dress codes as well. There may also be themed nights, such as Mexican Fiesta, holiday parties, or White Nights.

Some cruise lines also have at least one Formal Night per cruise: a festive occasion involving a meet-and-greet with the ship’s officers, a photo op with the captain, and an extra special evening meal. For these special occasions, women should pack cocktail attire with your favorite matching shoes to go with it, and men should pack a suit complete with jacket, shirt, and tie. For longer itineraries, it’s not a bad idea to pack multiple formal outfits.

On some higher-end cruise lines, passengers really go all-out with ball gowns and heirloom jewelry, while on others, things are much more “country-club casual”. Your cruise consultant can provide you with detailed information about the onboard dress code before your departure, so don’t be afraid to ask.

If you’d prefer to avoid the “formal” festivities, you can typically “come as you are” at the buffet or order room service. Some cruise lines also eschew Formal Nights altogether, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, which prides itself in “freestyle cruising” with its casual onboard atmosphere and lack of an official dress code.

What should I pack in my carry-on?

Like airplanes, cruise ships divide luggage into checked bags and carry-on luggage. You’ll give up your checked bag upon check-in, where it will be checked and tagged, so a crew member can deliver it to your stateroom. Similarly, on the last night of the cruise, you’ll hand over your suitcase once again. The crew will carry it from the ship early the next morning for you to claim shoreside. Because you won’t have access to your belongings for several hours during this time, Dreamlines recommends bringing a small carry-on item, such as a purse or backpack, on the first and last days to carry the necessities.

So what belongs in my carry-on bag? Travel documents, passport (and other important identification), any medications you may have, and all things of value including cash, credit cards, and jewelry. We also recommend you carry a change of clothes with you. Although you should be able to enter your stateroom as soon as it’s been cleaned and prepared for you, it may take a little longer for your checked baggage to reach you there. If you’ve got a long journey to the port and you want to be able to change into fresh clothes as soon as you can access your stateroom, it’s a good idea to carry a change of clothes with you.

Similarly, one mistake first-time cruisers sometimes make is to pack all of their clothes into their checked bag on the last night of the cruise without thinking to set aside an outfit for the next day. If this happens to you, you may wake up on debarkation day with no suitcase and no change of clothes, meaning you’ll have to eat breakfast and disembark the ship in your pajamas – a very embarrassing situation to be in! Lay out your clothes the night before to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Download printable packing list

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