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Cruising 101: What To Pack

Carnival Disclosure

Back when I took my first cruise, things were a little different from how they are today in a lot of ways.  The biggest change in my mind is attire.  Like everything nowadays, things have gotten more casual.  There are no more two semi-formal nights, one formal night, and so on for a seven night cruise.

What to pack for a cruise

Instead, you wear more of what’s comfortable to you.  That doesn’t mean wear your cutoffs and ripped t-shirt (although you would be shocked by what I have seen on cruises), but it means you don’t have to go buy a new wardrobe just for the cruise, though don’t let me be the one to stop you from shopping!

There are some things you definitely want to pack when you go on your cruise, and other things you can leave behind.  In fact, there are some restrictions on what you can bring aboard, particularly where it comes to beverages, so make sure to check with your cruise line to see what is and isn’t allowed.  Generally you can bring a 750ml bottle of wine aboard per person, and a six pack of pop, but don’t expect more.

[bctt tweet=”Heading out on a cruise soon? Here’s what you need to pack!” username=”honestandtruly”]

The biggest thing most people stress over is clothes.  Keep in mind that your cabin will be small compared to where you live, and the closet and drawers are similarly scaled.  You don’t have a ton of room to bring your entire closet, and you won’t wear it anyway.  Don’t make it harder on yourself by bringing too much luggage.

Items to pack for a cruise

Two or three swimsuits are plenty, as you can let one dry while wearing the other.  You want a cover up (because really, no one wants to see you in your suit walking through the halls) and flip flops to wear when going to and from the pool.  You’ll want a few pairs of shorts and some shirts to wear during the day – knowing that you’re likely to be in your suit most of the day and can potentially wear your outfits more than once.

In the evenings, you’ll want to have slacks and a collared shirt for guys, and a sundress is sufficient for women.  You can still wear your day clothes, if you’re not doing the dining room and planning to eat in one of the more casual restaurants that most ships now offer.  The majority of ships also have fine dining options for an additional fee – like the steakhouse aboard the Valor that I cannot wait to check out myself.  For those, you definitely want to dress up a little more than you would for the other options but no more than a nice evening out at home.

There are still some elegant attire nights aboard most ships where the main dining room will ask for dress slacks and shirt, and a sport coat is a nice addition for men and cocktails dresses or fancy skirt and blouse is expected for women.  Don’t want to bring that?  You’re fine; just head to the casual restaurant instead of the main dining room that night.

Shoes are also key.  You want to have shoes that will match your outfits.  I’m a fan of packing a color palette where you can mix and match your shoes and accessories so you don’t need to bring as many.  A tip on shoes: don’t buy new shoes and wear them for the first time on the cruise.  Even just walking from your room to the pool or to dinner or to head to shore, it isn’t a quick walk.  You want your shoes to be broken in to minimize blisters.

Along those lines, make sure you’re packing comfortable shoes even for those fancier dinners to avoid unnecessary pain.  Don’t forget to pack a pair of gym shoes, too.  Whether you decide to do some exercise classes aboard the ship or do an excursion that requires closed toed shoes (many hikes and horseback riding tours do), you don’t want to miss out because you don’t have the right shoes.

Of course you’ll want to bring your makeup and toiletries.  Your cabin will have a hair dryer, but if you have a special one you like to use or have other hair styling tools, feel free to bring them.  They operate under normal US current, so you don’t need an adapter.  That said, you may have only one plug in your bathroom, so don’t overdo it!

Though there is plenty to do aboard the ship from food to shows to games to the pool to spas and exercise and more, sometimes you want your own entertainment.  You want to watch a favorite movie or bring a book. You can bring books aboard, and if you finish what you’ve read, most ships have an onboard library where you can get something else to read.  You are allowed to bring DVD players (and the portable ones are so convenient now), but you need to remember any connecting cables, as the ship won’t provide those.

Ships also tend to now have safes in each cabin, although you’ll want to verify for your particular itinerary.  I’ve sailed before with valuables from jewelry to my phone and more where I had to store them in the ship’s general safe.  While it was very doable to go to the safe area and retrieve my items and replace them when finished, it wasn’t convenient.  The safe generally isn’t big enough to hold a full size laptop or too many items, so don’t expect it to hold every possible item, but they’re generally large enough to contain the valuables you truly feel you need to bring.

Other critical items include sunscreen, aloe, and Band Aids.  Especially if you’re headed to the Caribbean, the sun is a lot stronger than what you’re used to, and it’s very easy to burn.  Aloe works wonders, but you’re better off staying safe in the sun to start with.  And though you brought your comfortable shoes, you may still end up with a blister or a cut somewhere.  I love the new waterproof Band Aids, as well as the blister healing Band Aids.  While there are shops aboard the ship and in every port, it’s easier (and cheaper) than purchasing them during your cruise.

Don’t forget your camera – and its charger – when you head out on your cruise.  There will be so many photo opportunities both aboard the ship and in port, and you don’t want to miss out on any of them.  Other electronics really aren’t necessary.  There is an Internet cafe on most ships if you need to check your email, though a cruise is a great time to break away from technology.

You can use your cell phone aboard most ships, as well, as they now have system that allows you to make and receive calls and texts, but it will be at international roaming rates, so think hard about whether you need to be that connected.  The same holds true for most ports – you will be able to make calls if your phone can roam internationally – but they will be costly.  Check with your carrier for specifics. However, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John’s, etc are US territories and covered by most US carriers at standard rates. Additionally, many cruise ships now have internet packages you can purchase to stay connected. Check out what your carrier offers and specifically what your ship has.

You can’t predict the weather, but you can plan for it.  Pack a travel umbrella in case it rains wherever you are.  And on the flip side, it seems like the air conditioning is always turned on just a little too high for me indoors.  I always pack a “restaurant sweater” or wrap that I can just toss on over whichever dress I’m wearing.  It’s quick and easy but makes such a difference when I step inside.

When you arrive on the ship, you may not be able to get into your cabin to unpack right away.  Pack a small bag that has your valuables and what you might need right away (a swimsuit and cover up, perhaps?) so that you are able to enjoy yourself when you first embark.  Your checked bags will arrive in your cabin via the porter, and you don’t want to be stuck missing anything important in the interim.

Lastly, don’t forget to pack your travel documents.  You’ll want your passport or other proof of residence required for your cruise, as well as your boarding pass.  Either pack your luggage tags if you’re headed to your destination early or tape them to the outside of your bags as directed.  If there are other forms you need – signup for kids camps, special needs forms, dietary restrictions, and the like, don’t forget those either.

And of course, pack a good attitude.  Everyone on the ship wants you to have a good time.  They will do what they can – within reason – to make it work for you.  But it’s still up to you to choose to have a good time, and when I’m on vacation that’s my whole goal.  So I have a smile packed.

Miss the earlier segments of Cruising 101?  We’ve already chatted about why you should cruise and what do you before you board, so go check them out if you missed them.  And I’ll see you on board!

Check out more cruising fun. We have absolutely loved every cruise we’ve been on, and we aren’t alone.

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  1. Molly says:

    I’m so nervous about what to pakc and this list helps a lot. What else would you take?

  2. […] Cruising 101: What To Pack from Honest and Truly […]

  3. Tami says:

    On our first cruise we did not realize we needed formal wear to get into the dinning room. We ended up eating ‘cafeteria style’ the entire time.
    Have fun on your cruise!!

  4. AngelNicki says:

    The only cruise I’ve ever been on was a Disney Cruise… but it was awesome! Our cabin had a window, and at night I’d wake up and just go sit and look out at the ocean when everything was silent. It was unbelievable. I’d love to go on a cruise again someday. I hope you have lots of fun!

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