The best strategy is to always ask your cruise agent about any specific packing rules for your particular ship.
Some ships have special requirements that may affect your packing plan.
The real question most often, is what can I take on the aircraft that gets me to the cruise? So let’s tackle that first.
For travelers from the United States, your best bet is to check often with Transportation Security Administration.
If you are traveling from Canada you can check with Transport Canada for rules specific to Canada.
For other countries, it is a wise ideas to check with your national air security agency for rules particular to your point of departure.
So, once you know the rules for flying, you can start packing!
Although you can purchase many items on ship or in cruise ports, you’ll often pay a heavy premium, and may not find exactly what you need. For example, film for your camera will cost significantly more once you leave home, and you may not find the size or speed you require.
Now might be the time to consider a new digital camera which are smaller, light weight and take advantage of “digital” film, leaving you more room for packing other goodies.
More Packing Tips
Try packing clothing that is re-usable on the cruise. For example, a men’s blazer may be used on a formal night if packaged with the proper shirt/tie. The same blazer can be used with an open-neck shirt or a less-formal shirt and tie for an informal night. A formal skirt can be mixed with different blouses and/or jackets for varying effects.
Formal nights are not necessarily extremely formal. Some passengers, who enjoying dressing up, will go full tilt with tuxedo’s, long gowns, etc. On most seven-night cruises this is not necessary. The majority of men wear a suit or blazer with white shirt and conservative tie on formal nights. Many women are packing cocktail dresses, fancy dresses, or suits. If you think of getting dressed for a nice wedding, you won’t go wrong. Young boys can wear nice slacks with a shirt and a tie. The more expensive the ship, the more likely that formal wear will be worn.
Many ships have self-serve laundry and ironing facilities in addition to the available washing and/or dry cleaning. Some times it makes sense to do a load or two during the cruise rather than pack enough of everything for your entire trip.
It’s quite possible to avoid getting dressed up during a cruise. How? Simply plan to eat your evening meal in the Lido restaurant during formal nights, or have room service that night. You can even have a snack and a nap at dinnertime, and enjoy the midnight buffet in casual attire. If you’re interested in a totally casual cruise, ask your cruise agent how the line you’ve chosen handles casual evening meals. By the way, Lobster tails are commonly served on one of the formal nights. If that’s important to you, ask your waiter which night the lobster will be served.
If you choose to travel with expensive jewelry, use the purser’s safe when you’re not wearing it. Although room safes are available on many ships, only valuables locked up in the purser’s safe are covered under the ship’s insurance (check you cruise contract, usually supplied with your cruise documents). Frankly, we’d recommend leaving your very expensive and/or priceless jewelry at home, or in your bank’s safe deposit box.
If you’re planning to buy t-shirts, hats, etc. on the ship or ports of call, why not wear them on your cruise? You’ll cut down on the amount of clothing you’ll bring, and you’ll not need to plan for extra packing space on your trip home. If you under-pack (unlikely), you can often purchase additional clothing during the cruise.
In the tropics, use light cotton clothing as often as possible. You’ll be cooler and more comfortable.
Plan your carry-on load carefully. A larger carry-on bag (within airline carry-on requirements) is useful so that you can comfortably carry a change of clothing. Keep your carry-on bag safe when you’re in the airport. Never leave it unattended.
Carry all documents, medicines, essentials and valuables including your credit card(s) on you or with you in your carry-on. If your main article of luggage is lost/misplaced, can you exist with what you’re carrying?
Do not plan to find space for a hang-up bag on an aircraft. Better to carefully pack your clothing in a suitcase than to jam it into an overhead compartment….
Instead of bringing full-size toiletries, like a full bottle of shampoo, save or purchase smaller plastic bottles and bring only what you need. Try sealing plastic bottles in zip-lock bags for added protection.
There are several reasons to bring your wireless telephone with you on the cruise.
- If you run into delays, you can call your cruise agent, airline, limo service, etc. without standing in line for a telephone.
- You can use your telephone on the ship before it departs, and while it is still close to land.
- You can make calls on the day you return. A wireless phone is great for calling a cab or a ride from home, or making arrangements with friends who are already ashore.
- Many ports have wireless service so that you can make calls directly without finding a phone booth. Wireless rates are usually much less than the ship’s satellite rates. Some common cruising areas have surprisingly good coverage (The Bahamas, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Grand Cayman, to name a few).
- You never know how a wireless phone will help you in transit should an emergency arise. It gives someone else the ability to call you, which is sometimes invaluable.
Since many ships are installing e-mail and internet capabilities, you may wish to bring along a list of important e-mail addresses and web site URL’s. Although this can get expensive, you might find it worthwhile, particularly if you keep close track of an investment portfolio.
If you really depend on a hair dryer, plan to bring your own. Even if the ship provides them, you may not find them to be powerful enough to handle your needs, particularly if you have long or heavy hair.
A pair of personal communications devices (as kids, we used to call these walkie-talkies) is useful in keeping track of your traveling companions on the ship. As ships become larger, it becomes more difficult to keep track of one another. This is a perfect tool for young teenagers…… (check your battery supply!)
A few emergency items are useful, particularly the flash light. It’s nice to know that you have an extra light for your room, and it could come in very handy should your ship develop some temporary generator malfunctions.
For Alaska and Northern Europe: Replace shorts, t-shirts, and short-sleeve shirts with warmer counterparts. Although you may wish to have one set of warm-weather clothing for afternoon wear on a warm day, you’ll be more comfortable with warmer clothing.
For Alaska: You can dress down just a bit. Jeans are acceptable/desirable for daytime wear. Bring rain wear, waterproof footwear, wool socks, a warm sweater, a wind-proof shell, warm gloves, and a stocking cap. Although you may not NEED this much if the weather is warmer, cold (low 50’s), windy and rainy weather is not uncommon along the coast of Alaska.
For Northern Europe: Temperatures can be cool during the summer, particularly in the evenings. Baltic cruises tend to be dressier. A warm sweater and gloves might be useful, particularly in late August. Absolutely bring an umbrella!
For the Mediterranean: Summer temperatures are similar to the Caribbean. Spring/Fall are cooler and more formal. Winter Cruises in the Med can be very cool, although snow/ice are not likely.
For Bermuda: Weather is beautiful from May through October, although cruising to/from New York or Boston can be quite cool in early and late seasons. Bermuda is in the Gulf Stream, while New York and Boston aren’t, so be prepared for a change in weather!
Most cruise lines do not permit you to carry alcohol on board due to customs regulations. Although this is a commonly broken rule, you should be aware that you’ll probably be stopped if you try to blatantly carry on a case of beer (or a case of scotch, chardonnay or champagne, for that matter!)