As far as travel goes, about the only thing worse than packing for a trip is unpacking when you get home. Both are necessary though because it’s pretty hard to travel without bringing anything. What to bring varies from person to person, but some things everyone needs. Four-wheeled luggage is popular and easy to handle, but when there are weight limits the ones with two wheels are nicer because they weigh a bit less meaning you can put a bit more inside.
The most important things everyone must have to get on the ship are your boarding pass and any required ID. Since most people set up their onboard account with a credit card they also need that card. Passports are important too. Even if the passport is not required for the destination in the case of an emergency you can’t fly home from a foreign country without it. You can’t fly to the next port without it either if you happen to get left behind in a foreign country. Nobody plans to get left behind in port, but it happens.
It’s a very good idea to keep your cards in RFID blocking sleeves so nobody can scan them and steal your information. You can find the sleeves online for very little money, and they have some for passports too. If you are traveling somewhere where pickpockets are common try not to let anyone touch you while you are out and about in port and keep your things in a secure place where they aren’t easily taken.
American dollars are accepted in most places in Caribbean, Mexican, and Canadian ports, but when traveling to places like Europe, Asia, Australia, or New Zealand you may need some local currency. Credit cards work for most things purchased in port, but it’s nice to have some cash for tips, shopping in places like small local craft booths, or if you go somewhere you don’t want to take the credit card.
Clothes to bring depend partly on the cruise destination and partly on the cruiseline you sail with. For any destination it’s a good idea to bring rain gear – the one thing you pack hoping never to use. For colder climates packing a lighter jacket and things you can wear in layers is more versatile and takes up less space than bringing a bulky jacket. It also saves luggage space if you can travel in your most bulky shoes and coat. Packing clothes you can mix and match in more than one outfit also helps save space in the suitcase since you can bring less if you can use some for more than one thing. Some clothing items easily transform from casual to dressy with a change of accessories, shoes, or what you wear with it. Ships have swimming pools and hot tubs so even on itineraries that don’t include beaches it’s nice to have a swimsuit. Some ships also have waterslides and/or saunas.
Clothing needed includes things to wear on the ship as well as things to wear in port. Inside the ship is often cold even when sailing to warm places so it’s a good idea to have a lightweight sweatshirt. Most ships have at least one formal night per cruise, though how formal of clothing you need can vary from one line to another. In most cases a suit for men and a dress or skirt and nice top for women are nice enough, but check the dress code for your ship to be sure. If there is more than one formal night different shirts or accessories can change the look without having to pack an entire second outfit. If you do bring separate outfits and they both go with the same shoes you can save the space a second pair would take. Also check the dress code for your ship to know what clothes and shoes to bring for casual night dinners. Some ships have theme nights in the dining room sometimes too. It helps for suitcase space if at least some of your dinner wardrobe can be worn for other things as well as the dining room.
Besides shoes for the dining room, other shoes needed include a comfortable pair you can walk around all day in whether on board or in port and summer shoes like sandals or flip flops for wearing to the pools, hot tubs, or beach. In hot climates a couple pairs of summer shoes are good since that is what you’ll probably wear most of the time on board or off and they don’t take up a lot of space. Wearing your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane helps save both weight and space in your bag.
Knowing in advance whether your ship has laundry facilities can help in deciding how many clothes to pack, especially for long cruises. Some ships have self-serve passenger laundries, some don’t. You can send laundry out for the crew to wash, but that often comes at a hefty price. If you do your own wash laundry soap pods come in really handy and don’t take up much space. Newer ships often use your ship card to pay for the washer and dryer, but some older ones still take quarters. You can get them at the ship’s casino, but you can beat the crowd if you bring your own, especially since the casino is closed in port and the front desk may not have any.
Dryer sheets come in handy whether you wash clothes or not because you can put one in your pocket for mosquito repellent when going on shore and then use it for doing laundry later. A few clothespins help too. Even if you don’t handwash anything in your cabin it is easier to hang wet swimsuits up on the little laundry line in the shower with clothespins than it is to string the line through them.
Of course you will always want to mostly pack clothes appropriate for the weather where you are going, but even in could climates a pair of shorts might come in handy if you decide to go to the gym. In warm climates long pants might be needed inside the ship where it tends to be cold, and because shorts may not be allowed in the dining room at dinner.
Ships normally provide very basic bathroom supplies – soap and shampoo. There’s usually conditioner and body wash too and sometimes hand lotion. Quality varies though so it never hurts to have travel size supplies of your own. You’ll also need things like toothpaste, razors, mouthwash, dental floss, etc – whatever you normally use. Bathrobes are normally available either standard in the room or for the asking. I’ve always gotten extra hangers when I’ve asked the steward for them, but the amount varies so if space allows that’s a handy thing to bring.
Hair dryers are normally provided in the cabins. Many ships have just one outlet per cabin so bringing a power strip helps tremendously. Magnets also come in useful since the cabin walls are magnetic in most ships and even the few without magnetic walls often have magnetic doors. With magnets you can hang things like excursion tickets, your itinerary, and the daily newsletters on the wall where they are always easy to find.
I usually bring snorkel gear, which takes up quite a bit of space. Bring what is most important to you, but if it is bulky and you are flying where luggage is limited then there are trade-offs for the space. I’ll often just bring one pair of little black ballet flats that go with everything for dinner and then the space where several pairs of bigger shoes would otherwise go is open for the snorkel gear.
Sunscreen is a must for any destination, but if it is a tropical destination make sure to bring some coral reef safe sunscreen for the ports. Most popular sunscreens are chemical based and harm coral reefs so look for something labeled either biodegradable or reef safe, which you will more likely find online or in a store that sells things like herbal remedies and organic products than in the average grocery or big box store. The good thing is that the mineral based sunscreens do a better job protecting people from skin cancer so by protecting the reef you also better protect yourself. Sunglasses are a necessity for any cruise, and hats whether a sunhat for warm places or winter hat for cold places come in useful as well.
If you plan to swim in public places on shore it helps to have a small waterproof case on a string that you can put your ship card, ID, and money or credit card in so you can take them in the water with you. Underwater cameras are nice for that as well both for the fact that you can take them in the water with you rather than leaving them unguarded on shore, and for taking underwater pictures. Lots of people use phones and tablets for their photos, but you would not want to leave them lying around a public beach while you are in the water.
It’s nice to bring a backpack as a carry-on. You can bring all your electronics with you that way, plus anything you might want during your first few hours onboard because the luggage isn’t always delivered right away. On some ships the rooms may not be ready when you first board so it really helps to have anything you will need immediately with you. And of course if you fly in and your luggage happened to get lost it couldn’t hurt to have a change of underwear in your carry-on.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016