Surviving 22 Days On A Cruise Ship With No Guest Laundries

cruise ship in Mare

Explorer of the Seas in Maré, New Caledonia

Some cruise lines have self-serve guest laundries on all their ships. Some have them on some of their ships. Others never have any laundry facilities for the passengers on any of their ships. On any major cruise ship you can send your clothes out for the crew to wash for you – for a price. Depending on the ship the price ranges from high to outrageous to astronomical. Some charge by the bag, others by the item. At some ports you could pick up a new t-shirt for less than it costs to send one out for the crew to wash onboard. Occasionally there may be a laundry special, but that just means the laundry service isn’t quite as ridiculously overpriced as usual, not that it is actually affordable. The one time Explorer of the Seas offered a laundry special during our cruise it was only for the easiest items to handwash, not bigger things like jeans that take longer to dry so their offer was not very useful.

cruise ship shower

Explorer’s tiny round shower had a clothesline so short that even a couple swimsuits are crowded

Suites often come with free laundry service, and on some cruise lines repeat cruisers who make it high enough in their loyalty program get their laundry done for free as well. Everybody else is on their own. On a cruise several weeks long it’s pretty hard to pack enough to have clean clothes for the duration without washing any. Some people buck up and pay the highly inflated laundry charges, others get creative in washing things on their own.

accessible cabins have bigger showers which means longer clotheslines

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas not only had no guest laundries, it also had the smallest shower we’ve ever had on a cruise ship. Shower size being important where laundry is concerned because the in-shower clothesline the ship provides is only as long as the distance from one end of the shower stall to the other. In Explorer’s tiny little round shower that was not very far at all.

cruise ship suite bathroom

suites like this one with both tub and shower have more hanging space, but aren’t likely to need it since suites usually get free laundry service

People with balcony cabins sometimes put things out on their balcony to dry, though on most ships that is not actually allowed. Partly because it could blow overboard, but also because it is a fire hazard. We were told by a crew member on one ship that one of the training videos they had to watch was about a cruise ship fire caused by someone throwing a cigarette butt off their balcony, which landed in laundry hanging on the balcony below starting the fire. Most cruise ships no longer allow smoking on cabin balconies, but passengers aren’t always good at following rules. We had an oceanview cabin on the Explorer so we had no balcony anyway, just a window.

doing laundry on a cruise ship

handwashing clothes in the cabin bathroom sink

Royal Caribbean charged by the item for their laundry service, which is more expensive than paying by the bag, and we never even spring for that. This meant handwashing our own clothes in the cabin sink. I did bring a small bottle of laundry soap that is intended for handwashing, so washing the clothes wasn’t really the issue. Drying them was. The amount of laundry that could be done at one time was limited by the amount of space available to hang it up to dry.


adding more clothesline to the tiny shower

The ship’s clothesline was barely big enough for a couple swimsuits. I brought along some extra clothesline and clothespins. With the tiny shower that meant tying the line to the framework at the top that the shower door slides through to open and close, and criss crossing it back and forth several times to get some hanging space. I had to wash clothes nearly every day to keep the laundry from piling up because even that didn’t make a huge amount of hanging area, plus there were always wet swimsuits needing drying space as well. Cruise ships do have pools and hot tubs after all, and this one also had a flow rider so we pretty much always had wet swimming suits.

drying laundry

the bar under the towel rack added hanging space for clothes that need more drying time, but were done dripping

Things don’t dry all that fast in a cruise ship shower. Even when you don’t have so many things hanging in such a small space, there’s just not a lot of air flow there. We did find that they dry faster if the bathroom door is kept open rather than shut. The stewards tend to shut it whenever they clean the room though so you have to come back and open the bathroom door after the room gets cleaned if you want stuff to get dry. This bathroom had a spare towel rack above the toilet, which had a hanging bar under it. That came in quite handy as clothes that were done dripping so they could move out of the shower, but not yet dry, could move to hangers on that bar. Things dried a bit faster on the bar than in the shower, but when they needed to move on from there to make room for other things before they got completely dry I used the lower bars in the closet. The closet on this ship had a regular height permanent bar to hang clothes from, but it also had a couple fold-down bars lower down which made a place to hang the not-quite-dry things where they wouldn’t touch any of the dry clothes hanging from the bar above.

cruise ship closet

the lower fold-down bars in the closet made space for final drying

We had a set time dining on this ship, so we ate with the same people every night. Our tablemates didn’t want to pay the sky-high prices for the ship’s laundry service either. Each had their own creative ways to get their laundry done. One couple actually made a do-it-yourself washing machine by bringing collapsible buckets and a plunger. Another brought a coiled bungee-style travel laundry line that had suction cups to stick it to the sides of the shower with no tying to anything needed. It also held clothes between the coils with no clothespins required. Easier to use than my tied line, but it only goes across once so my way got more total line space. There’s no right or wrong way. As long as the clothes get clean and dry people just do whatever works for them. Well actually I did once see a cabin with a laundry line strung across the room in the main area of the cabin so if the clothes were wet enough to drip on the carpet when they went on the line that would be a wrong way since all the dripping water could ruin the carpet or make it get moldy.

doing laundry on a cruise ship

when you need more space to hang a few more clothes you find more places to tie the clothesline

While it’s a whole lot easier when there’s laundry facilities for the long cruises, at least it’s nice to have ways around paying the fees to send your laundry out to the crew when there aren’t any. Some clothes dry faster than others so packing mostly fast drying things would help a lot. The worst thing we had was my husband’s socks, which took several days to dry. The best was my running clothes, which dried considerably faster than anything else.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019

About LBcruiseshipblogger

MyCruiseStories blog tells stories about adventures in cruising on ships big and small. Things to do onboard and in port. Anything connected to cruising. Also food, travel, recipes, towel animals, and the occasional random blog.
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10 Responses to Surviving 22 Days On A Cruise Ship With No Guest Laundries

  1. Lyn Douglas says:

    Yes washing certainly is a challenge when travelling for so long but even more so when you don’t have a machine or even worse, good drying space. Oh, the fun of it all.

  2. cindy knoke says:

    Scratch that ship off my list. Thanks for posting.

    • It was actually one of our favorite ships so far. In spite of the small shower and lack of laundry facilities, it had a lot of other things to offer. Plus if you know you’re going to be washing clothes frequently you can pack lighter.

  3. Anna says:

    I love the creative ways you and your fellow passengers found to dry clothes. I find that Royal Caribbean always tries to charge a lot extra for simple things. I went a few years ago and they tried to charge $5 to use the lookers in the gym. On all the other cruise lines I have been on they were free. I am aware that laundry in the standard cabins is not included, but people should not be ripped off because they want to wear clean clothes.

    • I haven’t ever seen them charge for gym lockers, that’s a new one. On this ship they were free. Laundry is ridiculous on pretty much every line. We were pleasantly surprised on the P&O Arcadia though. Not only did they have guest laundries, but both washers and dryers were free to use.

  4. Librarylady says:

    I had to laugh when I saw your clothes drying in the closet. I did that on my last cruise, and one day when I put my shoes on they were wet inside. I couldn’t figure it out until I noticed my swimsuit hanging directly above the shoes! Great post.

  5. Jose Madelon-Estime says:

    Just pack extra clothes. If I’m going on a cruise for 7 days, I bring 9 days worth of clothes. Sweaters and jackets for chilly evenings. Just pack smart next time. Because having wet clothes hanging everywhere in a small space is not only causing clutter but looks ghetto and shabby.

    • Bringing enough clothes to last the entire cruise is easy on a 7-day cruise. On a longer one like this 22-day cruise not so much. That would take more clothes and the luggage to hold them all than most people would care to bring, or even own. The really wet things were only in the shower and quite a lot of cruise ship passengers will have wet swimming suits hanging in their cruise ship bathroom. The only other place things were on this ship was in the closet where clothes go anyway so they were not hanging everywhere – and even if they were the only other person who would see the room is the steward. Many people we have met on long cruises do their laundry in their cabins so the stewards are used to it. We even met one guy who had made a sort of portable washing machine with a collapsible bucket and a plunger. Laundry service is always available for anyone willing to pay for it, but we don’t care to spend that kind of money for something we can do ourselves for free.

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