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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.