Normally, I wouldn’t post a list of clothes to take on a vacation. That seems ‘insulting’ to the intelligent reader. However, for those new to cruising packing can be a little intimidating…. formal wear, smart casual wear, ports and excursions, etc… So, just this once, I’m posting a packing list of clothes. 🙂 Note: This pertains mainly to warm weather cruises. I plan to write an entire group of posts on Alaskan cruises as they break many of the rules for almost everything ‘cruising’.
- Formal Night – The ‘level of formality’ on formal nights seems to be decreasing on many cruise lines (luxury lines excluded). Cocktail dresses or elegant pant suits for women work well. For the men, a jacket/blazer with dress shirt and tie are adequate. You’ll also see some suits on the men. The general rule is to dress as you would for a nice wedding. Elegant gowns and tuxedos may be expected on luxury cruise lines, and you will see a few of these on the more casual cruises, but it is not a ‘requirement’. Most ships have formal wear rentals if you don’t want to pack these items.
Non-formal nights in the dining room are typically business or ‘smart’ casual, though you may see some cocktail dresses then too. The little black dress is so versatile that it’s always an EXCELLENT choice. Accessorize it ‘up’ or ‘down’ for formal or informal nights and certainly wear it more than once. Also working well are maxi dresses, sun dresses, pantsuits, slacks and blouses. Carnival has recently begun allowing jeans in the Dining room on casual nights. For the men, dress slacks and a collared shirt with or without a tie works fine. Jackets optional. 🙂 In the interest of packing light, we wear pants/skirts several nights with a different shirt/blouse/top each night. We’re usually changing clothes after dinner, so they’re only worn about 2 hours each night.
- Days in Port: Dress is determined by what you’re doing so follow the instructions given by the excursion vendor. Note: Do some research on the norms for the port areas. In some areas of Europe, Asia and a few Caribbean ports, modest apparel is socially ‘required’ to avoid offending the locals. (i.e. cover ups or shorts/t-shirt over swimsuits) Modest apparel is necessary for admittance to religious sites. Remember your Feet: If you’ll be doing significant walking, ‘comfort’ trumps ‘fashion’….except in European ports where sneakers are considered taboo. 🙂
- Sea Days: Obviously, this is determined by climate and temps, but ‘casual’ is the mode here. Shoes and a cover up over swimwear are required in the dining areas (buffet and dining rooms) on most cruise lines. (Norwegian allows swimsuits in the buffet area.)
- Swimwear – many recommend bringing 2 – 3 swimsuits for back-to-back pool or beach days. Swimwear is only appropriate at the pool areas. (typically a requirement) A swimsuit coverup is also culturally required in many ports as noted above. Most cruise lines provide beach/pool towels (ship AND port use) so don’t be concerned with packing your own.
- Low-heel rubber sole shoes for sea days
- Comfortable walking shoes for excursions/port days
- Gym/workout shoes ??
- Shoes for dinner attire
- Excursion-specific shoes?? consult information about your chosen excursions
NOTE: Though many people wear flip flops on a cruise, I will never take them again. We purposely take the stairs around the ship as much as possible and they were difficult to climb stairs/walk in. Just a personal opinion…. 🙂
- Workout clothing if you plan to work out on board….or walk the open air decks in the mornings.
- Sweater/light jacket for cool evenings on deck or in the dining room where the a/c can be chilly.
- Sunscreen, sunblock and/or after-sun lotion. This is very expensive on the ship.
- Personal Products in TRAVEL SIZES:I buy travel size containers and put my favorite products in them. Your cruise line may put a few personal items (toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc…) in the stateroom but there’s no guarantee of what will be there.
- Jewelry: Keep security in mind as you make your choices of jewelry to bring. Expensive pieces are probably best left at home, however, if you DO choose to travel with them, bring it on board in your carry on and put it in the safe when not wearing it. The cabins have room safes, but only valuables locked in the purser’s safe are covered under the ship’s insurance (check your cruise contract). I also bring a watch as I turn data off on our phones when we leave port – to avoid roaming charges.
- Lip balm (with sunscreen) The sea air can be very drying!
- Insect repellant with DEET
- Hat and/or sunglasses
- Umbrella or poncho — depends on itinerary
- Medicine: These are VERY expensive on board.
- prescription medications (obviously….)
- pain killer of choice – Tylenol, Advil, etc… Travel sizes!!
- antacid (your diet may be quite different from when you’re home)
- cortisone cream
- motion sickness remedy – Bring more than one option as you don’t know what will work for you) For detailed information on medicines and homeopathic/natural remedies. Dealing with Motion Sickness
- antibiotic cream
- stool softener (diet changes affect digestion…..) 🙂
- germicidal hand cleaner (You can get this at Dollar Tree – for $1)
Though the ships have irons and ironing boards, they will be in a laundry room, NOT in your cabin. I try to just bring items that don’t require ironing. If you DO need to iron on formal night, do it early in the day to avoid long lines.
A Word About the Luggage Tags:
Cruise lines provide these. Most cruise lines put them online for you to print – in an effort to go “green” (I’m not sure that saves much paper ha! but it DOES save the cruise line money.) That leaves you to figure out how to attach them to your luggage so that they STAY THERE during travel.
If you are flying and handling YOUR OWN bags at the airport, I recommend NOT attaching the cruise tags until after your flight to ensure they are not lost en route. When you pick up luggage at baggage claim, remove the airline tags and attach the cruise tags.
If you are flying and have purchased transfers from the cruiseline (they’re picking up your bags at the airport) you’ll need to attach those tags BEFORE LEAVING HOME. I suggest putting TWO tags on each piece of luggage, securely attached, as they need to STAY attached through all the handling your bags will go through. (It’s a LOT – airport, transfer and cruise terminal…)
OPTIONS FOR MAKING SURE THOSE TAGS STAY ON: 🙂
- Print and “laminate” the tags using clear plastic packing tape or contact paper. Punch a hole and attach to the bag with a zip tie OR duct tape
- Make a luggage tag protector (pocket) from plexi glass. Cut 2 – to size – and tape together with clear packing tape. Punch a hole in the top and attach with zip tie.
- Make a protector from a plastic page protector cut down to size, folded, stapled, and taped with clear packing tape over the ends and staples. Attach with zip tie or staples.
Remember… 2 tags/bag is a good idea to keep things attached through much handling.
- ONE MORE OPTION: Several years ago, I ordered vinyl luggage tag covers from Favors by Serendipity These run around $2.50-$3 each. – with an extra charge of .25 for the 9″ loops –which I recommend as the 6″ loops are challenging to attach to the suitcase. I’ve used them for all our travels – cruises AND flights. I really like them! Similar ones are available from Amazon for a little cheaper, but only in quantities of 4 or 8 and they don’t carry the 9″ loops. I personally think the 9″ loops are worth the extra $1-2 it costs to order from this company.
Here’s hoping this list takes a bit of the mystery out of packing for that first (or possibly subsequent) cruise.
Other Posts on Cruising:
- Part 1: Finding Bargains/ Booking Your Cruise
- Part 2: Your Cruise is Booked, Now What?
- Part 3: Embarkation and ‘First’ Tips
- Part 4: Saving Money Once Onboard
- Part 6: Besides Clothes, What do I Take?
- Cruising with Children
- Dollar Store ‘Finds’ Specifically For Cruises