Probably the most frequently asked question I receive is, “What do I should I pack?” Here is my list. I know it is a lot, and maybe you won’t need everything on this list, but it includes everything that I’ve found useful on our cruises!
Everyday attire is extremely casual. Most people wear shorts and T-shirts (and definitely don’t forget your swimsuit!). Breakfast and lunch generally don’t have dress guidelines other than common courtesy and decency. Dinner in the main dining room sometimes has regulations; check your cruise line’s specific policy as some do not allow shorts, sleeveless shirts, etc. in the main dining room.
New cruisers are sometimes concerned about “formal night”. For most cruise lines, this is really not the big event it used to be. Once or twice during a cruise the main dining room will require formal wear. If you dislike dressing up, you still have dining options such as the buffet or room service. Check the daily newsletter in your cabin to see what the dress is for each evening. Most cruises have at least one formal night.
If you love to dress up, have fun with it! If you DO participate, check your cruise line’s exact policy for formal attire. Some people still dress “formal” (such as a tux, suit and tie, floor length or cocktail dress), but most passengers now dress down considerably. Slacks and a polo shirt are very much the norm, and even some wear jeans. Again, this varies drastically between cruise lines. There will be professional photographers available, so take this opportunity to have a nice photo taken.
Do not forget hats, sunglasses and sunscreen – especially for Caribbean cruises. And use the sunscreen. You are much further south, and you will burn before you know it.
Pack a light jacket. Even during the summer, a breeze off the open ocean can have a slight chill. You may also want to take a sweater for the dining room and the theater in the evenings.
It is also a good idea to bring a pair of tennis shoes. Many ships have activities like rock climbing or laser tag that require them.
If you want to pack light (and do laundry), make sure to check — not all ships offer free (or for-fee) laundromats. Otherwise, laundry is a service provided by cruise lines but it can get expensive. There’s always Febreze!
Power outlets have traditionally been scarce in staterooms, though cruise lines are slowly modifying them to have more. A 3-way plug or extension cord may help if you have many devices to charge – it must be cruise ship approved and not be a surge protector.
Bathroom counter space is also lacking so you may want to bring a hanging toiletry bag. The counter should be fine for 2 people, but a family of 4 will be crowded for space. We also travel with these magnetic hooks to hang bags, hats, etc. The staterooms walls are magnetic and these come in a few different sizes to hold different weights.
You may want to bring a low-wattage nightlight particularly if you are in an interior stateroom.
You do not need to pack beach towels – they are provided for free, and you will be allowed to take those off the ship to the island beaches. Free towels are also available at the pools.
You will likely have wet clothes/swimsuits so bring a bag for wet items.
Consider a waterproof case for your ID, cruise card, credit card, etc. while swimming or snorkeling in port. We also bring our own snorkel equipment. We have these snorkel masks and love them or you can go the traditional snorkel and goggle route with these or these made for kids.
Take a wristwatch. Clocks are few and far between onboard. You also need a watch when you are off the ship. The local island may not be on the same time as “ship time”. Set your watch to “ship time” and leave it there. When they say the ship will leave the island at 3PM, that does not always mean 3PM island time, and you may very well (literally) “miss the boat”. And do not use a cell phone as your watch (it may sync to island time).
In your checked luggage, place photocopies of your passport, medicine prescriptions, return airline tickets, and emergency contacts. You may also want to keep the international toll-free number of your credit card company in case you lose your credit cards.
Most cruise lines will allow you to bring a small amount of wine onboard per person (typically one bottle). Some will allow you to bring water or canned sodas, it varies by cruise line. It must be carried on and not in your checked luggage. You may also be able to order bottled water and soda to be delivered ahead of time to your stateroom. If you bring your own wine, don’t forget a small corkscrew. Your cabin steward can provide ice, an ice bucket and wine glasses.
If you are going ashore, you will need a bag to carry your items if you are going on an excursion, shopping or even the beach. You will need to bring your stateroom key card, photo ID, phone, credit card and some cash. You may also need to bring a change of clothes and a beach towel from the ship. I even take my day bag up to the pool on sea days with everything I may need including my kindle and a deck of cards.
Many guests will bring a nice big Tervis or travel coffee mug with a lid. You can fill it up and enjoy a morning walk around the ship with your coffee or with ice water and tea. Great for sitting out by the pool or on the balcony.
If you have a CPAP machine, take it as carry-on. Cruise staff see these every day, and they know what it is. In your CPAP travel case, pack a long extension cord (with the machine). In most cases, your cabin will NOT have an AC outlet next to the bed. The extension cord must be cruise approved and not be a surge protector.
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