Travel: Packing For a Cruise-Less is More


A cruise vacation can be a relaxing, exciting and memorable time. The week before a cruise, however, can be exasperating unless you plan ahead. A few weeks before you cast off, make a list of all the boring adult chores that need to be finished or passed off before your departure. Don’t wait for the last second to arrange for a dog kennel, place temporary holds on your mail and newspaper deliveries or find someone to water your plants while you’re gone.

Also be sure to arrange for an extra bottle of any prescription medication you take regularly. You never know what can happen on a cruise, so you should protect yourself by purchasing the international travel medical insurance policy that suits your needs.

As the launch date comes closer, you’ll start packing your things. Trying to anticipate your needs for an entirely new environment and climate can be stressful, and the urge may be to take everything but the kitchen sink, but over-packing can cause you some problems.

Why packing too much is a bad idea

Because of airline baggage fees and suitcase weight limits, packing too many pieces of clothing can quickly become expensive. Furthermore, packing too much has the potential to make you feel hemmed in and claustrophobic.

Unless you’re booked in the luxury stateroom, your cruise cabin will have little storage space: a small vanity, a tiny dresser and maybe a minuscule closet. If you over-pack, you may end up with your clothes hanging from every spare inch of wall in you cabin. Unless you’ve ever camped out for fun in your home’s walk-in closet and enjoyed the experience, you probably won’t appreciate this type of décor.

Seasoned cruisers recommend packing a metal over-the-door row of hooks or a door shoe holder to provide you a wee bit more space, but the real solution to this dilemma begins at home: don’t pack so much.

What to pack for your cruise

Believe it or not, one of the best resources for figuring out just what to pack for your cruise is your cruise line’s website. Review any packing tips webpage of your cruise line (and maybe a few others) for hints to help you distinguish the four usual types of attire on a cruise — casual, resort casual, informal and formal (but remember that women can’t wear heels) — and how much of each you should bring.

Also use common sense to decide what to pack according to your ship’s destination. For a general cruise to a warm destination, follow these guidelines for making your baggage bearable:

  • Pack a separate satchel containing a resort casual outfit, swimsuit, change of underwear and prescription medication in the event that your luggage is misplaced. This change of clothes, along with the clothes you wear for boarding, can get you through two or three days without having to hole up in your cabin for dinner or stick to the least formal restaurant.
  • Depending on your sensitivity to air conditioning or cold weather, pack an appropriately hefty sweater — even for a Caribbean cruise. And remember: Even if you aren’t normally affected by lower temperatures, sunburns can make skin more sensitive to the cold.
  • The cruise ship fashion police aren’t going to ticket you for wearing the same top three times but with different shorts or a skirt. Experienced cruisers swear by “spray on” fabric softeners to freshen up flexible pieces like this, thus lightening your suitcase.
  • Men should plan on renting a tux (the ultimate in saving packing space) or packing a pair of dress pants, jacket, tie, shirt, socks and appropriate footwear if they’re planning on attending the occasional formal dining affairs. Women can attend these same events in a gauzy dress-up pantsuit, a cocktail dress or a gown, if desired. Again, choose wisely so that each of your outfits won’t require a separate pair of shoes or sandals.

In addition to your cruise line’s website, hundreds of travel blogs devoted to saving time, money, hassle and headaches on a cruise are waiting for you online. A few simple searches will have you feeling like a boating pro in no time.

Bon voyage!


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