Stress Free Cruise Packing

You did it. You’ve finally booked that dream cruise and you’re surrendering to a no-stress attitude for a full week. Yes, if you allow, you’ll get pampered. Yes, you can visit many ports of call and soak in the excursions. Yes, there is every sort of music, show, and entertainment thinkable onboard. And yes, you can simply veg by the pool and read a sexy book in the sultry breeze.four-nights-at-seaBut as the sail date approaches, you’re feeling the stress of leaving necessities behind. First, don’t panic. You can practically purchase anything you need on the ship. Second, with a little preparation, you can board equipped.

Packing for a cruise is tricky, but not impossible. What’s important to remember is that cruise ships don’t have the strict guidelines airplanes do on luggage, so you can expand that suitcase to the max and have some breathing room in your choices. That said, keep the cruise itinerary in mind and streamline anyway. You’re going on a cruise to relax and enjoy, not stress over clothing. As a matter of fact, some cruises are clothing optional—shocker—but we’re not talking about that today.

Here is a quick checklist of basic clothing items:

2 semi-formal to formal outfits

3 daywear, comfy ensembles that can be mixed and matched

1 pair of ‘nice’ shoes

1 pair of casual sandals/sneakers/boots, according to your itinerary

1 pair flip flops

Wear the last pair of comfortable shoes as you board

Sweater/wrap and a dinner jacket for men

Underclothes- 2 sets a day (they don’t take up space)

Bathing suits

Do you need socks?


Dining room ‘acceptable’ outfits vary on each cruise, but think business-casual on the low end. Trousers (or a nice pair of khakis), jacket, and shoes for men—jeans and sneakers are generally not allowed at dinner in the formal dining room. Same idea for women, whether it’s a gown, dress, or pants suit.

Personally, I like to pack two semi-formal to formal outfits that I can accessorize and change up for more than a single use. It really depends on the duration of your cruise and the ports of call. There have been times when the initial ‘wear’ of a sundress, paired with a pretty wrap or scarf, has served me well for dinner. And those dresses aren’t counted in my two outfits. Then again, I typically cruise in warm waters and love my sundresses.

Remember those wraps from dinner? Well, roll them tight. That’s right, more than one. If rolled carefully, they don’t wrinkle or take up much room. Plus, the possibilities with a scarf are endless. (Think on it. We’re keeping this post G rated.) Regardless of the temperature on deck, the air conditioning blows strong and cold throughout the ship. It gets real chilly in the venues—more reason for you to hit the dance floor and warm up. And while body heat works best to keep the cold away, a sweater also does the job if you decide on a solo stroll.

Most cruise lines have state-of-the-art gyms, offer a variety of classes, and the pools and spas are delightful. If you’re inclined to workout on vacation, don’t forget the gym clothes and sneakers. Honestly, I reach for yoga pants and tops only to go on deck for coffee if I happen to be up before the requested delivery time of my room service. Correction, yoga pants and a sweatshirt also come in handy when you want to spend wee night hours on deck in deep conversation. Back to the spas and pools though—I strongly suggest you splurge on packing an extra bathing suit. Nothing is worse than stepping into a wet bathing suit.

Most importantly, make full use of a good carryon. Wheels and easy-turn wheels. Don’t skimp on this. The porters will deliver checked luggage to your cabin, but they can sometimes appear at your door after dinner, so pack a change of clothes for sure. And don’t forget the extra panties, any needed medicine, shoes, toiletries, and make-up. You should have enough with you to remain comfortable all day long. Packing a complete carryon is second only to knowing where your muster station is located. By the way, for cruise virgins, the muster station is where the safety drill is held before the ship sails out of port.

You’ll also carry on important documents (passport, id, and the likes), so at approximately 1:00 pm, when you’re granted access to your cabin, you can store them in the cabin’s safe. In all the years I’ve been cruising, I’ve never had an issue with anything missing from my cabin, but I do suggest you take a minute and program the safe for your personal use. While lipstick can be purchased on the Promenade, your favorite shade may not be available. Yes, I store my favorite lipstick in the safe.
Odds and ends: Leave travel irons at home. They are not allowed due to fire hazards. However, if needed, most cruise lines offer laundry service. Be prepared to pay accordingly. Cabins are equipped with blow dryers. Basic toiletries are generally supplied, if you’re easy on this. I’m not, and I prefer to pack my own. The ship also supplies towels and bathrobes. But do not forget the pair of comfortable flip-flops.

Keep in mind that a week-long cruise isn’t the time to break in a new pair of heels or lose five pounds so the waistband on those cute pants doesn’t pinch. There’s a reason so many mouths water at the pictures of those endless buffets and dessert stations. And here’s a tip you may decide to avoid, but you can order doubles off the dinner menu. Both the risotto and the filet mignon…oh, my!

Not related to packing, but important to know: With the advances in technology, you can now use your cellphone on most ships. However, please be aware that satellite pricing applies, in addition to the carrier’s charges. A friend returned home to a staggering bill because she thought using the phone and Wi-Fi onboard was like regular roaming. It’s not. Check pricing, and if you must remain plugged-in to the mainland, consider an Internet package.

My parting piece of advice is to most importantly board with, or find, good company, pack a positive and fluid attitude, and keep with your comfortable and favorite outfits. You can dress clothes up, or dress them down, but you’re just not allowed to toss annoying companions overboard.

Relax and let loose!

Bon voyage, my friends.




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