The key to packing for a cruise is bringing a variety of comfortable, casual clothes you can mix and match and a few items so that you can dress up more at night. Shorts or even a bathing suit and cover-up will do during the day but on most ships you’ll need to put on long pants for dinner.
If you’re a gym rat, you’ll want to bring workout clothes. If you’re a nature lover, don’t forget your binoculars and/or a camera with a good lens. Readers will want to bring books or an e-reader (don’t count on the ship’s library having much of a selection).
Whether going tropical, arctic or somewhere in between you won’t want to leave home without these other items.
A lightweight rain jacket and/or umbrella
You’ll likely encounter a shower or two, even in the sunny Caribbean.
A sweater, shawl (wrap) or sweatshirt. You’ll need the warmth in places like Alaska and Northern Europe, but also in the Caribbean and other tropical locales — due to blasting air conditioning, including on tour buses.
Mass-market ships tend to have dispensers for shampoo and bath gel in the shower. There may be a motel-size soap for the sink. If you’re fussy about brands, use hair conditioner and/or prefer a big bar of soap, bring your own.
A power strip
Cruise-ship cabins have few electrical outlets. When everyone is traveling with a smartphone, e-reader, tablet, laptop and other devices, this can cause a problem. Keep family harmony by bringing a power strip with extra outlets.
A spare pair of glasses/contacts
We actually know someone who was looking down at the water from a balcony when his glasses fell off his head. It happens. Bring a backup pair or you may have a fuzzy vacation experience.
Gallon-size seal able plastic bags
There are many uses for these including: to keep suntan lotion from leaking on your clothes, to pack damp bathing suits at the end of the cruise and to protect cameras in the rain.
Dramamine, acupuncture wristbands, ginger tablets and/or Meclizine
Your stomach will probably be fine, especially on a big ship, but in case you do encounter unusually rough seas be prepared.
If you find cluster hangers (the kind created so you can’t steal them) annoying, throw some real hangers in your suitcase.
Sun and bug prevention
On the sea, the sun often shines brightly. Be prepared with suntan lotion, sunglasses and a sun hat. Protect from pesky mosquitoes too — in the tropics, but also in Alaska where there are 55 varieties.
Whether in a port or strolling the ship’s decks you will want to bring shoes that allow for safe walking on whatever surfaces you face — cobblestones, slick wet surfaces, sand, snow, etc. Sure, pack heels for dress-up, but pack for comfort too.
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