Are you ready for your cruise? No. No, you are not. For there is probably something you are going to forget, or misplace, or need, or want and it is more likely to be found under your car seat than in your carry on. Well, hopefully not, but that is often the case with newer travelers and so we are going to try and give you some hints on how to be properly prepared and packed for your cruise.
Now, don’t go all doomsday prepper and get everything you see on the cruise boards, but do be prepared to get a few things that are dedicated to cruising. Luggage tag holders, a small fan and a power strip are pretty much necessities. Over the door organizers, collapsible coolers and hampers are nice to have, but probably unnecessary if you pack wisely.
Checked Luggage and your Carry-on bag
If you check your luggage, it likely won’t arrive right away. However, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure you get your bags more quickly. First, tip your porter. Over-tip your porter, they have ways of hooking you up that you don’t see. Conversely, under-tip your porter and you will probably wait on your bag. Second, if you can, get Faster to the Fun or the equivalent. FTTF guarantees your room will be ready and your bags will get priority. Third, make sure your luggage is uniform. If you have several small bags that are round or pointy, or weirdly shaped, instead of the standard roller luggage that can be easily stacked, then your bags will be delivered later in the afternoon. Just about every other traveler is pulling the same type bag around and those stack nicely on the luggage carts, so those carts fill up more quickly and get delivered earlier in the process. You will see those other carts with the weird bags shrink wrapped in the hallways waiting to be delivered.
So, your carry-on becomes much more important on a cruise since it may be hours before you see your luggage again. Your carry-on bag should have the essentials needed to get the trip started right, and the stuff you can’t live without (medicine is a great example). Here is what I carry packed in my backpack.
- Travel documents – RFID protected travel wallet containing passports, credit cards, boarding passes, cash, keys, and copies of our pre-cruise purchases including reservations for excursions
- Swimsuits – hit the pool or hot tub while everyone else sweats in their travel clothes
- Change of clothes – if traveling in winter or cooler months (flip flops or sneakers, shorts/pants and t-shirts and a light jacket)
- Medicines – All prescriptions medication should be carried on. Also, pack your motion sickness meds in your carry on so you can take a dose prior to getting on board
- Sunscreen – if you get burned at the sail away party your trip will be ruined
- Laptop and tablet – I use a TIMBUK2 travel backpack that has padded compartments for my electronics
- Phone charger – if all else is lost we can keep our phones charged
- Lanyards for our sail and sign cards
- Motion sickness wristbands (just in case)
- Playing cards (for the Muster drill held in dining rooms)
- Marker, pen and highlighter (for the daily Fun Times – not everything is found on the HUB app)
- Insulated travel mug
- Camera equipment
- Door decorations and 3m poster sticky tabs (we have to mark the location of the poop deck)
YO! What’s in the big bag?
We purchased luggage for the first time a few years ago, and now I cannot imagine why it doesn’t already come with packing cubes. These are relatively new arrivals, but they are catching on fast. It should be mentioned that there are many advocates of rolling your clothes when you travel, and the Traveling Bradburys agree. Combine rolling the clothes with packing cubes, and you can organize your trip in ways that we have only just begun to realize. My cubes are black and my wife’s are pink so we know exactly which bags to check for the stuff she misplaced…I mean I misplaced. I can pack all of my shorts and t-shirts in one cube, and my jeans, sweatpants, underwear and socks in another. Warm weather in this one, and that one gets cold weather gear.
The packing cubes compress your clothes, and allow you to pack quite a bit into them, while still maintaining their shape. Then the cubes fit nicely into your luggage, and you can pick and choose them at need while on the road. When you get on board, just unroll your garments and hang them. Any wrinkles will fall out with steam from the shower or some Downy Wrinkle release. We are able to get far more than we need into our bags this way, and we do. We overpack every time. Sometimes clothes come home with tags still on them. Well, not mine, but my wife tends to get excited about shopping for our next cruise. I have whole chapters on that, but for now I will just make a list of what I need on a 7 day cruise. (NOTE – if you have ever packed for a trip, you probably know what you need, but not everyone has traveled.)
- Sport coat for elegant night
- 2 Neckties
- 3 Wrinkle-free button down dress shirts w/ cuff links as needed
- 5 Plain white t-shirts
- 3 Hawaiian style button down shirts
- 6 Printed t-shirts (4 short sleeve and 2 long sleeve)
- 2 Tank tops
- Polo shirt (that will be the last thing I wear)
- Grey dress pants (can be worn twice)
- 3 pairs of linen pants
- 2 pairs of dress shorts
- 2 pairs of athletic shorts
- 3 pairs of swim trunks
- 6 pairs of underwear
- 3 pairs of dress socks
- 4 pairs of athletic socks
- Black dress shoes
- Flip flops
- Sneakers (either sneakers or flops will be worn on embarkation)
- Boonie cap/ Beach Hat and Baseball Cap
That is probably too much. I could take advantage of onboard laundry and lighten that load, but we drive, so the weight of our bags isn’t an issue. A packing list can be found anywhere on the ol’ Google box. What I need, and what Shaune or Bryan need, are going to be a little different. Not much, but they might not want to dress up for formal night, or pictures and may stay in a pair of swimming trunks the whole trip. But, that list covers what I need to get through seven days of cruising bliss.
For the wife things are done a little differently.First there comes the buying time. The buying time is apparently linked to the countdown between cruises. At about the 100 day mark, things may begin arriving in the mail or on your stoop that you didn’t know were coming. This is the buying. I wonder what it was like before internet shopping…but I digress.
I asked my wife for a list and she gave me a five day list. So add two dresses, one bathing suit and a romper or whatever, but this will give you an idea of what her list looks like. I am sure there are some things missing, and a whole lot more will get thrown into the bag, but see below:
- 5 Dresses (2 of which are for Elegant nights)
- 4 bathing suits
- 5 pairs of shorts
- 5 shirts to go with those shorts
- 2 rompers
- 3 pairs of shoes
- “an outfit to get on the boat”
- “an outfit to wear off the boat”
- 3 more pairs of shoes
How to make YOUR list
On a seven day itinerary there will be two elegant nights. So you will need to plan for two evenings where you dress to impress. Other nights in the MDR you can dress much more casually, though they are not fond of ripped jeans, tank tops or plain flip flops (sandals are fine). Guys should remove their caps, but that is not enforced. Be you, as you are, on vacation. You will have 2 or 3 sea days, depending on the number of ports. For those days, you should really plan on being in your bathing suits all day and maybe shorts and shirt for lunch. Port days, either 3 or 4, you will need swimwear and dry clothes if you plan on shopping or doing a tour or excursion. Remember, there are around 3,000 other people on the ship with you, if you mix and match wisely, you can wear your clothes more than once and no one will be the wiser.
There is no end to all the different toys and hacks you will find for cruising. I have already mentioned specialized luggage tags. Each cruise line prints their tags in a different manner, so if you want the plastic sleeves to cover them, pay attention to the size. Amazon does a good job of noting which tags will fit. My tags being strapped to my bag with a metal cable tie rather than just a piece of taped together paper certainly made me feel better. What other extras do we take along?
- First Aid Kit with added Dramamine, EmergenC, Dayquil/Nyquil and allergy medication.
- Sunscreen (if snorkeling then you should buy the reef friendly type)
- After sun lotion or aloe
- Power strip or cube with USB ports and NO surge protection or circuit breaker. Ships systems do not operate the same as land based electrical systems and a surge protected extension cord poses a fire hazard and will be confiscated.
- Phone chargers (we use wireless charging pads)
- Tablet w/ charger (reading and movies)
- Laptop w/ charger (in case I have work to do)
- A small fan
- Sunglasses (bring a spare)
- Water Bag – waterproof diving bag for beach days
- Gallon sized ziploc storage bags (will help keep the sand out of the rest of your vacation)
- Costumes (80’s Glow Party, Electric White Party or Halloween)
- Wall hooks (we use 3M hooks. Magnets have to be super strong to stick)
- Over the door shoe organizer (great for keeping things organized, but about as attractive as homemade soap)
- Toiletries (shave kits are expensive on board)
What did I miss? Probably something for each particular type of cruiser, but that is my list. If you are making your own list, maybe you can use mine as a jumping off point. Or, like I said, call uncle Google and have him show you some lists. Either way, use a list. Nothing prepares you for failure like failing to prepare.
Leave some room or pack an extra backpack
With any luck you will be coming home with more than you left with. Souvenirs, trophies, stolen soap and towels (just kidding) …it all adds up. We always come home with at least a new bag worth of goodies. Between the souvenirs for grandkids, shirts for the kids or shot glasses for our favorite dog sitter Mary, it all has to come back home in our luggage. So make space or bring an extra backpack.
Do I have to dress up for Elegant Night?
If we get the chance to dress up we do. My wife likes to take pictures at the photo ops and I like to make my wife happy. Truth be told, I don’t mind getting into my nicer clothes every now and then. It feels good to put on a suit and tie, some well-polished shoes and a fresh attitude. This is a choice we make and it may not be for everyone. What others wear and do in the dining room have no affect on my experience. If my tablemates want to dress down and enjoy lobster and prime rib, then I am all for them doing so. As long as the conversation flows and everyone enjoys themselves then dinner is a success.
There is endless discussion about what is ok and not ok in the MDR, but it is senseless. Your best outfit is the one you feel most comfortable in. Bring it, and wear it, but be prepared to spill out of it later, because the food is awesome, the drinks flow late into the night and there is always somewhere to dance.
Well, we hope you enjoy your cruise and have loads of fun, and maybe we will see you on the lido deck some time. Until then, happy travels and come check us out on youtube and Facebook, for more fun and videos.