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Packing for your Cruise

27/12/2010 22:20



Start by checking with your airline before packing, to determine the current limitations on bag number size and weight. Most airlines are now restricting passengers to only one checked bag, measuring no more than 62 linear inches (total height, width and length) and weighing not more than 50 pounds.  Specific limits vary with different airlines, fare categories, and itineraries. Be prepared to pay significant fees for any excess.The same advice holds if you are not flying.  Check with your cruise line to learn their luggage limits:  Most cruise lines are more liberal with their luggage allowances, most stating only that they permit each passenger to bring a “reasonable amount of personal property, including luggage”,  and advising that you ”limit the number of pieces you take, for your own comfort and convenience.”  Those that give specifics, generally state a per person limit of two bags, weighing no more than 50 pounds each.  Carry-on bags must fit through the scanners, so are usually limited to 16” x 24”. 


 Before packing any clothes you need to decide what you’re going to wear.  It helps to make up a daily clothing plan list. Decide for each day and activity of the cruise, what you will wear, with what, and when. Then only pack those items. This really cuts down on the over packing. 

You will need shorts, tees, swimsuits and sandals during the day.  (Warmer outfits for Alaskan voyages, of course.)  Dinners will be casual on most nights. i.e.: Nicer slacks and summer blousesor sun dresses. (Casual dinner outfits will NOT include shorts on most cruise lines, Carnival currently being the exception Casual dinner outfits will NOT include shorts on most cruise lines, Carnival currently being the exception.) It was only a few years ago that jeans, Capris, tees and tank style tops were not considered appropriate for the dinning room on any line.  But times are changing, and depending on the cruise line, may be just fine.  Also, wearing shorts to the dining room for breakfast and lunch is accepted nowadays, also. They too, used to be verboten all day.  Read the FAQs for your line, to find their individual recommendations. 

For Formal nights: Evening gowns and dressy cocktail dresses are the usual for formal night.  Think prom, or a dressy New Years Eve party. The church dress, skirt or pant suit would probably not be dressy or festive enough. If you don't have that kind of formal dress you can always use the proverbial, "little black dress". You know, a very simple all black dress made to look dressy by wearing some silky black hose, high heels, an up-do for your hair, and your showiest bling. (The bling does not have to be real.) Even on Carnival, where the rules are lax, the majority of the passengers still dress very nicely for their version of a formal evening, called “Elegant Night.” 

For men: Casual nights are frequently khakis and polos, or sport shirts. Collarless shirts are creeping into the casual dinner scene, but are still discouraged on most lines.  Formal night is a dark suit and tie, or tux. Again, Carnival has moved toward less formal expectations. But as of our most recent cruise, the majority of fellows were still wearing at least a dark suit. 

Most cruises still have at least one theme night. There’s usually one Caribbean night where everyone wears some kind of island apparel.  The other theme nights (Western, 50’s and toga) are pretty much a thing of the past. 

Once you have your decisions made, be sure to pack your list and stick to your plan as much as possible. (Keep this in mind: If you plan to wear a purple floral top with khaki pants on Monday, and then a white blouse with green stripe shorts a few days later, do not be tempted on Monday, to wear the white blouse with the khaki pants instead. You will look very odd wearing the purple floral top with those green stripe shorts later in the week.) 

As much as possible, pack clothes that you can mix and match to create different outfits. The infamous "little black dress" can do double duty if you the look of it by adding a scarf or jacket, and different jewelry.  While that blouse you wore to casual dinner one night can easily be matched up with a pair of shorts for daytime wear later in the week. (Beware of planning to do that in reverse order, as daytime wear tends to get salt water stains, from wearing over your damp suit as you make your way home from swimming excursions.) 

Take fewer day-wear  shirts than you think you will need, and plan to buy a few tee shirts to wear. You will likely be buying them as souvenirs anyway.  


 I recommend that you start your packing early, at least a few days in advance. Start a week out, by taking in any necessary dry cleaning, with the goal of picking it up at least two days before you leave.  My worst packing moment went like this: I’m packing at the last minute and it’s ten P.M. the evening before our flight, when I realized that my formal gown and hubby’s good suit are still at the dry cleaners. I’m a confirmed early packer now. 

If you are staying in a hotel pre-cruise, you will want to pack all your pre-cruise clothing and needs in a separate bag or at the top of your suitcase. It took ages to pack that bag; you don't want to unpack and repack it at the hotel, just to find your swimsuit that's hiding in the bottom of the bag.

 For couples traveling together, do not pack "His" and "Her" bags.  Always pack your suitcase contents mixed, with both his and her clothing in each one; and making sure you pack complete outfits in each case.  That way if one of the bags doesn't show up, you will both have something to wear.If you still have a camera that uses film, be sure to pack all the film in a lead lined bag, in your carry-on.  The x-rays on checked bags are so strong now that they can ruin your film.

 Attach brightly colored ribbons, pompoms or tape to your suitcases to help you identify them in the baggage claim areas at the airport and at the pier.  There will be literally thousands of bags to search through on debarkation day, and you will be amazed at how many will look exactly like yours.Pack all hanging items of clothing first in dry cleaner bags, before placing in a garment bag.  This really prevents wrinkles.Pack shoes in plastic bags to prevent soiling other items.

 If you find it impossible to evenly distribute the weightier items in your suitcase, put the heavier contents near the wheeled end of the bag. This helps avoid the tendency for your bag to fall over while you are wheeling through the airport, or while it's standing on end in the check-in line.

 Place fabric softener sheets between garments, as you pack to keep clothing smelling fresh.  And don't toss them once you unpack.  They come in handy if you make use of the laundry facilities that are available on some ships.If you hope to save some room in your suitcases by planning to wash clothes one afternoon onboard, first verify that your ship has washing machines available for passenger use. Not all do.  And be warned that the washing machines in the guest launderettes are frequently closed during late hours and typically also while the ship is in port, depending on the individual port’s specific rules.And as for using the ship's iron and board, don't wait till the last minute to touch up your dress on formal night, as there's usually a line of other passengers all waiting, with the same thought in mind.Let me add, that I’ve never used the laundry facilities on a ship, myself. I would much rather pack more clothes, and spend my time precious vacation time by the pool. JMHO. Always have lots of zip lock baggies, available as you pack.  The list of uses for them keeps growing:

Pack all liquid and aerosol containers in zip lock baggies to prevent leaking or dispensing on your packed clothing.

·         Put tube-type containers (i.e.: toothpaste, salves, etc) in baggies also, and additionally inside something crushproof.

·         Pack loose, smaller items of clothing (panties, bras, hose, etc.) in zip lock baggies to make re-packing after inspections quicker.

·         Entire outfits can be packed in the larger zip lock bags.  Lay out your complete outfits (like one pair shorts, one top and under-clothing) and bag them, one outfit per bag.  Keeps things totally organized.  Makes unpacking quick and easy.

·         Compressing all the air out of the bags before zipping them closed, will decrease the room they take in your suitcase.

·         Reuse those bags for the trip home.  They are especially handy for repacking damp swimsuits.

·         Pack extra zip locks and use them to pack a snack to take along when going to a beach. (The room service sandwiches are a great choice for this.)

·         Also if you want a little variety with your morning coffee on the verandah, pick up a few cookies or some bakery from the late night buffet, and use your extra zip locks to store them in the cabin fridge. It makes a nice change from the usual Danish and croissants that are the only pastry available on the room service breakfast menu.

When packing your carry-on bag, don't forget the airport security's "3 Ounce Rule" which says that: 

 All liquids, gels and aerosols carried onto the plane, must be in three ounce or smaller containers.  Larger containers that are half full or toothpaste tubes rolled up are not allowed. 

·         All containers of liquids, gels or aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size plastic, zip-top plastic bag.  Gallon sized bags or bags that are not zip-top, such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed.

·         Each traveler may use only one, quart sized, zip-top bag each.

·         Each traveler must remove their zip-top bag from their carry-on and place it in the bin on the conveyor for separate x-ray screening.

·         Check with your airport to verify allowed exceptions for: baby formula, breast milk, and other essential liquids, gels and aerosols, including prescriptions and over the counter medicines.

And in addition to any liquid container over 3 ounces, remember that all sharp objects must also be packed in your checked luggage. If traveling outside of the country, remember that prescription medications are supposed to be in their original labeled containers. It is a good idea to include a few extra days worth of meds in case your return home is delayed.And to conclude this page, I’ll offer you what is likely the most commonly suggested piece of cruise packing advice. It goes like this:  Once you’re done packing, go back and take out half the clothes, and pack twice the money.Well I can’t speak to the part about the money, but as for the clothes, I don't agree.  Of the two schools of thought on this topic, I’m in the camp that says, pack everything that you think you might need.  I’d much rather bring something and not need it, than to need something I haven’t packed. Others say: "So what if you don’t have something you need; that is what the money is for".  You’ll have to decide for yourself.