Packing for a Cruise: To Bring or Not to Bring

September 24, 2014

Although it builds the holiday excitement, there’s no doubt that packing isn’t as looked forward to as that first cruise ship cocktail. Many of us find it hard to whittle down the contents of our wardrobes and bathrooms, resulting in a ‘throw everything in’ frenzy, whereas others are guaranteed to forget at least one essential item.

If you’re going on a no fly cruise, you might think the generous baggage allowances (often unlimited!) will make packing much easier but that’s not necessarily the case.

Unless you want to spoil your holiday look with permanently bruised shins then you won’t want lots of cases stacked up in your cabin, so make sure you’re taking everything that you need, without overdoing in.

As always is here to help. Read on for our guide to what to bring and what not to bring in your cruise suitcase:



Versatile Clothes

Don’t be that person struggling with four suitcases because they packed their entire wardrobe – tripping over a stack of case in the middle of the night or being late for dinner because you couldn’t find your favourite dress in the mountain of clothes, is no fun.

Instead, spend some time choosing versatile items that can be worn more than once onboard.

For example, a kaftan can be worn over your swimsuit round the pool, with cut offs and a vest top in port and with trousers and a camisole for dinner (for the ladies, obviously!).

Also make sure that you’re packing clothes that actually go together. You might love your new sky blue with pink polka dots sandals but if they don’t go with anything you’re not going to wear them.

A nautical colour theme of navy and white is classic for cruising and easy to pull through your entire holiday wardrobe.


Something Smart

While most mainstream cruise lines (P&O, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival and Celebrity for example) offer relaxed dining options, if you don’t want to be eating pizza and chicken burgers with the teenagers for the duration of your cruise you’ll want to visit the more formal dining rooms, at least on some occasions.

If you’re more a casual dresser, don’t worry, you won’t need to pack a full tux or evening gown – but something a bit smarter than shorts and t-shirt or sundresses, will be required. If in doubt, check the dress code before you pack!




Even if you’re setting sail for the Alaskan glaciers, you’ll want to pack your swimwear as many liners will have an indoor pool for you to take a dip in – if you’re lucky you can also warm up in a hot tub or with a hot stone massage in the spa!

So don’t make the mistake of leaving your swimmers behind – unless you’ve booked onto a nude cruise, in which case you can forget the clothes entirely and just pack your toothbrush!


Long Sleeves

Even if you’re heading off to the Caribbean a couple of cardigans or long sleeved shirts will come in handy.

Cruise liners can be a tad overzealous with their indoor air-con, so take some light cover-ups to make sure that you’re not left shivering your way through a seven course dinner!

An Alarm Clock

Most of us have smartphones that will perform this function nowadays but if not, be aware that alarm clocks are often not provided and you don’t want to be the person that everyone’s waiting for on the excursion tour bus, do you?

alarm clocks

A Basic Med Kit

You’ll usually be able to buy everything you need onboard but the prices will be as you’d expect for a captive audience in need!

Pack yourself a basic kit including plenty of sunscreen and aftersun and you’ll be prepared for those mornings after the night before, insect bites or tummy upsets.

medical kit


Proper Coffee

If you’re not booked onto one of the six star ‘ultra all inclusive’ cruises then, chances are, if you want a decent cup of coffee you’ll have to cough up for it.

If you have a kettle in your cabin (Celebrity, P&O and Fred Olsen do, Norwegian Cruise Line and Cruise and Maritime do in select cabins) one way to get your proper coffee fix is to pack some individual ‘one cup’ filters. Rombouts do a good range and, with about 10 in £2 box, it’s much more affordable than popping to the ship’s Starbucks daily.


Your Documents!

Whatever you do, don’t forget your essential documents. Yes you do need your passport, even on a no fly cruise (it’s amazing how many people actually think that you don’t!) and the checks are just as stringent as at the airport.

It’s also a good idea to take with you details of any pre-booked excursions, just in case your booking doesn’t match the info on the ship.



A Bottle

Check the policy on your individual liner but many will allow you to bring a small amount of alcohol on board for personal use – usually wine but there are exceptions that will allow spirits and beer.

You may have to pay corkage in the dining room but often you can drink your own alcohol in your cabin without charge.

Well worth doing if you can to save on the mini bar prices.


Not to Bring:

Dressing Gown

We all like to be comfy in our cabin but dressing gowns are bulky and heavy items to pack. Fear not, many liners provide them, including Carnival, Princess (by request) and Holland America, as well as the luxury liners.

Check online or get your travel agent to check for you.

It might not be your favourite pink fluffy gown with bunny ears but it will be comfy, cosy and complimentary (for use DURING your holiday). Please keep dressing gown wear confined to cabins only, cruisers. It’s just not good form to wander out to pick up a coffee in your bathrobe, even if you are on holiday!

dressing gown



Toiletries can be bulky and awkward to pack, with the threat of leakage all over your evening gown.

Most liners do provide them in cabins but check before you pack as some offerings can be on the basic side. If you’re fussy when it comes to what you put on your face and body, why not pack your favourites but leave the boring basics like shampoo and soap for the cruise line to provide?


Black Tie

Unless you’re booked onto a luxury cruise, or want to attend the most formal dinners, you won’t need to pack the full penguin suit.

Even for formal dining, you’ll usually find that a suit and tie or cocktail dress, is sufficient. If in doubt, check the dress code before you take your wedding suit to the drycleaners.

smart businesswear


Holiday Reading

If you’re a reader then packing enough books to keep you busy on sea days can quickly add bulk to your luggage.

Instead of packing your own mini library, head to the liner’s library instead – most of the larger liners have them and some are pretty extensive (Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has over 10,000 books!).

Alternatively, if you want to be sure of having the latest bestsellers and widest choice to hand, an eReader makes a good travel companion.

 reading a book

Travel Iron

If you’re packing cocktail gowns and shirts and suits then you’re going to need to pack a travel iron, right?


Irons are banned on most cruise lines as they’re considered a fire hazard so if you don’t want to rely on the onboard laundry facilities pack wrinkle spray and loose hangers for the good old shower steam trick.

A Bottle

Whilst, as above, wine for personal use in cabins is accepted on many liners, try to sneak anything stronger onboard and you’re likely to find yourself embarrassed at embankment.

The two major exceptions to this rule are Disney Cruise Line, who allow beer, wine and spirits onboard (go figure!) and P&O which allows a small amount of any type of alcohol to be brought along for personal use.

Party back at the cabin? You bet!


So you see, packing doesn’t have to be a headache. With our help you can have perfectly packed cases to see you through your cruise in style, comfort and safety. And if you still have a headache then your well-stocked travel medikit will sort you out.