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Pack Like a Pro for Your Next Cruise


Several years ago we discovered the ease and relaxation of global travel. We love to explore and pass on what we have learned.


Packing for a cruise is a challenge. The storage space in your cabin is somewhat minimal, and if you're flying overseas, there are weight restrictions for checked bags. Here are some tips from a seasoned cruiser to put you on par with the veteran travelers for your next cruise.

Pack a Large Scarf for Cruising and Touring in Europe

If you’re traveling in summer, chances are that you will be dressing for the heat. However, as you go from port to port you’re going to visit the many beautiful and picturesque churches and basilicas remember that there is a dress code—basically, no exposed shoulders. This applies to men and women. A large scarf solves the problem. Simply wrap it around your shoulders to enter a basilica. When you're done you can stuff it in your backpack or tie it around your waist.

In some churches, there is also a policy for men not to wear hats or have exposed knees. Though this is rare, be prepared for the possibility.

Don't miss out on visiting those beautiful basilicas just because you weren't prepared!

Don't miss out on visiting those beautiful basilicas just because you weren't prepared!

Think Layering for Alaskan Cruising

Excursions in Alaska require some forethought, and believe me—you do not want to come unprepared. You may be fine on deck or in port, but if you’re standing on a glacier in the afternoon without good gear, you will likely be miserable.

I have one word for you: layering. Start with thermal underwear and wool blend socks and cover with canvas pants, a flannel top, and a light fleece jacket. Add a lined shell to reduce wind chill, and top it all off with a hat for maximum warmth and comfort. Lastly, don't forget to take comfortable, water-resistant walking shoes or lightweight hiking boots with good support.

Note: Avoid cotton. Opt for wicking material or wool blends instead.

Hint: If you're sweating, take off a layer and cool down. Being wet with sweat, melted snow, or rain will make you miserable. Staying dry is key to staying comfortable.

Brrrr, no beachy bikinis here!

Brrrr, no beachy bikinis here!

Pack for Security on Your Cruise

Some ports of call (especially in Europe) are known for pickpocket activity. Get a ripstop crossbody bag and carry only what you need for the day (e.g., ID, one credit card, some cash). Unless your advised otherwise keep your passport locked in the room safe.

Many of these bags have lockable zippered access, are cut-proof, and have RFID blocking. Besides having space for our wallets and identification, our Pacsafe crossbody bag was large enough to carry our digital camera, a small water bottle, and an umbrella. If you’re strictly a backpack user, sling it in front of you in crowds, buses, or subways.

My preferred anti-theft bag for day trips.

My preferred anti-theft bag for day trips.

Pack for Cruising Convenience

At first, I was skeptical at a suggestion to pack a handful of hooked magnets for our cruise. Not anymore. The cabin walls of most cruise ships are steel and can hold a magnet well. We used our magnetic hooks to hang bathing suits and towels and to hold papers, lists, and the ship's daily news sheet.

Don't forget to take some magnetic hooks along. You won't regret it!

Don't forget to take some magnetic hooks along. You won't regret it!

Stay Hydrated on Board

We took two stainless steel water bottles—a large one for our cabin and a small one that fit in our PackSafe bag for excursions. Our ship charged for bottled water in the room, so each evening I would fill up the large container with ice and filtered water from the lido deck. It tastes better and stays colder than the cabin water, and best of all, it's free!

Pro Tip: Reusable water bottles can be used in your suitcase to pack small items you don’t want to be crushed. Just be sure to wash them well before drinking out of them!

Our small day excursion bottle (left) and larger cabin bottle (right).

Our small day excursion bottle (left) and larger cabin bottle (right).

Are you a vetern cruiser?

Come Prepared to Light the Way at Night

This tip was a surprise, but it works superbly. Pack a few battery-operated tea lights to put in your cabin’s head (bathroom), which can get absolutely pitch black at night. A single tea light throws off just enough of a glow to navigate safely to and from the bathroom, though of course, you could use two or three if you prefer. That way, you don't have to turn the bright bathroom light on in the middle of the night and wake up completely.

Charming and practical!

Charming and practical!

Prioritize Organization on Your Cruise

Clip an inexpensive hanging shoe holder on your bathroom door. It can hold items for easy access and keep them stowed. This is one item that veteran cruisers agree is extremely handy.

Packing cubes are also becoming very popular among cruisers, as they allow you to compress bulky items like sweaters or hard-to-fold items like underwear into organized packs. These cubes can go straight from suitcase to shelf when you arrive in your cabin. Folks tell me that once they've used packing cubes a few times, they can no longer travel without them.

Packing cubes come in handy when packing for a cruise.

Packing cubes come in handy when packing for a cruise.

Pack for Power in Your Cabin

There are never enough power plugs in your ship’s cabin, so be sure to take a multi-plug power strip with no surge protector. This is perfect for charging phones and cameras or just to have an extra plug.

Note: Make sure to get a plain power strip without surge protection. The ship's AC power is not the same as what you have at home, and surge protectors have been known to cause fires on ships. If you bring one, it may be confiscated until you disembark.

Pack a Powerstrip Without Surge Protection for Your Cruise

Pack a Powerstrip Without Surge Protection for Your Cruise

Pack to Stay Healthy

Experienced cruisers dread a norovirus outbreak onboard. Consider packing a small can of Lysol disinfectant spray and a package of alcohol wipes for your excursion bag. A shot of spray on door handles and your cabin head when you first arrive and from time to time during your cruise may save your whole trip. Use the hand wipes after handling menus or going to the bathroom.

Pack a Small Spray Bottle of Disinfectant

Pack a Small Spray Bottle of Disinfectant

Don't Forget the Laundry Pods!

If you’re on a long, trans-ocean cruise or doing back-to-back weeks of cruising, chances are you’re going to do a bit of laundry. Pack a few laundry pods in a Tupperware.

Pack a few Laundry Pods for Long Trips.

Pack a few Laundry Pods for Long Trips.

Other Packing Ideas to Consider

  • Highlighter for highlighting anything on your itinerary, menus, and maps
  • Shopping bags for souvenirs
  • Plastic bags for wet/dirty clothes
  • Ziplock bags to keep your things safe in wet/dirty areas
  • Post it pads and pens to leave notes for each other in the room
  • Binoculars
  • Band-Aids for potential blisters and scrapes
  • Bright ribbons to make your suitcases easier to recognize
  • Extra hangers
  • Stretchy cord with hooks to dry your bathing suits on the balcony
  • Hairdryer (the ones in the room are awful)
  • Clothespins for the bottom of the shower curtain so it will actually stay inside the base and not flood the head

© 2018 Mike Hardy


Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 15, 2018:

I really like your ideas as they are very practical. I do most of these when we travel but have not thought of magnetic hooks. I know how useful they can be as each time I arrive at my destination I look for hooks.

Mike Hardy (author) from Caseville, Michigan on March 30, 2018:

I agree. They do work. We have a few in our overnight bag for use when at hotels.

Glen Rix from UK on March 30, 2018:

Some ingenious ideas here. I especially like the idea of the tea lights. Thanks for sharing.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 24, 2018:

Hi Mike. Great tips. Many of these are good for pretty much any form of travel. Thanks for sharing.

Mike Hardy (author) from Caseville, Michigan on March 24, 2018:

Thanks for stopping by.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 23, 2018:

Oh I'd love to go on a cruise. Thankyou for the advice. =)

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