I have a love/hate relationship with packing. Packing means my vacation is within reach! But deciding what to take can be rough.
Packing for a Caribbean cruise is very different than packing for other trips! You get a bit of everything on a cruise: resort life, pools, extreme adventure, shopping, nightlife… Swimwear, formal wear, active wear, and casual clothing are all necessary on a cruise vacation. It poses a packing challenge – especially when you try to pack light to limit airline luggage fees.
Cruises are one of my favorite ways to vacation, and I’m a former travel agent, so I’ve had some practice at packing for a Caribbean cruise. Here are my tips for packing for your cruise!
Casual resort-style clothing is a must for days at sea and in port. You’ll generally want to dress casually during the day, but dress up a little in the evening. Shorts are fine during the day, but they are too casual for some ships’ dining rooms at dinner.
Women should pack 2-3 shorts/capri pants for daytime. I like to pack several versatile tops that can go from daytime to nighttime. Casual dresses or skirts can be good options too. Costume jewelry doesn’t take much space, but can quickly dress up an outfit for evening.
Shorts and tees work well for men in the daytime. Button-up dress shirts or polo shirts with slacks are usually better in the evening. Choose items that are wrinkle resistant.
Pack at least two bathing suits for your trip. You’ll most likely be at the pool or beach at least a couple of days in a row, and there is nothing worse than putting on a damp suit! Bonus Tip: Take magnetic hooks to hang on the walls of your cabin to hang hats and bathing suits up to dry!
Be sure to pack a cover-up. Bathing suits are not considered appropriate attire outside the pool area. Keep a cover-up with you to go from poolside to lunch or your cabin and back again.
Packable wide brimmed hats are popular on the beach and will serve you well on your cruise vacation. Keeping your face and head protected from the sun is so important. Include a bottle (or more) of your favorite sunblock and apply OFTEN! The Caribbean sun can be intense, and the sun reflecting off the water will cause you to burn quickly. Nothing will ruin your vacation faster than a terrible sunburn.
Don’t pack beach towels. Cruise ships provide towels poolside and as you disembark in port. Save that space for an extra pair of shoes or souvenirs.
Every cruise has at least one “formal” night and longer cruises may have two. Pack a nice dress or pantsuit for women and suit or sports coat and tie for men. Some cruise lines follow the dress code more strictly than others. Wear the same formal clothes both nights to save space in your suitcase.
On formal night you’ll see everything from formal gowns and tuxedos to simple dresses and suits. Go as fancy as you like! We don’t dress up a lot at home, so we enjoy going formal when we cruise.
Want to go all out? Some cruise lines offer tuxedo and dress rentals as an option to packing formal wear. Contact your travel agent or the cruise line to find out if this is an option on your cruise.
Cruise ships are the ultimate resorts. You’ll find a great fitness facility right on board your ship, usually with panoramic views of the ocean. Jogging and walking tracks are located on upper decks and many ships have sports courts with basketball and volleyball. If you like these activities or want to work off some buffet calories, pack athletic clothing and shoes.
Some ships have special activities like ice skating that require long pants, socks, closed-toe shoes or other specific clothing. Look up required clothing for these activities before you pack.
Select shoes that you can multipurpose. Sandals that you can wear during the day and then with your evening attire is one example. Select one pair of dress shoes that will work with multiple outfits. Don’t forget a comfortable pair of athletic shoes for walking.
Research your shore excursions to make sure you know what type of footwear is required before you depart on your cruise. Many active excursions require closed-toe shoes, athletic shoes, or water socks. Knowing what you need ahead of time will save you from buying or renting shoes on your trip.
Bring a tote bag or backpack to carry towels, sunscreen, water, cameras and other items with you when you go into port, on an excursion, or poolside. For your safety, bags will be searched when you board the ship each time you visit port. Keep only what you have to have in your bag with you for quick and easy searches.
Take a lanyard with a plastic pouch to hold your cruise card during the day. This card serves as your room key and allows you to purchase items on board. A small clutch or handbag is perfect for evenings when you want to keep your room key and camera or phone close at hand.
Consider purchasing a waterproof pouch for your phone to keep it sand and splash free. Just be sure to follow all the instructions and test it BEFORE storing your phone in it.
Pack a lightweight sweater/jacket, large scarf, or shawl for evenings. Sea breezes can be quite cool at night.
What to Carry On
Your luggage will be taken by porter when you arrive at the cruise terminal. It will be delivered to your cabin a few hours after you board. Use your carry on to keep anything you want to have with you as soon as you board. Medications, a change of clothing, swimsuits, cover-ups, electronics and chargers, books and toiletries are things you might want to keep with you.
Dry cleaning is available on most cruise lines for an additional charge. They pick up and deliver right to your cabin.
Laundry facilities are also typically available on each deck of passenger cabins, but there is a fee and I would not leave your laundry unattended. Don’t pack so light that you have to take time away from vacationing to do laundry.
We love cruise vacations! Knowing what to pack makes it easier to get ready. Bon Voyage!
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