1. Take more soft luggage than hard luggage
Space is at a premium on a cruise ship. While you can often store luggage under the beds, there isn’t unlimited room. Either make sure you’re bringing luggage that is a nesting set, or prioritize soft luggage that can be stored easily. I tend to bring a couple garment bags, like this Amazon Basics Carry-On Garment Bag, for our dinner outfits, including our elegant night outfits, so they are easily hung up in the closets. Plus, having the extra hangers helps. (Some folks even pack an over the door shoe organizer to give them even more closet room.)
2. Use the Porters
There is no fee for using this service, but gratuity is expected. I mentioned bringing soft luggage. One of the benefits of using the porters is not having to worry about lugging around a bunch of luggage. When you get to the port, you’ll see porters bustling about and moving quickly. Flag one down and they’ll make sure your luggage gets on that ship. Similarly, grab a porter upon debarkation and they’ll help you get to your car as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to tip.
3. Check the dress code and theme nights
Before you pack, confirm what the dress code is, and check to see if your ship has any theme nights. Most cruises have a dress code for dinner in the dining room, including elegant nights. I typically pack at least two outfits per day: my port or sea day outfit and then my dinner outfit. Dinner outfits consist of dresses or tops and skirts, as well as polos or button-up shirts and jeans. Elegant nights mean gowns and suits. No sneakers, shorts, t-shirts, etc. Some ships also have theme nights, like 90s night or White Night. People will often dress up and really get into the theme.
4. Pack an adapter or two
Nowadays, we all have so many electronics we use every day. And since most cruise ships now really expect you to have their app up and running to keep you informed about the schedule, menus, etc., it’s important to make sure everything is charged and ready to go. Unfortunately, outlets are at a premium, so an adapter or two will be super helpful.
5. Pack some travel essentials
Here are a few things I always recommend:
- Bring a wet bag. Regardless of the weather cruise you’re going on (cold, warm, river, ocean), getting wet is a possibility, so a wet bag will be a huge help.
- Bring slip resistant shoes. The ship is slippery at times. Especially the decks exposed to the elements. Slip resistant shoes are a smart luggage staple.
- Bring more undergarments than expected. I typically double up on undergarments, since we tend to go through two outfits per day at a minimum.
- Bring a jacket. Even if you’re on a cruise in the middle of the Caribbean during the summer, it can get chilly on that cruise ship at night. Don’t forget to pack something warmer.
- Bring your favorite toiletries. If you have toiletries you love, don’t expect the ship to have them there for you. Bring your favorites with you.
- Bring a hat. Warm or cold, a hat is your friend. Warm cruises mean a big floppy hat in getting packed. Cold cruises means a hat with ear flaps makes the cut.
6. Aloe lotion is your friend
Cruises mean exposure to the elements. Regardless of warm weather or cold weather. Aloe is perfect for dry and dehydrated skin. I always pack this Mario Badescu aloe lotion as a must have to care for skin that is at all damaged by the elements. The sun, the cold.
7. A day bag is a must
Even if you can fit everything into your checked luggage, don’t forget a day bag. They can be super handy. Especially if you’re going to different ports of call. A day bag can be used to carry your wet bag, a towel, some snacks, a water bottle. You can even use that day bag as you explore the ship.
8. Get acquainted with your surroundings
If you’re new to cruising or if you’re trying out a new-to-you ship, don’t forget to explore your surroundings. Cruise ships have so much to offer. Sometimes too much to offer. It can become overwhelming. Take the time to explore the ship and figure out what excites you most about your cruise.
9. Be patient and be early
Most ships have thousands of employees plus thousands of guests out to sea all trying to have the most fun possible. Be patient with the process. The dining room staff is working insanely hard to bring you a delicious meal. That Lido deck pizza staff is cranking out pizza as fast as they possibly can. Your cabin steward has so many cabins to clean and is working unbelievable hours to make sure you have a pristine cabin and an adorable towel animal. Also, just be prepared to be early. Want to see a show? Get there early so you get a good seat. Want to see some comedy? Arrive early. Being early will mean less stress.
10. Always bring cash
I know you’re probably thinking you’ll have your room card or credit card, so why do you need cash? So many reasons. Tips will be in cash. Also, when at port cash will always be king. I prefer to have cash on hand for my purchases. Truth be told, some places don’t accept credit cards. And avoid ATMs at all costs. The fees? Ridiculous.
11. Bonus tip: Treat the staff well.
OK, this seems like a no brainer, right? Listen, cruise ship staff are really a masterclass in hospitality. Treat them well and your cruise will be so much more enjoyable. Why? They’ll remember. These amazing people are working an intense schedule on constant repeat. They do it with a smile. They are wildly helpful and impressively competent. Treat them well and make sure to tip them well for a job well done.