What you pack for your cruise vacation will usually hinge on two factors: where you are going and for how long. You’ll be able to fit more shorts and T-shirts in your luggage to a warm-weather spot than jeans and sweaters for a colder destination. Do you really need a new outfit for every night? How many shoes can you get away with? Are two swimsuits enough?
In addition to all the clothes and shoes, you’ll want to make sure to carry a day bag with medication and important documents, as well as a swimsuit and change of clothes (for you and the kids), if you want to go swimming when you first get on the ship. Your luggage might not arrive until as late as 7 p.m., and even though your arrival time on the ship might mean your bags will get to your stateroom earlier, there is no guarantee.
Seasoned cruisers also make sure to bring items that help keep their cabin organized (like an over-the-door shoe holder to store toiletries) or make communication smoother (like sticky notes, two-way radios, and highlighters).
A typical week will have one or two formal nights; one or two semi-formal nights and the rest casual. Based on the length of the cruise and the line, the level of formality (and enforcement) can vary. If your family doesn’t feel like getting as dressed up, alternative dining at the buffet and room service are both usually available at no additional charge. As for what defines a “casual” or “formal” night on the ship:
Casual — usually means no flip-flops or shorts in the dining room; on some ships, it also means no jeans — but usually anything goes.
Semi-formal — slacks and polo shirts for men; dresses, skirts and pantsuits for woman.
Formal — suits and tuxedos for men; cocktail dresses or fancy pantsuits for woman
Costume/Theme — many lines have theme nights during the course of the cruise: 50s night, 60s night, disco night, 80s night, country western night, pirate night (on Disney Cruise Line) and Hawaiian/tropical night are some of the many that might come up on your cruise. Kids are encouraged to get dressed up, too. If you travel during Halloween, check with the cruise line before you start packing as many ships have costume parties on board.
And a word about cell phones: Calling from sea is very costly.
Whether you use your own phone or the cruise ship’s, you might want to consider getting a phone card to call home when you get into port or purchasing an Internet package (priced per minute) on board to e-mail your friends and family.
So here’s our list for what you might want to consider packing for your next weeklong cruise (for weekend or two-week cruises, adjust accordingly). It’s a long list because we want to make sure you don’t have to spend two to three times as much onboard for something you can get much cheaper before you leave. Print it out and check it off as you put the items into your luggage and feel free to add anything else that we might have missed.