Whether you’re an experienced cruiser or are about to embark on your maiden voyage, there are always ways to refine your packing, whether you want to fit more in, travel lighter, or simply travel more efficiently.
Here are some of the best cruise packing tips to consider when you’re preparing for your next vacation.
1: Make a List
If you’re the kind of person who thinks, “But what if…?” and ends up packing for multiple climates and every sartorial eventuality, the best way to start is to consider where you’re going, think what you might want to do there, and make a cruise packing list.
Daywear is as it would be on any vacation: casual shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sundresses. Evenings are a little dressier than, say, a vacation rental or a camping trip, but that’s all part of the fun. If you forget any essentials, don’t worry; you can buy them on board.
2: Decode the Dress Code
Celebrity Cruises’ dress code is really simple. Best of all, it’s open to interpretation, so you can express yourself. Evenings on board are Smart Casual or Evening Chic. Cruises of six nights or less will have one Evening Chic night, with two of these dress-up nights on voyages of seven nights or more.
So what is Evening Chic? For women, it’s stylish, it could be sparkly, or swishy, or minimalist, or flirty. A cocktail dress with heels, for example, or palazzo pants with a floaty top. Ballgowns and tiaras can be left at home, unless that’s how you like to dress, in which case, it’s fine; you can never be too overdressed on a cruise. In fact, you’ll often see teenage girls looking gorgeous in prom dresses on Evening Chic nights.
For men, Evening Chic does not mean sweltering in a tux and bowtie on a hot Caribbean night. Stylish trousers or smart jeans with a shirt, jacket optional, is fine.
Smart Casual can be interpreted as anything else apart from T-shirts, shorts, tank tops, baseball caps, and pool wear, once you’re exploring the ship’s bars and restaurants in the evening.
If you’re short on packing space, outfits for evenings can be mixed and matched. Different color tops, a silk scarf, or glittery flats one day and strappy sandals the next can make a single pair of evening pants work harder. The reality is, nobody is likely to be clocking what you wear on your cruise every night. Your fellow guests are too busy enjoying their vacation. Note, too, that all of Celebrity Cruises’ ships have super-efficient laundry service, so don’t feel you have to pack 14 outfits on a 14-day cruise.
3: Pool Practicalities
Swimwear aside, here are a few cruise packing tips and tricks for pool and beach time. Towel clips are handy for windy days. They come in bright colors and will stop your towel from flying away the minute you get up. To save applying endless doses of sunblock to kids, invest in sunsuits. They come in bright colors, dry really quickly and most have an SPF of at least 50. Adult rash vests are great, too, if you plan to spend a lot of time snorkeling on beach days and don’t want a burned back.
You don’t need to pack a pool towel, as these are provided. A cover-up is useful, though, in case you need to head back to the cabin. A floaty kaftan for pool and beach hides a multitude of sins. You’ll need a sun hat that won’t fly away on a sea breeze, too.
4: Look the Part Ashore
Pay some thought to where you’re going. In Europe, many churches and cathedrals won’t let you in with bare shoulders and legs, so a scarf is a useful accessory. Entering a mosque or a temple requires similarly modest garb. There’s nothing to say you should want to dress like a local, but if you want to fit into the Mediterranean summer scene, keep it simple and stylish. When packing for a Mediterranean cruise, consider bringing a Panama hat, as it always adds a dash of panache. The folding versions that roll up in a tube can be packed in your luggage.
When you’re packing for an Alaska cruise, bring layers for daywear; Alaska can be surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly wet. High-tech, wicking fabrics are best. For the Galapagos, you’ll need lightweight clothing in neutral colors and some sturdy shoes that will double up for wet landings and hiking over rocky ground.
And while it’s comical-looking and not remotely cool, a fold-up rain poncho for each family member is always worth having at the bottom of your bag.
5: Footwear Fixes
Most likely, you’ll want flip flops for days around the pool, something dressier for the evening (sandals for women that go with everything, deck shoes or loafers for men), and something sturdier for walking around in port or taking a stroll on deck. That’s probably the minimum.
If you’re sailing somewhere like Croatia, where beaches tend to be pebbly, pack jelly shoes or mesh water shoes for kids (and yourself). Should your adventures take you to Alaska, or northern Norway and Iceland, you might want to consider lightweight walking boots. Some adventure activities like zip-lining require closed-toe shoes, too. And remember that Celebrity Cruises’ ships have high-tech gyms and group workouts, so you might want to pack sneakers.
6: In Praise of Packing Cubes
What’s not to love about packing cubes? You can pack items in categories, like evening, underwear, and workout gear. They’re neater, and you can fit more into a suitcase. Some savvy cruisers go even further and buy vacuum packs, which flatten even bulky items down to nothing—helpful if you’re traveling somewhere like Alaska and are packing fleeces and padded jackets.
Be careful with these, though; often, you flatten them by sucking the air out with a vacuum cleaner. Unless you take a hand pump with you, they’re much harder to squish down for the journey home. They can also leave you with overweight luggage if you’re too efficient!
7: Be Clever with Your Carry-On
On embarkation day, if you plan to head straight to the pool for a swim, a top cruise packing tip is to put everything you’ll need in your carry-on. If you’re flying to your embarkation point, you can use a packing cube to bring your favorite or essential items of clothing in your carry-on. Other things that should always go in the carry-on include your valuables, documentation, a plug adapter, your house keys, medication, and a laptop (if you’re bringing one).
8: Invest in Bathroom Space Savers
However much space you have in your bathroom, a hanging washbag will create more. Stash it on the back of the bathroom door, and you’ve created instant storage for extra sunblock and other bulky items. If you’re sharing a stateroom with kids, which a lot of families do, you’ll be grateful for that extra space.
If you’re on regular medication, a pill organizer is handier than a bag full of bottles. Plan for a few extra days, though, just to be sure. You don’t need to travel with a vast pharmacy as you can buy essentials on board, and every ship has a well-equipped medical center, but a small first aid kit is worth having. Band-aids, pain killers, insect repellent, bite cream or spray, motion sickness medication, antihistamines, and stomach relief medication should be enough for unplanned incidents.
You won’t need to bring shampoo or soap, both of which are provided. So is body lotion, but you might want to throw in a big tube of aftersun or aloe vera to cool off any sunburn.
9: Organize Your Stateroom
Take time to explore your stateroom, especially if you’re a first-time cruiser. Celebrity Cruises’ accommodation is designed with all kinds of clever storage, so check behind mirrors, in stools, under the bed (where you can stash your suitcases), and in every cupboard. You’ll be amazed at how much space there actually is.
Stash suitcases under the bed as soon as you’ve unpacked (and if they’re too box-shaped, open them out and they should fit). Pack a cloth drawstring bag in which to keep dirty clothes before you use the ship’s laundry.
10: Gadgets Galore
You may opt for a digital detox on vacation, but the reality is, especially with kids in tow, you’ll arrive with a selection of electronic equipment like smartphones and cameras. An e-reader is great for bookworms, as a suitcase full of paperbacks isn’t especially practical. A selfie stick is good for candid family shots, while a waterproof smartphone case will protect your phone at the beach and pool.
If you’re going somewhere like Alaska, binoculars are essential for whale-watching and bear-spotting. For long journeys, kids tend to love losing themselves in music or streaming, so a good set of headphones—the chunky wireless models, which are less likely to get lost at the bottom of a bag—can make a great travel accessory.
11: Power Up
While Celebrity Cruises’ staterooms are extremely well equipped with charging points, a family of four sharing will inevitably compete for USB sockets. Invest in a lightweight multi-USB charger, and you can power up several gadgets at once.
Don’t bring a regular power strip; they’re not safe on cruise ships. An external power pack for smartphones is a good idea, especially if you’re out all day using the phone for power-hungry activities like video. Pack spare camera batteries for the same reason.
12: Especially for Kids
Pack any medication your children might need, and keep it in your carry-on if you’re flying to your embarkation port. As any parent knows, snacks are essential for long journeys. You won’t need to worry about these on board; one of the joys of cruising is that growing kids with bottomless appetites will never go hungry.
Some of the best cruise packing tips for families are to bring a few beach toys along, as well as distractions for journeys, from coloring books to hand-held games. A favorite cuddly toy from home is always comforting and makes a stateroom look more welcoming. On a cruise with a toddler, you might want to pack a night light. Bringing along playing cards or your favorite game is always a good idea.
13: The Perfect Day Pack
Whether you opt for a rugged backpack for excursions or a stylish tote for the pool or beach, you’ll need a day pack. If you’ve got kids in tow, you’ll need a bag big enough to bring along their essentials and yours. On hikes, a backpack is obviously best as it keeps both hands free. If you’re into kayaking and other watery pursuits, a dry bag will protect valuables.
14: Take Advice From the Experts
Experienced cruisers have all sorts of cruise packing tips that, when you think about them, really make sense. A tiny night light for the bathroom, to save you waking up your partner and using your phone as a flashlight. Magnetic hooks for extra hanging space. Wrinkle-free spray if you need a quick fix to get the creases out of an outfit for dinner.
Read: Expert Cruise Tips
Insulated water bottles to keep your water cool all day and plastic bags for anything from snacks to items for the beach that can’t get wet. A highlighter pen so you can mark up what you’d like to do on the daily program. Some experienced cruisers swear by their favorite room fragrance for the bathroom, too.
Some families with teens travel with a magnetic whiteboard and pens, so you can stick the whiteboard to the wall and leave each other notes (though you can also communicate through the Celebrity app).
Ready to pack and set sail? Browse our website for unforgettable cruise itineraries and book your next vacation today.