How to Carry On for a Cruise

January 21, 2015 2 min read

cruise ship


If you’ve ever packed for a cruise vacation you know the luggage pile can get out of control fast. Cruise vacations involve formal nights, on-board restaurants of varying casualness, poolside afternoons, and active excursions. Sure, you can take a giant suitcase or two, but it’s an enormous risk for cruising. Consider that you’re going to either be in middle of the ocean or at a different island every day and you’ll quickly realize that a suitcase misplaced by the airline has no chance of catching up with you before you get home. Not to worry—you can easily pack light in a carry on, look great and protect your vacation with these tips for packing light for a 7 night warm-weather cruise. For this plan, you’ll need a tote bag and a regulation size carry on.
Step 1: The Tote
Put everything you’ll need for the next 24 hours in a medium-sized tote. This bag will count as your personal item aboard the plane so be sure everything you need, including a handbag, fits in here. Once you get to the cruise terminal a porter will take your carry on bag so you don’t have to carry it around until your room is ready. It can take a few hours for bags to show up in your room, so you’ll want everything with you that you’ll need to freshen up and enjoy the ship until your suitcase arrives.
  • Casual outfit
  • Swimsuit
  • Toiletries
  • Medicine
  • Electronics
  • Documents
  • Anything you consider valuable

Everything else goes in a carry-on suitcase lined with an industrial strength garbage bag.
Why the trash bag?
Every seasoned cruiser has seen carts of bags sitting in a tropical downpour. Soaked silk dresses and ruined formal nights are totally avoidable simply by employing a 10¢ plastic bag.
Step 2: The Bag
Because you’re packing light, a soft-sided backpack works well for your carry on:

  • Sport sandals
  • Flip-flops (for quick jaunts to the pool or spa)
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 4 shorts or capris
  • Underwear
  • 1 pair jeans or chinos
  • Swim cover up (women)
  • Comfy yoga pants or workout outfit that can double as pajamas
  • Sun hat
  • Lightweight sweater or suit jacket
  • Black dress shoes or heels
  • Dress socks or stockings
  • 2 neutral dress pants or skirts
  • 2 dress shirts or blouses
  • 3 scarves or ties
  • 1 cocktail dress (women)
  • Small evening bag (women)
  • Jewelry

Do. Not. Check. That. Bag. Ever.
Every cruise you’ll see sad people looking longingly at the pool or in mishmash outfits at dinner because their bags have been lost by the airlines. It can take days to catch up with you—and you’ll likely make it home before you see it again.
Dressing for Dinner
By now you’ve noticed that you’re only taking two dressy outfits. You’ve actually got six because you’ve got three dramatic scarves or ties that you’ll rotate through. You’ll only have your dressy clothes on for two or three hours in the evening, and no one will notice (or care) that you’re not wearing a head-to-toe new outfit every night. The cocktail dress is for formal night(s) and men can rent a tuxedo on board.

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