Yes, packing light for a cruise and having everything you need is possible. We have done it successfully multiple times. The trick is knowing the cruise essentials, including what to bring on a cruise and sticking to a packing light checklist.
It’s true that one of the advantages of cruising is unpacking only once while exploring several destinations. However, you still have to lug your belongings to the airport, to the cruise terminal, and back home.
Plus, we nearly always tack on days before and after our cruise. Learning how to pack light is a game changer. It makes for less hassle everywhere we go.
Packing light without missing any of the cruise essentials
Dressing for dinners:
The dining room dress code is one area that is different on a cruise ship than on other travel. With no shorts, tank tops, swimwear, or sometimes even jeans allowed, and several days often labelled either “smart casual” or “formal,” cruisers need to be prepared.
- Dinnerwear for women: I bring a “little black dress.” For me, it is one of the most important things to bring on a cruise, and a key piece of my wardrobe. To alter my style, I bring a scarf, black cotton blazer, light coloured cardigan, and costume jewellery – each completely changing the look thus appearing as several cruise dresses. It can be worn to multiple dinners without appearing as if I have worn the same thing.
- Dinnerwear for men: Hubby’s dinnertime cruise clothing includes two button-down shirts (one collarless), a solid tie, and a casual dinner jacket. All pieces are interchangeable, creating more looks than pieces of clothing.
Dressing for everyday and at port:
Pick a colour theme and mix and match everything you wear.
- Five to six casual shirts that can layer including 2-3 tanks, 2-3 short sleeve shirts, and one with long sleeves
- Four pants: Men: two long, two short, Women: one long, one mid-calf or skirt, two shorts
- One cardigan (women) or fleece (men) – modern ships are air-conditioned and can get chilly
- One sun hat
- Three pairs of shoes per person is all we need: Everyday walking shoes, sandals for pool or beach, and semi-dressy/go-anywhere shoes for dinner
- A breathable rain jacket or rain poncho
- Seven day supply of socks and undergarments
- Swimwear (you can bring a cover-up, or wear the bathrobe provided in your stateroom)
Accessories and other non-clothing cruise must-haves
- Fashion accessories: Jewellery (unless you plan to buy it in port), scarves, belt, and a Fitbit Alta
- A first aid kit including seasickness pills that I have never needed while cruising, but having them gives me peace of mind. While I always travel with a fully stocked first-aid kit, it’s not necessary on a cruise as there is a general store and a doctor (expensive) onboard. Our overstocked first aid kit contains the following: sunscreen, insect repellent, motion sickness tablets, paracetamol, ibuprofen, Imodium, sore throat lozenges, antibiotics, band-aids, first aid ointment, and hydrocortisone cream.
- Camera, street lens, extra battery, battery charger, camera raincoat, flash, tripod, extra SD cards
- Sunglasses and glasses (spare pair)
- Cosmetics and toiletries
- Electronics including camera (I shoot with an Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II), tripod, phone, laptop, Kindle, and/or iPad, backup drive, USB stick, and smartphone with charging cable. **Be sure to check with the cruise line as to the outlets and voltages on the ship and bring electrical converters as necessary.
- Documentation – passports, immunisation cards, insurance cards, tickets, credit cards, pen, paper, and a highlighter (you will not regret bringing this on a cruise).
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- Packing cubes - for two people, we take six cubes: two each of small, medium, and large. (We use five cubes when travelling without a cruise.)
- Toiletry kit - one per person, unless you like to share (we don't).
- Emergency kit - pack your own or get the one below.
- Lightweight digital luggage scale.
- Cruise Packing Light List from Albom Adventures (download option above).
How to pack a couple's cruise essentials into 6 packing cubes
- Small Cube #1: Pack one small cube for your emergency and first aid kit.
- Small Cube #2: Pack the second small cube with the electronics chargers, back up disks, flashlight, highlighters, and any other small accessories.
- Medium Cube #1: Pack one medium cube with sleepwear and under garments for both travel partners.
- Medium Cube #2: Pack all formal wear in one medium cube that does't need to get opened or disturbed until formal night. This is very helpful if you have a land package attached to the cruise.
- Large cubes: Each family member should have one large cube for all of their remaining clothing items, except the rain jackets.
- Rain jackets are rolled and packed for easy access.
Etekcity Digital Hanging Luggage Scale
eBags Medium Classic Packing Cubes - 3pc Set - (9 color options)
I GO Compact First Aid Kit
eBags Classic Packing Cubes - 3pc Set - (13 color options)
Bagail 6 Set Packing Cubes, 3 Various Sizes
Hanging Toiletry Bag (4 color options)
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A few photos of our interchangeable cruise outfits:
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