You might already know what to pack for a cruise. But do you know what not to pack? Here are my suggestions for what you can and should leave at home.
What Not to Pack for a Cruise
With safety at sea the number one priority, maritime rules and regulations are constantly updated. It’s not easy to know what you can and cannot bring onboard. Plus, aside from a safety standpoint, some items are best left at home.
Leave the spirits at home
Unless you want your booze confiscated at embarkation and held hostage or worse, discarded, leave the hard stuff at home. Most mass-market and premium cruise lines rely on alcohol revenue for a large chunk of income. It makes sense that BYOB isn’t widely accepted. Among the cruise lines that don’t allow you to bring spirits onboard at embarkation are Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean. One or two bottles of wine are permitted at embarkation on most ships but check the details with your cruise line.
Electric extension cords
There was a time not too long ago that many of us advocated to pack a multi-prong extension cord. With so many devices to charge, especially with two or more in a stateroom, that was the only solution.
Since those days, extension cords have become a no-no. Most ships clearly state that if your stateroom attendant sees it in use in your room while you are away, it will be unplugged. Or you may be asked not to use it, period. Or even confiscated til the end of the cruise. Again, this goes back to safety at sea and fire is the number one disaster. New ships now have multiple electric sockets and USB ports. This eliminates your need to pack a multiple outlet extension cord.
Decide on a hair-dryer. Or not.
If you sport a wash-and-wear haircut, you’re in luck. All ships furnish some sort of electric hair-dryer in the stateroom. Often, it’s an out-dated, wall-mounted dryer with a very short connecting tube. Worse, the odd-shaped nozzle usually blows either burning hot or lukewarm air. Other ships’ hair-dryers may look like the one you have at home but the on/off button does not lock into place. You have to continually press one finger on the switch which makes styling and drying somewhat of a challenge. If none of this matters to you, great! One less item to pack. But if you are concerned with styling your hair, bring your blow-dryer from home.
Travel-size blow-dryer recommended. This is the one I pack for cruises on older ships. Doesn’t take up much space in my suitcase so it makes self-assisted early walk-off easier, too.
Keep your iron in the laundry room. At home.
Back in the “old” days of cruising, it was perfectly acceptable to smuggle a clothes iron into your suitcase. Luckily, safety standards have improved and it’s now forbidden to use an iron in your stateroom. Fire is something that you do not want to happen at sea. If your clothes are wrinkled from packing, it’s only a few dollars to have the ship’s laundry press your clothes. Some cruise lines (Cunard, Holland America and Carnival, for example) have self-service laundry facilities complete with washer, dryer, iron and ironing board.
All that glitters doesn’t have to be gold
Whether cruising the Caribbean, Mediterranean or anywhere in the world, there’s no reason to risk losing treasured jewelry to a grab and run street crime or simple carelessness on your part. While every major cruise line provides a safe in each stateroom, it’s best to leave the “good stuff” at home. If you absolutely must bling at the Captain’s Dinner, shop for a few shiny pieces of the faux stuff before you leave home.
Bring already-broken-in shoes if doing any walking tours
There’s almost nothing worse than sore, blistered feet when you have a lot of walking to do. Even brand new sneakers need a breaking-in period. Sandals, too. If you absolutely must bring a shiny pair of new shoes on your cruise, be sure to pack an assortment of band-aids. If you get any scrapes or blisters, you’ll be happy to have bandaids with you.
Ditch the skin-tight jeans
Have you heard about the legendary five-pound weight gain? It doesn’t matter if this is your first or fiftieth cruise, chances are you will gain a few shipboard pounds. There’s nothing more disheartening than looking at the clothes you’ve packed, which fit perfectly a week before the cruise, suddenly leave you gasping for air. Allow for a little “wiggle” room and leave your tightest jeans at home. They may look great for a night on the town back home, but by day four or five of your cruise, you may wish that you had brought the ones with a scoosh more room.
Don’t over-pack if choosing early walk-off
Almost all cruise lines offer “early walk-off.” This is perfect for guests who live near the port, have to be at work that day or want an early start for a long-distance drive home. If you choose the 7AM early walk-off, there will be no one to help you with your luggage. It’s easy to forget how heavy your luggage is if it was checked at the pier and delivered to your stateroom. If you plan to participate in the early walk-off option, be sure to pack lighter than if you were going to set your luggage in the corridor by midnight to be off-loaded by the crew.
Leave the excess at home. Here’s what I suggest. Go ahead and pack what you think you’ll need. Survey the situation (try to lift your suitcase and/or weigh it). Then, unpack and eliminate at least 1/3 of what you’ve got. Finally, repack. Do this one or two days before your cruise.
Don’t get bogged down with luggage that’s way too heavy (think airline fees). Keep the 35 year-old single malt Scotch at home rather than lose it to the security guard. No one should have to worry about lost heirloom jewelry or wish that they brought clothes that were more for comfort than the catwalk.
Remember to start organizing early. You might want to check out what I always pack for a cruise. Happy travels!
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