Packing for Your First Cruise

Packing for a cruise is just like packing for a land based trip. You need to be aware of the weather, the activities and the itinerary.

Warm Weather

If you are cruising to the Caribbean – or “the islands” in general – you know you will want sandals, shorts, a couple bathing suits and a cover-up for going to and from the pool or beach. But even though the temperatures are warm, doesn’t mean there are not some dress-up opportunities.

Men should take a blazer for a formal dinner. Women should pack a couple fun cocktail dresses. After all, they will not take up much space in your suitcase. You should also plan to wear something more than a T-shirt and shorts for most dinners.

Although not all dinners are formal events, the food and atmosphere are generally fine dining. Cruises also feature on-board casinos, nightclubs and other venues where you may choose to dress up. Think of it as a night on the town. Dress as you would for a night on the town back home.

Cold Weather

People tend to think of cruise destinations as all warm-weather locales, but there are also cruises headed north. To pack properly for these cruises, you will want to be aware of the temperature highs and lows.

Starting in the fall, you will find cruises to New England and Canada popular with leaf peepers. These are the people who cannot get enough of fall foliage. They find that one of the best places to see the changing colors is the starboard side of the ship as it travels along the coast of the Northeastern United States and up into Canada.

Ports of Call

Your packing list will also differ based on the ports of call you visit. Yes, the islands are generally casual, but if you’re visiting a casino for dinner and games, you may find your shorts and T-shirt are a little out of place.

If you are taking in one of the popular European river cruises, you will find that some lines focus on gourmet fare and luxurious amenities, calling for dressier wear. The ports of call are even more exotic, with stops in places like medieval castles in Austria, Paris on the Seine and Germany’s Black Forest. In Northern Europe, the temperatures can be cool, even in the summer. Pack a couple sweaters and gloves – and do not forget to bring an umbrella.

Touring the Mediterranean? The springtime and fall are cooler than you might expect. The ship might also be more formal than you expect, so be sure to check with the cruise line for details.

In Alaska, the weather can be mixed. So take some shorts for during the day, but definitely throw in a fleece jacket and a couple of sweaters in case the weather turns. And for the record, most of Alaska is dress down. You’ll want some jeans and hiking boots to go exploring. And take a rain jacket, as rainy weather is fairly common.

The Essentials

Remember that when you take a cruise out of your country, it is the same as air travel. You need the same travel documents and preparations you make to visit a foreign country:

· Passport and sometimes a visa (be sure to leave a copy of your passport back home in case you lose yours)

· airline tickets or e-tickets

· vaccination certificate, if necessary

· your driver’s license in case you rent a car

· medical insurance cards and a copy of your prescriptions

· credit cards (before you leave, call the credit card company and give them your travel dates and itinerary)

· cash or traveler’s checks (keeping the numbers of your traveler’s checks and the checks in separate locations)

Electronics

· plug adaptor and converter

· camera and extra film or memory card for a digital camera (film is a lot more expensive onboard a ship)

· batteries or a battery charger

· travel alarm clock

Cell Phone and Laptop

Even if you cannot use your cell phone while you are out to sea, you will probably want it in the hours leading up to your departure and in the hours after the ship returns to port. If you are running late or need directions, you want your phone. If the cab did not show up, you will want your phone. And once you get back in the country, there are probably people you should check in with. Some ports have cell service which, even with roaming rates, is usually cheaper than the ship’s satellite fees.

Finally, if you are someone who does not want to be out of touch for a week at a time, bring your laptop. Many ships have introduced Internet onboard. While it may be expensive, the cost will be worth it for your peace of mind.

Cruising is one of the best way to see some of the world’s most beautiful and interesting places. Use these helpful tips when preparing for your first adventure.

Alfredo Ayala is a freelance writer who writes about several topics including discount cruises.