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What To Pack On Your Cruise Vacation

Apr 29, 2008
Bon voyage - pack it up!

The chore of packing is a necessary evil of cruise travel. But paying attention to the details can prevent disappointment and can even give a certain edge to a trip to make it more enjoyable. Why not resolve this year to take your cruise vacation packing to a new level?

What to pack

Standing before a drawer and closet full of clothes figuring out what to wear for a cruise can seem daunting. Here are some ideas on what to pack.

Day wear

For warm-weather cruises, bring quality swimwear, as you're likely to spend a lot of time in or around the pool. For women, sarongs, cover-ups and sundresses are necessary, since most cruise lines require that you wear more than a swimsuit in the dining rooms.

If the ship holds an event requiring "smart casual" wear, you'll be fine in dress shorts, a skirt, or trousers along with a short-sleeved shirt or polo shirt. The rest of the time you can dress pretty much as you like. Useful accessories include flat shoes with a good grip for wet decks, sunglasses and a sun hat.

If you are going on an Alaska cruise or other outdoor adventure, bring hiking shoes and rugged clothes for the shore excursions. The key to an Alaska cruise is to dress in layers since the conditions can go from cold to hot to wet very quickly.

Evening wear

Most cruises will have one or two formal evenings a week. Men are expected to wear a dark suit or tuxedo; women should wear an evening dress (long or short) or a dressy pantsuit. Men can often rent tuxedos on board. For evenings that are less dressy, women can get away with silky tops and trousers. Be sure to pack a dressy sweater or jacket, especially for the newer cruise ships, whose air conditioning can be quite powerful. A pashmina wrap is versatile and provides an extra layer in the evening, and it does double duty as an airplane blanket.

Mix and match

Consider wearing outfits more than once. If it looks good and is appropriate, who cares how many times you wear it? Keep it simple and change your look from the waist up while wearing the same bottoms -- slacks, skirts or shorts -- throughout the trip. A scarf or bold jewelry pieces can change the look of a basic outfit. Other options include reversible clothes, which give many different looks for minimum packing. If you're concerned about running out of clean clothes, don't worry. Most vessels have self-service laundries along with valet laundry service for a fee. And remember, if you forget to pack something or don't want to do laundry, most ships offer a good selection of clothing, swimwear and accessories in their onboard shops. What you can't get on board, you can easily find in any port of call.

10 packing tips

If you follow these basic, common-sense tips, you can pack only what you need, safeguard expensive items and keep track of important paperwork.

* Pack your airline tickets, cruise documents, jewelry, medication, eyeglasses, makeup, camera and computer in your carry-on luggage, not in your checked baggage. Also, bring photocopies of your passport and prescriptions in case these items get lost.

* Also put a swimsuit and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. It sometimes takes hours for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom, and you don't want to miss any ship time stuck in your traveling clothes.

* Pack your toiletry kit with small travel-sized items. Better yet, get small refillable bottles and bring your favorite grooming products.

* Pack heavy items like shoes and toiletry kit before packing the more delicate ones. Also, use shoe covers to pack shoes, and stuff socks, belts and other little items inside shoes to save space.

* Turn jackets inside out and fold them in half, then put them in dry cleaning bags. The plastic bags minimize wrinkles (which is why dry cleaners use them).

* Pack the bottom of your suitcase with trousers, letting the legs hang over the edge of the bag. Then pack the rest of your clothes, with lighter materials on top. In the end, drape the trouser legs back over the pile; they'll keep their crease and won't get a fold line.

* Bring an empty soft bag for souvenirs. Also, toss a few empty plastic bags into your luggage; you'll need them later to stash dirty or damp clothes.

* If you're traveling with your family, mix their clothes throughout each suitcase, just in case a bag is lost.

* Mark your luggage with bright-colored yarn or tags to make them easy to spot and less likely to be picked up by someone else by mistake. Also, place a copy of your itinerary inside each piece of luggage. This way, if your bags are misrouted, the airline will be able to find you quickly.

* Watch the weight of your luggage. Most airlines have a 50-pound limit; if you go over, be prepared to pay a hefty surcharge. If you are traveling to overseas, know that many foreign airlines will assess fees according to number of pieces and baggage weight. Baggage rules change all the time, so always check with your airline before you start hauling out the suitcases. Packing is a chore, but if you pay attention to the details, you can pack some of your cares away.

Bon voyage!
About the Author
Anita Dunham-Potter is a Pittsburgh-based travel journalist specializing in cruise travel. Anita is a weekly travel columnist for http://MSNBC.com and Tripso, and she is a contributor to Fodor's "Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises 2007".
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