When packing for a cruise, it can be tempting to throw everything into your suitcase. Sailing away on the high seas can feel like trekking into the unknown, and squeezing in just one more home comfort can tempt even the most seasoned traveler.
This article serves as an “unpacking” list, reminding you what you will not need, either because cruise lines will often provide it or because it is simply unnecessary, to help you free up some (much-needed) extra space in your luggage.
This article will discuss some of the most commonly (over)packed items that often remain untouched at the end of your cruise. Hopefully, this will help you become a wiser cruiser—and one that has a lot more room for souvenirs!
These items are not prohibited or banned by cruise lines, just to be clear. But just because you can bring something doesn’t mean you should.
While towels seem like an obvious choice for a sun-soaked ocean getaway, these bulky items should be the first to go when deciding what not to pack for a cruise. Whether bath, beach, or pool, cruise lines have you covered when it comes to towels.
When you enter your cabin, you should find it fully stocked with various hand and bath towels. These will be refreshed consistently throughout the cruise. However, some cruise lines are now implementing environmentally conscious policies that encourage towel reuse by requiring passengers to request towel replacements as needed to cut down on unnecessary laundering and water usage.
When disembarking the ship at ports of call, most cruise lines provide beach towels to take onto land with you. Some cruise lines may require you to ‘check out’ the towel under your name using your onboard card and/or charge you a fee if towels are lost or not returned when back on the ship. If you choose to bring one of your cruise line’s towels off the ship with you, be sure to keep an eye on it and bring it back.
2. A pillow
When traveling, one of the hardest things to leave behind is the comfort of your own bed. It can be very enticing to pack your favorite pillow to get you through the journey. However, the bedding (including the pillows) on most cruises is actually very comfortable, so your pillow might be best left behind.
If the softness or hardness of your cabin bedding does not fit your needs, most stateroom stewards are happy to provide alternate pillows or even a mattress topper to make your stay more comfortable. If you are short on room in your luggage or you do not require a certain type of cushioning to sleep comfortably, your pillow from home is worth leaving behind.
Part of the beauty of cruising is the unlimited availability of food. Whether it’s ice cream, sushi, pizza, cereal, or steak, there is a culinary world at your fingertips while on board. Prepackaged snacks from home might seem like a good addition to your suitcase, but there is so much food available on board that rivals even the best brought-from-home treats, so there really is no need.
That said, kids can ask for snacks on short notice, and onboard room service can be slow, so if you are traveling with little ones might be a good idea to pack a few resealable bags to stock up on refreshments when you are at the buffet.
When you are at lunch or dinner, your kids can fill up these baggies with fruit, cheerios, or cookies and bring them back to the room for later. Plus—resealable bags are easy to fit in tight suitcases when preparing for your trip.
4. Exercise equipment
If you are a fan of exercise and hate leaving your resistance bands and yoga mat behind when you get on board, there is no need to fret. Cruise ships have fully decked out gyms with all the standard workout gear; some even have cutting edge exercise equipment like Peloton bikes and HydroRows.
Cruises also offer workout classes and health seminars, often partnering with better-known fitness studios such as Zumba and PureBarre. Some of these classes are included with the standard cruise fare, and others will be an additional charge, but access to the gym is always free.
While you don’t need to bring your exercise equipment you can certainly bring your workout clothes. Just make sure you pack some shoes that are not open-toed as most gyms on cruise ships will not allow you to enter with flip-flops.
Evenings on the ship seem like a great chance to show off your glitz and glam, perhaps to don your favorite pearl necklace and diamond ring once you’re dressed up and in ship shape. However, as with other vacations, you risk losing or having valuable items stolen.
Finding duplicate costume jewelry that imitates your favorite gems or nicest watch, rather than bringing along the real thing might be a good idea. There’s a growing trend of travel jewelry, and cheaper versions of many popular engagement rings and statement pieces can be purchased online. These “valuables” would be much easier to part ways with if an earring were to slip overboard.
If you do decide to bring valuables with you on board, be sure to utilize the safe provided in your cabin. Keep these items in your carry-on bag when boarding the ship, and do not bring anything on shore with you that you wouldn’t want left behind.
6. Excessive electronics
If we were in the pre-cell phone era, I would, of course, recommend that you pack a camera to capture all your onboard memories and perhaps a laptop if you need to keep up with work. I’d even suggest that you pack your Walkman to listen to your favorite cassette as you sit poolside and soak up the sun.
But nowadays, we have cellphones to capture memories, stay connected, and even listen to music, so far fewer electronics need to accompany you onboard.
Plus, almost all cruise ships provide internet access, computer cafes, and additional charging ports, if needed. I would recommend limiting your devices to save space and keep you focused on the point of your cruise: relaxation.
Almost all cruise ships already provide hairdryers in cabins or can deliver them to your stateroom upon request, so there is no need to take up valuable case space by packing your own. However, if your hair requires a bit more TLC, you might want to pack your own curling wands, hair straighteners, and hot rollers.
Do not confuse hair irons with clothing irons—irons and steamers are not permitted on board and will not be provided to individual staterooms, as they pose a fire risk, so do not put these in your suitcase for any reason. Some ships will provide launderettes which have irons inside so you can complete your elegant evening looks with a smooth finish!
Most cruise lines will provide shampoo and body wash in the cabins for guests; however conditioner is not always provided. Many cruise lines use an all-in-one product that may not fit your preferences, so it is essential to check your specific cruise’s policy to confirm that their provided soaps match your needs before taking these items out of your toiletry bag.
Mainstream cruise lines today are using refillable containers in the showers for body wash and shampoo, and some even have a 3-in-1 soap with conditioner included.
But, as mentioned above, not every cruise traveler has been happy with the quality of these toiletry items. If you’re particular about the kind of conditioner and soap you use, then you can disregard this point. Just know that your cruise ship will provide these items if you would like to use them.
9. Dirty clothes bag
This one is not as consequential as some other items on the list. After all, a laundry bag doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase. But you should know that almost every cruise cabin has a laundry bag in the closet. It’s main purpose is for you to fill it up and pay the cruise line to wash your clothes for you, but many will use this same bag to separate their dirty clothes until the end of the trip.
Just make sure you don’t forget your clothes are there when it’s time to pack up to go home. And definitely don’t take the bag home with you or you will find a nice little charge added to your account.
10. Extra Hangers
You already know your cruise cabin will have hangers, but you have packed so many clothes that you want to make sure you have enough?
The good news is you don’t need to pack any extra hangers. Simply ask your stateroom attendant for more hangers and you will have plenty for every article of clothing you crammed into that suitcase.
Here are a few extra things that you might want to leave behind:
- Too many clothes—the ship will likely have a launderette if you run low!
- Dirty laundry bag—there will be one in your closet on board.
More than one book—many ships have onboard libraries or a book exchange program.
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