Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What to Pack for a Cruise

We met our friend Steve over ten years ago when we lived in San Francisco. He's a true cruise expert, logging 13 trips in the past eight years and recently becoming a cruise travel agent. We asked him to let us know what to pack for a 7 day cruise with the caveat that his wife Elaine pitch in. Here's what he had to say:

Packing for a cruise is a little different than packing for a land vacation. One big distinction is that for a cruise, you’ve got to pack both casual clothes for daytime wear and dressy clothes, including formal wear, for the evenings. For a 7-night cruise, most mainstream cruise lines will have two formal nights. So ladies will need to dress to the nines, which means packing your best cocktail dresses or floor length gowns. Also, my wife always brings a wristlet purse, just big enough to fit her lipstick and her room key (which is used for all onboard purchases).

For men, you’ll need a nice suit, or you can do what I do – bring the tux! I realized right after my first cruise that I should add a tuxedo to my wardrobe for all of my future cruises. The tux really impresses the wife, and you feel like James Bond after dinner when you sit down at the blackjack table. I recently added the white dinner jacket to my repertoire, which gives me a different look on the 2nd formal night. For the rest of the cruise, the main dining room will have a “smart casual” dress code, which means no jeans or shorts. If you must wear jeans or shorts, you can eat at the lido buffet. So you’ll need to pack clothes that are appropriate for the casual nights in the main dining room. And I do highly recommend going to the dining room on most every night as it is by far a better alternative to the buffet.

So that handles the clothes, but what else should you pack? Here’s my list of other not-so-obvious things that I suggest you put in your suitcase:
Alarm clock. The only clock in the cabins is on the phone, and in the middle of the night, it is impossible to read the clock. This is especially important if you are booking an inside cabin, as there will be no sunlight coming into the room at all and you have no idea what time of day it is.
MP3 player and speakers: It’s nice to bring along your own tunes to enjoy in your cabin. I like using mine while the wife is putting herself together on formal nights.
Power strip: If you need to plug in your iPod, video camera, cell phone, or any other electronic gadgets, this is especially helpful as most cabins only have two plugs you can use at a time.
Drinks: The cruise line will usually allow you to bring on some sodas or waters. So if your favorite brand is not available to purchase on the ship (or if you want to avoid paying $2 for a can of Coke), bring your own onboard. Also, although it is definitely not allowed by the cruise lines, some of you might be inclined to bring onboard some alcohol that you can enjoy on your private balcony during sail aways. Now I am not suggesting you do this, but if you must, be sure to put your alcohol-contraband into your checked luggage, otherwise it will likely be confiscated from you if you attempt to carry it on. (One JSG bought liquor at the duty-free shop on board and kept it in her room.)
Costumes: This one is recommended for groups. Cruise lines don’t have official costume parties, but my friends and I have enjoyed creating our own theme nights. Pirate night was a lot of fun, and Gilligan’s Island won me a free trip to Mexico.
Your Passport: This is a given, you will need this for every cruise or else you will be denied boarding.

So now that you know what to pack, what are you waiting for? Gather you girlfriends, significant other, or whoever and plan a trip on the high seas. Bon voyage!

You can contact Steve at cruisersteveh@gmail.com if you're interested in booking a cruise, have some pressing questions or want more information on cruises in general.


emily said...

Thanks!!!! Allthis informaton really helps me.

Barbara said...

This is really helpful information! Love the ipod/dock suggestion- great idea. :-)

Nicole said...

Thanks for a great list!

I got here by typing: 'Mom needs a break' because boy do I need one!

I keep having visions of the seventies series The Love Boat and Captain Stubing! I could really use a nice cruise. I even managed to found a company that provides lovely cruises: Carnival Cruise Lines

So captain Stubing here I come!

And you know what I won't pack? My kids!

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