What should I pack?
One of the advantages of a cruise holiday is that you only need to unpack once, upon boarding the ship. Plus, unlike the airlines, there’s a lot more leniency for baggage weight when you go on a cruise. Even the most seasoned cruisers are guilty of over-packing so here are a few guidelines for what you might want to pack (or not pack).
As always, you should double-check with the relevant cruise line if you’re unsure about bringing a particular item, as rules for prohibited items vary between cruise lines.
You may also like to check out our Cruising Guide for general information about currency, shore excursions, and more!
Like any other holiday, you should pack clothes appropriate for the climate of the intended destination. Think of your cruise ship as a floating resort, so during the day you’ll be wearing casual comfortable clothes and at night more appropriate clothing is often required. When packing your clothes, you may want to leave out a spare change of clothes and carry them with you on embarkation day. After checking-in your luggage, bags are delivered to your room a little later however this may not occur for several hours after your board the ship.
On Board the Ship
On cruises that visit warm destinations, most guests prefer to wear shorts and t-shirts or similar attire during the day. Swimwear may be worn around the pool areas but it’s often frowned upon to wear swimwear in the restaurants – including in the casual indoor buffet areas. For cooler destinations, warm casual clothes are the norm during the day. Remember that the sea air may be a little cooler and possibly windier than on land. The sun can be harsh in the tropics, so remember to bring a good hat to protect your face.
At night, it’s often expected of guests in the dining rooms to wear smart-casual clothes at a minimum (including pants and a collared shirt for the gents). Ripped jeans, shorts and thongs are discouraged and you may be refused entry to the dining room if these are worn. Most cruise ships allow casual gear to be worn in the buffet area if you choose to dine there instead.
Some cruise ships feature theme nights and parties and this may include an island/Hawaiian night, white night, roaring 20s, country & western and so on. There will also be at least one ‘formal’ or ‘cocktail’ night and almost everyone on board goes to some effort on these nights. You should check with your cruise line if they will be hosting any theme nights for your particular cruise.
During port visits, you should wear comfortable clothes to match the climate and intended activities. If it looks like rain you may like to pack a splash-jacket or umbrella. You can also buy an ‘emergency poncho’ for a few dollars at the “$2 shops” at home before you depart – they’re useful and take up a lot less space than a jacket or umbrella. Sudden rain showers are common and often unpredictable in the tropics. If you’re participating in a shore excursion, you should bring clothing for the specific type of activity such as swimwear or walking shoes. Many islands in tropical regions have crushed coral mixed in with the sand on the beach. To prevent coral cuts and scratches, bring a pair of ‘reef walking shoes’ to protect your feet. They’re made of a wetsuit-like material and are invaluable if you’re in/near the water where there is coral around.
As you prepare for your port day, it’s important that you wear as little jewellery as possible while you’re ashore. Showing off your ‘bling’ should be reserved for formal night instead. A rule of thumb when in port is the less you look like a tourist, the better.
If you you’ll be visiting the inside of a church, it is often requested that you wear long pants or shorts that extend below the knees.
Day bag / Beach Bag
During your port visit, you’ll find there are a number of things you may want to bring with you. On a typical shore excursion, you may need a towel, camera/phone, medications, snorkelling gear, sunscreen, water bottle and maybe a change of clothing. So, you’re going to need a good backpack or beach bag to carry these in. Write yourself a list of what you think you may need at each port and gather them together the night before the port visit. The morning of a port day is quite busy as everyone is eager to disembark. If you prepare your things the night before, you’ll be ready to go before everyone else! Your shore excursion tickets are usually delivered to your room on embarkation day; don’t forget to bring them during your port visit.
Phones and Cameras
Everyone has a phone nowadays and the built-in cameras on current models are of excellent quality. Some still prefer a standalone compact camera and you’ll also see people enthusiastically using DSLR cameras. You can use your phone to make and receive calls/texts at sea but roaming charges may apply not long after you leave Australian waters. Your phone may then automatically connect to the ship’s maritime cellular system which can be very expensive to make or receive calls or text messages.
Phones, Computers and Internet
You may bring your phone, laptop or tablet on board. If you’d like to connect to the ship’s wifi service onboard, be aware that it’s not as fast as back home and it’s often relatively expensive (although internet packages on ships are slowly getting cheaper and faster over time). Cruise lines usually offer various internet access packages, depending on your usage. You may be able to pre-purchase these packages before departure or you can set it up during your cruise.
Power Socket Adapters
With the exception of P&O Cruises Australia and Carnival Australia, you should bring a power plug adapter to charge your electrical items. Some ships also have a European-style socket but it’s usually best to bring a US-AUS adapter. The voltage of the US sockets is 110 volts AC so your electrical items may take longer than usual to obtain a full charge. Multi-socket power boards are banned by most cruise lines and will be confiscated when found in your luggage during the x-ray process on embarkation day.
Food and Drinks
Policies vary between cruise lines with regards to bringing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on board. Some cruise lines will permit a bottle of wine or champagne only but virtually all will not allow spirits or beers to be brought on board. If you purchase duty-free alcohol on board the ship, they will hold onto it for you until the end of the cruise. More and more cruise lines are now also prohibiting the bringing of softdrinks and water onto the ship – it’s wise to check with them beforehand.
Food / Snacks
Whilst you’ll be quite well fed on board, you’re generally permitted to take a small quantity of food such as pre-packaged non-perishable snacks with you. Most ships also sell snacks including chips, nuts and lollies either at the bars or in the on-board shops.
Bathroom and Personal Items
You’ll be provided with soap, shampoo, conditioner and body wash in your cabin’s bathroom at a minimum. Some suites may also include additional amenities.
Hair and Beauty
Hairdryers may be permitted to be brought on board by some cruise lines however you’ll find one in your cabin, usually in the vanity drawer. Clothes irons and other similar items such as curling irons or hair straighteners are usually not permitted to be brought on board as they pose a fire risk (they’ll find them in your luggage when they’re x-rayed!). Some ships have a self-serve laundry or you can request a laundry service which often carries an additional charge. You may also prefer to bring a small amount of washing powder in a zip-lock bag so you can hand-wash items in the bathroom basin if needed. If you’re cruising to a destination with a hot climate, ensure you bring enough sunscreen (most shops on board ships carry sunscreen and many other necessities in case you run out).
Bath towels and beach towels are both provided on board, so you can leave these at home. Be aware that some cruise lines have a towel check-in/out system and may charge a fee if your beach towel is not returned.
If you’re bringing prescription medications, ensure you carry them with you during check-in; don’t pack them in your checked luggage as your bags may not be delivered to your room for several hours after embarkation. Additional non-prescription medications you could require may include sea-sickness tablets and analgesics (such as paracetamol, ibuprofen).
Most shops and stalls at ports visited by Australian cruise ships will accept Australian currency in small denominations. You may receive change in local currency when purchasing goods. On some cruises, local currency may be available to purchase on board.
These are invaluable on a cruise, especially when visiting the ports. Unpredictable rain showers or sand can ruin some electronic items such as a phone, so it’s a good idea to bring a few zip-lock bags with you during your port visit. They also come in handy to hold local currency (which may vary between the ports) or to keep other small loose items.
Seasoned cruisers know that their cabin walls are steel, so they often bring fridge magnets to hold their daily cruise planner, shore excursion information and other bits and pieces on their cabin walls. This frees up the space on your desk and may help organise all the paperwork that is delivered to your room on a daily basis.
Cruise Line Policies and Advice
For your reference we have compiled links to various cruise lines’ websites on their policies and rules regarding what may/may not be brought on board:
Norwegian Cruise Line
P&O Cruises Australia
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Disclaimer: Whilst we have taken great care to ensure accuracy of this page, Education at Sea are not responsible for any inaccuracies, omissions or policy changes by cruise lines. You are advised to check with the relevant cruise line before booking if you have any questions.