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True story: I once brought roller blades on a cruise ship.

They never made it out of my super-sized duffle bag. And my family still jokes about it to this day.

But this example just goes to show that until you take a cruise for the first time, you never truly know what to expect, what to bring and what to leave home.

Actually, that’s not true. We can help with all of those things. We’ve gathered our collective wisdom to help with cruise packing for your first or next cruise — as well as identifying some tasks to perform before leaving to help you experience smooth sailing.

Preparing for a Cruise

Getting ready for a cruise requires more than properly completing that cotton, denim, and nylon Tetris puzzle inside your suitcase and duffel bag. Cruise packing also involves dotting your ‘i’s and crossing your ‘t’s before heading out on the high seas. Here are some things to keep in mind…

  • Are you cruising internationally? Almost definitely, right? Make sure your passport is valid and doesn’t expire in the next six months. Note that if you’re embarking from the United States and end your cruise stateside — and in between visit Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Caribbean or Bermuda — you may not need a passport. But be sure to check with your cruise line first. At the very least, they’ll strongly recommend you have a passport.1 (Don’t worry, if you need to renew your passport or apply for one for the first time we can guide you through the process.)
  • Make a copy of your passport & bring it with you. That way, if you drop this critical document off the side of the Lido Deck, or it disappears for more nefarious reasons, you still have something to help you get out of (and back into) the country.
  • Avoid this scenario: You’re at a local, dockside artisans’ marketplace 3,000 miles away from home. You find the perfect print (a lighthouse at sunset) for your 30th And your credit card is declined. Be sure to contact your credit card company and notify them of the dates you will be traveling outside the country so that they don’t think your expenditures are fraudulent charges and freeze your account as a safeguard.
  • Before you start freely dialing friends and family from the open sea, three time zones away from home, call your wireless company and see what additional plan(s) you can purchase. Otherwise, you may be a little surprised by the bill. And not the good kind of surprise.
  • You’re just about to embark on the vacation of a lifetime. And the last thing you want to spend your time doing is filling out forms in triplicate on your kid’s back in a sea of sweaty strangers. Be sure to take advantage of online check-in so you don’t have to stand in line when boarding the ship. Know that you’ll need to enter your passport info, and finish up by printing your luggage tag for your suitcase.
  • Tell your garment bag to “Say cheese.” If your luggage is misplaced or stolen, it is good to have a picture of it.

Proper cruise packing also includes peace of mind. It’s called travel insurance. And a travel insurance policy from Allianz Global Assistance can go a long way to helping you out when you’re adrift or in deep — and in need. Depending on your policy and individual circumstances, travel insurance may help with everything from providing reimbursements for your trip’s nonrefundable prepaid costs to providing 24/7 concierge assistance to troubleshoot almost any problem. Find a plan and see how Allianz Travel Insurance can help.

The Right Wardrobe for Cruise Packing

Obviously, your clothing choices for an icy excursion to Norway or Alaska are going to differ somewhat when compared to a jaunt to the beaches and bays of Barbados or the Bahamas. And while we won’t rundown every little accessory you’ll need for cruise packing, here are a few things you might not be thinking of…

  • At least one formal-ish outfit depending on how fancy your ship is, whether you’ll attend a Captain’s Dinner (think about the photographs) and a host of other details.
  • Bathing suits. Not just one, but lots. For any warm-weather cruise, this will be your uniform for hanging out.
  • Flips flops (and a backup pair) for blowouts. Many cruise lines forbid bare feet outside the pool decks.2
  • Jacket or sweater. Even if it’s 95F and humid during the day, a night on the open water can be a bit breezy.
  • Sneakers and athletic wear. Want to know how to hit up the midnight buffets, guilt-free? By hitting up the gym during the day.

Health, Wellness & Beauty

You don’t have to be on a singles cruise to want to look and feel your best. Whether you’re on a floating family reunion or a meeting up with your high school or college crew, we have the cruise packing essentials that should be on your list.

  • Rubber bands (if you’ll need to tie your hair up).
  • Motion sickness remedies, including Dramamine and sea bands. (Looking for other motion sicknesses preventative aid, cures, and advice? We’ve got you covered.)
  • Hair dryer (Depending on the cruise line and ship, you may have one or have to request one. Better safe than frizzy…)
  • Advil, for all the reasons you can think of. And many you can’t…
  • Sunscreen and aloe
  • Any needed prescriptions for the duration of the cruise — and maybe a bit longer because you never know, right? Plan for the worst, but expect the best.
  • Sunglasses and a hat or visor to dim the sun’s rays
  • Toothbrush, deodorant — and all the other essentials. You know, all the same stuff you need for your morning and night-time routine when you’re on land.
  • Bathroom door organizer: If you didn’t know or hadn’t guessed, cabins are cramped. This includes the bathroom, where there may barely be room for a bar of soap. A door organizer can help create extra space and prevent you from rooting around in the bottom of your suitcase for your travel-sized toothpaste each morning.3

Logistics, Odds & Ends

Cruises are designed to be fun, relaxing and even exhilarating at times. These cruise packing hacks, shortcuts, and time-savers can go a long way to making sure your cruise goes just as planned.

  • Passport: You took the time to find it — and maybe even apply or renew it — so be sure to bring it with you if your cruise itinerary dictates so (See “Preparing for a Cruise” above to learn more. (Remember that backup copy you made, too.)
  • Cruise tickets / boarding pass / printed luggage tags
  • Completed public health questionnaire form
  • Health insurance card and/or travel insurance policy details and contact info
  • Device chargers, power strip, and adaptor with additional plug-ins (Not sure what to get? Don’t worry, we did your homework.)
  • Extra hangers: Because your cabin probably won’t have enough.
  • Clothespins: To secure towels to a chair.
  • Pen(s): To get through all that paperwork, whether you’re on the gangplank or at Customs.
  • That extra foreign currency you have in a bowl: Because you’ll give yourself a facepalm if you arrive back home realizing you had 10,000 pesos hanging out in your spare change bucket.
  • Purse or small bag
  • Magnetic whiteboard: To hang outside your cabin door, a la dorm life. This is a great way to let everyone know where you are. (e.g., pool, buffet, gym, etc.)
  • Sticky Notes: These are an easy and low-tech way to send messages to cabin staff and cabin mates.
  • A decent coffee mug: Cruise coffee cups don’t have the best reputation for quality — they’re fine if you hold them with oven mitts — or size. And trust us, there may be a morning when you require more than 10 oz. of coffee. Add the potential for some motion in the ocean, and you’ll want a big, reliable mug — with a lid.3
  • A fanny pack or money belt. Yes, this can be helpful on the ship, especially if you don’t have pockets. But it’s really helpful at your ports of call when you’re clearly a tourist and security may be a reason for concern.

Fun & Games

Most of the cruise ship fun comes included. Even excursions, ranging from jet skiing trips to food tours, often include everything with you need. But if you need a little extra something to keep you entertained, here are a few ideas…

  • A good book or e-reader: To chill out by the pool and the beach. Mix in some crossword puzzles or Sudoku to keep that mental acuity sharp.
  • Addresses: So you can share all the sweet places you’re visiting with family and friends by dropping a few postcards in the mailbox.
  • A bottle of wine: If that’s your cup of tea. (Note: Most cruise lines allow you to bring one bottle of wine or Champagne in your carry-on when you board the ship.) Don’t forget the wine opener and stopper, too.
  • A deck of cards: Not to play solitaire by your lonesome, but rather to practice your blackjack or poker skills before taking on the dealer and your fellow cruisers. Yes, odds are that there is a floating casino not too far from your cabin.

What Not to Bring

You’ll want to check your cruise line to see specific prohibitions, but here are a few cruise packing no-no’s, things you can’t (or shouldn’t) bring.

  • Lots of work: Cruise ships are known for karaoke contests, daiquiris and pool parties. Not Wi-Fi, which can be iffy and costly.
  • Snacks: After you eat what you ordered, you can ask for more. And more. And we mentioned the midnight buffet, right? You won’t need to bring much if any, extra snacks.
  • Towels: Not only will the ship provide towels for your shower and the pool, but the cabin stewards may even fold up a few to resemble cuddly animals and other characters.
  • Clothing irons
  • Candles and hookahs
  • Alcohol (other than that one bottle of wine we discussed above)
  • Bikes, scooters… and roller blades.4

Cruises are a porthole into the all-inclusive lifestyle. That said, they can’t possibly account for everything. By including these recommended items in your cruise packing, not bringing some others, and heeding a few of our tips and hacks, a fun-packed cruise is right around the corner.

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