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The Ultimate Guide to Packing for a Cruise (Photo: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock.com)

The Ultimate Guide to Packing for a Cruise

By Cruise Critic Staff
Updated September 21, 2017

There's more to packing for a cruise than throwing an arbitrary pile of clothes and accessories into a suitcase and saying, "Bon voyage!" Cruisers need to consider factors like cruise line dress codes and temperature differences between homeports and ports of call. Read through Cruise Critic's packing guide to learn the ropes, get the inside scoop on savvy-cruiser packing hacks and see examples of what to wear for different activities and climates. You'll be a pro before you know it.


Booked? Find your Roll Call to see who's sailing with you.

The Basics

Cruise Packing 101
There's no need to pack your entire wardrobe for a cruise. Lighten your load with these simple guidelines.

Pictures of What to Wear on a Cruise
Need packing inspiration? See what our members like to wear onboard and ashore, in different types of environments.

Cruise Line Dress Codes
No cruise line dress code is the same. Find out what your ship requires.

Anatomy of a Cruise Carry-On
What you pack in your carry-on bag could make or break your first day onboard. Start your cruise off right by keeping these necessities handy.


Tips & Advice

Top 10 Cruise Packing Tips
From keeping personal documents close to leaving room in your suitcase for souvenirs, here are 10 packing tips for a smooth sailing.

9 Cruise Packing Hacks That Will Revolutionize the Way You Travel
Combat common packing problems with these simple solutions you never would have thought up on your own.

What Not to Pack: 5 Things You Want to Bring on a Cruise -- but Shouldn't
Don't make it awkward. Make sure none of these items are in your suitcase before you board.

17 Worst Cruise Packing Mistakes
Even the savviest cruisers make mistakes. Laugh along (and learn how to stay prepared) with these "not so perfect" packing stories.

9 Reasons to Pack Duct Tape on Your Next Cruise
Who knew duct tape had so many powers? We list a few reasons you might want to slip a roll in your suitcase.

12 Pictures of How to Pack for a Long Cruise
So much to bring, and so little room. Master the art of packing for a long cruise with these quick tips.


Packing for the Destination

10 Pictures of What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise
Flip-flops, snorkel gear, resealable plastic bags... Here's how to pack for a cruise on island time.

10 Pictures of What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise
Leave the Hawaiian-print tees at home, but bring the sunscreen. Prepare for the Last Frontier with these packing recommendations.

10 Pictures of What to Pack for a European Cruise
Europe is full of culture and sights to see; make sure you have what you need to navigate.

10 Must-Pack Items for an Exotic Cruise
Whether you're headed to the Maldives or the Middle East, use this guide to pack smart.


New to Cruising

10 Pictures of Must-Pack Items for New Cruisers
You don't have to learn the hard way. Here's how to pack like a pro for your first cruise.

What to Expect on a Cruise: Cruise Clothing
How fancy do people get on formal night? What shoes should I bring? We answer common questions about what to wear on a cruise.

Pictures of 9 Fashion Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them
Take advice from a professional. We consult with Kelly Nishimoto, host of TLC's "Something Borrowed, Something New," on how to stay fashionable at sea.

Find a Cruise

Popular on Cruise Critic

Cruise Packing 101
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male traveling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny closets and bureaus. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself. Following that advice is getting easier these days because, for the most part, cruising has become a much more casual vacation -- even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it's just plain economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Fall foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.