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10 Fun Things to Pack for Your Holiday Cruise

  • If you're excited about spending Christmas or Hanukkah on a cruise but a bit sad to leave behind your tree and candles, fear not! You can still bring your own style of holiday spirit to sea if you devote some luggage space to festive gear. Brighten up your cabin with holiday cheer, or elevate your vacation photos with seasonal attire. Here are 10 things you might want to throw in your suitcase to make your next holiday cruise merry and bright.

  • 1

    Cabin Decor

    The cruise lines will decorate public areas with garlands, gingerbread houses and menorahs, but it's up to you to decorate your cabin for your favorite winter holiday. You'll have to get creative, as most lines do not allow string lights, and Carnival has a strict list of requirements (including that decorations must be flame-retardant and nothing should be hung on light fixtures). Magnetic decorations are a great way to go because they stick to most cabin walls and doors. Opt for something generic, like a snowman, or hit up Etsy for personalized decorations.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 2

    Christmas Tree

    Most ships will have an impressive Christmas tree, usually in the atrium, but that doesn't mean you can't bring a Charlie Brown-sized version for your stateroom. Just remember that both the tree and its decorations need to comply with cruise ship rules (no lights). This little faux tree will look adorable on the coffee table in your room -- much nicer than the pile of daily newsletters and half-empty sunscreen bottles usually cluttering ours.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 3

    Battery-Operated Menorah

    Candles are big no-nos on cruise ships, which makes celebrating Hanukkah tricky. Consider packing a small, battery-operated menorah to brighten up your cabin. There are some elegant-looking options, plus most have the option to turn on each "flame" in order, so you can light one more candle each night as you sing the blessings. Most cruise lines will have community candle-lighting ceremonies, often with latkes, each night of the holiday, but those menorahs are usually flameless, as well.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 4

    Ugly Sweaters and Holiday Attire

    You might not want to put on a sweater for your Caribbean beach outing, but dinner on an air-conditioned cruise ship is a great time to show off your craziest Christmas sweater or holiday-themed dress. Convince your entire group to go all-out, and then get the cruise ship's photographer to take some fun photos for an evening to remember.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 5

    Santa Hats and Holiday Headbands

    How do you show your holiday spirit when it's 85 degrees and your ship is calling on a tropical destination? Trade in your classic ugly sweater for a much cooler headpiece. Santa hats look good with shorts or a bathing suit. If those make your scalp sweat, try a fun Christmas- or Hanukkah-themed headband.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 6

    Theme Socks

    If you'd rather be more subtle with your holiday attire, choose fun socks to liven up your dressy evening attire or pair with sneakers as you explore the ship. Pick reindeer, penguin or dreidel styles or some flashy red and green plaid.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 7


    Don't forget to pack Christmas stockings to both liven up your cabin and stuff with small gifts for Christmas morning. (As always, bring strong magnetic hooks to hang them. Cruise lines are picky about adhesives on their walls.) Since you're not going to want to pack and bring home lots of gifts, these mini-sized stockings are great for travel.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 8

    Matching Pajamas

    Style choice or holiday gift? Either way, matching pajamas for the whole family is a favorite holiday tradition. If you're sailing someplace warm, opt for lightweight sets instead of flannel. We like these jersey knit snowflake jammies.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 9

    Christmas Cards

    Don't keep the seasonal cheer to yourself. Bring a set of holiday greeting cards with you to write notes to new friends made onboard, your Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle group and your favorite crew. If you're cruising the tropics, these beach-themed holiday cards are the perfect touch.

    Photo: Amazon

  • 10

    Christmas Chocolate and Hanukkah Gelt

    Brighten up your cabin steward's day, or express appreciation for newly made friends with holiday chocolates. They're easy to transport, loved by most and won't break the bank. Go for traditional bags of Hanukkah gelt or fancy it up with these themed foil-wrapped chocolates by Lindt. Leftovers make great stocking stuffers; just make sure not to leave them anywhere they could melt.

    Photo: Amazon

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