Most cruise lines offer wash and press services onboard their cruise ships for a fee. Exceptions include smaller lines, such as Island Windjammers. There is typically a laundry bag located inside your stateroom that you can leave for your room steward to pick up. Some cruise ships also have small do-it-yourself launderettes.
Prices for laundry vary by cruise line and by item. Expect to pay a few dollars for a men's shirt or women's blouse to be washed and pressed, and slightly more for dry-cleaning. Just having an item pressed might be available for a smaller fee. Royal Caribbean charges $3.49 to wash and press a blouse or shirt and only $1.99 to press. On Carnival, a shirt or blouse will cost $6 to dry-clean and $5 for wash/press.
Some cruise lines offer laundry packages, but most have to be booked and paid for in advance of your cruise. For example, Paul Gauguin offers an unlimited wash-and-press package costing $109 per cabin for a seven-night cruise, but it must be booked and paid for at least 24 hours before sailing.
Some lines, including luxury line Seabourn Cruises, will charge a flat rate for as many items as you can fit into the laundry bag. Seabourn charges $50 per bag, and all items are hung in your closet upon return. Many times, cruise lines will offer laundry specials toward the end of a sailing, providing a discounted rate for a filled bag of laundry.
This varies by line but check specified pickup times for your ship. If a laundry bag is picked up in the morning, it is typically returned by the next day. Express service is available on many ships, offering same-day delivery of your clothes for an additional fee.
No, cruise lines do not guarantee the state of clothing after being laundered. Very few people report damaged items, but it does happen.
Check with your line for its individual liability policy, but reporting the lost or damaged item while still onboard will help your case (and might be mandatory for compensation). On Norwegian, for example, liability is limited to 10 times the price charged for cleaning/pressing of said lost or damaged article (determined on a case-by-case basis). The line is not responsible for shrinkage, fastness of colors, zippers or for articles left in clothing.
Each cruise line's ability to manage laundry to accommodate individual sensitivities would be different. Members of the Cruise Critic message boards offer several suggestions regarding the laundering of cabin linens. One option would be to travel with your own pillowcase and sheets (or sleeping sack). Your cabin steward could then be alerted to your needs. Several members report good results with this plan.
Another option, particularly for those with severe reactions, would be to reach out to your cruise line's special services desk to determine if they are able to wash your linens and/or clothes separately with either detergent provided by you or a hypo-allergenic variety. A third option, for clothes laundering, would be to sail on ships with self-serve launderettes and pack your own detergent.
Some but not all cruise ships have self-service laundry rooms. The ones that do may charge per load and for use of detergent and dryer sheets. On some ships, you'll need to swipe your keycard to pay for laundry; others require quarters.
Carnival offers launderettes for about $3.25 for each washer or dryer load; detergent and water softener will run you $1.50 a box. Disney's self-service laundry rooms run 24 hours and cost $2 per load and $1 per box of detergent or fabric softener. Holland America only offers self-service laundry on select ships. Royal Caribbean, MSC and Norwegian Cruise Line don't offer the ability to do your own laundry at all.
Among premium and luxury lines, such as Viking Ocean, Oceania, Silversea and Crystal, self-service facilities are common and often complimentary, but don't look for them on most river cruise lines, as they are rare.
Irons or anything with heating elements (except styling tools, such as curling irons) are not permitted in cabins. If your ship has an onboard self-service laundry facility, there are irons and ironing boards available for use there. Otherwise, most ships will have a few irons to loan upon request for a few hours at a time. Contact housekeeping or guest services to inquire about borrowing an iron.
Dry-cleaning is an option on almost all mainstream cruise ships, but it's usually not available on riverboats and smaller oceangoing vessels like expedition ships. Having an item dry-cleaned will run you more than a simple wash, and the price will also depend on whether it's a single item like a pair of pants or a full suit.
As an example, on Royal Caribbean, a women's blouse costs $4.99 to dry-clean, while a men's long-sleeved shirt costs $6.99. Most items should be eligible for a press for just a few dollars. On Royal Caribbean, the charge is $1.99 for a blouse up to $14.99 for an evening gown for pressing only.
Many cruise line loyalty programs offer a free bag of laundry per cruise at a certain level. Princess Cruises' Captain's Circle Elite members receive complimentary laundry and professional cleaning services. If you're a passenger on a luxury line staying in an upper category suite (such as a Silver Suite and above on Silversea) you might be eligible for suite perks, such as complimentary laundry services.
Another free option is to do it yourself. There are no liquid restrictions on cruise ships, so you can bring your own detergent and hand-wash your clothes in the cabin sink. Most in-cabin showers have retractable clotheslines so you can hang your wash to dry.
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The What to Expect on a Cruise series, written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, is a resource guide, where we answer the most common questions about cruise ship life -- including cruise food, cabins, drinks and onboard fun -- as well as money matters before and during your cruise and visiting ports of call on your cruise.