Pack it in. A pack of lies. The restaurant was packed. Pack mule. Packing a gun. Pack ice. Sent him packing. Pack rat. A pack of thieves. Pack up your troubles in an old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.
So, you've done your homework, researched, found, and booked that cruise, located a kennel for your dog and/or some perfectly innocent child-caregiver for your rug rats to torture. And you're looking forward to one-fourth of a Month of Sundays: the seven day cruise (or if you're really lucky, something much longer). Before you run out that door, however, make sure it's with something more than just a smile (because there aren't any of those kind of cruises just yet). That's right: you have to pack -- a sometimes-gruesome and mystifying task for first-time cruisers.
So what do you bring? Isn't every cruise different, and don't you therefore need a completely different wardrobe and other items for every one? Well, yes and no. Of course you must pay attention to several things when packing.
The first is obvious -- what's the weather going to be like? The clothing you bring on a Southern Caribbean cruise is different than what you bring on a cruise to Alaska. It's lighter and cooler, with a notable absence of sleeves. But you still need essentially the same amount of gear on both, because the usual routine of daytime shipboard or shore excursion fun, casual daytime meals, and casual/semiformal/formal evening meals and entertainment is quite similar on any cruise. And even in the Caribbean, you may still need a warm sweater for cooler nights, and a raincoat for the intermittent downpours.
The second should also be obvious -- what is the shipboard environment? Is it casual, semi-formal, formal, or a mix of all of these? Most ships offer a mix. Some of the upscale lines (Seabourn) cultivate a casual elegance; and, counter-intuitively, on some of the more exclusive lines you may see fewer tuxedos than on a high-end mainline cruise (Celebrity). Know before you go. Your cruise agent should be able to answer questions in this vein, and the cruise line brochures will also summarize the ships dress code, along with the number of evenings when each type of dress will be expected.
Most cruise brochures also say that there is really no shipboard limit to the amount of luggage passengers may bring (though airlines will impose surcharges if you exceed their baggage limits). Consequently, many first-time cruisers pack as though they were embarking on a winter assault on Mount Everest. This approach is encouraged by the fact that the average cruiser booking an air-sea package has to touch her bags fewer times than most any other traveler during her trip.
Still, why strain your back and support the physical therapy industry? A good rule of thumb is to bring one large piece of luggage and one carry-on per person (just how many hands do you have, anyway?) In your carry-on, make sure you bring camera, film, prescriptions, jewelry or other valuables, basic toiletries, and one change of clothing in case the worst happens and your checked luggage is lost. Also bring a good book or magazine for the inevitable delays and waiting. To achieve this minimalist approach, you should know that there are several things that cruisers can just decide not to bring.
Nearly every line has a laundry, and will launder or dry-clean clothing for reasonable charges (some megaships even have self-service Laundromats). So if you bring that white dress shirt, don't bring two: just launder it and wear it twice. The same can be said for many other articles of clothing. Most cruise lines supply their cabins with shampoo, conditioner, soap, and/or bath lotion. [SHOULD THE GLARING EXCEPTION BE MENTIONED HERE?] If you're not fussy about your brand, use theirs and leave yours home. Also, many bathrooms on modern ships are equipped with blow dryers. My wife thinks a fly could be caught in the jetstream from one of the shipboard dryers and not be knocked off course, but if you don't need the hot blast of your turbo dryer, leave it home. Most ships have a small store devoted to cosmetics, sundries, and necessaries. If you forget something, relax: you're not going to assault Mt. Everest, after all, and there are almost always places to buy just about anything.
Unless you've got some favorite, old rude T-shirt you just can't do without, don't bother to bring any (ditto baseball caps or hats). Plan on buying one at every port of call and in the shipboard logo store. This has the added benefit of making all your friends green with envy when you return, sporting the "We Be Jammin on St. Maarten" T-shirt. The T-shirts available ashore are ridiculously inexpensive (three for US$10 is common), but purchase the largest one they have, as after the first washing it will probably fit a Chihuahua.
Leave some of the stuff you routinely lug around with you at home. You probably wont need the key to the riding lawnmower, for example, or all those gasoline credit cards. Do a bit of triage on your wallet, purse, and key rings before you leave. If you are male and plan to do the tuxedo thing (usually suggested dress for two evenings on a seven day cruise), be aware that most lines will rent you a tuxedo complete with shoes, cuff links, studs, and two changes of formal shirt for about US$75.00, and have it hanging in your closet when you board ship. Check with your travel agent.
On the other hand, here are some things you might forget that are quite useful aboard ship or during your voyage:
ESSENTIALS & VALUABLES