How To Pack For Your First Cruise

Becky is standing above the welcome aboard sign on board Princess Cruises Regal Princess Cruise ship

Hey Owlets,

Cruising is an entirely new way to travel - there are so many differences between cruise holidays and land holiday. If you’re planning your first cruise it’s understandable that you might feel a little overwhelmed and not know where to start when it comes to packing for a cruise. When I went on my first cruise I didn’t have a clue - I was a fully paid up member of the “pack everything and hope for the best” brigade. Now I’ve been cruising for a few years I wanted to share a few some of my tips on how to choose what to pack for your first cruise, what to leave at home and suggest a few things that you may not have thought to bring! 

An open suitcase lying on the floor

Check the Weather (but bring a few spares!)

Checking the weather forecast just before you start packing for your cruise is a great idea, but I speak from experience when I tell you to pack a few extra options just in case! If you’re trying to pack light, consider items that can be layered - if you’re travelling in Summer or going to a warmer country then bring clothes that will keep you cool, but also bring a few thin jumpers and a raincoat. One of the first cruises I did was on board P&O's Azura around Northern Europe and it had been snowing for several days before our cruise. It was so cold in fact that I ran into the local shopping centre to buy a thicker jumper because I was shivering in the car. The day after we sailed it was 25ยบ (Celsius, sorry Americans!). Our whole cruise was beautifully sunny and I only had the two “wishful thinking” summery items that I’d packed as back up. Otherwise I would’ve been wearing a jumper in a heatwave - I ended up going clothes shopping in Rotterdam, having worn the same dress for two days. 

When it comes to how much luggage you can bring, there aren’t any strict weight limits. You can bring as many cases as you like - as long as they’re not too heavy to lift it’s fine. This is great if you want to pack some backup items for unexpected weather variations, but bear in mind that you’ll need to carry them to the cruise port!

A selection of beauty products spread out across the table

Cruise Ship Security isn’t as Strict

One thing to note is that cruise ship security isn’t as strict - I did my first cruise before I went on a plane for the first time, and I left so many things in my bag that the security guard got quite angry.

While the norm with flights is to restrict liquids to a certain size that need to be placed in a clear bag, there aren’t any restrictions with cruises. You’re free to bring any products and you can choose any toiletry bag for travel that you like - it doesn’t need to be clear. Having said that, I do still recommend packing a set of travel sized toiletries. I’ve tried travelling with full size products and you can guarantee that at least one will end up leaking on every trip. If there’s a miniature size of my favourite product, I’ll always keep one in stock for upcoming adventures.

While security isn’t as strict you might find a few unexpected items banned on ships, or at least discouraged. Some cruise lines ban hair straighteners and curling tongs because they’re a fire hazard, and most cruise lines ask you not to bring block plugs/extension cords for the same reason. Having said that, I’ll freely admit that it’s not something I thought about for the first few years that I was cruising, and I have never had anything confiscated. It was only when someone mentioned banned items that I looked into it and found I’d been breaking the rules this whole time. I’d always wondered why cabin stewards constantly unplugged the extension lead! 

I don’t use curling tongs or hair straighteners anymore anyway, but I do still bring an extension lead. However, I invested in a surge protected model that’s specifically designed for travel. If the device detects any kind of abnormal energy or overheating it shuts off instantly, and you have to manually reset it using the button above the plug sockets and every cruise line has been happy with this so far.

Bring Lots of Hydrating Products

You know how your skin can feel dry and irritated after a long flight? Imagine spending a week or two on a plane, and that’s what your skin is going through on a cruise (especially if you have an inside cabin!). Cruise ships always have the air conditioning on, both in your cabin and in public areas on the ship. Even if you have a balcony cabin, you’ll find that your skin gets increasingly dry over the course of your trip, so make sure you bring plenty of moisturiser. If I’m going on a longer cruise I like to bring a hydrating face mask to apply on a sea day (usually before formal night to give my skin an extra glowy boost!)

A first aid kit laid open on the table with medication on display

Pack a Mini Emergency Kit

Whether you’ve over-indulged and upset your stomach, have a migraine, or you’ve encountered a wardrobe mishap, something always goes wrong when you’re travelling (or maybe I’m just really unlucky!!). 

After several years of something always going wrong, I have a bag stocked up with essentials for every trip. Here are a few things I always include:

  • Plasters (or Bandaids, if you’re across the pond from me!)
  • Motion Sickness Tablets -some cruise lines provide them on request, but I’d rather be safe.
  • Stomach Medication (the combination of rich meals, fancy cocktails and no sleep WILL take it’s toll at some point)
  • Safety Pins (an unfortunate incident with the strap of my favourite dress on a busy Romanian street taught me to pack these. Don’t be me!)
  • Painkillers
  • Spare hairbands and hairgrips (bobby pins) 
A messy suitcase in the process of being packed, with a passport and boarding card on the floor in front of it

A Few Extra Things to Think About:

Depending on the ship you choose, you’ll experience varying degrees of formality in on board dress codes. The older P&O Cruises UK ships and Cunard are a lot more formal, unlike Royal Caribbean or MSC that are far more relaxed, so you’ll need to dress smart in the evenings if you choose either of these. Most itineraries also have a formal night - again, depending on the ship you can wear anything from a nice top and black jeans to a full ballgown. If I’m sailing with a new cruise line to me, I like to do a bit of research but I’ll probably pack a cocktail dress and a nice top and black jeans so I can scope it out once I’m on board and decide how I feel on the night.

Ultimately there isn’t anything you absolutely have to pack. As long as you’ve got the essentials, everything else is a bonus and will simply serve to make your holiday more relaxing and convenient once you’re on board. If you don’t want to dress up on formal night, go to the buffet or  order room service. If you forget anything you can probably buy it at your next port stop. While this list is aimed at helping you pack, my main goal is to stop you worrying. You’ll definitely forget something, but it’s never the end of the world! 

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet ๐Ÿ’› 
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