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Packing the right clothes for a cruise has always been a big challenge. I’ve packed for more than a few cruises by now but it is getting even harder because cruise companies are offeringmore activities that need a greater mix of formal, informal and casual evenings at sea. Packing the shorts, t-shirts and bathing suits that make up the “resort casual” is the easy part. Selecting clothing for dinners and dress up evenings presents more of a challenge.

Packing for a cruise can be a challenge. Photo: Windstar Cruises

  • Here are essentials for most cruises.
  • passport, travel documents, ATM cards and dit cards (don’t forget to warn your card company that you’ll be traveling)
  • 2 swimsuits (so you have a back-up suit to wear while the other dries)
  • Appropriate footwear: one pair each of sandals, everyday shoes, and good walking shoes.
  • Workout attire (there’s nothing more relaxing than yoga on deck at sunrise)
  • Flexible clothing: aim to bring a few sets of tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched so you get multiple outfits out of a few items. Be sure to bring light clothing that can be layered on or removed as the temperature changes.

AVOID TECH, CAMERA and COMPUTER CALAMITIES. If you need to recharge your computer, camera, MacBook, iPad2, Kindle and iPhones, take along a simple power strip with multiple plugs.  Many state rooms  have only one outlet and it can be in the bathroom. Carry your battery charger and an extra disk for your camera.

BEST BINOCULARS. One of the most important items I pack on wildlife or nature cruises is a high-quality pair of binoculars. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to share binoculars when you are watching a glacier calve or a bear forage on the shore, so each person in your group should have his/her own pair.  Make sure to label your binoculars and case with your name so they can be easily returned if misplaced.

STEAM AND LINT. Dry cleaning bills can really add up. Travel with clothing that can be steamed in the shower. Pack a lint brush to keep you looking smart and fresh.

ALASKAN NIGHTS. For nights out on the deck, watching for shooting stars or the Northern Lights, warm accessories are essential. Pack a fleece hat, gloves, a scarf and a vest.  Dress in layers in to protect you from wind and chill.

FUMBLING FOR THE LIGHT.Pack a small, high-powered flashlight. It is useful for reading maps in a car at night. Keep it on your bedside table so when you awaken in a strange room, you won’t have to fumble for the lamp switch.

SHOPPING SMARTS .I try to buy birthday, anniversary, graduation, mother and father’s day gifts in advance and when I’m traveling I often see original gift ideas. A list of friends and family for whom I will need a present in the next six months keeps me focused on buying for others, as well as myself. Bring along a shopping list with clothing sizes and birthday dates to help you think ahead and buy wisely.

MAKE YOUR STATEROOM A HOME.Make your suite feel like home.  Pack framed photos of your family and friends. Place them around your cabin. Buy a bouquet of flowers for your room. They’ll put a smile on your face when you enter your room.

LAUNDRY HASSLES. In my experience; it can be hard to find a laundry or laundry service at your hotel or on a cruise that doesn’t take 24 to 48 hours, so I sometimes need to wash small items in the sink. I use my shampoo to wash them and the added benefit is the lovely, clean fragrance.

WHAT IS FORMAL DRESS?  Most women bring an evening gown and men a tuxedo or black suit for the special cocktail evenings and the “Meet the Captain Dinner”. Pack dress shoes, jewelry and scarves to dress up evening attire.  A Pashmina shawl can be added for warmth over a suit or dress, or as a fashion accent.


It’s vacation after all! When you board the ship, make appointments for specialty restaurants, a hair do, massage, facial, manicure or pedicure. Live it up.

Thanks to Windstar for packing ideas.