Carry On Items

Checklist for TravellersAs you near your departure for your cruise, you’ll need to pack for your trip. These are the suggested items to have in your carry-on luggage (NOT to pack into your checked luggage). I’ve included items for both arriving the same day you board as well as if you will be arriving a day early. You may not need all of these items, but this is a suggested list (and memory jogger).

Plan to wear a shirt with a pocket on your travel day – you can put your boarding pass and passport or ID in the pocket, which is VERY convenient as you make connections throughout the day (although in today’s world, many  use the QR code on their phone.


Carry on your person:

•  Personal identification (driver’s license/passport)

•  Travel itinerary – your FULL itinerary (including flight numbers and times) from the time you leave your home to the time you walk in your door again (I have found this EXTREMELY helpful, especially if your travel plans change and you need to contact the hotel at your destination) all on one sheet (your travel agent should provide you with this)

•  Travel documents such as:

•  Tickets/Boarding passes

•  Reservation and confirmation numbers for your air, car and lodgingCurrency

•  Travel vouchers or coupons, especially if they have been prepaid

•  Relevant membership cards (hotel, air, rental, etc.)

•  Money (cash and currency at your destination)

•  Credit card(s) NOTE: If you are traveling with your spouse, both of you should have cards from different accounts, just in case something should happen and you are unable to use one card, you will still have another card for the rest of your trip.Luggage tags

•  ATM cards (make sure you know your 4-digit PIN number)

•  Valuable jewelry inside passport holder inside your clothing (NOTE: you really should try to avoid taking any real valuable jewelry when you travel, but if you do, this is for you)

• Luggage tags for the ship that you will put on your suitcase AFTER you’ve arrived at your embarkation city


•  Laptop/pad

•  Camera (with accessories, extra batteries, memory cards, lenses, etc)

•  Watch

•  Travel entertainment (book, crossword puzzle book, handwork, etc.)

•  Change of clothes (in case your luggage is lost or detained)

•  Toothbrush and toothpaste

•  Hand sanitizer

•  Comb/brush

•  Medications (including birth control)

•  Deodorant

•  Sleepwear (again in case your luggage is lost or detained)

•  Make sure you have packed any sharp scissors, liquids over 3 ounces, knives or other item that might be confiscated at the airport in your checked luggage. NOTE: When you pack to return home, remember to REPACK these items into your luggage again for the return trip!!Neck pillow

• Small ziploc bag to put any liquids in to get through airport security

• Inflatable neck pillow, ear plugs and eye mask (If it’s an overnight flight)

FOR THE SHIP (for that down time before your luggage arrives):

• Sunscreen – even if you’re going to a cool place, the reflection off the water out on the ocean can still be brutal, so have it handy

• Swimsuit – if you plan to visit the pool

• Sun visor/hat (with chin strap) – Again, even if you are going on a winter trip, you may still want/need a visor to help with the glare from the reflection of the water – the strap is for the wind so it doesn’t get airborn!

Packing Strategies

It is quite common to over-pack for your cruise, as you will most probably not wear everything you bring.

Fur brief sold in Alaska

Fur brief sold in Alaska

You may also want to pick up a souvenir tee-shirt or other garment from some of the ports-of-call. (By the way, those garments (not necessarily a tee-shirt) make GREAT souvenirs – when you wear them back home, people will ask you where you got it and you can say, “I got this when I was on my cruise to XXXX.”)

Consider packing your clothes in a plastic bag … and for a number of reasons:

wet luggage• Even though it might not be raining when you leave home or at your final destination, it just might be raining in some of the airports you connect through. When your luggage is transferred from one plane to another, it could very easily get wet, especially if you have a long layover and the luggage has to sit in one of those ‘luggage trailers’ for any length of time. If you have packed your clothes in a plastic bag, your clothes will still arrive dry.

• If you are traveling with your spouse, you can each put a change of clothes in a smaller ziploc in each other’s luggage, just in case something DOES happens to one of your suitcases, you will have at least one extra day’s worth of clothes.

• You can roll your clothes and get a LOT more in the bag than you would have been able to otherwise.

• The plastic bag can also double as a place to put your soiled clothes – although some ships have self-serve laundry facilities, who wants to be doing laundry when you are on a cruise!?!

NOTE: A garbage bag works great as it will conform to its surroundings quite nicely.

PromenadeDeckLadies, be sure to pack a lightweight jacket or shawl (pasmina). Even if you are cruising to a warm, tropical place, the temperature in some of the common areas of the ship (especially dining rooms) can be VERY cold. You may also want to take a stroll out on the Promenade Deck and having a shawl (pasmina) with you will be handy as it can get QUITE breezy out on deck.

Bathroom CounterspaceTypically there is not much counter space in the bathroom, so if you have a small toiletries case you can work out of, you may find it most helpful. MOST cruise lines will provide shampoo, conditioner and hand lotion, but if you have sensitive skin or are particular about the soaps/conditioners you use, you may want to bring your own (travel size of course).

If you have to fly in a day early to reach your embarkation port, you will want to put not only your medications, jammies and toilitries needed for the next day in your carry-on luggage, also pack the clothes you plan to wear for boarding the next day. This way you will not have to get into your main suitcase for your overnight stay, you can just function out of your carry-on.

Make a copy of your itinerary and put it in each piece of luggage along with a contact/cell phone number – this way if your luggage doesn’t arrive, whoever opens it will have a better chance of getting it to you in a timely manner.

For the first couple of hours onboard, depending on the time of year and where you are sailing from, besides your visor/hat with chin strap (which you will need regardless), you may also need:

• warm: sunscreen and a bathing suit (if you’re planning to hit the pool or sauna)

• cool: gloves, a jacket and scarf.

Remember not to overpack.

The Formal Night Dilemma

On most every cruise line, you can wear pretty much anything you want during the day, except that you can not wear beachwear into the main dining room at lunch.

Children the night of Black & White Ball (Cunard)

Children the night of Black & White Ball (Cunard)

For the evenings, however, every cruise line has slightly different ‘suggested’ dress for the evening, which can change daily. If there is something special you need to know about (such as Black and White Ball on Cunard), they will give you the information in your cruise documents so you can be prepared.

Depending on the length of the cruise, there’s usually ALWAYS at least one ‘formal or elegant night,’ but if it is a longer cruise there may be more. Traditionally, Formal is defined as a tuxedo or dark suit for men and an evening gown or cocktail dress for women. Informal is defined as a jacket and slacks for men and a dress or pant suit for women. Resort Casual is defined as ‘dressy casual’ and is the typical ‘dress’ for most dinners other than formal nights.

Norwegian Cruise Line is quite casual, but does have a dress up night, though you can certainly dress up or not. On the other hand, SeaDream’s resort casual requires a bit more fashionable approach. Each cruise line outlines ‘their’ expectation level and is available on their website – you just don’t want to be refused to enter the dining room some night because you were not dressed appropriately (it happened to us one time and was very embarrassing).

Formal Night1That being said, on a cruise ‘Formal or Elegant Night’ is still YOUR interpretation of formal – you can opt for the fanciest, sparkliest gown you own or just what you wear to church on Sunday – both are totally acceptable and you will see the full gamut that night. Again, it’s YOUR interpretation of ‘Elegant night.’

You now have the permission to be comfortable in whatever YOU have selected! Do not be concerned about what others wear or what they might think – you will never see these people again! (But DO walk around – those that are in full dress just LOVE getting those compliments!)

Formal Night

Not everyone enjoys dressing up for Formal Night

If you absolutely do not want to ‘dress up’ for formal night, you may want to order room service (Some cruise lines adopt the policy that by not dressing up that you ‘ruin it for everyone else’ – my guess is that if you really don’t like to dress up much, that you would not select that kind of a cruise line to begin with!).

Formal night is also the staff photographer’s opportunity to take a ‘formal’ photograph of you and your traveling partner(s). If the last time you had a nice picture taken of you and your spouse was your wedding or class reunion, this would be a VERY good time to splurge, get dressed up (your version) and really take advantage of this opportunity to have some formal shots taken (again, you don’t ‘have’ to purchase them if you don’t like them either).

Comfy Travel Clothes

AirplaneBefore you actually board your cruise ship, you first have to get there, and in some cases this involves an airplane. If you have the luxury of being close enough to drive to the cruise terminal, you can not only save the expense, but you don’t have to deal with airports!

For me, being comfortable on an airplane is the driving force behind what I wear. This means a waistline that does not bind, a top that doesn’t wrinkle AND a natural fiber that breathes (cotton or rayon – not anything with a synthetic fiber), shoes that have velcro (so that as my feet swell, I can adjust them). And I ALWAYS take a lightweight sweatshirt jacket (that I can roll up and stuff in my carry-on if not needed. If nothing else, it can always be rolled up to serve as an extra pillow or stuffed into that gap that is spewing cold air!)

I also try to make sure that whatever I am wearing has a pocket so I can have my boarding pass handy. When you’re juggling your carry-on and whatever else you are bringing onboard (especially if you’re traveling with children), having an easy to reach spot for that boarding pass can make the difference between easy boarding and a nightmare!


If your flight is an overnight flight and you are actually going to try to get some sleep (and you should – you’re going on a cruise!), then you MUST have ear plugs AND a sleep mask (I know it may not make a great fashion statement, but if you assume that everyone else will also be asleep, then it really doesn’t matter how you look!)

I used to never be able to sleep on a plane, but once I learned about earplugs and sleep masks, I’ve been able to get a good night’s sleep ever since! The earplugs keep out the ambient noises and the sleep mask takes care of the variances in light (people walking up and down the aisles). You may want to also take some kind of Tylenol PM or similar product to help you relax so you CAN fall asleep during a long flight (check the label to see how long the drug will last – if you only have a 5 hour flight, taking a pill that will give you 8 hours of sleep may backfire and you may be groggy when you arrive) – remember you’re about to go on a cruise so you will be anxiously looking forward to your cruise, but you’ll want to arrive ‘refreshed!’

Neck pillowAnother helpful item for getting some actual sleep is a blow-up neck pillow. I know they have some nice cushy ones for sale in the airport, but you’ll want a blow up one because you can then deflate it and slide it into a side pocket rather than have to carry around that bulky neck pillow.

You may also want to bring along some warm booties, although depending on the class of seat you are in, the airline may provide them, especially on an international flight. But when you go to use the lavatory, DO put your shoes back on! God only knows what all might be on that bathroom floor!