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What to Pack for a Cruise Holiday

Bon voyage!

Never beaten on price

You've treated yourself to a luxury cruise - maybe you're off to the Med, the Caribbean or the Nordics - now what should your luggage contain? Don't panic; with our handy guide to cruise packing basics you'll be covered wherever the waves take you.

The Essentials for a Cruise

Cruise at port

Checked baggage can take a while to appear in your cabin, so keep essential travel documents, passports, relevant visas and anything you might need close to hand such as medicines in a carry-on bag rather than in your main luggage.

Also consider packing toiletries, a change of clothes and swimwear (if you plan to use the pool) in this bag, so you can enjoy the onboard facilities on your first day.

Clothing for the Ship

Friends on a cruise.

Check your cruise line's dress code - formal dining evenings will usually require suits for men and a dress or smart outfit for women. Longer city shorts or walking shorts are usually fine for daytime wear onboard, but short-shorts are usually only permitted in the gym. Khakis are a good choice for men; most cruise lines will permit smart, clean jeans but avoid scruffy denims. Summer dresses, skirts and flowing pants are elegant, comfortable choices for women. Avoid linen; it will crumple before you've even left your embarkation port.

Take note of the local climate when considering what to wear on deck - a voyage to the Arctic Circle will necessarily require more jumpers than a Caribbean cruise! If your cruise crosses the open ocean (as is common with repositioning cruises) remember outdoor areas can get very windy and chilly, so pack appropriate layers. A fleece or warm sweater is a good idea.

Pack your swimming kit and a pool cover-up, and if you're planning to use the onboard fitness centre make sure you have your gym kit too.

Clothing for Onshore

Cruise loading

Make sure you have appropriate clothing for the climate(s) you'll be arriving in - for many cruisers this will mean light summer clothing, but do check forecasts for any changeable weather conditions and pack a light coat or rain jacket if showers are likely. Casual or smart-casual clothing is best for resort days - be sure to take something smart if you're planning on fine dining or golfing. Take warm layers for Nordic or Alaskan cruises, and don't forget hats and gloves.

Make sure you have comfortable shoes for sightseeing and walking tours, and flip-flops or sandals for the beach. If you're planning to take part in lots of active excursions, such as hiking or watersports, make sure you have appropriate clothing and footwear.

Don't Forget

It's a good idea to take a laundry bag or collapsible hamper, and a tube of travel wash to take care of small laundry items while you're at sea. Extra clothes hangers can also be a godsend in the cabin wardrobe. Pack an alarm clock to ensure you don't miss breakfast or any early-starting port days, and make sure you have your phone charger, spare batteries (these can be hard to come across in foreign ports) and memory cards for your camera.

If you have lots of electronics to charge (his and hers phones, tablets and Kindles add up to a lot of plugs) take a four-way power socket adaptor to plug into at night. Take travel-sized versions of your favourite toiletries, any medicines you use regularly and plenty of suncream. Finally, earplugs and a sleep mask will help you get your beauty sleep.

Before you Pack for the Cruise

Check your cruise line's alcohol policy - some lines strictly limit the number of bottles permitted per passenger, and others will not let you bring your own alcohol aboard at all. An overview of alcohol policies can be found on Cruise Critic.

Don't forget to leave room in your luggage for souvenirs and shopping finds - part of the pleasure of cruising is looking out for local crafts and clothing! If you know you're a keen shopper, pack an extra soft bag to fill with holiday booty.

Bon voyage!

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Written by Lise Smith, a former contributor to Lonely Planet's India guidebook - she's seen her fair share of hotel rooms (both grotty and glamorous!). She learned to walk in a hotel corridor in Tunisia, and at the age of three had been on more aeroplanes than buses. Lise writes for a number of local news, technology and arts publications.

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