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Useful Minimalist Packing Tips For A Cruise

Cruise ships cabin have limited storage, so it's best to practice minimalist packing.

So, you’re booked on a cruise and don’t know what to pack? Don’t fret because you’re not alone. I remember my first ocean-going vacation, which was to Alaska, and didn’t know what to take. With limited luggage space and a few formal nights, it’s often difficult to practice minimalist packing.

While ships don’t have a luggage limit, the airlines (should there be a flight) aren’t so forgiving. If you pack too many clothes, you could be paying overweight fees.

The only time I don’t worry about overpacking is when I’m cruising and returning to a port that is within driving distance from home. Hence, no pesky overweight charges because there is no flight.

Cruise ships are like floating islands that move from area to area. While ships have shops onboard, the selection of items is limited, and the prices are high.

In fact, some essential items are not available to purchase while cruising. Also, cruise ship staterooms are known to be small with little storage, so being a minimalist is traveling smarter.

Packing for a cruise vacation is relatively easy when sailing an itinerary of seven days or less. Packing light for a cruise becomes more of a challenge when sailing for 14 days or longer. 

Trying to travel with less luggage doesn’t mean your wardrobe has to be boring. Follow these cruise tips to pack lighter and still have plenty of outfit options for a longer cruise.

Know Your Cruise Line’s Dress Code

Gone are the days of needing tuxedoes and ballroom gowns on a cruise vacation. In fact, some cruise lines have scrapped the “formal nights” in favor of “cruise elegant,” “evening chic,” and “dress-up nights.”

Women no longer need an evening gown in favour of dress pants and an elegant blouse to a shorter cocktail dress. It’s best to know your cruise line’s dress code long before embarkation day.

Minimalist travellers do their research, so they don’t travel with things they won’t use.

However, passengers are not obligated to dress up on more formal evenings. Cruisers who want to stay casual every day can eat in the buffet on elegant nights, eliminating the need for packing anything other than casual wear.

Disney Cruise Line hosts a pirate night. So, if you intend to participate, you’ll need pirate-related accessories. Norwegian’s signature White Hot Party invites guests to show up in all-white outfits.

Cunard is strict about their dress code, and their formal nights are reminiscent of a lavish ball. So, knowing your cruise line’s preferences will help you to create a packing list.

Check The Weather Forecast

Weather can vary from one location to the next. This is especially true of Alaska, the Baltics, or cruising Asia in the off-season. It’s advisable to check the weather forecast at the time of sailing as an Alaska packing list is quite different than packing for the Caribbean.

When traveling to a hot climate, it’s best to pass on the jacket in favour of more shorts and beachwear. With less bulky clothing, travellers can use a smaller bag.

The Itinerary Makes A Difference

A Caribbean cruise requires lighter clothing made from natural fabrics that dry quickly. So, a capsule wardrobe should contain casual items which you can mix and match. It’s possible to cruise the Caribbean with just a carry-on bag.

However, those sailing an Alaskan cruise will need a checked bag. Trying to pack light for Alaska is challenging but doable. Use packing cubes and vacuum bags to minimize space. For dining, take 1 pair of smart casual pants and pair them with different shirts, blouses, or sweaters.

A Minimalist Packer Does Laundry Onboard

Being able to do laundry during a cruise equates to needing fewer clothing options. While all cruise ships have laundry facilities onboard, some come with astronomical pricing.

To avoid the over-priced laundry charges, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises have self-serve laundromats. Since Princess Cruises offer world itineraries, having laundry facilities comes in handy.

Pack a Ziploc bag with a few Tide pods, dryer sheets, and a handful of quarters, and you’ve cut your packing list in half. Packing for four days and doing washing on a sea day means less luggage but plenty of clean clothes for a seven-day cruise.

On our Majestic Princess cruise, we scanned our Ocean medallion to purchase tokens for the machines. It cost USD 3 for a wash and USD to use the dryer.

Should you book a ship with no self-serve laundry, pack Tide sink pods. Select clothes that are fast drying and don’t wrinkle and hand wash during the cruise. Of course, this works better in a warmer climate.

Select One Outfit For Multiple Formal Nights

Formal nights are my favorite nights on a cruise. Even when cruise lines have gone to “evening chic,” I still like to dress in more formal wear. I mean, how often do we get to dress in our Sunday best?

However, bringing formal clothing takes up valuable space in a suitcase. To save on luggage room, my husband packs one suit with multiple shirts and ties, which covers several formal nights for the entire cruise.

If you want to wear a tuxedo but don’t own one, save your money and luggage space by renting one onboard. Many cruise lines offer suit and shoe rentals, which are arranged long before embarkation day.

Like most women, I never like to wear the same dress twice. However, choosing a multi-purpose outfit makes me a minimalist packer. Infinity dresses are the latest and greatest clothing, especially for those who like to pack light

Infinity dresses are affordable, wrinkle-resistant, and worn multiple ways, making them the perfect cruise outfit for women.

Wearing an infinity dress with different accessories will carry you through several nights, and no one will know it’s the same dress. If you prefer a less formal look, opt for the short version over the full-length dress.

Choose Multi-Functional Clothing Pieces

Instead of whole outfits, select pieces that compliment others. Ideally, it’s best to create a capsule wardrobe that makes use of individual pieces, multiple times.

I always pack a simple short black skirt, white capris, and jean shorts for warm climates. I mix and match these with colourful camisoles and printed tops and overlay them with a white cardigan.

By choosing individual bottoms of neutral colour and mixing them with coloured and printed tops, I can create many different outfit looks.

On an Alaskan cruise, I stick with jeans, black pants, and an optional pair of capris in the warmer months. I wear them with t-shirts, blouses, and sweaters, depending on the weather.

While the infinity dress is a popular item for evening wear and weddings, there are also other infinity items. These include the scarf, sweater, jumpsuit, skirt, and top. Worn more ways than I could ever imagine, they create the look of multiple outfits while only carrying one.

Choosing convertible clothing also eliminates the need for a larger suitcase. Remember the zip-off pants that turn into shorts? Well, they still exist; and they’re perfect for itineraries with hiking options.

When I cruise, I find I need both a tote bag for port days and a backpack for hiking. The best minimalist travel backpack also functions as a handbag or tote bag.

A Minimalist Packer Takes What They Need

Before your cruise, check with your cruise line to see what’s provided. Most cruise cabins contain shampoo and conditioner, shower gel, beach towels (for use in port), bathrobes, hairdryers, and more.

During my last cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse, I was surprised to find an umbrella in my stateroom closet. While I wouldn’t want rain on any vacation, I knew it was useful in places like Alaska or the Baltics.

For packed items, bring travel sizes to save on space. Should your liquid fall below the airline’s travel requirement, you could fly with just a carry-on. These fantastic silicone travel tubes are perfect for bringing the amount you need.

They are also refillable, lightweight, and leakproof, and the best part is that you can see how much product is left in the tube. I save the mini toothpaste tubes and mouthwash that I get at the dentist for my cruises.

Minimize items in your toiletry bag by bringing what you’ll use. In hot destinations, I leave the foundation and powder behind. Instead, I carry just lipstick and mascara for formal nights.

Try to find small items that can be compacted to save luggage space too. Brian and I like to bring refillable water bottles. We found the roll-up ones are super convenient and a fantastic space saver when not in use.

Pack More Accessories

One of the best minimalist tips is to travel with more accessories rather than outfits. It’s amazing how a scarf, hat, or jewelry piece can change the look of clothing.

Scarves are traditionally worn around the neck. However, a lightweight smaller scarf works wonders as a hairband, hair scrunchie, bracelet accessory, or tied around the waist.

Larger scarves magically turn into halter tops, shawls, bandeaus, skirts, and wraps. Organize your scarves in a packing cube so you can instantly change an outfit’s look.

Use Travel Bags And Packing Cubes

If you plan to bring home souvenirs, travel with an expanding suitcase or luggage that fits inside each other. Alternatively, packing cubes and vacuum bags are useful in getting extra items back into the small suitcase. Buy the ones that require rolling, and don’t need a vacuum to activate them.

I found the best ones come from the dollar store. They come in different sizes, so buy a variety. Remember, not to overstuff them, otherwise, they won’t stay sealed.

Minimalist Packers Choose Their Footwear Wisely

One of the hardest parts of packing is choosing shoes. It’s easy to go overboard with shoe choices, especially when factoring in elegant nights. Shoes are the bulkiest items to pack, so I try to only take three pairs for myself, and three pairs for my husband.

For a warmer climate, we take a comfy pair of runners, flip-flops, or beach sandals, and dress or evening shoes for formal nights.

For colder climates like Alaska, forget the flip-flops and take runners, formal shoes and waterproof boots, or waterproof hiking footwear. I typically wear the boots on boarding day since they are the bulkiest, which eliminates having to pack them.

Use Your Smartphone As A Camera

Today’s smartphones have amazing cameras. So, instead of packing a bulky digital camera with a zoom lens, use your cell phone to take pictures. The newest phones have four lens.

They consist of a wide-angle, telephoto, and ultra-wide-angle lens. With these phones, users can capture great photos of their cruise vacations.

Lastly, my ultimate tip for packing light is to sleep in your birthday suit. That way, I don’t need pajamas which saves room in my suitcase. So, are you a cruiser who tends to overpack? With these tips, you can break that cruising habit instantly.

Happy travel ~ Karen