I love to travel and I spend several months a year on cruise ships selling my jewelry. I have learned a few packing tricks along the way that can make your cruise vacation more fun and less hassle. The more experienced a traveler, the lighter they pack. How? Planning ahead is the key!
Pack Right - Pack Light!
Step One: Clothes and Shoes
Check your cruise itinerary and count how many "port days" and how many "sea days" you will have. Select clothes that travel well (don't wrinkle much) and coordinate your clothes around one or two basic colors. Separates are excellent as they can mix and match to create several different looks with a few basic pieces. Be sure to bring a lightweight long-sleeved jacket or top as cruise ships are air conditioned and can be chilly even when it is hot outside.
My cruise wardrobe basics are black and white. Classic black pants can be paired with a dressy top, wrap a colorful (and lightweight!) shawl around your shoulders and you are dressed for the evening. A less dressy top with the same pants works equally well for sea days or port days.
If you will be walking a lot during your port excursions, bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes. Then pick one other shoe and one sandal that will go with everything. Or try my personal favorite shoe, the Switch Flop. (www.switchflops.com) These shoes come in a few different styles and the straps peel off and change from beach casual to formal night attire in an instant. For the leanest of packing, I pack my comfy sport shoes and wear my Switch Flops and bring several different sets of straps. Easy and light!
The anticipation and preparations for a vacation are part of the experience. Have fun with your packing! I make a list of what I'm going to bring, make sure everything is laundered and ready to pack. Then I lay it all out on my bed and give it a second look. Everything must do double or triple duty or it doesn't go into the suitcase.
Step Two: Accessories
It goes without saying that I'm very particular when it comes to the jewelry I bring on my cruise vacation! A vacation isn't the time to bring a different set of accessories for each outfit or each day. I follow the same rule as with my clothing: everything must do double or triple duty.
For jewelry, I stick to basics for daytime and bring a jazzy pair of earrings that can dress up an outfit for evening attire. Pearls are great as they can work equally well with daytime or evening wear. I also bring a small pouch that stores all my jewelry that can be locked up in the cabin safe. And since jewelry is small, don't forget to shop in the onboard jewelry store for a special piece for yourself or as a gift for a loved one. Small, lightweight, and easy to pack!
I spend time selecting the right purses or bags to bring on a cruise ship. I limit myself to two. One is a large bag that is my "travel bag" that holds all essentials when traveling by car or plane to and from the ship and that will also work as my "excursion" bag. I need to be able to carry my cameras (yes, I travel with two, but both are pocket sized!), maps, sunscreen, bottle of water, as well as travel documents, wallet and ID. Security is an important consideration so look for zippered pockets. I have spent lots of time searching for just the right bag and I have one now that also holds my small computer and a paperback book when traveling. As an excursion bag, I carry only the necessities, and it also needs to be comfortable to wear for a long day. Mine has a long, wide strap that can be worn on the shoulder or across the chest, messenger bag style.
The second purse is a very small one for use on the ship. You need to carry your cruise card at all times (credit card sized that works as your ID, charge card, and cabin key), so if your clothes don't have pockets, a small purse does the trick. Select one that will work with all your "on ship" clothes. Mine is a very small black shoulder bag that holds a pocket camera and my ship card.
So, for all your accessories, think simple, dual duty, and don't bring much. Try out your travel bag before the trip to make sure it will work comfortably. Again, planning is the secret to packing light and packing right!
Step Three: Toiletries and Electronics
Here is the perfect time to pull out those cute "free gift with purchase" cosmetics and perfumes. I save a few empty hotel-sized shampoo bottles to refill with my favorite lotion or laundry soap. And it's not necessary to fill them to the top! Bring only a half tube (or small travel size) of toothpaste. Remember that most ships have an onboard shop that sells toiletries and over the counter pharmaceuticals, so don't bring everything but the kitchen sink! When in doubt, leave it out!
Most cabins are outfitted with hairdryers, so leave yours at home (check with your cruise line first, of course). They also provide soap, shampoo, and other amenities. When packing your cosmetics, pack lean. Pack toiletries inside of a leak proof bag, just in case.
Electronics: Most ships are set up to accommodate 110 volt appliances (American) and 220 (European) and they generally have plugs to accommodate your appliance. If in doubt, check your cruise ship website for details.
My best electronics tip is this: I travel with a lightweight power strip! While that might seem to violate my own packing rules, as an experienced cruise ship traveler I have found that this saves me lots of time and frustration. It depends on your lifestyle, but we travel with cell phones that have chargers, cameras with chargers, and a laptop that also needs to be plugged in. Then, there's the curling iron! After juggling chargers and curling iron in the one outlet in the cabin, I purchased a power strip just for travel and I leave it in my suitcase when I get back home so that it never gets forgotten! I put a tag on each charger cord so I know which one goes with which gadget!
Step Four: The final round up!
Plan ahead and bring as little as possible. Remember that you are going on a vacation and not participating in a fashion show! Choose luggage that is easy to maneuver. Don't pack your suitcase completely full; leave room for souvenirs. I generally toss in a few sheets of bubble wrap at the last minute to use to wrap any small breakables I purchase along the way.
Be prepared for the off chance your luggage will be delayed in reaching your cabin upon arrival to the ship. Even if your bag isn't lost, it often takes hours before it gets to your cabin. So pack for survival: Put a little of everything you'll want and need in a carry-on or travel bag.
Be aware of airline and cruise line restrictions in what you can bring. Check airline and cruise line websites for details.
Make a list of what you have packed so that at the end of your cruise, you can make sure you don't leave anything behind. This is a vacation, time to have less stress! Packing light makes it easier at the airport, outside of the cruise terminal, waiting for luggage to be delivered to your cabin, unpacking and repacking, then dealing with your luggage at the end of the trip, customs, and getting back to your car or airport.
Less luggage = less hassle! So pack right by packing light!