Once you've booked your first cruise, there's not much you need to do other than sort out your passport and bag, and you might be wondering exactly what you need.

The old image of cruises as being stuffy and formal is long dead, but then again, your usual holiday packing of swimsuits and shorts might not cover every occasion. Here's a guide to the kind of items you might need to take on your first cruise, without leaving you with a bulging suitcase.

 

Hand luggage

Most cruise lines will take your suitcases at check-in, although it can take a while for them to be delivered to your room. Therefore it makes sense to pack a small bag to take on with you containing your passport, tickets, swimsuit, change of clothes, and any other essentials you might need on your first day. 

 

Cruise style

Before shopping for your holiday, do a bit of research into your cruise and what you'll be doing. Are the restaurants mostly casual or are there dress codes? Will there be galas galore or lots of family entertainment? You should also take a look at the itinerary to see how many days will be at sea versus how many will be spent on day trips, so you can work out what kinds of outfits you'll need.

 

Pool lounging

For leisurely days at sea, you'll need comfortable day time clothes that will take you from poolside to on-board activities. In addition to a couple of swimsuits, you'll need cover-ups such as tunics, sundresses, or shorts and T-shirts that you can throw on to protect yourself from the sun. You may also need your own pool towels if your cruise line doesn't provide them.

 

Day trips

If you're taking an excursion on dry land, you might want to pack a bag with the essentials. Pack a secure shoulder bag with a hat, sunglasses, sun lotion, and water, and take a long sleeve T-shirt and long skirt or trousers if you'll be visiting religious sites or a conservative country. You might also need a jumper or raincoat just in case. 

 

Packing for your first cruise

Most cruise ships have a selection of restaurants, and depending on the length of your cruise, you'll probably get a set number of dinners in a formal restaurant, with other meals served in casual or buffet style eateries. Each cruise line has their own dress guidelines, which should be provided on their website, and as a general rule they are:

  • Casual – if you're having lunch or dinner at a buffet style restaurant, then the dress code is usually very laidback, although swimwear and bare feet are usually not allowed. 
  • Semi-formal – polo shirts and chinos or smart jeans for men, with women wearing summery dresses or smart separates. 
  • Formal – men will usually be required to wear a dark suit and tie or dinner jacket, with ladies dressing up in cocktail or floor length dresses. 

 

Gala nights

If you are on an upmarket cruise, a gala night or two is usually part of the itinerary. Some men enjoy wearing a tuxedo for these special events, although a lounge suit is usually acceptable, and for women, it's an excuse to go all out, with floor length gowns or glittery cocktail dresses. 

There are all sorts of cruises on the market, from family-friendly to luxury options, allowing you to enjoy a trip that suits your style. With most cruise companies having their own dress codes and rules, by doing a little research, you can be sure you're prepared, and that you're not stuck looking over or under dressed.

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