Many first time cruisers will go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for the weeks vacation. They anticipate parading around the ship like they saw passengers doing on the Titanic! Even though your cruise will be every bit as exciting as you can imagine, you probably won't need near as many clothes as you think.
There are generally no limits on the amount of luggage you can take onboard a cruise ship. They do ask that you limit it to two bags per person but they aren't strict about it. There are a couple of factors that should be considered before packing the kitchen sink. The main consideration is the high cost of traveling with excess luggage when using commercial airlines to get to the departure port. Most cruise passengers aren’t lucky enough to live near a cruise port and so they typically will be flying in to their terminal. The second concern is the fact that although the cruise ship cabins are very nice and functional, they are much smaller than their counterparts in hotels. Having a ton of luggage and a big wardrobe will only make your stateroom seem smaller.
The compact staterooms are designed to make good use of all storage space. After unpacking your suitcases and putting your clothing away you can store your suitcases under the bed. Put a couple of dryer sheets in your suitcases to keep them from smelling musty with the damp sea air.
Even though you will give the porter your suitcases on the pier, it’s nice to have rolling luggage. You will typically pick up your luggage and go through customs with it on your return, as well as hauling it around at the airport. Expect to pay tips of $1 to $2 for every bag to the shuttle drivers and porters. Take a small rolling suitcase with you when your check onto the ship. You won’t get your other luggage delivered to your stateroom until later in the day and you will want to have some personal items and maybe even a swimsuit available while you are waiting.
Bring a few garbage bags to store your dirty laundry. Separate by color and then you can just empty the bags into the washing machine when you get home.
All ships have a laundry service. Carnival also provides small laundromats and ironing rooms for your convenience. They are very reasonable to use and come in handy for long cruises or accidents. If you make use of the laundry services, either way, you won’t have to pack as many clothes. Irons are not allowed in your cabins. Do not bring one!
Life on a cruise ship, especially a Caribbean cruse, tends to be much more casual than you would expect. You will more than likely be spending your days in t-shirts, shorts, and bathing suits. Most days and evenings are spent in casual wear.
There are two formal nights during a seven day cruise. These are typically scheduled on the nights spent at sea. Formal nights are not as formal as in the past. A basic dark suit jacket with a shirt and tie for the men has become “formal.” The ladies typically wear cocktail dresses or nice dressy clothes. Rhinestone and sequined jackets and plenty of glitter are very appropriate on these evenings if you want to dress up. Don’t forget footwear to go with your formal outfits. Make sure your shoes are comfortable as the ship is big and usually you will have plenty of walking to get to the dining room. They have photographers everywhere taking pictures on formal night and it’s nice to have the gentlemen’s tie match the ladies dress for a coordinated look.
On Carnival, you will see a wide range of clothing at dinner. it’s nice to wear dressy casual attire in the dining room but isn’t enforced. This means slacks and collared shirts for the men and dress pants or skirts for the ladies.
Typically, “less is the best” when packing for your cruise vacation. Take the basics for everyday wear but make sure you include a sweater, jacket or wrap for cool breezy evenings and when indoors as the air conditioning can be chilly.
Pack a color-coordinated wardrobe so you can mix and match and get by with less pieces of clothing. Take lightweight clothing to cut down on weight in your suitcases. Keep jewelry to a minimum. You can purchase fine or costume jewelry at reasonable prices in the gift shop. In fact, you can purchase almost anything you need and can’t find at home, such as wraps or sunglasses.
Having the right foot wear is very important on a cruise. First and foremost, you will need to have comfortable walking shoes with non-slip soles. The ship decks can get slippery in wet conditions. You will be walking and getting a little exercise up and down stairs and in the long hallways. A good pair of water shoes is well worth the price, especially if you plan on cruising much. They are good to wear on-deck, in the sand, and for light hiking.
Take all of your medications and pack personal grooming items only as needed. You can purchase anything your forget in the ship gift shop or on the islands. You will have bath gel and shampoo dispensers in the shower. They also have blow-dryers in your cabin.
It is important to take sunglasses, sunscreen, and sun hats when cruising the Caribbean. Beach towels are provided in your cabin but they are heavy and expensive to replace if you lose one. You can purchase them very cheaply on the islands and they make great souvenirs. Take a couple of swimsuits and a beach cover-ups. Take or purchase a beach-type tote bag to carry on the islands.
There are numerous packing checklists available on the Internet. Download a few of them and customize to your needs.