Packing for a Cruise? I Can Help

Today's post is a collaboration with the good people over at Saga Travel, who are gearing-up to begin the breathtakingly beautiful Baltic cruise season. As an ex cruise ship employee and frequent traveller (and cruiser) myself, I remember cruising the Baltic as one of the most fun contracts I ever had on board a ship, and can't help but fancy myself a bit of an expert on the subject of packing for a cruise holiday. One of the most fortunate by-products of my time on board the cruise lines is that I have developed what I consider to be a bulletproof strategy for packing for a cruise.

Cruising is a multi-faceted holiday, and requires a slightly broader stroke of the fashion brush than other types of holidays. But that's not to say that you need to cram your entire wardrobe into your suitcase. Airline restrictions and the overall feasibility of lugging ten tons of baggage around with you is simply a no-go these days, so it's in your best interest to take a considered, well thought-out approach to your cruise holiday wardrobe. While I could definitely write an encyclopedia full of tips and tricks on packing for a cruise, I've identified three major strategies that I use every time I set about the business of planning the sartorial aspect of my journey. Hopefully, they will help you on your next seagoing adventure as they have helped me over the years.

Check the Weather
Yes, I know it sounds ridiculously simplistic, but you would be surprised at the number of passengers I encountered during my time at sea who were so excited about the idea of going on a cruise, they actually didn't stop to think about the seasonal temperatures for the region they were planning to visit! Add to that the temperatures at sea can be quite a bit cooler than what they may be on land, and you may find that you have to expand your repertoire a bit. Using a Baltic cruise as an example, temperatures are generally cool at night (even in summer), and pleasantly warm during the height of summer, with the months of July and August being the warmest (and as a result, the busiest time to travel). Average temperature guides are helpful tools, but make sure to check the coming forecast a week before you set out. If it looks like you are going to get an unlucky stretch of rain in St. Petersburg or an exceptionally hot burst of sunshine in Copenhagen, you'll need to pack accordingly.

As a general rule, just like your mother probably told you when you were young, layering is the best strategy in dealing with a variable temperature range. A cardigan or two, a light jacket, a packable floppy hat, and a lightweight scarf are all useful items to have on hand, and can be layered over everything from sleeveless sun dresses to t-shirts and jeans.

Count the Days
Cruises pose a unique packing challenge in that they require clothing that runs the gamut from beachwear to black tie. In an effort to be prepared for every eventuality, most people have a tendency to massively overpack, adding unnecessary weight to their baggage and hassle to their holiday before they've even left the house. I've found that one of the best ways to avoid excessive packing is to bring the exact number of looks for the exact number of days you will be on board.

Have a look at your cruise itinerary. How many port days are there? How many nights on board will you be in the dining room, and how many of those nights (if any) will be black tie? Do you anticipate using the pool or going to the beach? Try to select the minimal amount of clothing for these activities. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to choose pieces that all work well with each other, enabling you to have more outfit choices with less garments.

My personal strategy is to start off by choosing a dress to wear every night while on board; one for each night. Dresses are lightweight (with the exception of some black tie attire), they always look good, and they generally pack really easily into a suitcase. Once you've gotten your night looks out of the way, you can concentrate on creating your capsule wardrobe for your daytime activities. Whatever you do, don't get carried away here. You'll want that extra space for souvenirs!

Curb Your Shoe Habit
This is probably the most important aspect of packing for a cruise, and if you love fashion, also the area where the most discipline is required.  Shoes take up a lot of space and weigh a lot in a suitcase, so it's important to pack only what you really need.

For dressier evenings, think about the looks you have chosen from counting your days on board. Instead of trying to match your shoes to every look, try to choose a neutral shoe that goes with everything. While you can't go wrong with black, a nude or burnished metallic shoe is elegant and leg lengthening, and can be worn with a multitude of different looks.

Personally, I like to balance my looks by pairing a darker, heavier, or patterned dress with a lighter shoe; maybe a nude heel or gold metallic sandal. If I'm wearing a lighter color or floaty feminine fabric, I'll opt for a stronger shoe; perhaps a black sandal or patent pump. Whatever I choose, I usually only bring two choices for evening, and those will see me through the entirety of the cruise.

For day, it is imperative that whatever shoes you choose, they're comfortable and you can walk in them. Your long-awaited holiday is not the time to road-test a brand-new pair of shoes, no matter how confident you are that they will fit well. Even if you aren't planning on doing a lot of walking while ashore, you will be on your feet and in transit a lot of the time, and having sore feet can really take the fun out of your day.

A final note on shoes; exercise enthusiasts need to remember to leave room for athletic shoes, another major space-eater in the suitcase!

This year, whether you're planning on booking a Baltic Cruise, an Arctic Circle adventure, or even a late season run over to the Canadian coastline to take in some fall color, between your newfound  packing strategy and the expertise available to you from Saga Travel, you should be in good hands indeed!


  1. Thank you so much for your recommendation! Next months I am cruising for a first time and I am so glad to find your article. It helps me a lot on what to pack. Best regards


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