Cruising is a whole different beast to conventional travelling.
On any day, you could easily go from an air conditioned ship, to a sweltering hot beach, to a hike into the jungle and then back to the ship for a blacktie dinner.
To be quite honest, that was one of the most enticing aspects of cruising for us, but it really threw us for a loop when it came to packing.
Figuring out exactly what we’d need and how to avoid bringing our entire wardrobe was tough, especially as we’d never been cruising before.
Now that we’ve actually been through it, we feel like we’ve got it just about figured out and thought it might be helpful to pass on some tips.
Tropical cruise essentials
If you’re heading on a tropical cruise (ours was a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean – (read more about our visit to the Virgin Baths), the clothes you need to bring will generally fall into one of 5 categories:
- Lightweight tropical clothing
- Wet weather clothing
- Warmer clothing for air conditioned parts of the ship
- Bathing suit
- Evening wear
Let’s get into a bit more detail:
If you’re packing for a tropical cruise, 8 hours of each day are going to be spent on land, out in the sun. Tropical countries are hot and humid, so you want to bring clothes that aren’t going to be hot, heavy or sticky.
Off the cruise ship, I generally wore swimming shorts, a t-shirt and some decent walking shoes if we planned to do anything more than a light amble. Otherwise, it was flip flops.
I also packed a spare pair of shorts and underwear each day, because there’s nothing worse than walking in wet swimming shorts. Louise tended to wear her swimsuit covered by light dresses.
All of this assumes you’re going somewhere hot by the way; if you’re going to the arctic you might want to pack something a bit warmer!
Here are some of my men’s favourites that I wore out and about:
Wet weather clothing:
By nature, tropical countries get a lot of wet weather. It’s quite likely that you’ll encounter some rain at some point, so packing something lightweight, breathable and portable is a good idea. I had my Norrona Bitihorn ultra light jacket and it is literally perfect for a tropical rain storm. It’s 140g (one of the world’s lightest triple layered rain coats) and is super breathable. You don’t want something super thick or insulated.
We didn’t really consider this when we were packing, but you’re going to be on the ship for probably at least 15 hours per day, and most parts of the ship are heavily air conditioned. It was actually quite chilly inside the ship so instead of walking around in swimming gear at night, I tended to wear a shirt, jacket and jeans or chinos to keep warm. Packing a light sweater and some pants is a good idea if you plan on spending any significant time indoors. Below are the two long pants I decided to bring along, along with the light jacket I liked to put on when things were a bit chillier.
This is kind of obvious, but make sure you pack some decent swimwear. At least a couple of sets. I generally like to walk around in mine all day in case I stumble across a swimming hole. The Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s traveler Swim Trunks are my go to shorts. If you’re on a longer cruise, consider bringing a rash vest for sun protection. Getting baked day after day in the sun isn’t too healthy.
Evening wear falls into two categories; elegant and casual. For the majority of our dinners, we dressed casually for dinner and didn’t get too dressed up. Everyone is in the same boat (no pun intended), and nobody gets too fancy. I liked to wear a shirt, trousers and some kind of jacket (to fight the A/C). Louise tended to wear the same kind of thing.
On the fancy night, all bets are off. There are no limits to how dressed up you can get, and although most people only stuck to suits, Louise and I wore our finest black tie garb. You might get a few double takes but hey, it’s not every day that you get to dress up!
The great thing about cruising is that you’re in the same place for several days, so you can really bring a ton of gear and not have to worry about being able to actually carry your bag.
Other useful things to bring include:
- a decent, secure backpack for carrying things around each day – Louise brought our Fjallraven Kanken backpack which is perfect for this kind of thing
- a portable charger for your electronics
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- a power strip (if you have multiple electronics – nothing fancy – I bought mine from Walmart for $6)
Camera gear (if you’re going near the sea):
- Gopro (later models are waterproof)
- Dome Port (for over/under water shots)
- Gopro Pole (for selfies, because… they happen)
- Waterproof case (life proof) – we dropped both our phones in the sea, so this is advice from bitter experience.
- Drybag – get a decent one and make sure it closes properly (ours wasn’t and wrecked a lot of our gear).
- Drones – If you go with Carnival cruises, the rules are a bit cryptic but you can bring a drone as long as you don’t get it out on the ship.
If you like any of the gear featured in this post, you can find out more at www.sportinglife.ca