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Travel news and advice

Four tips on what to pack for your next ocean cruise holiday – travelling light is the key

What to bring will depend on the type of cruise you’re planning to go on, but a ship’s laundry service may prove to be the most essential thing you’ll need

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 7:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 7:17am

The cruise industry has become big business in this decade, growing by over 20 per cent globally between 2011 and 2016, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. It forecasts more growth this year as cruise ships take 27.2 million passengers around the world.

There are plenty of things to consider before you set sail, whether you’re heading for the exclusive islands in the South Pacific, or taking a river cruise along the Mekong.

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What you need to pack will depend on the kind of cruise you’re going on, but rather than only thinking about the ship itself, plan ahead for the onshore excursions you are likely to go on too. Here are some vital tips to consider.

1. Don’t overpack

Even seasoned cruisers can find it difficult to resist the temptation to take everything they own onto the ship.

“One benefit of taking a cruise is that you can always use a ship’s laundry service, which is inexpensive and efficient, so you can recycle your clothes and even come home with a case full of clean laundry if you wish,” says Lynn Narraway, UK managing director at cruise operator Holland America Line.

If you are heading off on a fly-cruise holiday, packing light can be particularly challenging. “Think about your luggage priorities if you are travelling by air to your embarkation city, and pack the types of clothes you will want to wear more often,” says Narraway.

Since multiple pairs of shoes take up precious luggage space, the easiest way to cut down is to restrict how many you take.

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2. Out on deck

There are some things you should take for all kinds of cruises. A pair of binoculars for when you’re on deck is always handy, as is a portable battery to keep your phone charged when on deck or on an excursion. Both are best stored in a waterproof bag to protect from spray when on the deck of smaller ships.

Also handy are open-toe hiking sandals, which are safer than flip-flops on wet, slippery decks.

Since the ocean reflects sun rays, it is wise to think about eye and skincare wherever you’re headed; pack quality sunglasses to protect your eyes, and sunblock or high SPF sunscreen.

3. Cruises in polar regions

Cruises to Antarctica, and classic Northern Lights cruises up the Alaskan or Norwegian coasts, are becoming more popular, but can catch people by surprise.

“The polar regions are a lot milder than people expect,” says Tarn Pilkington, chief explorer at Sydney-based Aurora Expeditions. “In summer the average temperatures in the areas we will visit are generally between minus 2 degrees Celsius and plus 8 degrees.” However, you’re going be standing outside a lot. So a warm expedition-style fibre-pile (polar fleece) jacket is a good idea, as is a hat that covers your ears.

Weather in the polar regions can change suddenly and extremely, so it’s important to be prepared for all conditions. Take base layers, ideally made of natural fibres.

“The secret to keeping warm is the ‘layer principle’,” says Pilkington. “You are better to have several light layers of clothing than one heavy layer because between each layer there is trapped air that, when heated by your body, acts as an excellent insulator.”

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Tall rubber boots are also essential for getting in and out of zodiacs (inflatable boats) with dry feet. Some operators supply these free of charge, so check first.

4. Dressing-up for dinner?

With champagne receptions, captain’s drinks and gala dinners, luxury cruises offer several opportunities to dress up.

“Just about every cruise line has a dress code of some type, so it’s good to check this with your travel agent before you book,” says Sarah Heduan, personal travel consultant at London-based Not Just Travel.

On some semi-formal cruises, men are fine with a smart jacket and tie, while women can get away with a light cocktail dress or smart trousers.

“Some cruise lines have restrictions on jeans and trainers not being allowed in public areas from 6pm, so plan your evening attire carefully,” says Heduan.

She advises against packing a travel iron even if you are going on a formal cruise – instead bring a wrinkle-releasing spray, or use the ship’s laundry service.