When packing for a cruise, it can be tempting to throw everything into your suitcase.  I’ve been guilty of the “just in case” mentality too.

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But ending up with a bunch of stuff you either don’t need or will never actually use while on your cruise just means more luggage and more headaches.

This article serves as an “unpacking” list, reminding you what you will not need.  It will contain items either the cruise line already offers or are simply unnecessary.

There are also banned items you should never bring on a cruise.  You can find a list of prohibited items here.

The items in the list below are not prohibited or banned by cruise lines, just to be clear.  

But just because you can bring something doesn’t mean you should.

1. Towels

Not only do towels take up a ton of room in your suitcase, they are also completely unnecessary to take with you.  Sure, cruise ships are not exactly notorious for having the most absorbent towels — I will grant you that.

But to make up for that, you can request as many towels as you would like for your cabin.  And when you’re done with them you can just throw them onto the bathroom floor like an adolescent slob.

For a beach day in a port of call you can “check out” a few towels for your group.

Just make sure you return any pool towels to the towel stations before the cruise is over or you will find yourself the owner of that fine piece of cloth, even if you don’t know where it is.  It happens more than you might think.

2. A pillow

I’ll probably get some flack for this one.  I know some of our readers are very particular about their pillows.  And after years of finding the perfect cushion for that dome of yours you might feel the need to cram that piece of fluffy goodness into your carry-on.

Just know that most cruise lines keep a few spare pillows in a “magic back room” somewhere.  You can request more pillows or different kinds of pillows from your cabin steward.

Who knows? Maybe you will be able to get a pillow that reminds you of your own back home.  If not, you will be so relaxed from your cruise it might not even matter.

By the way, you can often request mattress toppers if you find the mattress is a bit too firm.  You can ask your cabin steward if there are any extra, but there are a finite number of these on board.

3. Snacks

I get the reasoning that people like to bring snacks with them on a cruise.  And if you have kids traveling with you, it makes even more sense.

But this is a floating buffet we are talking about here.  There’s enough food on board to make your local grocery store jealous.  You can literally snack any time and all the time.

That said, kids can ask for snacks on short notice, and onboard room service can be slow. So, if you are traveling with little ones might be a good idea to pack a few resealable bags to stock up on refreshments when you are at the buffet.

When you are at lunch or dinner, your kids can fill up these baggies with fruit, cheerios, or cookies and bring them back to the room for later.

Just don’t try to take any food that is not in a sealed container off the ship as this can land you in some hot water.

4. Exercise equipment

Some of the nicest gyms I’ve ever seen were on cruise ships.  Modern vessels have the latest and most innovative equipment.

Most of the time when I walk into a cruise ship gym I don’t even know how the machines work.  I have to analyze the little pictures on the side of the machine as if I’m an archeologist reading hieroglyphics. 

Whether it’s Peloton bikes or HydroRows that are more your flavor, you can certainly find enough equipment to make you wonder why you ever wanted to bring those resistance bands with you. 

Cruises also offer workout classes and health seminars, often partnering with better-known fitness studios such as Zumba and PureBarre. Some of these classes are included with the standard cruise fare, and others will be an additional charge, but access to the gym is always free.

While you don’t need to bring your exercise equipment you can definitely should bring your workout clothes.  Just make sure you pack some shoes that are not open-toed as most gyms on cruise ships will not allow you to enter with flip-flops.

Gym on Viking Sky

5. Valuables

Call me paranoid, but I’m not a fan of people bringing their grandmother’s priceless emerald necklace on a cruise.  Why have that extra worry that something could happen to that heirloom?

Instead, why not pack some cheap imitations?  Ok, well-made imitations.  That’s better.

There’s a growing trend of travel jewelry, and cheaper versions of many popular engagement rings and statement pieces can be purchased online.

These “valuables” would be much easier to part ways with if an earring were to slip overboard.

If you absolutely must bring your expensive jewelry with you, be sure to use the in-cabin safe for peace of mind.

6. Excessive electronics

This one hits close to home for me.  I love my tech. 

But if the point of a cruise is to get away for a while and relax, it’s important to limit just how many chargeable devices get thrown into the suitcase.

If we were in the pre-cell phone era, I would, of course, recommend that you pack a camera to capture all your onboard memories and perhaps a laptop if you need to keep up with work.

I’d even suggest that you pack your Walkman to listen to your favorite cassette as you sit poolside and soak up the sun.

But nowadays a smartphone can do all of that and more. 

I would recommend limiting your devices to save space and keep you focused on the point of your cruise: relaxation.

7. Hairdryer

There’s already a hairdryer in your cabin.  Sure, it might not put out enough heat to defrost a frozen burrito.  And yes, the fan is so weak that you couldn’t blow out a birthday candle on a cupcake.

But it will do the job.  With enough time and patience, your hair will dry.  It will make you run back home and embrace the hairdryer in your bathroom after the cruise is over, but you don’t need to add it to your packing list.

Most cruise lines will allow you to pack a curling iron or flat iron, but double-check as these rules are always changing. 

You definitely cannot bring a clothes iron, however.  This is on the ban list we mentioned before.

Some ships will provide launderettes which have irons inside so you can complete your elegant evening sans wrinkles.

Related:  Cabin Rules: 10 things you should never do in your cabin

8. Shampoo/Conditioner

Most cruise lines will provide shampoo and body wash in the cabins for guests; however conditioner is not always provided on mainstream lines.

But that doesn’t mean you’re going to like the soap that’s provided.  I’ve heard a lot of cruisers complain about the quality of the shower soap/shampoo on some lower budget cruise lines.

The all-in-one approach to this mystery liquid can leave a lot to be desired.

So, if you’re going to break the rules on my “unpacking” list maybe this is where you do it.

Sometimes a ship will have a 3-in-1 soap with conditioner included.  I don’t know what kind of sorcery goes into making a magical cleaning solution like that.  I’ve never had problems with it.

But if you have skin sensitivity issues, maybe you will want to pack some soap and shampoo after all.

Just know that your cruise ship will provide these items if you would like to use them.

9. Dirty clothes bag

This one is not as consequential as some other items on the list.  After all, a laundry bag doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase. 

But you should know that almost every cruise cabin has a laundry bag in the closet.  It’s main purpose is for you to fill it up and pay the cruise line to wash your clothes for you, but many will use this same bag to separate their dirty clothes until the end of the trip.

Just make sure you don’t forget your clothes are there when it’s time to pack up to go home.  And definitely don’t take the bag home with you or you will find a nice little charge added to your account.

Some cruisers like to use one of their suitcases for dirty clothes and keep it under the bed.  This is helpful if you brought more than one suitcase.

I always like to hang up all my clothes as soon as I walk into my ready cabin.  Living out of a suitcase is not ideal, after all.  So, after a certain article of clothing is dirty I can throw it into an empty suitcase that will be the designated hamper for the rest of the trip.

Veranda cabin on Celebrity Edge. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

10.  Extra Hangers

You already know your cruise cabin will have hangers, but you have packed so many clothes that you want to make sure you have enough?

The good news is you don’t need to pack any extra hangers.  Simply ask your stateroom attendant for more hangers and you will have plenty for every article of clothing you crammed into that suitcase.

There are some cruise travelers that like to bring their own hangers.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Just know it’s not really necessary unless you have some kind of special hangers that automatically take wrinkles out or something.  In that case, we should talk.

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