There’s no denying it – packing for a cruise holiday is its own art form. There are so many factors to consider, and with limited space, it can be tricky figuring out where to start. What to take on a cruise to the Med will differ from what you take on a trip to the Norwegian fjords, while winter cruises to Amsterdam will be more than a little different from summer ones. It’s all about being prepared – and that’s where we come in.

Once you’ve nabbed yourself a coveted European cruise deal, here we bring you a few cruise packing tips, plus some non-negotiables you won’t want to skip.

Things to consider

The weather

The weather is perhaps the biggest thing to consider when staring at your open suitcase pre-cruise holiday. Odds are, if you’re heading to destinations in Europe like the Mediterranean or virtually anywhere southern during the summertime, you’re going to encounter your fair share of heat. But head up to northern territories like the fjords or out west to Iceland and a chill is almost guaranteed.

Regardless of what you might preconceive, you’ll want to check the forecast the week before you head off for your cruise holiday so that you can get a rough idea of what you can expect weather-wise. If the forecast is on the fence, bring a few light, in-between options too in case it’s not as cold or warm as predicted.


On top of the weather, what kinds of activities you’ve got planned for your port days will also factor into what you pack. If you’re doing something particularly active like ziplining in the Canary Islands, you’ll want to wear something you can move around in, while lazing out on the beach in Greece calls for a much more laid-back approach.

If you’ve already booked your excursions before you board, you’ll know exactly what you need to prepare for. You’ll still have the option to book from the ship, but be advised that what you plan on might be fully booked, so you’ll need to have a slightly flexible wardrobe just in case.

Where you’re travelling

Where you’re cruising to impacts your packing list in a number of ways. It not only dictates what currency you should bring, but the culture you’re walking into. To start, you’ll want to read up on your port city or desired excursion’s dress expectations, as it might be different to what you’re used to. In religious settings, women might need sleeved tops and men might need long trousers, for example.

As for currency, much of the European Union uses the Euro, but not all. Scandinavia, for example, uses a wide range of currencies. Therefore you’ll want to read up on what currency each port city utilises so you don’t catch yourself in a bind. Odds are there will be a bursary on your ship, but the more prepared you are before boarding, the better.

Onboard activities

Before boarding your cruise, it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the ship’s facilities so you know what onbaord activities you can expect. From there, you can plan what outfits or gear you’ll need.

If you know you don’t want to spend any time at the pool, you can probably forgo the swimsuit. On the other hand, if you love the idea of taking one of Cunard’s ballroom dance classes or hitting the treadmill at Princess Cruises’ Lotus Spa Fitness Centre, you’ll want to make sure you pack appropriate clothes.

The dress code

Last but not least, your ship’s dress code is one of the most crucial elements you should take into consideration when packing. Most cruise ships offer some form of a formal evening, and there’s nothing more awkward than sharing a dinner table with someone in a ball gown while you’re wearing trainers and beach shorts.

As soon as you book your cruise you’ll want to read up on your ship’s dress code so that you can start planning accordingly. Most cruises operate under a smart casual evening attire and casual during the day. It’s not written in stone that you have to participate in formal nights, but trust us when we say it’s an experience you won’t want to miss out on.

The essentials

  • A tote bag – Tote bags are essential for lugging your day-to-day gear, not just in port but days at sea as well. Cruise ships are massive, and having to go back and forth from your cabin to the pool will take its toll.
  • Sunscreen – Whether the skies are cloudy or sunny, cruise holidays will put you outside and in reach of the rays, so you’ll always want to have sunscreen on hand. The onboard shop will probably sell sunscreen but it comes at a high price, and you won’t want to spend your port day searching for the stuff.
  • A light cover-up – Days on your ship might be warm, but remember that once that sun sets, you’re out to sea and therefore in the way of a breeze. A light jumper, scarf, shawl or pashmina will keep you warm for those late night walks on deck.
  • Seasickness tablets – Nobody wants to feel ill on their cruise, but just in case you start seeing green, you’ll want to bring a few seasickness tablets along. Again, they’ll probably be available at your ship’s infirmary, but at a price.
  • The right plug adaptor – Every cruise ship’s plugs are different, so check in advance what your cruise ship sports. Similarly, it’s a good idea to bring a two-pronged European plug adapter in case you need to charge your phone in port.
  • Good walking shoes – Regardless of where you go or what you do on your cruise holiday, you’ll need some form of good walking shoes. Even if it’s just walking back and forth to your ship’s pool, sturdy shoes will go a long way.

Top tips

  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them. This technique will keep them crease-free, plus you’ll be able to fit more in your suitcase.
  • If you’re planning on hitting the pool or the beach while on your cruise, bring a couple of swimsuits instead of just one so that you don’t have to keep re-wearing the same soggy suit every day.
  • Most cruise lines will let you bring the towels they provide onboard to take with you onshore, so you can skip packing bulky beach gear.

It’ll take a few European cruise holidays before you can nail the perfect packing list, mostly because you won’t truly know what you need until you’re there. But once you’ve mastered your cruise packing list, it’ll be smooth sailing.

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