By: Adrianne Duthie
When one thinks about a Mediterranean cruise the first word that comes to mind is ‘relaxation’. Sitting by the pool, enjoying a good book and a frozen daiquiri while slowing drifting by the ancient isles of the Mediterranean Sea sounds like the very definition of the phrase. However, the preparation for a cruise vacation, and most particularly, the packing is anything but relaxing. I know firsthand how stressful it can be, so I thought I’d share some of my own experience to help make your preparation go a little more smoothly.
Start packing early
This is the most valuable tip I can give you, and one that I cannot stress enough. The last thing you want to be doing is scrambling around, trying to get stuff organized for your trip at 11:00 PM, when you’ve got to catch a 5:30 AM flight to your city of departure. If you’ve got kids coming with you, you can multiply the stress factor by about 100, as they are likely to be little help in getting organized before you go. By packing well in advance (I start a week early) you can avoid the last minute scramble, and this will help minimize the chances you forget anything important in the chaos leading up to your departure.
What to pack
When packing for a Mediterranean cruise your priorities will be your travel documents and any prescriptions/medications you will need over the course of your voyage. Passports, airline tickets, shore excursion confirmations, visas, medical documents and, of course, your cruise ship vouchers should all be carefully organized. I also recommend you make several photocopies of these documents. Have one set in your checked luggage, one in your carry-on, and leave a set with a friend or family member at home to be accessed in the event you lose both copies during your travels. I may be over the top here, but I also scan copies of the documents and email them to myself at a web-based email account like Gmail, so I can access the documents online as well as the need arises. This may sound a little extreme to you, but it never hurts to be too prepared. You don’t want to be stuck partway along your journey with no documentation for yourself and/or your family. I’ve seen it happen to others, and it all but ruins what should otherwise be a vacation of a lifetime.
Clothes to pack for a cruise
What kind of clothes to pack will depend on many factors. First of all, what time of year are you traveling and what is your itinerary? Obviously if you are going on a winter Norwegian Fjords cruise your apparel is going to be vastly different than what you’ll wear on a summer voyage through the Greek Islands. Use your common sense. If you are cruising in warm weather then shorts, tee-shirts for the men, skirts, blouses, and sundresses for the women should be fine. A hat, preferably with a wide brim is highly recommended. The breeze coming off the Mediterranean might be keeping you cool, but your skin is still burning, and an intense sunburn early on can put a big damper on the rest of your cruise.
Even if you are on a summer cruise be sure to bring one set of foul weather clothing just in case. Hopefully your weather will be perfect, but you are at sea, and storms, with accompanying wind and rain can kick up at any time.
Though most of today’s cruise ships have a pretty relaxed dress code compared to years gone by some are more formal than others. Formal evening wear – a tuxedo or suit and tie for men, and an evening dress for women may be required. Even during the day your shorts and tee-shirt might not be deemed appropriate retire for certain lounge areas. A collared shirt with walking shorts or slacks ought to be sufficient to gain entry to these areas, but be sure to investigate thoroughly before departure to avoid inconvenience.
Footwear is another important consideration. While sandals or flip-flops will be fine for much of the time aboard ship if you have any shore excursions planned then a sturdy pair of walking shoes or hikers will be necessary. Don’t forget a pair (or multiple pairs) of dress shoes to go along with your formal wear. Also, if you plan to avail yourself of the fitness center on your ship remember to bring along a pair of clean runners.
Last but not least, don’t forget to pack a couple of swimsuits. Even if you are not a swimmer that pool is going to look awfully inviting after a few hours in the sweltering Mediterranean sun. If you neglect to bring a suit with you, you can always buy one at one of your cruise ship’s shops, but be prepared to pay a hefty premium.
What else to pack
Now that you’ve got your travel documents and your clothing taken care of there are all the other little odds and ends to consider. Depending on your personality these lists will be vastly different from person to person. Some people can get away with just a few necessities while others will feel bare without half of their household stowed away in their luggage. Necessities include sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, digital camera, video camera, iPod/mp3 player, books, and any make-up/toiletries that is part of your daily routine. If your kids are coming with you don’t forget to bring along something to entertain them as well. Though the cruise ship will have numerous activities to keep them occupied, kids can still manage to run out of things to do. There’s no scarier combination than a bored child and a cruise ship. A Nintendo DS or a Sony PSP handheld video game system can be a lifesaver, and keep your kids, yourself and your fellow passengers sane during the voyage.
My final piece of advice is to pack as light as possible. If this is your first Mediterranean cruise you will be tempted to try and cram way too much into your luggage. However, you have to take into consideration your transfers to and from the airport, and to and from the cruise ship. If you have half a dozen bulky suitcases to tote around you are going to spend much of your time cursing and swearing and wishing you’d left some of your stuff at home.
These days almost every cruise ships offers laundry service, so take advantage of that so you don’t have to worry about bringing as many outfits. Worried about getting caught wearing the same outfit twice during your vacation? Coordinate your outfits while packing. Pick tops and bottoms that you can mix and match. You may have worn that skirt already, but with a different top it’s a whole new outfit.
By following these simple tips on how to pack for your cruise you will alleviate much of the stress of your journey, and have the nice, relaxing vacation that a Mediterranean cruise is meant to be. This will be the experience of a lifetime, and by being prepared you’ll make sure you and your family have nothing but good memories of your holiday.
About the author:
Adrianne Duthie makes her home in Los Angeles, California and is a frequent world traveler. Her favorite destinations are in Europe, but she does branch out from time to time, and has visited more than 50 countries across six continents in her more than 30 years of traveling.