As promised, here is my guide to packing for your cruise*. Featuring a few funny stories, explanations and a note on purchasing duty-free cigarettes and liquor. I’m terrible at packing and this was the first time holidaying I felt most prepared and through the week at sea, I lived comfortably, but, like always, there were still a few bits and pieces I wish I brought with me which I’ve added to the list that you hopefully won’t overlook.

Clothes & shoes:

  1. Bathers – for the pools, hot tubs and of course the beautiful island beaches we stopped off at (particularly my favourite, Lifou).
  2. Comfy shoes for walking. For me, this was my Nikes and don’t forget socks.
  3. At least one pair of jeans for when it’s cool.
  4. Undergarments.
  5. A few nice outfits for dinner – there’s plenty of opportunities for silver service dining and cocktail parties so having a nice frock or smart outfit on the occasion is a good touch.
  6. Costumes – cruises offer different themed parties (like Gatsby cocktail parties, Bianco white parties, back to school themed events, et cetera) and it looks fabulous when everyone is dressed up together.
  7. A warm jacket.
  8. Surf shoes (they're daggy, but it's better than a coral cut)
  9. A light/cool cover up (for sun protection).
  10. 1-5 Tops
  11. Shorts and/or skirts for when it’s hot
  12. Casual dresses
  13. Light/cool pyjamas

You’re going to be hard pressed trying to buy summer-appropriate clothes during winter – this is what I learnt leading up to the cruise. What I learnt afterwards was that I needn’t buy anything new, except swimmers because I had none but in the end, I would have been much better off packing the clothes I would normally wear.

If you’re travelling in winter and remaining in the same hemisphere, although the islands are tropical and warmer than at home, the nights on board can be cool with a sea breeze and inside lots of air conditioning so make sure you have enough cool and warm clothes to make do with the new environment. That being said, there were nights that were incredibly balmy with almost no breeze, the rooms can get incredibly hot to sleep in. and the sun was harsher too in the tropics than at home so light, sun protecting cover and sunscreen is a must.

The cruise isn’t any fashion gala either. While I wanted to prance about in my favourite new clothes -and in the first few days a lot of people did, eventually you’re wishing you had all your comfy, average clothing you left at home. You have such an array of different people, dress senses, looks and body types that you shouldn’t fret about what you look like or what you’re wearing.
I can’t stress this enough without sounding critical and that’s not the impression I want to give, but the truth is Pacific Dawn was not as glamorous as I was led to believe so you can image my disgust learning this when looking up from Orwell’s 1984 and being confronted by the image of a middle-aged man picking a wedgie from his stained white footy shorts; I had envisioned more sailor-uniform whites admittedly.

Don’t learn how I did and listen to me: unless you’re booking your cruise with a truly luxury cruise line, cruise ships can be incredibly tacky and when it’s based in Australia (I hope Warnie and Ned Kelly forgive me for what I’m about to say) that means ‘bogans’. Which in Australia I understand has context, but when you’re overseas it stands out and can be really embarrassing – more so when you’re on a foreign boat, registered overseas, ran by a multi-cultural team, exploring several foreign countries worlds apart culturally, socially, language-wise and circumstantially, and also, multi-cultural.

All I’ll add is don’t feel insecure that you didn’t pack your best outfits or you look funny in the only sun protecting hat you own or that you didn’t work hard enough on your ‘summer body’ (even though it’s actually winter) because there are all sorts on board, just focus on being a kind and respectful person and conduct yourself pleasantly and warmly – fortunately, most people on the ship do!

First aid & toiletries:

  1. Ginger tablets (for sea sickness, you can try Blackmores Travel Calm tablets)
  2. Medicated sea sickness tablets (Kwells are really good)
  3. Homoeopathic sleep aids (I love Brauer’s sleep spray)
  4. SPF 40+ Sunscreen.
  5. Insect repellant – particularly if you’re travelling to areas where zika virus and other insect-borne diseases are prevalent.
  6. Ear plugs.
  7. Bandaids and other general first aid items.
  8. Shampoo & conditioner – there is some supplied in the bathrooms if you forget but it’s better to bring your own.
  9. Face washer/loafer.
  10. Exfoliating glove or mitt.
  11. Sun-protecting moisturiser.
  12. Sanitary products.
  13. Deodorant.
  14. Hairbrush.

And if there’s room:

  1. Hairdryer
  2. Hair straightener (optional)
  3. Soap (double optional)

Things like bath towels, tissues and soap are supplied and changed often so these things aren’t necessary, however, as someone with sensitive skin and prone to eczema, I wish I brought my own soap from home as an alternative to cruise ship soap.

The room also has a hairdryer, however, drying your hair with it is as effective as an elderly relative lightly blowing on your scalp. Also, the hot/cold knob beside the hairdryer is not for the hairdryer – it’s the rooms heating and cooling system, but you’ve got to like my logic. Make sure the system isn’t set to hot because the rooms can be very stuffy and you don’t get the convenience of opening a window with a ship’s porthole.

There is also medical staff on board, however, for minor things like a band-aid it’s easier to be prepared while travelling. Who wants to spend time at the doctors when they’re on holidays unless it’s crucial anyway?

Hand luggage:

  1. A good book (or three).
  2. Protective hat
  3. Goggles & snorkel – these a hard to buy in winter too and though you can rent them on board, however, they can cost up to $70 (and who wants to pay for a used snorkel?)
  4. Passport if required for your trip.
  5. Wallet with photo ID that isn’t your passport (some events require additional photo ID to prove you’re over 18)
  6. Cash to put on your cruise card – you can use a credit card or debit details for your cruise card but personally, I don’t like the risk of getting debt.
  7. Phone charger.
  8. Camera – with its charger or batteries.
  9. Clean waterbottle.
  10. Beach towel – your room will have some, but in our room of four there were only two so I suggest bringing your own.
  11. Makeup.

This is everything else that should be on your person and not in your luggage. Your luggage gets taken before you board the ship and placed in your rooms later on. Before you check out, at 8pm the night before arriving home your luggage is taken again and you won’t see it until you’re off the boat, several hours later the next day so you’ll need to leave out your pyjamas, evening clothes and whatever else you think you’ll need the following day (i.e. toothbrush) for your venture home.

If you purchase anything – specifically cigarettes – from the duty-free stores they will come home in your hand luggage too, so be sure to account for any extra room you might require leaving the cruise.

 A note on duty-free shopping:

Duty-free shopping is amazing and there’s a huge amount of different items you can get but the most sought after things in duty-free are, of course, cigarettes and alcohol.

You can only bring home 50 cigarettes (in a carton of 25’s there are 400 cigarettes) or 50 grammes of tobacco (one pouch). If you’re travelling with numerous people who aren’t carrying cigarettes home they can take two with them – this is completely legal, but they are supposed to be over the age of 18. The same applies for alcohol, except you are only allowed 2.25L of alcoholic beverages and unlike cigarettes, alcohol is stored on board until you get off the boat.

If you missed part one, you can look at part one here.