Actually what to pack and what to wear are two separate articles but for the sake of keeping you from a state of overwhelm, we are going to categorize and organize everything you need to know in one article so you will not need a vacation before you take your vacation!
First let's talk about what to wear. Count. How many days will you be gone? Where are you going? Will you be mostly on the ship or will you be getting off at every port with scheduled excursions? Then know this. Please do not over do it. How many times have you over packed in the past, just not needing a quarter of the things you dragged around? Not too long ago, one of the first things people thought of when they thought about a cruise was formal attire. Not anymore. You choose. If you want to "dress" for dinner even the term has lightened up considerably. Men who used to feel compelled to wear a tux, simply do not have to. A suit and tie are fine. And women can easily wear something bordering on a cocktail dress but more relaxed, possibly strapless soft linens or flowing cotton silks.
Forget the dripping jewels even if they are faux! It's just not done that much anymore; with rare exceptions. Yes, there ARE exceptions. If you really want to dress to the inth degree then, Cruise lines like Crystal, Princess'Grand-class ships, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and some of Regent Seven Seas Cruises; the Seven Seas Mariner and the Seven Seas Voyager are the cruises for you!
Most cruises are casual like Carnival, Norwegian and Disney .. These cruise lines like others offer a more formal dining room if you wish.
Most of the time while cruising and even when you get off to explore you will want to be comfortable packing walking shorts, comfortable shoes and one or two lights sweaters just in case. As you count your days and nights think of underwear! Pack plenty of socks, panties, boxers or briefs. It's amazing how important this becomes when you are far from home. Organize and economize. How many tops will go with how many bottoms. Can you get away with just taking four tee shirts versus 12? And think about laundry. The upper scaled Cruises offer laundry service with no charge but most Cruises charge and that can become expensive.
To summarize: For men: Think, khakis, navy sport coat, nice polo shirt or Oxford. Nice jeans. Dark suit if very formal. No bare chests any other place but the pool. Bathing suits should be of the boxer type.
For women: Walking shorts, nice tee's or blouses, nice jeans, sundresses, sun visors or hats.
And for the evening if formal … upscaled casual chic, flowing cottons, linens, tunicile, cotton-silk, faux suede, cocktail length. For non-formal everything from nice jeans to resort pant suits, casual skirts, walking shorts. Do not run around in your bathing suit or short, shorts! Bathing suit cover-ups can be very tasteful and attractive so if you want to keep your bathing suit on while running around, that's a good idea.
When visiting a port you can wear pretty much what we've talked about while onboard. Do know though if you are going to be going to a yacht club or golf resort, check specifically as often there is some sort of dress code even today.
What to pack. It's amazing how important your favorite emery-board becomes when you do not have it not to mention your razor which will shave you like none other. So let's categorize and organize. Think: bathroom stuff. Then think, hair stuff, medicine cabinet things, cosmetics. Stand in the bathroom and focus on each drawer and shelf. Take the things you can not live without and leave the rest. Not all Cruise ships provide hairdryers. Here are just a few things that may be VERY important to not forget, tweezers, ear plugs, hand lotion, lens cleaner, band aids, germicidal hand wipes, bug spray. When you've covered the bathroom then move on to electronics.
Laptop? Battery charger, adapters and converters, PDA, digital camera, and the batteries. Memory cards, night light, flash light, travel clock, walkman plus tapes. Cell phone and do not forget the charger. If you focus on specific topics like this you'll most likely remember everything. Then think
All tickets, passports, visas (if needed) driver's license, insurance papers (travel and car when you rent a car) medical history or prescription proof, printed emergency contacts back home, ATM card other credit cards, some cash, Picture ID, phone card. With really important documents, have copies stashed back home to be faxed to you. Put even more copies in your luggage, purse, tote bag .. you'd be surprised how this will keep the peace between loved ones. Where there's a document, there are three more just like it in case something gets misplaced, which it usually does. Keep thinking of each person you're traveling with including yourself, one at a time and what specific documents each needs. This will keep you on track. Then thing miscellaneous:
Miscellaneous things would be like duct tape! We're serious. There otta be a book written just about duct tape and all situations that have been saved from this resourceful tape. Other things you might miss are; extra reading glasses, crazy glue, deck of cards, wine bottle opener,
zip loc bags for dirty clothes, maps, clothes pins, a sewing kit, extra buttons, small bottle of woolite in case your favorite sweater gets sloshed by something, fold-up umbrellas (it rains a lot unexpectedly in some areas) and extra contact lenses. Keep thinking out of the box like this and you'll love yourself for being so brilliant when far away from home.
Do not let packing at all overwhelm you, remember the Cruise Lines live to please you and most likely if you have left that cherished personal something behind one of the staff will go to great lengths to solve your problem. Make lists! Just making the lists before you pack a sock will make you feel superbly in charge. Happy sailing !!!