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    Packing Ideas and Tips for Your First Cruise


    If you have been hearing the siren call of the seas lately, you're far from alone. More than 16 million people headed off on cruises in 2011, according to data from the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association. It's hardly surprising so many people consider spending their vacations on the ocean. Today's cruise ships are floating luxury resorts, with many now featuring such over-the-top amenities as ice skating rinks and water parks.

    For newbies to the high seas, packing for a cruise can pose interesting challenges. For one thing, a standard cabin tends to be on the small size compared to a hotel room. The average cruise ship cabin, for example, is approximately 175 square feet. In comparison, the average U.S. hotel room is almost double that size at 300 square feet. Space in your cabin will be limited, so bringing even one large suitcase per person into a standard-size cabin could really make for cramped living quarters. Pack smart.

    Choose Clothes that Will Do Double Duty

    When deciding on what clothes to pack, try to choose items that can perform double duty. For women, a long-sleeve button-up shirt, for example, can be worn alone or as a cover-up over a bathing suit or a tank top. A lightweight denim jacket or blazer is another excellent addition to your suitcase. On chilly nights, it can be worn for warmth, but it can also be tossed on over an outfit or a dress to change up your look. Both men and women may want to consider purchasing convertible pants that zip off from longer pants into shorts. When shopping for cruise clothes, seek out clothing specifically designed for travel. Many of these pieces are made out of material that can be washed easily in a sink and air dries rapidly.

    Shoes

    Pack at least one pair of comfortable shoes for walking excursions. Instead of relying on running shoes, however, why not pack a pair of slim sneakers such as Keds or Converse Chuck Taylors, which are a little more stylish but just as comfortable. If you don't own a pair of sneakers already, you may want to browse Macy's online and stock up during Cyber Monday sales. For most cruises, you will also need a pair of sandals as well as at least one pair of dress shoes. Finally, consider bringing a pair of slippers to quickly slip on when you want to pad about your cabin.

    Outerwear

    Even if all of your ports of call are to beautiful, sunny destinations, always bring a nice midweight jacket (preferably waterproof) as it can get chilly at sea, especially at night.

    Formalwear

    Many, but not all, cruises offer formal nights. If yours does, check the dress code to see what attire will work. On some ships, passengers wear a simple dress or nice suit, while on others, your fellow cruisers may be donning long gowns and tuxes. If you don't want to pack a suit or a tux, check to see if your cruise line offers rentals.

    Long Dress or Pants

    Some cruise ships — especially those with European ports of call — offer excursions to cathedrals or other religious facilities, so remember to pack at least one long skirt, dress or pair of long pants. Some of these places will not let you enter if you're wearing shorts. It's also important to pack conservative clothing if your cruise ship will be stopping in any Muslim countries.If you have been hearing the siren call of the seas lately, you're far from alone. More than 16 million people headed off on cruises in 2011, according to data from the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association. It's hardly surprising so many people consider spending their vacations on the ocean. Today's cruise ships are floating luxury resorts, with many now featuring such over-the-top amenities as ice skating rinks and water parks.

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