No one likes to be seen wearing the same clothes over and over, yet it’s impractical to bring your entire wardrobe on a cruise. Doing laundry while on vacation is never pleasant nor glamorous, but unless you’re packing fresh clothes for each day and night away, it is a virtual inevitability that you’ll need to do a load or two. Fortunately, most cruise ships offer you a number of options.
What to pack for a river or ocean cruise often revolves around how much to bring. How many clothes you bring is usually dictated by how long you will be away. What services your cruise ship offers can be an important part of cruise planning, especially on those longer voyages.
Start by packing wisely with low-maintenance clothing. Stick with darker colors that can stand up to multiple wearings longer than an all-white wardrobe. Stay with one or two color families so it will be easier to mix and match. This will also make fewer laundry loads because they can be washed together. Avoid fabrics that take forever to dry – microfiber pants will dry overnight, jeans will not.
The advantage of doing laundry on board is that you can pack lighter, saving extra luggage fees on airline flights and room for souvenirs. There are no liquid restrictions on cruise ships, so once you've arrived to your port of embarkation, you can purchase and bring your own detergent onboard and hand-wash your clothes in the cabin sink.
Most ships feature a small retractable clothes line in the bathroom for anything you might not wish to risk in the hot onboard dryers – at least if you’d like it back in the same size. It's against the rules of many cruise ships to hang up items on your balcony, as these can be an enormous fire hazard if the wind blows an item over the edge and this in turn gets caught in the ship’s wash and sucked into one of the engines. So pack some plastic clothespins or pegs. Aside from being used to hang up laundry, they'll come in handy for a variety of things while on a cruise. Plus, they will keep drapes closed for privacy and light-free sleeping.
Irons, or anything with heating elements beside styling tools, such as curling irons, are not permitted in cabins. Unattended irons pose a considerable fire hazard, and fire is one of the greatest threats onboard any ship. Irons and ironing boards are usually available for use in the ship's self-service laundry facility. Otherwise, most ships will have a few irons to loan upon request for a few hours at a time – just contact housekeeping or guest services. While irons may not be allowed, small personal travel steamers are perfectly fine to bring along.
Ships design their bathrooms to form a pretty tight seal around the door to ensure no steam easily escapes out and inadvertently set off the fire alarm and trigger an emergency evacuation of the ship. You can shower steam your clothes by turning the shower on to the hottest temperature possible and closing the bathroom door for 5-10 minutes. You'll have wrinkle-free clothes without the need for an iron!
Beyond hand washing laundry in the tiny bathroom sink, every ship offers laundry service. Do-it-yourself services are much less expensive than having the porter take care of laundry.
Not all river or ocean cruise ships have self-service laundry rooms. The ones that do may charge per load and for use of detergent and dryer sheets. On some ships, you'll need to swipe your keycard to pay for laundry; others require quarters or accept bills. Vending machines are at the ready for dispensing laundry products. Taking your own detergent will not subject your clothes to the commercial-grade brands used by the cruise lines. It’s also particularly handy if you have sensitive skin that doesn’t like new detergents or scents. Pack a lightweight mesh bag to transport clothing to and from the laundry room.
It happens to most of us. Chances are the one night you choose to wear your favorite outfit will be the same night you’ll end up wearing a glass of red wine or some chocolate mousse. To save your clothes from permanent damage, simply pack a stain remover stick. These cheap sticks full of stain remover concentrate allow you to quickly fix a stain without necessarily requiring you to wash the item completely.
If you are going to use the ship's small do-it-yourself launderette, keep busy times in mind, especially if the facilities are free and consequently more frequented. Plan to do laundry early in the morning, late at night or when the ship is in port for best washer availability. Meanwhile, please be mindful of other passengers too and don't leave machines unattended for extended periods of time, thus requiring other guests to remove your laundry for you. Take a magazine or book and plan to stay with your clothing until they are done.
Having your clothes professionally dry cleaned can get expensive, especially when you have a lot of items that require special care. Most items that contain "dry clean only" labels can actually be dry cleaned in a dryer with a dry cleaning kit. Every kit comes with small bottles or pens filled with stain remover and a bag that fits three or four pieces of clothing. Make sure they are similar colors, to prevent the chance of bleeding dye ruining an article of clothing. The dry cleaning sheet contains a small amount of water, an emulsifier to keep it dispersed, and a perfume to freshen the smell of your clothes. As the dryer heats the sheet, it will create steam that infuses your clothes with fragrance and straightens out wrinkles.
If you require laundry to be done onboard but would rather not tend to it yourself, the best approach would be to choose a cabin category that features free laundry service as an included amenity. Many cruise line loyalty programs offer a free bag of laundry per cruise at a certain level. If you're a passenger on a luxury line staying in a suite, you might be eligible for suite perks, such as complimentary laundry services that include dry-cleaning.
Most river and ocean cruise lines offer wash and press services onboard their cruise ships for a fee. There is typically a laundry bag located inside your stateroom that you can leave for your room steward to pick up. Prices for laundry vary by cruise line and by item. Expect to pay a few dollars for a men's shirt or women's blouse to be washed and pressed, and slightly more for dry-cleaning. Just having an item pressed is usually available for a smaller fee.
If a laundry bag is picked up in the morning, it is typically returned by the next day. Express service is available on many ships, offering same-day delivery of your clothes for an additional fee.
Some cruise lines offer unlimited laundry packages wherein a daily rate is paid to be able to send out laundry ad infinitum, but most have to be booked and paid for in advance of your cruise. Some lines will charge a flat rate for as many items as you can fit into the laundry bag. Many times, cruise lines will offer laundry specials toward the end of a sailing, providing a discounted rate for a filled bag of laundry. It’s always wise to keep an eye on the daily newsletter delivered to your cabin each evening; dotted among its pages you may also find a laundry special. These deals can provide significant savings if you do require the use of the professional laundry services on your ship. Often, these will begin to appear after a few days, right around the time people start realizing they may need to clean their clothes.
If you do require your clothes to be washed by the professionals, keep in mind that items will be placed in a commercial-grade dryer. These are designed to get extremely hot, which can result in the shrinkage of your items, especially if they aren’t tumble dry-friendly.
While very few people report damaged items, it does happen and cruise lines offer no guarantee about the state of your clothing after being laundered. Always check with your cruise line for their individual liability policy. Often reporting the lost or damaged item while still onboard will help your case and may be mandatory for compensation. However, the line is not responsible for shrinkage, fastness of colors, zippers or for articles left in clothing.
Dry-cleaning is an option on almost all cruise ships, but it's usually not always available on river boats and smaller oceangoing vessels like expedition ships. Having an item dry-cleaned will run you more than a simple wash, and the price will also depend on whether it's a single item or a full suit.
Experiential and Wellness Travel are where it's at. Experiential Wellness Travel is a hybrid of both. But Transformative Travel is the next evolution in travel. Like many land-based resorts, the global cruise industry has kept apace of this current trend with vacations that are fun, authentic, and meaningful by offering travelers on board and on shore fitness and wellness activities, healthy meal options, local cooking classes, culturally immersive shore excursions, participation in the local communities they visit, and a variety of tailor-made experiences that are transformative in a deep and personal way.