Each time we take a cruise, we tend to tailor the luggage we take for that cruise. For example, if we are going on a long cruise, one longer than 7 days, we will pack differently than a shorter cruise. Other factors include whether or not we feel like taking our formal wear, what cruise line we go on, the weather (Caribbean vs. Alaska), whether the port offers express departure from the ship (carry your own luggage off), and so on.
In addition, over the years we have "perfected" our packing somewhat, and found what works and what doesn't. We usually drive to the cruise port, so the first consideration is to make sure everything will fit into the trunk of our car.
Regardless of what we take, we can categorize it into 4 or 5 basic pieces of luggage - for two people. Each of us takes our own 26" bag that contains the majority of the items we need to bring with us. And if we are going "formal", we will also take a garment bag. And finally, each of us takes a carry-on sized wheeled bag for essentials and valueables that we do not want to check. This should also work out well if you are flying to your destination.
Occasionally, our adult son takes a cruise with us. Since he is not of retirement age, he only has enough vacation time to do this once per year. When he goes with us, the garment bag is left home, and he takes a large piece of luggage with him, as welll as his own carry-on.
As this process has evolved, our luggage selection has changed. We have found that the duffle style luggage works the best. First and foremost, it fits into our car's trunk easier; more items can be packed into it due to it's duffle style and expansion capability, and the bags can easily slide under the bed in our cabin onboard the ship.
One solution we use occasionally, when we want to take advantage of express departure, is to use a wheeled backpack for our carry-on, and carry a single wheeled main piece of luggage. That usually means leaving our formal wear home, and it works best for 7 night and shorter cruises. But the ability to carry everything with you is the main requirement for express departure, so it does take some planning (and leaving some stuff home).
As we typically stay at a nearby hotel the night prior to departure, we often have to transfer our luggage to a hotel shuttle. This also means you don't want to take too many items, or you will be tired out from having to carry everything. While you can get a porter at the cruise terminal, he is not going to go with you to your destination!
After each cruise, we take a few minutes to figure out what we used and what we didn't. We then keep that in the back of our mind for the next cruise. We find that for some reason, we feel the need to buy a t-shirt for each port we visit.
So one strategy we use is to anticipate purchasing those items, and wear them during the cruise. We then can pack a bit lighter to accomidate the extra space required for such items.
Our (current) Luggage
High Sierra 26" rolling duffle
This High Sierra 26" rolling duffle is our main checked luggage. The bag is expandable, and we can get up to 14 days of clothing into it. As it works out, the sloping front of the bag allows it to fit into the trunk of our car more efficiently.
Since this is a duffle style bag, it will collapse when empty, and can usually be rolled under the bed in our cabin for storage. It is available in several colors. We chose red as it is easy to spot amongst all of the other luggage.
High Sierra Powerglide 21" Rolling Backpack
This rolling backpack is the bag of choice for my camrea gear and other electronics. I typically pack my cameras and lenses, kindle, netbook, iPod, and accessories in this bag. It features a separate compartment in the front for my netbook, which makes it easy to remove when going through the metal detector as they usually want to scan computers separately.
This is a true wheeled backpack, and has straps so that you can carry it on your back, which is useful if you are using express departure. Again, this bag is available in several colors - we use red as it is easier to spot.
|A note about camrea gear|
I often tailor the camera gear I take. For instance, an Alaskan cruise might result in taking longer lenses than a Caribbean cruise. For that reason, I occasionally take a separate camera bag in addition to my carry-on.
I go into the camera gear and bags in great detail at my sister website AlThePhoto.Com
Swiss Gear/Wenger Sierre-II 21" Rolling Carry-on
This rolling bag is similar to the backpack above except that it does not have backpack straps. My wife does not use backpack straps for her carry-on as it is too heavy. So she opts for this version. There is no separate compartment for this bag, and with it's clamshell opening, it is easy to pack. She carries a change of clothing (for both of us), our medications, her jewelry, cosmetics, and other essentials in this bag.
Absent the cameras and electronics that I carry, this bag is significantly lighter than my carry-on.
Swiss Gear Garment Bag
We favor the non-wheeled type garment bags as the trolley mechanism in the wheeled versions take up a significant amount of space. If we are packing our formal gear, we take this bag. And with the shoulder strap, we do not have to wheel it behind us (which is difficult when you have several wheeled pieces of luggage).
The bag is also usually light enough that I can strap it to the handle of our 26" duffel so that I don't need to shoulder the bag most of the time.
Eagle Creek Large Packing Sleeve
These small packing sleeves fit inside of our 26" duffels, and accomidates our non-formal garments. We usually each pack one of these and they help keep our smart-casual clothing from becoming wrinkled.