This was indeed the biggest question I had before embarking on my first contract. Like how do I pack 6 months of my life into two luggages? Why only two? Well that is the number of bags allowed and covered by the company, any more and you probably will have to bear the additional charges, let alone be cursed by your roommate, haha.
So my main concern at that time was how big of a luggage should I be bringing? In the end I decided to bring two medium sized luggage, around 28″ each. It was sufficient but clearly I wasn’t bringing enough space for souvenirs and stuff. I would suggest bringing a large sized one (36″) and a medium one. I know, I’ve read tons of articles advising crew members to pack light but seriously, bring them bags. The smaller bag can always go into the larger one once you’ve unpacked and voila, you don’t take up as much space as you think. There’s also space underneath the bunk bed to store your luggage if you need to.
Once you’ve got your luggage figured out, these are the essentials (in my humble opinion) to survive your contract on-board. I wouldn’t ask you to bring your important documents like passport, medical cert etc. like come on, that’s general knowledge – don’t ever forget though!
- Obviously some clothing. Pack according to the itinerary you’re heading to. If you’re mostly doing hot summer ports of call, bring a light jacket and a sweater just in case the weather changes. Temperature on the ship tends to get a little cold too with the A/C so it’s nice to have something warm and snuggly. Pack some casual wear for days out in port and maybe 1 or 2 pieces of dressier items for nights out (overnights maybe?) or the crew bar. Or even special occasions, you know how that happens. A note of caution though, don’t pack too much! I figured that I was pretty genius and packed everything and in the end I went shopping and bought more. So yeah. Don’t forget other pieces of clothing like your PJs, swimsuit (for the sea or maybe the crew pool / jacuzzi?), gym clothes, lots of underwear and maybe some shirts for your uniform (it depends if it is provided by your company or if you are required to get your own).
2. Toiletries! The mother of all necessities. I packed like, full sized bottles of the things I like to use and I was glad I did. If you’re not fussy, you can always buy some at the crew shop (shampoo, body gel, lotion etc.) but I like to use the things I like so I brought shampoo, shower gel, cleanser, moisturizer, etc literally everything to the ship. In the end I still needed to get myself tons of Nivea lotion though as my skin was cracking due to the dry weather. But yes, if you really love your products bring them if you think you’re not able to get them wherever you’re at. I had fun trying on some new stuff I found at the ports too so guess what, harharhar.
Bring your makeup! I ran out of foundation/BB cream, eyeliner and eyebrow pencil soon enough but as I wasn’t too picky with what I use I went and got some new stuff from the local drugstore. You get my gist. What I really regretted and what went through my mind throughout my contract was how I should have packed a luggage full of my go-to sanitary napkins. Just imagine having to be at sea, away from home and finding the hard truth that nope, not all sanitary napkins are the same. Just to divert a little, the ones in Europe are sort of thin – I don’t know. What I know was that I could hear myself wishing that I brought 6 months’ worth of my favorite brand with me – screw luggage space, pads are important.
3. Medication. This is super important if you’re the type to fall sick easily but even if you’re not, be prepared! I know I get very painful menstrual cramps every month and depend on this one holy grail Panadol Actifast to feel better so I bought like maybe, 60 pills with me? (Don’t worry, I DID NOT FINISHED ALL OF THEM!) But yes, these are Godsend when you don’t feel good so please, don’t take this lightly. Bring any possible medication that you might need and if they’re over the counter types, it should be no problem but if they’re prescription drugs, do remember to inform the medical once you get on-board. Should there be any random drug search and if you so unfortunately was one of the people selected, the declaration will save your ass. Like really, I’m not joking. Anyway! I also brought with me a very typical Asian aunty remedy for bad days – MEDICATED OIL! I love, love, love the smell and the heat does help with little discomforts. Apparently my roomie also loves it and she’s Mexican, go figure.
4. Technology. This might not apply to everyone but in this time, everyone needs some kind of tech to survive right? Maybe? I’ll admit, I was too ambitious and brought everything with me to the ship. Really. I took with me my laptop, cell phone, action cam, mirrorless cam, Kindle, HDD drive and various accessories (chargers, tripod and all that shit.) So. If you spend most of your time with gadgets, be it for work or maybe you just don’t like humans – go for it. As for me, I love my tech. I wanted to take photos and make videos and blog and watch movies blablabla…it didn’t happen. What I really wanted to say is, bring whatever you need. I thought I needed my laptop. Wrong. Imagine paying for 660MB at $40 – you’ll be trying to save as much data as possible. I thought I would bring my laptop out during port days. Wrong again. There’s just too much to see and do and lugging a laptop around isn’t really convenient tbh. Most of the time I only used my phone for catching up and updating stuff on Facebook and Instagram. Photos too, which eliminated the need for the action cam and the mirrorless camera. Damn. As for movies, my company did really well on this and we constantly have new movies to watch on the TV so there you go. I only used my laptop for a record of two times during my first contract – I don’t think I will be bring it with me this time.
The kind of tech I would bring? My cell phone. Adapters. Especially when the ship has EU & US plug points but no 3 pin Asian ones. A hairdryer, power bank, electric jug kettle. Imagine wanting to eat noodles and you have no hot water. Or coffee. I would highly recommend a kettle if you can. My roomie also spoiled me for life as she brought along a handheld garment steamer (there’s always the iron in the laundry room though), hair curler & straightener, also a gel manicure set. Whatever rocks your boat but I’m a changed woman.
5. Little things from home. The stuff that matters of course. I know a fellow colleague who packed an entire luggage full of his favorite snacks. Bring your favorite type of coffee. Photos and trinkets. It may seem troublesome (that’s what I thought initially) but these little things do keep you grounded and sane. I placed pictures of my family and friends on the wall next to my bed so that I can be reminded of them.
Yep, just me and my wall.
There’s a couple more I would like to talk about but I’ll save it for another day. Til then, safe travels! 🚢