Just about everyone wants to pack lighter for a cruise if they can. And, one simple strategy for streamlining your family’s cruise is to plan on getting some laundry done while you’re away. That way you can start off by packing far fewer clothes.
Laundry may be one of the last things that you want to think about when you are on vacation, but you can reap many benefits by thinking about it before you leave. And this can actually lead to a more relaxing and stress-free vacation. Read below for tips on implementing this strategy in simple and cost-effective ways, in this quick guide to managing laundry on a cruise ship.
Why Care About Your Laundry On A Cruise Ship
Let’s start with why you should even care about your family laundry on a cruise ship. Between excursions, the pool, potential sweaty activities, changing for dinner, and the occasional formal night, you could easily change clothes two or three times a day. For a seven-day cruise with a family of four or five, that equals lots of clothes!
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And, if you try to pack accordingly, you will likely end up with quite a bit of luggage. And this multiplies substantially with each child that you include in the mix. You can easily rack up several pesky airline fees because of the weight of your bags, the number of your bags, or both.
Less Luggage = More Cabin Space
Even if you aren’t flying to your embarkation point, or you otherwise don’t have to worry about baggage fees, reducing the overall amount of luggage that you haul onto the ship can still improve your vacation experience.
First, the less luggage you bring onto the ship is less luggage that you have to store in your cabin. Being able to tuck all of your luggage out of sight and out of the way will greatly increase the comfort level of your stateroom. (You can find out more strategies for making your cabin more comfortable in 9 Remarkably Easy Tips To Make Family Cruise Ship Rooms Cozy.)
Less Luggage = Potentially Easier Disembarkation
Second, the less luggage that you bring onto the ship means less luggage that you have to haul back off of the ship. This can make your disembarkation process easier.
You don’t have to worry about putting all of your luggage outside your cabin the night before. And, if you are able to manage all of your family’s luggage yourself, you can walk off the ship the final day without worrying about disembarkation groups. Nor do you have to track down your luggage once you are in port.
And, you can be one of the first families off the ship when it ports. This potentially provides more or better flight options. (You can find more tips for managing your final cruise day in Our Top 8 Strategies To Disembark With Ease.)
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You can substantially reduce your amount of family luggage when you reduce the overall amount of clothes that you pack. And, you can easily do that if you know what you want to do about laundry before you start packing. So make a plan for managing your laundry on a cruise ship.
Can You Get Away With Doing Nothing?
Planning to pack less clothes does not necessarily require that you plan to do laundry. One option would be to simply pack less clothes and not worry about laundry at all.
I once met a solo male cruiser who was midway through six weeks’ worth of back-to-back cruises on the same ship. (Apparently, it was his first vacation in many years.) I learned that he had brought a grand total of one bag for the whole trip. It was basically half clothes and half underwear. And, he also informed me that he had no intention of doing any laundry at all.
His view was that he would just re-wear the same clothes until they were no longer socially acceptable, and then toss them. He said that it was cheaper and easier to occasionally buy a new shirt if necessary rather than fret about doing his laundry on a cruise ship.
It’s an interesting perspective. And probably one that is easier to pull off if you are traveling alone. It would probably be much harder to pull that off with kids. Since they tend to actually get their clothes visibly dirty. And, with babies and toddlers, you have to account for the occasional accident as well.
So what are your other options?
Hand-Washing: The Cheapest Option for Laundry on a Cruise Ship.
Hand washing clothes on your cruise is always a viable and cheap option. Particularly when you are cruising a tropical itinerary that doesn’t require much clothing to begin with. Underwear can easily be washed in a bathroom. As can any other small, thin or lightweight clothes that can dry quickly such as t-shirts, tank tops, and some shorts.
For this option, pack some single-use laundry detergent to wash small items in the sink. After you wash your items, remove the excess moisture by rolling the wet clothes in a bath towel. (You can get extra towels from your stateroom attendant.) Then hang the clothes to dry overnight.
For more detailed tips on doing laundry in the bathroom, check out An Illustrated Guide to Hand Washing Clothes While Traveling.
As for drying your clothes, many ships have a clothesline in the bathroom which is perfect for doing laundry on a cruise ship. However, many of the newer ships do not. (For instance, we were unable to find a line in our cabin on Harmony of the Seas.) So, if you are planning to hand-wash some clothes you should check on your ship specifically. Or, alternatively, you can pack a travel clothesline.
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Please note that you will not be permitted to have an iron or steamer in your cabin. These items will be confiscated if found. But, the ship will offer a pressing service for a fee. Alternatively, you can try steaming wrinkles out when someone is taking a hot shower. Or, you can pack some type of wrinkle-away spray.
Use A Self-Service Laundry Center (if available)
Some, but not all, cruise lines also offer self-serve laundry rooms that are relatively inexpensive, and in some instances, may be complementary. However, the following cruise lines do not offer any self-serve laundry facilities: Celebrity, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.
The following lines offer complimentary self-serve laundry: Azamara Club, Crystal, Cunard, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, and Seabourn.
Of the major large family-friendly cruise lines, only three offer self-serve laundry facilities: Carnival, Disney, and Princess. All of these require some form of payment. Carnival charges $3.25 per load. Disney’s machines cost $2.00 per load. And, the Princess laundry centers require $3.00 per load.
(Note: There is some conflicting information about Holland America. In its 2020 brochure posted online, it states that laundry rooms are available on the Amsterdam and Maasdam. But, according to folks in reservations, all laundry machines have been removed during refurbishment over the past few years.)
For each of these cruise lines, you will be able to purchase laundry detergent and other supplies on board. But it would be far less expensive to bring your own. And, you can get the kind where one laundry sheet can conveniently be used for both the washer and the dryer.
As previously noted, passengers cannot have an iron or steamer in their cabins. But, ships that offer self-service laundry centers will usually have an iron and ironing board also available in the same area for guest use.
The Full-Service Option for Laundry On A Cruise Ship
Not surprisingly, all cruise lines offer an onboard laundry service in addition to traditional dry-cleaning. Unfortunately, these services can be costly. Typically, doing laundry on a cruise ship through the ship’s laundry service will incur per item charges of several dollars. (Compared to several dollars per load in a self-service center, or $0 additional dollars in your stateroom). On a per-item basis, charges can rack up rather quickly.
For instance, on Royal Caribbean, the wash and press prices for most items range from $3.49 to $5.49 per item. On Celebrity, typical prices for laundry services range from $3.75 to $8.00 per item. And, on Carnival, most items washed through the valet laundry service cost between $2.00 and $5.00 each.
Watch for Laundry Specials
So, how can you bring these costs down? You should be on the lookout for laundry specials both before you board the ship, and while you are sailing. These types of promotions will make doing laundry on a cruise ship more affordable.
Many cruise lines will routinely offer laundry specials or discount packages, but you should make a point of actually looking for them. Oftentimes, these specials will be announced and made available once you are onboard the ships. Look in your daily cruise planner, or ask early on in your cruise at guest services.
These promotions typically involve some variation of filling up a laundry bag (provided by the cruise line) on a certain day and submitting it for a reduced fee. These promotions usually do not include pressing.
So, for instance, Royal Caribbean often runs wash and fold specials during their cruise itineraries. Basically, for a flat fee of around $35, you can stuff as much laundry as possible in a designated paper bag, and it will be returned washed, and folded in a couple of days. Both Carnival and Celebrity will often offer similar fill-a-bag promotions. On a recent sailing of Celebrity Edge, the ship offered a bag promotion for $49.99. You could stuff as many items in the bag as you wanted as long as it did not rip.
Pre-Sailing Discounts and Other Potential Discounts
Some cruise lines may also offer discounted packages that can be purchased in advance of sailing. So look for any such options when you are doing your online registration.
Holland America seems to offer the best deal. You can pay $20 per bag for laundry. Or, you can buy an unlimited laundry package that costs $7 per day per stateroom (so 7 days = $49). Holland America also reportedly uses cloth rather than paper laundry bags which allows you to squeeze more clothes into one bag.
MSC Cruises also offers laundry packages but the precise features vary by sailing. On a recent cruise on MSC Seaside, they were offering to wash and fold a set number of pieces for a flat fee – for instance, 30 pieces for $50. A meaningful discount from the regular per item charges.
Related Post: Our Top 10 Reasons MSC Seaside Rocks Family Cruising
Finally, you should also check on whether your cruise reservation has some laundry discounts or benefits built right in. So, for instance, if your reservation includes some on-board credit, you could plan to allocate that perk for defraying laundry costs.
If you are booked in a suite or similar higher revenue stateroom, your booking may also include some complementary or discounted laundry services. Likewise, if you are traveling with someone who has loyalty status benefits, they may have access to potential discounts as well.
Regardless of which laundry option you plan to use, or even if you plan to just bring back all of your dirty clothes and do the laundry at home, you should consider taking some travel laundry bags with you. You can just drop them at the bottom of your closet and fill them as you go along. This helps keep your stateroom organized. It will also help with your packing when you get ready to return home.
Whatever bags you bring will be better than what you will find in your stateroom. The bags that you typically find inside the closet are paper, and they don’t hold up well.
Making a plan to do some of your family laundry on a cruise ship while you are on vacation will help streamline your overall packing and reduce the amount of luggage you need to bring with you. And, you have a variety of options for getting it done that range from little cost with more effort to little effort with more cost. Whatever choice works best for your family will enhance your cruising experience.
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