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Laundry on a Cruise: Everything You Need to Know

Laundry on a Cruise: Everything You Need to Know

Taking care of laundry on a cruise ship doesn’t need to be a hassle! Most cruise ships offer several options to clean your clothes while you cruise.

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Doing laundry on a cruise likely isn’t the first thing you think about when you’re planning a dream vacation at sea. But unless you’re taking your entire wardrobe along with you, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to wash and re-wear at least a few key items before the end of your sailing.

Access to laundry is so important if you’re trying to pack light for your cruise!

Thankfully, most ships have several ways to clean your clothes on a cruise—handy retractable clotheslines for drip-drying delicates, self-serve laundry rooms with washers and dryers, wash-and-fold service, even dry cleaning.

Here’s everything you need to know about doing laundry on a cruise.

Self-service laundry on cruise ships

Many mainstream, premium, and even luxury cruise lines offer self-service laundry rooms on most, if not all, of their ships.

Located within easy access of guest rooms (yes, you won’t need to lug a basket of unmentionables clear across the Lido Deck), many ships offer washing machines, dryers, clothes irons, folding tables, and even rinsing sinks.

One of the many self-serve launderettes aboard Carnival Pride

Although some cruise lines (like Norwegian) have removed DIY laundry rooms from older ships and no longer include them in their new ships, many still offer this budget-friendly amenity.

Princess and Disney have laundry rooms on all vessels, and Carnival offers them for guests on all but their newest ships.

Surprisingly, ultra-premium and luxury cruise lines almost always have laundry rooms for guests! Azamara, Cunard, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Silversea all offer this option.

How much is self-serve laundry on a cruise?

On most mainstream and premium cruise lines that offer self-service laundry rooms, there’s a small fee for each wash and dry cycle.

Prices can vary, but expect to pay between $2.50 and $4 (USD) for each wash and dry.

Laundry detergent, bleach, and fabric softener (dryer sheets or liquid) are usually an extra charge, and will be available in the launderette.

Luxury cruise lines usually offer free wash and dry cycles, and include free laundry detergent as well.

How do you pay for self-serve laundry on a cruise?

Historically, self-service laundry rooms on cruise ships were coin-operated, using quarters just like land-based laundromats.

But today, you can pay for most ships’ laundry facilities using your cruise card (or RFID-enabled medallion if your ship has that technology) to charge your onboard account.

Some older cruise ships still have coin-operated machines. If you don’t have enough quarters (or equivalent coins if your ship’s currency isn’t USD), just visit Guest Services for change.

Cruise pro tip: Consider packing a small ziploc bag of powdered detergent and some fabric softener sheets in your luggage. You’ll save money compared to buying overpriced detergent on the ship, and you can choose your favorite brand and scent.

When is the best time to do laundry on a cruise?

Some cruise lines offer 24/7 laundry rooms, and others have specific open hours, often closing when the ship is in port. Check your daily planner for times.

If you’d rather not have to wait for washers, dryers, or irons, cruise ship laundry rooms are busiest on sea days. A sea day afternoon before formal night is prime time in the launderette!

To avoid crowds, plan to do your laundry in the early morning or after dinner.

Wash-and-fold service on cruise ships

If your cruise ship doesn’t offer self-service laundry rooms (or if you’d rather pay someone else to do the task), the wash-and-fold service is a good alternative.

But it can be expensive! The cost per item will be listed on a price list in your stateroom closet, along with a bag to send your laundry out.

Prices vary by cruise line, but expect to pay about $2-3 for underwear, socks, or swimsuits, $3-4 for a t-shirt or top, $5-6 for jeans or shorts, and $8-10 for dresses.

Cruise pro tip: Watch for the daily planner that’s delivered to your stateroom each evening. It will sometimes include a flyer for discounted wash-and-fold service by the bag!

How quickly will my laundry be returned on a cruise?

As a general rule, you’ll get your clean laundry back in your stateroom within 48 hours. Some cruise lines promise a 24-hour turnaround, as long as your laundry bag is picked up by the morning’s cutoff.

Need your laundry back ASAP? Many cruise lines offer same-day express service for an additional fee.

How to get free wash-and-fold laundry service on a cruise

Many cruise lines offer free wash-and-fold laundry to guests who have reached an elite level in their loyalty program.

On Carnival cruises, guests who reach Platinum status are eligible for up to five free bags of laundry, depending on the length of the sailing. Diamond members can take advantage of unlimited free laundry service!

Royal Caribbean doesn’t offer free bags of laundry until you hit the Diamond Plus tier, but they do give discounts for Platinum and above.

Check your cruise line’s loyalty benefits to see if you’re eligible for free or discounted laundry on your next cruise.

Will the cruise ship laundry service ruin my clothing?

If you’re very careful with your favorite clothes—you sort them by color and only wash in cool or warm water—I’d avoid the wash-and-fold service for most of your clothes, even if it’s free.

But here’s what I send out for wash-and-fold service on a cruise:

  • Boxer shorts / briefs
  • Women’s or girls’ plain underwear without any lace trim or embellishment
  • Plain cotton jersey camisoles / layering tanks
  • Cotton or acrylic socks
  • Oversized t-shirts
  • Oversized sweatshirts / hoodies
  • Oversized PJs or sweatpants

It’s a good idea to avoid sending delicate items or anything that could shrink. If you’d be devastated if the laundry team ruined (or lost) a piece of clothing, don’t send it out.

Dry cleaning on cruise ships

Especially if you’re sailing on a luxury or more traditional cruise line with formal nights, the question of how to take care of dry-cleaning on a cruise ship always comes up.

Do cruise ships offer onboard dry cleaning?

Many cruise lines offer dry cleaning, though most are moving towards more environmentally-friendly professional cleaning services.

You’ll sometimes see this called wet cleaning or wet/dry cleaning. I won’t pretend to be an expert on any of these processes, but they’re the only cleaning service offered on cruise ships for items like suits and formalwear.

I’d never send a super-delicate item to be dry-cleaned on a cruise ship. I’d probably also avoid sending beaded or sequined dresses or tops.

But a basic suit or dress for formal night? Especially if you’ve only packed one dressy outfit and it needs to be cleaned and pressed for the next elegant evening, this is the best option.

Cruise pro tip: I always pack some at-home dry cleaning packets if my ship has a launderette. With just 20 minutes in the dryer, our suits and dresses come out wrinkle-free and smelling fresh.

Ironing clothes on a cruise ship

Many new cruisers are shocked when they realize their stateroom doesn’t include an iron and ironing board, as many hotel rooms do.

Even savvy land travelers who come prepared with a mini travel iron or clothes steamer face a similar shock when security confiscates their tools on embarkation day.

Clothing irons (and even steamers) can be a major fire hazard on cruise ships, so the crew carefully controls how and where guests use irons.

If your cruise ship has a laundry room, there will be an iron and ironing board. Usually they’re very easy to spot, but sometimes they’re a bit hidden!

Cruise pro tip: You can’t take an iron on a cruise, but you can pack a hair straightener! Your styling tool can do double-duty as a touch-up iron to flatten shirt collars and smooth out wrinkly hems.

Once on a Carnival cruise, I spent an entire hour on a sea day trying to iron my dress for formal night. I visited every single laundry room on the ship looking for one with an ironing board.

Convinced that other guests had commandeered all of the ironing boards, I approached a room steward in the hallway and explained my situation. He led me to the nearest launderette and showed me the pull-down ironing board hidden behind a gray door that I had assumed was an electrical panel.

So if the ironing board isn’t in plain view, try exploring the laundry room more to see where it might be hiding.

What if you need an iron and your cruise ship doesn’t have self-serve laundry?

On many cruise lines and cruise ships without self-service laundry rooms (and on some that do!) you can order an iron and ironing board to be delivered to your room.

Just ask your stateroom attendant, or call housekeeping from your stateroom phone.

Read more: How to Prevent Wrinkled Clothes on a Cruise

Hand-washing clothes on a cruise ship

I get it, no one wants to spend their precious cruising time hand-washing clothes in the sink. But there are a few instances where it just makes sense.

If you’re spending lots of time in the pool or hot tub or at the beach, you’ll probably want to rinse all of that chlorine (or saltwater) out of your swimsuits.

Or maybe you’re doing a lot of hiking in port, like I did on my Alaska expedition cruise. Instead of buying seven full sets of wool socks and base layers (that would get expensive), I just packed a couple of each and washed them in the stateroom sink at night.

If you’ve taken my tip to pack a small baggie of powdered detergent, just use a tiny bit of that in the sink. Or in a pinch, you could always use a squirt of body wash or shampoo—cruise lines almost always provide a basic version of these staples.

Then hang your clothes to dry right in your shower. Most cruise ship bathrooms include a retractable clothesline for drip-drying clothes. I recommend packing some clothespins or pool towel clips (gotta love those cruise accessories that serve more than one purpose!)

Cruise pro tip: If you have a balcony, resist the urge to hang your wet items outside. It’s pretty likely that a gust of wind will whip your clothes right out to sea.

How to corral all that dirty laundry on a cruise

In a tiny cruise stateroom (especially in a 150-sq.ft-ish inside cabin), the dirty clothes situation can quickly get out of control if you don’t have a central location for it.

A pop-up laundry hamper takes up almost zero room in your suitcase, and is a great way to keep your cruise cabin looking tidy.

Cruise pro tip: Reminding your cabin-mates that your room steward will be in once or twice a day to vacuum and make the bed can be an excellent motivator for them to put dirty laundry in the hamper. These hard-working crew members can’t clean if there’s dirty laundry everywhere!

Re-wearing clothes on your cruise

Before I go on about dirty laundry on a cruise, I need to share something really important.

It’s OK to re-wear clothes on your cruise.

Really. No one cares.

Even if you’d never be caught dead re-wearing the same piece in a short time at home, it’s different on a cruise. We’re all living out of a suitcase!

I mean, unless you spill a strawberry daiquiri on your shirt, or you work up a major sweat on a shore excursion, your jeans, sundresses, or cardigans are probably totally fine for a re-wear. Just hang them up and air them out.

Worried about wrinkles or odor? A quick spritz with a travel-sized wrinkle release spray takes care of it all.

Packing clothes away that you won’t wear again during your cruise

Unless you’ve booked a super-long cruise, you’ll probably have some clothes you’ll only wear once and then take back home to wash.

I’m talking underpants, socks, camis—maybe even t-shirts and other tops on a shorter sailing.

I like to hang up a “pack it back in the suitcase” bag, either in the closet or on the back of the bathroom door. You can use a mesh laundry bag, or even re-purpose a large, sturdy plastic shopping bag with handles.

Once it’s full, it goes back inside one of the suitcases I’ve stashed under the bed, ready for my post-cruise laundry session at home. Yippee!

Which cruise lines have laundry options on board?

Almost every cruise line offers at least send-out laundry services on each ship. Many also offer self-service laundry rooms and/or dry cleaning.

See the chart below to find out what laundry options your cruise line offers:

Cruise LineSelf-serveWash & foldPressingWet/Dry cleaning
Carnival✔*select ships
Fred. Olsen
Holland AmericaX
Oceaniaselect ships
Regent Seven Seas
Royal CaribbeanX
Viking Ocean
*except Celebration, Jubilee, Luminosa, and Mardi Gras except Wilderness Explorer (dryer only) except Seven Seas Splendor

FAQ about laundry on a cruise ship

Which cruise lines have self-service laundry facilities?

Many (but not all) cruise lines offer self-service laundry rooms for guests. Popular cruise lines with self-serve launderettes include Carnival, Disney, and Princess.

Do cruise ships offer dry cleaning services?

Many cruise lines offer dry cleaning or wet/dry cleaning on board for a fee per item.

Can you bring a clothes iron or steamer on a cruise?

Personal clothing irons and steamers can be a fire hazard on a cruise, so cruise lines will confiscate them at embarkation. But many ships offer pressing services and/or the use of an iron and ironing board.

Have you ever done your own laundry on a cruise ship? Or do you send it out to be washed or dry cleaned? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below!

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Carrie Ann Karstunen