Going on a cruise this season? Lucky you! It’s a great way to visit several destinations in one trip. But that can also make it tricky to decide what to pack. Below, we will show you what to wear on a cruise and which cruise clothing essentials you will need, This will ensure that you have everything you need for shore excursions and fun aboard the ship.

Rooms on board ships tend to be small with limited space. Although, the big advantage is that, even though you are traveling to multiple destinations, you only need to unpack once! Your accommodation is also your mode of transportation.

But, you will still want to plan your outfits carefully and pack pieces that you can wear in multiple ways so you don’t take up vital cabin space.

Below, you will find our list of what to wear on cruise and what to pack to set sail for sunny destinations in style. But first, some general tips when thinking about what to pack for your cruise vacation.

Is it okay to wear jeans on a cruise?

Should you take your trusty jeans on your cruise? Yes, denim is definitely acceptable in most situations, although think about how much room it will take up in your case. You can wear denim shorts during the day, and you’ll probably be able to wear your jeans in the evening. Just check the dress code for your cruise line as some don’t allow jeans in the dining room at night.

What colors should you wear on a cruise?

Anything goes when it comes to your choice of colors. Make sure that you think about how your clothes will go together to create different choices. Have fun with your color combinations. And, we’d avoid too many dark colors as they go ‘against’ the fun element of a cruise.

Do you still have to dress up on cruises?

Some cruise lines do still have a dress code for diner, so be sure to check. Plus, dressing up is one of the fun things about a cruise. It’s a great excuse to make an effort with your evening outfits.

what to wear on a cruise – Your cruise packing list

Below is what we recommend taking along for a cruise trip. Take a look for your what to wear on a cruise packing essentials.

Cruise dresses for day and night

Dresses don’t take up much space in your luggage, and are vacation workhorses.

A dress can take you from brunches and lunches on board and can easily be dressed up or down with a change of shoes.

If the weather is warm or humid, a dress can be worn alone or paired with a jacket or lightweight sweater when it turns cooler at night.

Wear your dress with comfortable gladiator sandals or stylish slip on sneakers in a metallic hue.

Pack at least one stylish maxi dress and a sundress in a shorter length.

Cruise essential – Maxi dress or jumpsuit

A maxi dress or jumpsuit can be perfectly laidback, or more formal, depending on the cruise you are going on.

Choose one which you can sling over your swimsuit after a day at the pool so that you can head to the bar for cocktails.

You can pop a cardigan or wrap over for evenings.

You may also wish to take a look at the best dresses with sleeves for women over 40 and how to wear a maxi dress.

What to wear on a cruise - Loveappella Maxi Dress | 40plusstyle.com

Loveappella Maxi Dress

What to wear on a cruise - Carmen in a pink sundress | 40plusstyle.com

Carmen @carmen_gimeno above chooses a pink dress and shirt that would be perfect for a cruise. You could wear the shirt with your shorts or as a swimsuit cover-up too.

Recreate her outfit with this similar dress, shirt, sandals, handbag and sunglasses.

what to wear on a cruise – a Versatile sundress

As well as a maxi dress, you will want an easy-breezy knee-length or midi style that you can wear for days on board as well as for sightseeing excursions.

Choose a dress that you can easily pop over your swimwear, but which will also take you from day to night.

A dress in a light fabric will be perfect. You can wear over your swimsuit, or for sightseeing with sandals. Or you can dress up with heels for evening. You can also wear over pants for a different look.

What to wear on a cruise - Polo Ralph Lauren Ivara Floral Puff-Sleeve Midi-Dress | 40plusstyle.com

Polo Ralph Lauren Ivara Floral Puff-Sleeve Midi-Dress

Evening dress for cruise formal night

If you’re thinking about what to wear on cruise and what to pack, consider that most cruise have formal nights. Depending on the cruise line, it can be anywhere from an elegant dressy affair to a more casual dinner and cocktails.

Pack two dinner outfits if your cruise is a week, so you’ll be prepared. As well as a cocktail dress, We’d be tempted to pack a jumpsuit as these can easily be dressed up or down. A black dress will go with everything and you can easily change it up with accessories to create different looks.

What to wear on a cruise - J.Crew A-Line Matte Jersey Midi Dress | 40plusstyle.com

J.Crew A-Line Matte Jersey Midi Dress

What to wear on a cruise – Tops

I’d keep the tops you choose, like the rest of your cruise outfits, very versatile.

Opt for tops you can either dress down for day, or dress up with jewelry and heels for evening. Also, choose tops which you can wear either with pants or shorts, or over your swimwear as cover-ups.

t-shirt

A T-shirt (or more) is essential no matter where you are going. The Caslon T-shirt (below), will add interest to your daytime outfits, and could be dressed up with wide leg pants or a midi skirt for evening.

What to wear on a cruise - Caslon Twist Hem V-Neck T-Shirt | 40plusstyle.com

Caslon Twist Hem V-Neck T-Shirt

Tunic

A tunic top is the ideal choice as you can pop over your swimsuit for days onboard, but you can also wear over your shorts or pants for days spent ashore sightseeing. You can leave loose or tuck it in to create different looks.

Natori Barong Gradient Tunic | 40plusstyle.com

Natori Barong Gradient Tunic

shirt

When thinking about what to pack for a cruise, a shirt is so useful for your trip. You can wear over your shirts or pants, you can tuck into jeans or a skirt, or you can wear over your swimsuit as a cover-up.

120% Lino Linen Buttoned Shirt | 40plusstyle.com

120% Lino Linen Buttoned Shirt

tank top

If you’re cruising somewhere warm, you may want to opt for some sleeveless tops. Tank tops can be worn with your shorts, pants or skirts, or are useful for layering under your shirts, or you can always wear as pajama tops. The J.Crew tank top (below) features a bra shelf for extra support.

J.Crew Vintage Rib Shelf-Bra Tank Top | 40plusstyle.com

J.Crew Vintage Rib Shelf-Bra Tank Top

What to wear on a cruise - Georgette wears palazzo pants | 40plusstyle.com

Georgette @grownandcurvywoman above (read her style interview here) chooses a red tank top with her palazzo pants.

Get her look with this similar tank top (another option here) , wide pants (another option here), sandals, bag and earrings.

Day to night top

Choose a top that will go with your shorts during the day and that you can elevate at night with a statement necklace. If you choose a top in a beautiful material or with some draping, you can easily dress it up or down.

Ramy Brook Sabrina Surplice Tie Top | 40plusstyle.com

Ramy Brook Sabrina Surplice Tie Top

What to wear on a cruise – pants and shorts

When considering what to wear on a cruise, think about the weather. If you’re going for sunny locations, it’s highly recommended you bring shorts. On most cruises, you’ll be going ashore to explore ports of call. Pack a pair of stylish crop pants or shorts to wear for sightseeing.

Choose pants or shorts you can move comfortably in. You probably want to avoid denim as this isn’t the coolest fabric in hot weather.

cropped pants

A pair of pants will also be a hardworking staple of your cruise wardrobe. Choose a cropped pair to keep your ankles cool. You can wear it with your t-shirt and sandals or sneakers for the day, or you can dress up with a silky top and heeled sandals for the evening.

Theory Crop Straight-Leg Trousers | 40plusstyle.com

Theory Crop Straight-Leg Trousers

For more tips check our article on how to wear cropped pants.

palazzo pants

A pair of wide, palazzo pants can look effortlessly stylish on a cruise or vacation. Wear with your tank top and shirt and sandals during the day.

Bird & Knoll Darcy Striped Cotton Voile Palazzo Pants | 40plusstyle.com

Bird & Knoll Darcy Striped Cotton Voile Palazzo Pants

What to pack for a cruise: Shorts

A pair of shorts is a must for casual days on the ship and for excursions. Choose a pair that is mid-length so you have enough coverage but is also cool.

The J.Crew chinos (below) are a good mid-length, and come in a choice of neutral shades.

See more of our tips in our article on how to wear shorts.

J.Crew Pleated Capeside Chino Short | 40plusstyle.com

J.Crew Pleated Capeside Chino Short

What to wear on a cruise - Kylie wears shorts and a white shirt | 40plusstyle.com

Kylie @kylish_aus above chooses a classic shorts and shirt outfit and makes sure to protect her face and eyes.

Steal her look with this similar blouse, denim shorts, sneakers, sun hat and sunglasses.

Packing for a cruise – Swimsuits & cover-ups

Pack at least two swimsuits for your trip, so you can rotate them in case the other is wet. There’s nothing worse than having to put on a wet swimsuit.

Choose cover-ups which you can wear not just over your swimwear, but also as tops and dresses.

Swimsuit

You will want more than one swimsuit as you will want to be in a position where you can rinse one out and leave it to dry, and wear the other one.

We’d make one of your swimsuits a classic black or one color style as you can wear it under any cover-up you choose, or you can wear it with shorts or pants instead of a top.

Want more ideas for bathing suits, check our article on the best swimwear brands.

Miraclesuit Swim Razzle Dazzle Siren One-Piece Swimsuit | 40plusstyle.com

Miraclesuit Swim Razzle Dazzle Siren One-Piece Swimsuit

You could also opt for a tankini. That way you can wear the bikini bottoms with the rashvest below or the tankini top.

Boden Capri Tankini Top - Boden Amalfi Fold Over Bottoms | 40plusstyle.com

Boden Capri Tankini TopBoden Amalfi Fold Over Bottoms

rashvest

If you might be spending some time swimming, snorkeling or paddle boarding, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t get sunburned. A rash vest can protect your chest and arms from UV rays. The rashguard swimsuit (below) comes well-reviewed with wearers saying it is a flattering fit, and you can leave it slightly unzipped for a sexier look, or fully zipped for more coverage.

Trina Turk Solar Floral Half Zip Rashguard Swimsuit | 40plusstyle.com

Trina Turk Solar Floral Half Zip Rashguard Swimsuit

Cover-ups

Choose a hardworking cover-up that you can pop on over your swimsuit, or wear with your pants as a top.

You might also wish to pack a longer cover-up. Depending on your ports of call, this could be useful if you are visiting any religious sites such as temples and you need to cover your knees and shoulders.

Elan Wrap Maxi Cover-Up Dress | 40plusstyle.com

Elan Wrap Maxi Cover-Up Dress

Depending on the style of cover-up you choose, you can wear it over your swimwear, or as a duster jacket on cooler evenings. The Farm Rio sarong (below) would look good over your bathing suit.

Farm Rio Inner Beach Printed Long Sarong | 40plusstyle.com

Farm Rio Inner Beach Printed Long Sarong

Check out our list of the best swimsuit cover-ups in stores now.

What to take on a cruise – jackets, Wraps & cardigans

If you are heading to a tropical destination, you may think you don’t need warm clothing. But, you are likely to want a wrap or cardigan (or both) for cooler evenings on deck, and because you will find that much of the ship is air-conditioned.

short jacket

A short jacket can be an incredibly flattering choice to wear over your maxi dresses as it can make your legs look long in comparison to your torso. The Mother denim jacket (below) comes in a pattern that will make your denim jacket stand out.

Mother The Mountain Drifter Geometric Denim Jacket | 40plusstyle.com

Mother The Mountain Drifter Geometric Denim Jacket

What to wear on a cruise - Kimba in a denim jacket and cargo pants | 40plusstyle.com

Kimba @kimbalikes above chooses pink denim with her cargo pants.

Get her look with this similar top, denim jacket, pants, sneakers and sunglasses.

wrap

You can wear your wrap over your shoulders with your evening dress, or slung over your daywear if it’s chilly on deck.

Nordstrom Shimmer Wrap | 40plusstyle.com

Nordstrom Shimmer Wrap

Cardigan

A cardigan is also a versatile option. You can wear over your dresses as well as if you have a plane journey to and from your first and final port.

Cara Cara Bettina Stripe Cardigan | 40plusstyle.com

Cara Cara Bettina Stripe Cardigan

4 pairs of cruise shoes to pack

It may seem like a lot, and we agree as usually we’d recommend only packing 3 pairs of shoes for most vacations.

However, for a cruise, it’s useful to have a pair of pool shoes you don’t mind getting wet, some smarter flat sandals, a pair of comfy sneakers for walking on excursions, and a pair of low heels to go with your evening dress. And, your flat shoes won’t take up much room.

Sandals

Choose a pair of stylish, yet comfy sandals which you can wear for walking around your ship and for days offshore which don’t require too much strenuous walking.

TOMS Sidney Tread Sandals | 40plusstyle.com

TOMS Sidney Tread Sandals

Flip flops

Flip flops are always handy to have, and they don’t take up very much room in your luggage at all. Slip on after your swims on the ship.

Tory Burch Miller Soft Sandals | 40plusstyle.com

Tory Burch Miller Soft Sandals

Excursion sneakers

You may find that some excursions require more walking than others. Perhaps you are hiking to a waterfall, or walking up steps to get to a fabulous view. I’d pack either some comfortable canvas slip-ons or walking shoes.

Dolce Vita Zina Sneakers | 40plusstyle.com

Dolce Vita Zina Sneakers

Low heels for evening

Even if you don’t tend to take heels on vacation with you, when you are cruising, you are likely to find that there is an eveningwear dress code. Your heels will go well with your formal evening dress.

Make sure to opt for block heels because these are much easier to walk in while you’re at sea than thinner heels like stilettos or kitten heels and they won’t damage the deck.

Opt for a lower or block heel. Really high heels on a swaying boat can be difficult to walk in or dance the night away in.

Vionic Chardonnay Ankle Straps Heeled Sandals | 40plusstyle.com

Vionic Chardonnay Ankle Straps Heeled Sandals

Cruise clothing essentials: What to wear on a cruise and what to pack | 40plusstyle.com

Nikki @midlifechic above shows how you could wear flat sandals with your evening dress.

Recreate her outfit with this similar halter dress (anther option here), sandals (another option here), clutch and necklace.

You may also want to look at the most comfortable heels that look hip and are comfortable to wear.

Cruise outfits – Accessories to pack on a cruise

Accessories can make or break an outfit anywhere, and the same applies to a cruise. But, they can be even more vital on vacation.

You will want a sun hat to protect your head and face from the sun, a pair of sunglasses to add style and protect your eyes, and a crossbody bag which you can keep your purse secure in when you leave the ship for excursions.

Sunhat

If you’re heading to sunny climes, a hat is vital to protect your skin and your eyes. You can wear while reading your book by the pool, and for sightseeing. Choose a style with a wide brim to keep the sun off your face.

The straw hat (below) is ideal for packing for a trip, and it comes in a wide choice of colors, so you’re sure to find a shade that goes with your cruise trip capsule. Reviewers say it looks great on everyone, and it holds its shape well.

Lanzom Wide Brim Straw Panama Hat | 40plusstyle.com

Lanzom Wide Brim Straw Panama Hat

Excursion bag

Take a small crossbody bag to hold your essentials.

Select a bag that works with your daytime casual outfits and is large enough to easily hold your cell phone, passport, money cards and sunscreen – keeping everything safe and secure if you are heading out on a shore excursion.

Your excursion bag will have to be hardworking. You want to make sure it is stylish, but that it will keep your belongings close to you.

The Travelon anti-theft messenger bag is a favorite among travelers.

Also take a look at our article on the best travel purses.

Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag | 40plusstyle.com

Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag

Clutch bag

Slip a small evening clutch into your luggage. It won’t take up much room but will make your outfit evening-ready. Make sure it’s large enough to hold your cellphone and lipstick.

Olga Berg Amalia Pleated Woven Straw Clutch | 40plusstyle.com

Olga Berg Amalia Pleated Woven Straw Clutch

beach or tote bag

A tote bag is useful so you can pack a towel and your book for going ashore, or a tote if you just want to carry your essentials around the boat.

Longchamp Le Pliage Green Recycled Canvas Large Tote | 40plusstyle.com

Longchamp Le Pliage Green Recycled Canvas Large Tote

Jewelry

You probably don’t want to take anything too valuable when considering what to pack for a cruise, but a few well-chosen pieces can make a big difference to your cruise outfits. Plus, they won’t take up too much room in your luggage, or your cabin.

A statement necklace or earrings can dress up an outfit to get you ready for a drink at the bar.

Lizzie Fortunato Interval Cultured Pearl Collar Necklace | 40plusstyle.com

Lizzie Fortunato Interval Cultured Pearl Collar Necklace

BaubleBar Macaw Me Beaded Statement Drop Earrings | 40plusstyle.com

BaubleBar Macaw Me Beaded Statement Drop Earrings

Sunglasses

Just as your sunhat is important for both protection and style, your sunglasses will protect your eyes and add some pizzazz to all of your daytime outfits. Choose a color that will go with all your outfits.

Loewe Stella 52MM Acetate Sunglasses | 40plusstyle.com

Loewe Stella 52MM Acetate Sunglasses

What to wear on a cruise - Tamera in a white outfit | 40plusstyle.com

Tamera @tamerabeardsley above (read her style interview here) chooses an all-white outfit, and a wide-brimmed hat to shade her face from the sun.

Check out this similar off the shoulder top, pants, flats, woven bag, sunhat, earrings and sunglasses.

cruise essentials

As well as your outfits, you’ll want to pack some essentials into your suitcase.

sunscreen

No matter where you are traveling, sunscreen is a must to protect your skin from sun damage. Reviewers say the Neutrogena sunscreen (below) goes on sheer and can be worn under make-up.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion | 40plusstyle.com

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion

Mosquito repellent

You probably won’t need insect repellent while onboard your cruise as the ocean breeze will keep mosquitos away. But it’s useful to have for any excursions.

OFF! FamilyCare Mosquito Repellent IV | 40plusstyle.com

OFF! FamilyCare Mosquito Repellent IV

towel pegs

It can get breezy when you’re cruising, so to make sure your towel stays on your sunlounger, a couple of beach towel clips can be handy.

Beach Towel Clips | 40plusstyle.com

12 Pack Clothes Pins

your kindle

You can download all your reading material on your Kindle rather than carrying bulky books around with you. You can add guidebooks to the destinations you will be visiting as well as novels to read by the pool. The Kindle Oasis (below) is metal rather than plastic, and waterproof in case you splash it while by the water.

Kindle Oasis | 40plusstyle.com

Kindle Oasis

something to put it in

Of course, you’ll need something to pack your cruise clothing in. The TUMI suitcase (below) is well-reviewed and should be easy to roll up the gangplank.

TUMI 20 Degree International Expandable Roller Carry-On Suitcase | 40plusstyle.com

TUMI 20 Degree International Expandable Roller Carry-On Suitcase

Cruise attire – 9 cruise outfits to inspire you

If you’re thinking about what to pack for a cruise this year, I hope these outfits inspire your cruise packing list and help you experience a wonderful ship bound vacation.

You can see that you could easily change the outfits around to create more looks. For example, you could wear the striped cardigan over the red dress, the gold wrap with the sundress and heels for evening, or the tie top with the shorts or cropped pants.

Cruise capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com

shop some of the items above here:

Want more of our tips on how to create capsule wardrobes? Read our article on how to create a capsule wardrobe for a complete guide.

Below is a previous cruise capsule. While the items are past season, they should still give you some inspiration if you are thinking about what to wear on a cruise.

Cruise capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com
Cruise capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com

Do you know what to wear on a cruise? Don’t forget to tell us about your own cruise clothing essentials in the comments below. What’s on your cruise packing list?

Bon Voyage!

Continue reading:

  1. What To Wear On A Boat – Whether You’re On A Super Yacht Or A Dinghy
  2. The Best Bathing Suit Cover Ups – From Beach Cover Up To Maxi Kaftan!
  3. The Best Bathing Suits For Women Over 40 – Swim Suits That Make You Feel Fabulous!

Did you like this article on what to wear on a cruise? Share it on Pinterest!

Cruise clothing essentials: What to wear on a cruise and what to pack | 40plusstyle.com

Feature image by Nikki @midlifechic

Sylvia

Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. She is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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