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.
Here’s our list of what to wear on cruise and what to pack to set sail for sunny destinations in style.
what to wear on a cruise – Your cruise packing list
Here’s 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 – jumpsuit or Maxi dress
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.
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.
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, I’d be tempted to pack a jumpsuit as these can easily be dressed up or down.
Kylie @kylish_aus above wears a sundress in a beautiful shade of cobalt blue that would be perfect for wearing over your swimsuit or for wearing with sneakers for a shore excursion.
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.
A t-shirt (or more) is an essential no matter where you are going. The blue Massimo Dutti t-shirt (below), will add a pop of color to your daytime outfits, and could be dressed up with wide leg pants for evening.
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.
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.
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 Eileen Fisher top (below) is made from linen so will keep you cool.
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.
What to wear on a cruise – Shorts and pants
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.
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. See more of our tips in our article on how to wear shorts.
The J.Crew chinos (below) are a good mid-length, and come in a huge range of colors with a choice of neutrals and brights.
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 for the evening.
For more tips check our article on how to wear cropped 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.
Kimba @kimbalikes above opts for floral pants with her black t-shirt.
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.
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.
I’d make one of your swimsuits a classic black or monochrome 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.
You could also opt for a tankini. That way you can wear the bikini bottoms with the rashvest below or the tankini top.
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 rash guard (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.
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. You can change the look of your cover-up for the evening by wearing a belt.
Depending on the style you choose, you can wear it over your swimwear, or as a duster jacket on cooler evenings. The Sea Level cover-up (below) would look good over your bathing suit or with the white pants from above.
Suzie @suzie.richetti above wears a monochrome swimsuit and sunhat.
What to take on a cruise – Wrap & 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.
I’d take both a wrap and a cardigan. You can wear your wrap over your shoulders with your evening dress, or slung over your daywear if it’s chilly on deck.
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. If you want to get the coverage of a cardigan but it’s warm, you could try a sleeveless option like the draped open vest (below).
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 Locachy denim jacket (below) comes in traditional blue, or more eye-catching shades like the yellow shown.
4 pairs of cruise shoes to pack
It may seem like a lot, and I’d agree as I usually only pack 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nikki @midlifechic above shows how you could wear flat sandals with your evening dress.
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.
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) rolls up so it’s 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.
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.
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.
A beach bag is useful so you can pack a towel and your book for going ashore, or just if you want to carry your essentials around the boat.
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.
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.
As well as your outfits, you’ll want to pack some essentials into your suitcase.
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.
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.
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.
You can download all your reading material on your Kindle rather than carrying bulky books around with you. You can add guide books 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.
something to put it in
Of course, you’ll need something to pack your cruise clothing in. The hardshell case (below) is well-reviewed and should be easy to roll up the gangplank.
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 t-shirt or tank top with the shorts, the blue cover up over the white pants, or the yellow jacket with the navy sundress.
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.
Do you know what to wear on a cruise? Don’t forget to tell me about your own cruise clothing essentials in the comments below. What’s on your cruise packing list?
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Feature image by Nikki @midlifechic
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