Going on a cruise this season? Lucky you! Here, you’ll find all of the cruise clothing essentials you will need along with ideas on what to pack for a cruise so that you can put together outfits 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 take and wear to set sail for sunny destinations in style.

Your cruise packing list – 21 pieces including accessories

Here are some ideas for your cruise packing list:

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.

Maxi dress

A maxi dress 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 over for evenings.Maxi cover-up dress for a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Maxi Cover-Up Dress

A floral maxi dress like the one below, worn by Abi (below) could also be a lovely option.

@stealmystyle40 cruise outfit | 40plusstyle.com

You may also wish to take a look at the best dresses with sleeves for women over 40.

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.

An asymmetrical wrap 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.

A versatile sundress to wear in a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza Cover-Up Wrap Dress

Cruise formal night

Evening dress

On most cruises you dress up for dinner. 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.

Evening dress to wear in a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

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 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.

tunic tops to take on vacation | 40plusstyle.com

Palmbray Embroidered Linen Tunic Top

Day to night top

Choose a top which will go with your shorts during the day, but which you can elevate at night with a statement necklace.

layered tops for vacation | 40plusstyle.com

Layered Organic Linen Poncho

What to bring on a cruise – Shorts and pants

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.


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

Drawstring Walking Shorts for a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Drawstring Walking Shorts

Loose cropped pants

A pair of pants will also be a hardworking staple of your cruise wardrobe. Choose a loose-fitting pair which you can wear with all of your tops.

cropped pants to wear on a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Tie Waist Wide Leg Ankle Pants

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 style as you can wear under any cover-up you choose, or you can wear with shorts or pants instead of a top.

the best swimsuits to wear on a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Pearl One-Piece Swimsuit


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

Cover up to wear in a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Claire Lace-Up Cover-Up Tunic

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 also wear over your swimwear, or as a duster jacket on cooler evenings.

Duster jacket to wear in a cruise | 40plusstyle.comPalm Floral Duster

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, and as a stylish summer scarf for sightseeing.

Wraps to wear on a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Cashmere & Silk Wrap


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.

The best cardigans for vacations | 40plusstyle.com

High/Low Jersey Cardigan

4 pairs of cruise shoes to pack

It may seem like a lot, and I’d agree as I usually only pack 2 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.


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.

sandals to wear on a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Revey Wedge Sandal

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.

flip flops to wear on a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

You Maxi Flip Flop

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.

comfortable slip-on shoes for sightseeing | 40plusstyle.com

Deconstructed Alpargata Slip-On

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.

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.

block heel sandals for cruise formal night | 40plusstyle.com

Tahari Dinara Ankle Strap Sandal

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.

Hats to wear on vacations | 40plusstyle.com

Mesa Packable Straw 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.

anti-theft bags for vacations | 40plusstyle.com

Travelon Anti-Theft Messenger 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.

clutch bags for cruise formal night | 40plusstyle.com

Metallic Woven Faux Leather Shoulder Bag


You probably don’t want to take anything too valuable, 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 your ready for a drink at the bar.

statement jewelry to take on a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Metal Petal Frontal Necklace


Just as your sunhat is an important for both protection and style, your sunglasses will protect your eyes and add some pizzazz to all of your daytime outfits.

over-sized sunglasses to take on a cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Square Sunglasses

Cruise attire – 9 cruise outfits to inspire you

Hope these outfits inspire your cruise packing list and help you experience a wonderful ship bound vacation.

Read our ultimate guide to creating a capsule wardrobe that works best for you.

Cruise Clothing Essentials: What to Pack for a Cruise Capsule | 40plusstyle.com

Bon Voyage!

Don’t forget to tell me about your own cruise clothing essentials in the comments below. What’s on your cruise packing list?

Did you like this article on cruise clothing? Share it on Pinterest.

Cruise Clothing Essentials: What to Pack for a Cruise | 40plusstyle.com

Feature image by Abi

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