4 Must-Know Tips for Dressing for a Cruise (That Won’t Break the Budget)

The purpose of this article is to teach you the importance of dressing correctly for your cruise, which means clothing that works with your body type and preferences while remaining fashionable and in style.

This will only be a quick overview of what to wear on a cruise, but it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the basics before boarding ship.

When you’re going on a cruise, there are plenty of things to take into consideration: how far the ship will be cruising, how many nights and days you’ll be away, what activities you want to do while onboard. But one thing that’s easily forgotten is what to wear. Whether your trip is on a luxury liner or a smaller ship with more casual attire, it’s important to pack clothes that will make the most of the experience—without breaking the bank.

The following list includes some of the items you’ll need for a successful trip (and some of them may just come in handy for other vacations). As always, have fun with these outfits; remember that being comfortable and having an enjoyable time are priorities over looking like a runway model!

Start with the right shoes.

The promise of a vacation is, in many ways, the shoes. Sure, you may be excited to see the port cities you’re visiting and eat exotic foods, but let’s face it: there are probably other things you could be doing with your time that would also afford you an opportunity to wear a nice outfit. The real reason we take cruises is to lounge on a private beach while wearing inappropriately fancy clothes we don’t have to iron or wash (plus, our feet get really clean by themselves). But that doesn’t mean your cruise wardrobe should be limited to whatever swimsuit and shorts are already packed into your oversized carry-on.

The best way to ensure comfort and avoid disaster is to start with the right shoes. Sandals are generally the most appropriate shoe for casual days on a cruise ship (and almost any other vacation destination). They can go from sea-side strolls along the top deck’s promenade area all the way through dinner at midnight if needed. Plus, they’re more comfortable than sneakers or dress shoes for walking around town—and since there are so many great pairs out there for both men and women alike, you can find something that matches your style. We recommend alternating between sandals and sneakers during excursions on land as well; flip flops just don’t cut it when sightseeing in places like Florence or Yosemite National Park.

Choose airy, wrinkle-resistant fabrics.

Cruise season is approaching. If you’re taking a trip on a cruise ship, chances are you’ve already got your itinerary mapped out and your packing list compiled. But if you haven’t yet considered your wardrobe, it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll wear in the ship’s dining halls and ballrooms.

The ocean air can be tough on delicate fabric, so it’s important to opt for wrinkle-resistant clothing. Wool, linen, cotton, and synthetic blends of these fabrics make great choices; they’re durable and easy to clean (just make sure to pack any dry cleaning you need). Some people choose to take things easy by wearing resort gear like swimsuits or pajamas all day long—but if that doesn’t sound like an appealing option for you (or if the idea of sleeping in your swimsuit is too much for even the most comfortable bed sheets to handle), consider packing a few extra sets of clothes just for the cruise itself (and throwing them in the laundry when necessary).

These fabrics are also top choices for travelers simply because they don’t require ironing. The last thing anyone wants from their vacation outfit is extra work: have fun by dressing comfortably without straining yourself with clothing that requires constant care!

Prepare for all weather conditions.

After all, traveling can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to make sure you’re prepared for any weather. If your trip involves spending some time out at sea, it can get cold at night (and especially if the sun goes down earlier in the winter). So before you leave home, make sure you bring plenty of warm clothes. You’ll also want to pack a swimsuit, sunscreen and a raincoat or umbrella—just in case of bad weather.

Think in layers.

Since most cruises start in the heart of winter, you don’t have to wear layers anywhere close to the equator—in fact, it can be a good idea to wear layers when the temperature dips during a cruise! As you’ll see from our tips, there are many different ways of dressing for different climates across the globe.

So whether you’re traveling on a ship headed north (like we are!), south (like we are!), or somewhere in between, here’s an easy way to dress for a cruise year-round:

  • Layer your clothes: Don’t just wear one item and expect it to keep you warm all day; layer your clothing instead! Always think about what else you might need as soon as you’ve put on your first layer—if you’re looking for extra warmth, consider wearing something thicker underneath. If it’s too hot on top, feel free to slip on another layer and rework this process accordingly.
  • Pick out clothing that fits well: The last thing you want when dressing for a cruise is clothing that doesn’t fit right—and if it isn’t comfortable or stylish enough, then forget about wearing it! On the flip side of that argument, don’t go overboard and choose clothing that doesn’t fit because it will be uncomfortable; if you’re unsure how something will fit based on its measurements or style guides, ask someone who looks great in similar pieces before buying anything new.
  • Know what shape your body is: We know this sounds like common sense…but just like how not choosing clothes that would make us run 10 miles before lunch should go without saying (because no one wants to have their pants fall down), knowing what type of body shape we have can help us determine which types of clothes work best for us! If we know our body type clearly now, even with basic measurements alone like height and weight only accounting for half our answer at best, it’ll be much easier later when trying things on at stores and

Plan for any occasion.

If you’re traveling by cruise, you’ll want to plan ahead. Ahead of time, research the kind of attire that most people don’t get wrong on a cruise—that is, what’s acceptable for formal nights and informal nights. And if you’re not sure which days are formal and which are casual, ask your travel agent or check the daily agenda for the upcoming port. Going overboard with one outfit may make things difficult when it comes to getting into the ocean later in the day, so it’s best to strike a balance between formality and comfort.

The first step to dressing appropriately for a cruise is understanding how clothes work on boats. While we tend to think of clothing as being rigidly defined by its texture and type, that isn’t necessarily true on ships. As much as you may want an elegant white dress shirt when you board your ship (especially since most people wear black or navy), it’s common on cruise ships for men to wear casual shorts and vests during the day (again especially since most people wear black or navy). What’s more: Most people who take cruises are in their 20s or 30s—and they often choose them specifically because they’ve decided they won’t be wearing ties at work!

By planning ahead and getting a good sense of what kind of attire makes good sense on board your ship, you’ll be able to dress comfortably while cruising without going overboard with accessories or spending too much money. And even if there are times when dinner makes hubby feel underdressed in his casual shorts and polo shirt (or vice versa), knowing ahead of time which days require suits guarantees that he won’t miss an opportunity for some great pictures!

Consider packing a sport jacket.

The weather can change quickly in a tropical city. One minute you may be sipping cocktails on a sunny beach, and the next it can be raining cats and dogs. You don’t want to pack that jacket just in case you need it—but how do you still look good while wearing it? Look no further!

First things first: know your colors. The monochromatic palette is often associated with business attire, but remember that big corporations run the risk of going out of style (see: Zara). We’ll start with your top piece—a sport coat or blazer. Pairing these pieces is usually a great idea because both are meant to be worn casually yet not too casual, so there’s rarely any bad combination. If you’re shopping for one of these pieces, we suggest splurging on quality and opting for an item made from a heavier fabric such as wool or cashmere—it will keep you warm during cooler temperatures and make for an elegant look when paired with trousers or jeans.

Cruises are fun, but you need to pack smart so you’ll have time to enjoy yourself.

Cruises are fun, but it’s important to pack smart so you’ll have time to enjoy yourself. There is a lot to do on a cruise: there’s the casino, and the bars, and the poolside activities like volleyball or water polo. Just think about all of them!

  • the casino
  • the bars
  • the poolside activities

List of what to wear for a cruise

  • Pack a swimsuit, sunglasses, and a hat
  • Wear layers so you can easily adapt to the temperature on the boat
  • Bring shoes that can be worn with or without socks
  • Pack simple jewelry that’s lightweight (i.e. not made of crystal or precious metals)


You’d be surprised to know that you can find styles and colors that are perfect for traveling. It may not have been the first thing on your mind when you bought your cruise tickets, but it’s a great idea to consider different options once you’re aboard (especially if you’ve gotten a bad deal on pricier shoes).

If my husband and I were going on a cruise for the first time, we’d want to dress for every occasion. We’d start with something lightweight enough to wear during a day at sea, but still capable of being thrown in a suitcase (and more importantly, out again). We’d also want long sleeves so we could protect our skin from salt air while still enjoying the sun’s rays. In addition, we’d make sure our clothes have wrinkle resistant elements inside—not only because wrinkles look horrible in photos, but also because we wouldn’t want to sacrifice the chance of seeing something fun or beautiful while on board. On top of all this is having some versatile pieces in case things don’t go according to plan—for example: You might pack your usual work clothes only to find yourself bored after dinner with nothing left to do other than wait until morning so you can disembark. So what would I pack? Well, I’m partial to basics like skinny jeans and T-shirts; a nice pair of flats or boots; stylish accessories like faux leather handbags; and soft sweaters that make me feel cozy even after putting them through their paces (because let’s be honest here: there will probably be times where no matter how good my outfit is looking at 10am on Christmas Day it’s going to end up soaked through by 3pm).

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