Planning to take a cruise and aren’t sure what to pack? As someone who has cruised to various parts of the world across a number of cruise lines, I hope to help answer this question for you. As a result, this post will be your ultimate guide as to what to wear on a cruise so you are prepared no matter what cruise line you are using or what your destination is.
Do Cruise Ships Have Dress Codes?
Yes, all cruise lines and ships have a suggested dress code that can and will be enforced during your voyage. However, these can vary depending on who you are sailing with. Additionally, the attire you will find on the ship can also be partially determined by the destination you are cruising to.
But don’t worry, all of this information will be covered in this post to help you feel ready for your incredible cruise.
What to Wear on a Cruise by Cruise Line
As previously mentioned, each cruise line can have different dress codes and guidance for what is appropriate on their ships. This section will cover the most popular cruise lines out there to help you determine what is acceptable when sailing with them.
While Carnival is considered to be one of the more casual cruise lines, they still have guidelines they would like you to abide by. During the day, passengers wear clothing appropriate to the activities they will be partaking in. Shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits are common onboard.
In the evening, dinner in the main dining room is mostly casual, with one or two dressy nights depending on the length of your cruise. It is expected that passengers wear clothing that has no rips or tears (like cut-off jeans) and attire that is just a notch above what they would wear during the day. Pants, capris, skirts, clean shirts, and sandals (avoid flip-flops) are appropriate.
While jeans and shorts are fine to wear during the day, Celebrity Cruises asks that you not wear shorts, see-through bathing suit cover-ups, tank tops, or flip-flops in any of the main dining rooms or specialty restaurants. Baseball caps are also not allowed in these dining facilities.
Instead, they recommend appropriate attire such as dresses, nice pants or jeans, and an appropriate (non-see-through) top or button-down shirt.
If you enjoy elegance and a more elevated experience, then Cunard is the cruise line for you. While during port and sea days it is fine to wear shorts and t-shirts (or whatever is weather appropriate for where you are sailing), it is expected that you look nice for dinner, as if you were going to a stylish restaurant or dressing for a special occasion. The cruise line suggests a dress shirt and pants, a skirt, or a cocktail dress as appropriate.
If you’d rather not dress for dinner, there are other venues on the ship where you can be a little more casual (but still avoid the shorts and t-shirts). Additionally, Cunard’s formal nights tend to have themes, so make sure to check the website for more information about the themes for your voyage.
Disney is a family cruise line, so they understand the desire for a more casual experience. That being said, they also have adult-only specialty restaurants where semi-formal and formal attire is appropriate should you choose to want a more special evening.
In general, Disney asks that you don’t wear bathing suits or tank tops to the dining areas, but they are open to most anything else. They also host a themed pirate night on their voyages for a little extra Disney magic, so plan to bring your best pirate outfits if you’d like to participate.
Like many other cruise lines, Holland America does not allow shorts in their main dining rooms. Swimwear is also prohibited. For nonformal evenings pants or slacks and collared shirts or skirts and dresses are appropriate. Nice jeans that do not have any rips or tears are also allowed.
Holland America has two formal nights on a 7-day cruise, with an additional formal night on longer cruises. More information on what to wear on formal nights is later in this post.
On an MSC cruise, when you’re heading out for an evening in the Main Dining Rooms, Specialty Restaurants, or catching a show at the theater, a touch of sophistication in your attire is highly recommended. Popular choices are collared shirts, well-fitted pants or shorts, skirts, or dresses.
Make sure you are also prepared if you’d like to participate in any of the ship’s theme nights. The ship comes alive with daytime and evening Theme Parties that add a fun twist to your cruise experience.
Pack your bags with flower power for the Flower Glory Party, where 60s and 70s floral patterns steal the show. For the White Party, let your outfit reflect the event by donning white attire. And don’t forget to infuse some Italian flair into your wardrobe with shades of green, white, and red for our lively MSC Little Italy entertainment.
Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its casual and freestyle atmosphere. In fact, they are probably the most relaxed when it comes to dress codes and guidelines. Although a few restrictions do exist.
Tank tops and those casual flip-flops might need to stay in your cabin. Also, keep those well-loved baseball caps and visors for while you’re out enjoying the sun. When it comes to jeans, leave overly faded, holey, or low-slung styles for another adventure.
However, swimwear is totally acceptable at the buffet and the outdoor restaurants. Just remember to throw on a shirt or a chic cover-up and don some footwear before you saunter in.
On the occasions you indulge in the flavors of the main dining room or specialty restaurants, you’re free to don relaxed attire. For ladies, think of breezy summer dresses, easygoing skirts, classic pants, stylish capris, shorts, and jeans paired with comfy tops. Gentlemen, on the other hand, can effortlessly rock khakis, jeans, shorts, and casual shirts that embody laid-back elegance.
Whether your style leans towards comfy T-shirts and shorts or embraces the charm of sundresses and skirts, the day is yours to define. Just keep in mind that while you’re strolling beyond the pool area, slipping on some shoes is appreciated. Also, remember to save the pool attire for its designated domain – avoid it in the ship’s elegant lounges, indoor bars, restaurants, or the reception area.
In the evening, go ahead and flaunt dark denim, mix and match casual separates, and show off dresses or skirts – whatever makes you feel fabulous. Just maybe leave the sweatpants and tracksuits in your cabin.
As far as theme nights are concerned, you may want to be prepared for a 70s disco, 80s pop, colorful tropical, or splendid black and white nights. Themes can vary due to destination, and length of cruise, so make sure to check your itinerary for more information.
On Princess Cruises, the dress code strikes a balance between elegance and ease. Gentlemen, prepare to impress with smart casual attire – trousers paired with a collared shirt are a classic choice. For ladies, a stylish dress, a chic skirt-and-blouse ensemble, or even sophisticated separates are fantastic choices.
However, during the day, you are welcome to wear whatever makes you comfortable and is appropriate for the activities you plan to partake in. Shorts, t-shirts, and casual wear are found throughout the ship.
Despite the daytime being casual, bathing suits are still not permitted in the buffet. However, you can easily through on a cover-up and grab a bit from one of the outdoor eateries that surround the main pool area.
Royal Caribbean also embraces a more casual vibe on its ships. Jeans, polo shirts, sundresses, and chic blouses can be found on any day during your voyage. Shorts are also appropriate for breakfast and lunch but not encouraged during dinner.
Instead, for dinner, you’ll find collared shirts, elegant dresses, refined skirts paired with blouses, or even a sharp pantsuit as suggested attire. Please note that tank tops are not allowed in main dining or specialty restaurants.
What to Wear on a Cruise by Destination
Alaska’s weather is notoriously unpredictable and can range from warm and sunny to chilly and rainy. Actually, rain is almost inevitable during a trip to Alaska. Furthermore, ports will vary in temperature, and it can be very chilly when you are cruising Glacier Bay National Park or through the fjords next to the glaciers.
To best be prepared for an Alaskan cruise, plan to pack lots of layers. Your packing list should include items such as pants, capris, both short and long-sleeved t-shirts, a sweater or fleece, a warm coat, and either a rain jacket or poncho.
However, overall the general dress in Alaska is relaxed and casual. This doesn’t mean you should wear your pajamas to the buffet, but passengers (and the cruise lines) know that practicality and comfort are the primary concerns on this voyage. It is not uncommon to see passengers in nice jeans and a top.
Similar to Alaska, a cruise to Antarctica also tends to be more casual. Dressing appropriately for this unique destination is not only about staying warm but also about embracing the thrill of exploring one of the Earth’s most remote and pristine regions.
Layering is your ally here, as it helps trap heat while allowing you to adjust to varying temperatures. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, followed by insulating layers like fleeces or thermal tops. For your outermost layer, opt for a waterproof and windproof jacket to shield yourself from the elements. As for your bottom half, thermal pants or leggings under waterproof pants will keep you toasty during your excursions on icy terrain.
A key point to remember is to avoid cotton clothing, as it doesn’t retain warmth when wet. Instead, opt for synthetic or wool fabrics that provide better insulation even if they get damp. And while you’re likely to spend most of your time bundled up, do pack a few warm layers for the ship’s interiors, as cruise ships sailing to Antarctica are equipped to keep you comfortable indoors.
Expect to see fellow passengers in jeans, sweatpants, jogging pants, and sweaters. At meal times, it is common for guests to wear a nice pair of jeans and a nice top. Een formal nights will skew to the more casual side during an Antarctica voyage, with dress pants and a more formal top being common.
Throughout your days in enchanting Asian destinations, comfort and cultural sensitivity are key. Whether you’re wandering through bustling markets or exploring serene temples, opt for modest and breathable attire – a respectful way to blend in and show appreciation for the local customs.
Given the often warm and humid climates in many Asian countries, choose lightweight and breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Additionally, opt for clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, especially when visiting religious sites, temples, and rural areas. Long pants, skirts, and dresses are often a safe choice.
Furthermore, pay attention to footwear choices, especially when visiting religious sites. In some cultures, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering certain places, so choose slip-on shoes that are easy to take off.
Cruises to Australia generally occur during the months of November to March, and this is the end of spring and during the summer for this region. As a result, it’s important to consider the country’s climate and the activities you’ll be engaging in during your trip.
For example, in warmer regions like the Great Barrier Reef or the Gold Coast, opt for light and breathable clothing such as shorts, sundresses, t-shirts, and lightweight cotton shirts. Additionally, don’t forget to pack a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the strong Australian sun.
Furthermore, remember to include swimwear for enjoying the ship’s pools and possibly participating in water activities during shore excursions. Australia’s coastline is known for beautiful beaches, so having beachwear is a must.
For cooler days and evenings, particularly if your cruise takes you to southern regions like Sydney or Melbourne, bring a mix of layers. Pack a few long-sleeve shirts, a light sweater, and a jacket or windbreaker. Comfortable jeans or pants can be versatile for various occasions, from exploring cities to more relaxed dinners on the ship.
What to Wear on a Caribbean Cruise
From sun-soaked mornings to balmy evenings, your Caribbean cruise wardrobe should be a mix of comfort and tropical charm. During the day, embrace the island spirit with light, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen – perfect for exploring vibrant ports, lounging on deck, or taking part in exciting shore excursions. And when it comes to footwear, opt for comfortable sandals or deck shoes that can take you from sandy beaches to charming cobblestone streets.
Caribbean cruise dress codes are generally resort-casual, allowing you to exude sophistication while embracing the laid-back vibe of the islands. Gentlemen, consider stylish slacks paired with a button-down shirt for a polished yet relaxed look.
For ladies, it’s your time to shine in sundresses, flowing skirts, or stylish pant suits that capture the essence of the tropics. Accessorize with a touch of sparkle or a pop of color to truly embrace the Caribbean’s vibrant spirit.
Europe’s weather can vary greatly from region to region and season to season, so versatility is key. Begin with the foundation of your wardrobe: comfortable walking shoes that will carry you through cobblestone streets, urban explorations, and countryside rambles.
As for clothing, layering is your trusty companion. Pack a mix of lightweight, breathable pieces – such as tops, shirts, and dresses – that can be easily paired with warmer layers for cooler days. Don’t forget to bring a versatile scarf or shawl, which not only adds a touch of style but also helps adapt your outfits to different temperatures.
For example, when spending a day in Barcelona (a popular European cruise port) factor in its distinct charm. Choose attire that not only suits the city’s vibe but also embraces your comfort, like a cotton maxi dress paired with cute sandals.
In the warmer months, when the sun graces Europe with its warmth, opt for comfortable bottoms like jeans, casual slacks, or skirts. Tops in various styles and sleeve lengths will give you flexibility while embracing local customs. And remember, a well-fitted swimsuit is essential for relaxing on Mediterranean beaches or enjoying onboard pools.
As autumn arrives, a lightweight jacket or cardigan becomes your go-to, paired with long-sleeve tops and a cozy sweater or two. It’s the perfect outfit for spending a day in Barcelona during October or November.
Overall, cruises to Europe tend to be a little more fashion-focused. While you will still see shorts and t-shirts cruising the Mediterranean, this look is a tad more elevated and typically involves a polo shirt for men or something more than just a basic t-shirt for women.
Consider ways to have your attire be casual and comfortable while elevating your outfits from the very basics. This can be done with accessories or wearing items that are easily transformed to achieve a variety of looks.
The Middle East is a region rich in history, diverse in traditions, and, of course, blessed with a warm climate. When packing your wardrobe, consider both the weather and the cultural considerations that will make your experience truly exceptional.
While the climate varies, a combination of modest and comfortable clothing will serve you well. For both men and women, packing long pants, maxi skirts, and dresses that cover the knees is a respectful choice when exploring local towns and cultural sites. Tops with sleeves and shawls for covering shoulders are ideal, especially when visiting religious sites or more traditional communities.
Embrace wide-brimmed hats to shield yourself from the sun’s rays, and don’t forget your favorite pair of shades to complete that stylish ensemble. Comfortable closed-toe shoes, like sandals or loafers, will make strolling through bustling markets and historic alleys a breeze.
Cultural respect is at the heart of a truly meaningful journey, so packing a lightweight scarf or shawl to drape over your shoulders can be a thoughtful touch when entering religious sites or conservative neighborhoods. While many Middle Eastern countries are cosmopolitan and accustomed to various styles, adopting a modest dress code is an appreciative nod to the local traditions.
South America’s climates vary greatly, with warmer temperatures being more prevalent in the northern part of the continent. The farther south you travel, the more cooler and moderate the weather will become.
Begin with versatile and lightweight pieces, such as breathable tops and shorts, perfect for warmer regions and sun-drenched days. When venturing into areas with more unpredictable weather, like the Andes or Patagonia, a waterproof and windproof jacket becomes a non-negotiable essential. Toss in a versatile scarf, which can be a game-changer in adapting to changing temperatures or adding a stylish twist to your outfits. Sweaters also come in handy for layering.
Always keep in mind that versatility is your ally, allowing you to effortlessly transition from city streets to natural wonders.
What to Wear on Embarkation Day
The day you board the ship you may be coming either directly from the airport or (if you arrive early) your hotel. Either way, you will probably want to wear something comfortable as you embark on your trip. Just make sure you have your swimsuit in your carry-on so that you can use the pool while you wait for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.
The time your luggage arrives at your cabin will vary depending on the number of people sailing, how soon you boarded the ship, and other potential factors. Don’t count on it being there before you choose to eat dinner. As a result, while you’ll want to be comfortable, you may want to wear something other than sweats or yoga pants.
What to Wear on a Sea Day
Sea days are causal and relaxed. Wear items that are comfortable and appropriate for the activities you will be enjoying on the ship. If you plan to lounge by the pool, a swimsuit and coverup are perfectly fine. If you plan to participate in any sports or go to the gym, you’ll obviously wear clothes suitable for working out.
Just be aware that most of the cruise lines have their formal or dressy nights during sea day evenings. As a result, you should plan to wash up and dress up before dinner (unless you want to eat in the buffet).
What to Wear on a Cruise Formal Night
On most cruise lines, formal night, or dress-to-impress night, has veered away from ball gowns and tuxedos that were originally associated with this occasion. While you’ll still find this is more of the norm on cruise lines such as Cunard, the other lines have relaxed a bit. The guidelines below will help you know what to pack on cruise lines other than Cunard.
On formal nights, women can often be seen in cocktail attire or dresses similar to the ones you would wear to church. Nice dress pants with a sparkly or special top are also appropriate. Footwear typically includes heels or dress shoes, with the occasional sparkly or dressed-up sandals.
While some men will choose to wear a suit and tie on a formal night, a nice pair of dress pants with a button-up shirt will also do. Any military uniforms you may choose to bring are also appropriate. However, jeans (even nice ones) should not be worn.
Little girls often take advantage of dressy nights to wear their best princess outfits. However, if your little angel chooses not to get all dolled up, a cute, less formal dress is fine. She could also wear nice pants and a top that is a little nicer than her everyday look. Boys can often be seen in khaki pants or dress pants and a polo shirt or button-up shirt.
10 Cruise Attire Packing Suggestions
1. Pack a Capsule Wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe uses either similar or neutral colors to allow you to mix and match your outfits to create several combinations. This results in you packing fewer items but still allows you to have many different-looking outfits.
For example, if you had a pair of jeans, a blazer, a sweater, and a patterned top, you could create four different outfits by combining the pieces in unique ways. By choosing coordinating colors and patterns, you can easily create a capsule wardrobe out of the pieces of clothing already hanging in your closet.
2. Use Accessories to Change up Outfits
You can then further add to the versatility of your capsule wardrobe by using accessories such as jewelry and scarves to give your neutral-colored clothing more pizzazz. Additionally, shoes and hats are also fantastic accessories that can really change the look of an outfit.
3. Plan to Layer
Regardless of your cruise destination, it can sometimes feel chilly on the ship or if you want to enjoy time on the open decks. It’s smart to bring a cardigan or something to easily layer over your clothes to ward off the cool air.
4. A Scarf Is Versatile
A colorful scarf can not only dress up an ensemble but can be easily added to a variety of outfits, from sweaters to dresses, to add a little flare. Additionally, when sailing to Europe, scarves are commonly worn, and if you choose to adorn one as well, it will help you blend in and look more like a local.
Scarves also are a quick and easy cover for your shoulders when visiting churches or while on the ship, making them a travel essential. As an added bonus, they go with pretty much any outfit, so they never look out of place (well, unless you’re in 100-degree heat).
5. Bring Comfortable Shoes
Chances are you’ll be doing a lot of walking when you’re in port. That’s why it’s important to bring the right footwear. You’ll want a pair of shoes that is comfortable and broken in so you have the best experience while you’re exploring.
It’s also important to bring the right type of shoes for your destination. For example, if you’re going to spend time on the beach, you won’t want a pair of sneakers. Instead, opt for a pair of water shoes that are easy to clean and you can wear while in the ocean to prevent cuts on your feet from any rocks.
6. Help Prevent Pickpocketing by Wearing and Using Safety Products
Unfortunately, large and popular cities are prone to pickpockets whose tactics to distract you while they steal your money and/or wallet can be quite clever. You can help protect your belongings by using safety products to deter or prevent thieves from being successful in their mission.
For women, this means using a day bag or purse that has added security features such as a wire mesh bottom, zippers that attach to something, and wire-lined straps.
Men may prefer using something like a money belt that will discreetly hide their cash and other important items. While they are not always the easiest to use, they are effective in protecting your money.
7. Utilize Clothing Items That Can Be Dressed Up or Down
Instead of overpacking with clothes for every occasion, take items that can be dressed up or down to fit a multitude of situations. A great example is a maxi dress that can be worn with scandals and a jean jacket for a casual look or paired with heels and the right jewelry and/or scarf to make it more elegant. Similarly, for men, a nice pair of khaki pants could be worn with a polo for a daytime look or with a button-up shirt and jacket for an evening event.
8. Avoid Items That Make You Look Like a Tourist
There are certain items of clothes or accessories that will automatically make you stand out as a tourist. Sometimes, this could make you more of a target for scammers and pickpockets. Avoid things such as baseball caps, socks with sandals, and fanny packs which are telltale signs.
9. Make Sure to Pack a Bathing Suit Cover Up
Lounging by the pool is a cruise activity that is enjoyed by all. However, plan to pack a bathing suit cover-up for when you’re walking around the ship or if you want to grab a bite to eat in the buffet. Even the most casual of cruise lines have rules about dining in your bathing suit.
10. Wear Items That Cover Your Shoulders and Knees if Visiting Any Churches
Popular things to see in many countries include churches and religious or spiritual sites. It is always important to show respect when visiting these areas, which includes covering your shoulders and knees. Some areas, such as Muslim sites, may be even more strict in their dress code.
These guidelines and rules apply to both men and women, so plan your outfits accordingly, or you may be denied entry.
What to Wear on a Cruise Recap
Hopefully, this post has given you a better idea of what to wear on a cruise. It has covered dress codes by the most popular cruise lines as well as suggestions for what you may want to wear by destination. Now all that’s left to do is pack for and enjoy your cruise!
This article was written by the World on Wheels Blog and published by Our Woven Journey.
Kristin Secor was born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy which affects her strength, balance, endurance, and breathing. Despite her disability, she continues to pursue her love of traveling and cruising around the world. She shares her knowledge of accessible travel on the World on Wheels Blog, which is designed for wheelchair users and people with mobility problems.