I’ve seen all sorts of styles when cruising, and many ask “what to wear on a cruise?” When I was younger I didn’t care about what I wore but I knew that I still should dress appropriately. Many people cruise today and most seem to simply not care or don’t feel the need to have some style in their wardrobe.
My approach on a cruise is to dress appropriately to wherever I’m cruising to, which would most likely be places like Hawaii, Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Asia, or South America. From there I look at if it’s going to be hot or cold and what the usual dress code is.
If I’m hitting ports that are mostly just beaches than most likely I’m going to wear shorts with a tank top and sandals. In Europe I would wear the exact opposite because all the ports will call for a more dressed up style. For this post I want to focus on what to wear on a cruise and some of the do’s and don’ts. Much of my pictures and commentary will be from a mens perspective but women could learn from it as well.
What to Wear on a Cruise?
First I want to start with the essentials. These are the clothing items that both men and women will need on a cruise.
Walking shoes or Boots
On many cruises you will be, at the very least, walking in the port and need comfortable shoes for walking. If you’re sailing in the Caribbean or warm destinations I would stay away from wearing sandals if you’re walking all day. It can hurt! Walking shoes are definitely needed in Europe or you can even wear boots! At most of the European ports, it’s a good idea to put on shoes that you will want to wear all day. Many people like tennis shoes but I don’t feel they’re stylish enough.
Light t-shirt and Change of Clothing
Many of the activities on a cruise will cause you to sweat or you will get dirty, especially in warm, tropical ports of call. Make sure you count enough for extra t-shirts and change of clothing. Inter-changeable clothing is a must and this way you can bring less and still have unique styles for everyday.
Color of clothes
In the Caribbean black may not be the best idea since the heat can be so intense. Take it from my experience that in the Caribbean, it can warm up pretty quickly and sometimes there is very little protection. Black is fine for cruises that are in cooler region like Europe, Alaska, or Japan. Mute or dark colors are great for things like jeans and shorts while lighter colors are good for things like t-shirts and tops.
Dark jeans are always a good idea when cruising because there are so many chances to get dirty! Plus jeans are comfortable, easy to wear and stylish depending on how you wear them and what you mix them with.
Dress Code Differences between Cruises
It’s worthy to note that not every cruise has the same dress code but most are pretty similar. Cruises like Norwegian are free style and are very relaxed on dress code (this is not the norm). However people still dress up to take photos so you may consider bringing some formal wear even on Norwegian. Many cruises have specialty restaurants where it’s almost certain you have to wear some formal wear. I feel that everybody should bring formal wear no matter which cruise you’re on. Most cruises lean to casual by day and then if you’re eating in the main dining rooms or taking pictures, you want to have at least dress shirts or a nice dress.
Day Wear on Cruises
Most of the time I would keep it casual. After all you’re on a cruise and the atmosphere is pretty relaxed. Most of the other passengers will not be dressed up and somewhat bummy. If that is not the style you’re going I have a few ideas.
Everybody should keep it casual, comfortable but stylish. In the Caribbean you will see many people in bathing suit attire for the entire cruise. Try to avoid that and stick with some shorts, fitted t-shirts (nothing flashy), a polo or a matching top. Alaska can be pretty cold so I would definitely bring a stylish light jacket. In fact on any cruise, it can be pretty windy on deck so I would think about bringing a jacket that is comfortable.
(vests are always a good idea)
I would wear some sort of dark shorts, jeans, dresses or pants if you’re okay with more dress up. I mostly stick with dark items because you never know where you will be sitting and then your pants get dirty. I have worn white shorts and they can be styled with something darker for a top. I generally hate the khakis look.
There is no problem wearing a t-shirt but if you want to keep it stylish and fitted. I would stay away from anything with a huge logo or something that is too flashy. Muted colors are always good. Greys, blues, some blacks, browns mixed in with a few brighter colors always works. If you want to step it up a bit, I would wear a vest over your t-shirt for added style like I did above. Polos are always welcome just make sure they fit you correctly. Sweaters are also a good idea (like below) and adds style to an ordinary outfit. Scarves may be a good idea for colder places. Nothing over-sized!
(sweaters can be nice on the cruise or on land if it’s cold)
This really depends on what you’re doing and where you are?
In the Caribbean, Hawaii, or Asia than I would recommend some shorts and a t-shirt as most of the year it will be warm. Casual, light and comfortable is the key but make sure it’s not border line trashy. Tank tops are okay but if you’re doing excursions that involve anything religious or where you may be cold, it’s good idea to cover up. Sometimes you will see people wearing bathing suits throughout a port and sometimes it’s acceptable and sometimes it’s not. I recommend that you always bring a change of spare clothing so you can wear your bathing suit or tank top at the beach and then change to walk around the city. Black should be avoided on really warm days. Little to no jewelry is what I would recommend.
In Europe you’ll want to go for something more put together and less casual. Polos for men are always a good idea along with some nice pants or some dark jeans. For women I would always stick with dark jeans if there is a lot of walking but many women like to wear dresses as well. Shorts are a good idea sometimes but you may feel too exposed if you step inside a museum or religious building. Places like Italy can be very warm in the summer or sometimes cooler than expected. I would stay away from sandals, beach wear and flashy t-shirts! More jewelry and accessories is acceptable in Europe.
In Alaska I would stick with a jacket, some jeans, boots or good walking shoes. The look here is more casual and you will be in smaller outdoorsy towns. Some days you can wear shorts but in general I would just stick with jeans because some of your excursions are borderline dirty. I would suggest bringing a scarf, hat and maybe even gloves because it can be that cold, even in the summer time. However sometimes it will be warm in Alaska so it is a good idea to bring some nice pair of shorts, a polo, t-shirt, top and some flats or sperrys as well. It’s not really essential to bring jewelry but if you want to get dolled up than it’s okay to bring some.
- Dark shorts, jeans or pants
- Sandals, boots, sperry’s or tennis shoes (all depends on where you’re traveling to)
- Hats, gloves, scarves (for cold places like Alaska)
- Some accessories but not too many (leather bracelets or necklaces)
- T-shirt or a polo
- A vest if you’re feeling extra stylish
- Shorts, jeans, or a light dress
- Sandals, high-heels, boots, flats, tennis shoes (all depends on where you’re traveling to)
- Hats, gloves, scarves (for cold places like Alaska)
- Some jewelry and perfume (some places you should bring less)
- Some t-shirts for excursions
First off men, you will want to bring a suit, tuxedo or at the very least a dress shirt. This applies to any cruise you will be taking whether that is in Europe, Hawaii, Asia or in the Caribbean. Why bring a suit? On cruises there is always a formal night and you will want to dress up if you have some decency. Begrudgingly, I have to tell you that some people do not dress up and I have seen men, at formal dinner, wear just jean shorts and a t-shirt. Although this is technically allowed on a cruise it’s not advised. It is possible to avoid dressing up for the entire cruise if you don’t feel like eating in the main dining room, however I wouldn’t recommend this.
(suit for a formal night. I even wore some dress shoes)
To get the more stylish look make sure that whatever suit, dress shirt or pants fits properly. Form fitting is always the way to go! Many men don’t understand that when you buy a pair of pants it needs to sit well on the waist and not break when it gets to your shoes. Needs to be straight and tight on your body. The same goes with dress shirts and suits. They need to fit properly around your shoulder and come in at the waist.
- Dress shoes or boots
- Tux or suit
- Ties or bow-ties
- Black or brown belt (no scratches or frayed belts!)
- Dress socks
- Dress shirts (need around 5 – 6 dress shirts for 7 – 10 day cruise)
Most women that I see on a cruise ship dress better than the men. Most women should bring some sort of dress or dress pants and a dress top. I see too many sequins from the older crowd and I would advice against it. This is not the 80’s! Jewelry is usually a good idea on formal nights and diamond necklaces are a favorite.
(not on a formal night but still dressed up. women should wear formal dresses. some mixture of blacks, grays, browns, blues and reds are always good)
Women, like the men, must make sure that the piece of clothing you buy fits properly on your body. Great style can easily be thrown out if the clothes are over-sized and frumpy. For girls especially, the outfit must conform to your body. With a formal dress, wear high heels as they are never a bad idea.
- High-heels or dress shoes
- Formal dress (at least 1 or 2)
- Some nice dresses for the remaining dinners
- Jewelry or some one type of accessory
- Nice pants if you don’t want to wear a dress
- Dress top if you wearing dress pants
So in short…
Keep your clothes simple, modern, fresh and interchangeable. Dark and mute colors for things like jeans while lighter colors for things like shirts. Most likely you will be traveling for a while so you want to keep everything as easy as possible but still stylish.
Most of the clothes I bring are worn with other t-shirts, sweaters, vest, dress shirts or ties. You want clothes that fit correctly and form to your body! Nothing worse than to kill your style with something that is over-sized. Dark jeans and shorts are usually a better option but you could make light colors work. Always bring evening wear (both men and women) unless you’re going to avoid formal dinner nights.
Style is easy if you just follow these ideas and understand where your cruise is traveling to.
images by: shawnvoyage