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What To Wear On A Cruise: Casual Day Wear, Swimwear, Smart Casual Wear, and Formal Wear

What To Wear On A Cruise - Jeans, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, sundresses, rompers, and casual blouses are the norm for most of your time on the ship.

What To Wear On A Cruise - Swimwear is a must have for a cruise. But make sure you bring a cover up like a t-shirt, shorts, or a sundress.

What To Wear On A Cruise - Smart casual wear is the kind of attire you’d wear to a business dinner, cocktail party, or maybe even church.

What To Wear On A Cruise - On formal night, men are expected to wear a suit and tie or a tuxedo. Women are expected to wear fancy cocktail dresses or evening wear.

Packing for a cruise can be a daunting task. With so many activities to do and events to attend, you usually need more than one outfit per day. But don’t worry; you’re still going on vacation. So relax because I’ve made packing a little easier with this guide: What to Wear on a Cruise.

Casual Day Wear


FOREVER 21+ Plus Size Floral Romper
Carolee Hematite-Tone Imitation Pearl Long Tassel Pendant Necklace
Vionic Chryssa Laser-Cut Bootie
American Rag Men’s Distressed Striped T-Shirt, Created for Macy’s
Tommy Bahama Men’s Key Grip Shorts
VIONIC – Beach Manly Men’s Sandals
Striped Kimono
Studded Girlfriend Jean

For the most part, cruising is casual. In fact, it can be entirely casual if you skip the main dining room and formal nights. (You’d be missing out, but you can do it.) Jeans, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, sundresses, rompers, and casual blouses are the norm for most of your time on the ship. If you’re cruising to a colder destination, pack layers!

I tried to pack only Lularoe for our Ensenada cruise. I mostly succeeded except for dinner and formal nights. But that’s the kind of casual attire that’s acceptable for 90% of a cruise. Find me on Facebook and I’ll hook you up with a few great Lularoe consultants. (Not me, I don’t have the kind of energy needed to sell Lularoe.)

Swimwear and Cover Ups

Plus Size Illusion Tummy-Control One-Piece Swimsuit Women’s Swimsuit – La Blanca 
City Chic Plus Size Women’s Strap Detail High/low Cover-Up Dress
Plus Size Women’s Becca Etc. One-Piece Swimsuit
Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s 8-1/2″ Kailua Swim Trunks
Nike Men’s Breathe Muscle Tank
O’Neill Men’s Brisbane Ultrasuede 21″ Board Shorts

Swimwear is a must have for a cruise. Even if you’re cruising somewhere cold, you’ll want to bring swimwear for the hot tubs. (And get there quickly because they fill up fast!) I recommend bring two sets of swimwear. That way one can dry while you’re wearing the other. But make sure you bring a cover up too. This can be as simple as a t-shirt, shorts, or a sundress. You’ll need to cover up to go into eating establishments around the ship. If you’re hitting the beach, you might want to cover up before you go shopping in port and for the trip back to the ship.

Excursion Wear

Obviously, this depends on what you’re going to do in port. If you’re doing a beach break, you probably just need your swimwear and cover up. If you’re going hiking, you need hiking clothes. I like to wear sun protective clothing like this tunic and these pants from Coolibar in port because I usually forget to reapply sunblock. I recommend bringing workout gear so you’ll be up for anything if you book a last-minute excursion. But more on that later.

Smart Casual Evening Wear


Ny Collection Plus Size Printed Velvet Dress
Cole Haan Marli Leather Clutch
Franco Sarto – Sylvia Women’s Dress Flat Shoes
Alfani Men’s Ombre Stripe Polo
Calvin Klein Slim-Fit Solid Dress Pants
Men’s Merrell ‘Jungle Moc’ Leather Athletic Slip-On
ASOS Curve ASOS CURVE Wrap Jumpsuit with Short Sleeve
Inc International Concepts Rose Gold-Tone Stone Bubble Statement Necklace 
Women’s Tory Burch ‘Miller’ Flip Flop

Even on non-formal nights, the main dining room requires a little more than shorts, swimwear, and flip-flops. This is the kind of attire you’d wear to a business dinner, cocktail party, or maybe even church. While a suit and tie are not required for men, a collared or polo shirt with slacks are expected. Women can usually get away with any kind of dress even a sundress, but you’ll need dressy sandals or closed toed shoes.

Formal Wear

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Beaded A-Line Gown
Adrianna Papell Sheryl Small Clutch
Blue by Betsey Johnson Elsa Evening Pumps Women’s Shoes
Black Two-Button Modern-Fit Tuxedo – Calvin Klein 
Men’s Textured Stripe Skinny Silk Tie – Calvin Klein 
Men’s Lucca Leather Dress Shoes Men’s Shoes – Calvin Klein 
Adrianna Papell Plus Size Metallic-Print Fit & Flare Dress
Inc International Concepts Raychill Clutch
Inc International Concepts Carma Pointed Toe Studded Kitten Heel Pumps

There are between 1-3 formal nights depending on the length of your cruise. This is my favorite part of cruising. There are very few occasions when adults get to dress up and show off, but you can always count on a cruise formal night. Men are expected to wear a suit and tie or a tuxedo. Women are expected to wear fancy cocktail dresses or evening wear. This is a time to bust out your best costume jewelry, sequins, faux fur, flower crowns, stilettos, and anything else that helps you feel beautiful.

I think of it as adult prom. If you had a great prom, now you can have two. If you missed out on prom or if you had a bad one, you have a second chance to make a great memory!Women can find wonderful formal gowns at department stores like Macy’s. Thrift stores or upscale consignment stores are great places to find some gently used gems. I like to borrow items from Gammie’s eclectic collection of formal cruise wear and accessories. The woman has over 50 years’ worth of cruise attire and it’s all fabulous.

Another great option is eShakti.com. eShakti makes dresses tailored to your measurements. They also allow you to customize things like sleeve length, neckline, hem length, etc. I loved the black and white striped gown I ordered for our Caribbean cruise and it fit perfectly.

What To Wear On A Cruise

Multiple Pairs of Shoes

Tide Rhinestone Women’s Sandals – VIONIC 
Kea Women’s Slip on Shoes – VIONIC 
Dash Women’s Shoes – VIONIC 
Beach Manly Men’s Sandals – VIONIC 
Merrell – Jungle Moc AC+ Men’s Shoes
Merrell – All Out Blaze 2 Men’s Shoes

As laid back as a cruise ship may be, shoes are a must even in the most casual venues. Flip flops are good enough for most activities on a cruise, but you’ll need closed toed shoes for dinner and dress shoes for formal night. Depending on your excursions or exercise tendencies, bring a pair of athletic shoes too.

You’ll be doing a lot of walking on a cruise ship. Especially if you follow one of Gammie’s golden rules of cruising:

Gammie’s Cruise Tip #7: Always take the stairs. You’ll get where you’re going faster and burn off all that buffet food.

This means you should bring comfortable shoes that you can walk in. I love wearing flip flops to the pool, but otherwise I wear supportive walking shoes. My favorites are from Vionic. I wear them every day. (They also frequently make the list of Oprah’s Favorite Things because we both have good taste like that.) My husband loves his Merrell Jungle Moc’s. We affectionately call them his “dad shoes”. You can easily get away with wearing them for dinner too.

Full disclosure: I totally fell on my butt the first time I wore Vionic shoes on a cruise ship. I tripped myself on a lounge chair and then tripped my other foot with the first one to do a full mid-air spin to the deck. I’m told it was quite the sight to see. I think it had more to do with my clumsiness, the motion of the ship, and the alcohol than the shoes.

You can find the rest of Gammie’s Cruise tips here and here.

Don’t Forget the Accessories!

JChronicles Beach Floppy Hats
GUESS Women’s Metal Arm Square Sunglasses
Anthropologie Joanie Floppy Hat

Sunglasses and hats are also a must on a cruise. The reflection of the sun on the ocean and pool is harsh on the eyes. You might even want to bring a couple of cheap extra pairs in case you, or your loved ones, break the first pair.

A hat will protect your head from the unrelenting sun and might keep your hair contained in the wind. Although, consider bringing one with a strap or string to keep it on your head because cruise ships can be extremely windy.

Regardless of your destination, bring something to cover up with at night. Even in the Caribbean, the ocean air can get cold when the sun goes down. At least, pack a cardigan, shawl, or light jacket just in case.

Finally, if you’re going to a warm destination and wearing a lot of dresses or loose-fitting clothing, consider bringing along anti chafing bandelettes or friction block. Trust me, your thighs will thank you.

Bonus Tip: Workout Gear

To be honest, this is one thing I always pack but never use. Mostly because I’m lazy. I even refuse to abide by that “take the stairs” cruise tip. (When I realized my new Fitbit doesn’t track flights of stairs that was the end of it on our Caribbean cruise.) But you’ll never workout if you don’t bring your gear.

Cruise ships have everything you need to exercise including gyms loaded with equipment, running tracks, and group classes. Yoga on the helipad or beach, anyone? (Beware the surcharge.) You can even sign up for personal training sessions. Set yourself up for success by bringing some kind of workout gear. Even if you don’t use it for exercise, you can probably wear it in port or on the airplane home. Hurray for the almighty yoga pant!

Final Thoughts on What To Wear On A Cruise

Now that you know what to wear, you’ll be well prepared to relax and enjoy your next cruise. Stay tuned for more tips on important items to pack for a cruise.

For more general packing tips, check out 10 Tips for a Well Organized Suitcase. (These will also help you stay well organized in those small cruise staterooms!) Read more about our awesome cruise adventures in Ensenada Cruise on Carnival Inspiration and Caribbean Cruise on Oasis of the Seas.

Packing for a cruise can be a daunting task. With so many activities to do and events to attend, you usually need more than one outfit per day. But don’t worry; you’re still going on vacation. So relax because I’ve made packing a little easier with this guide: What to Wear on a Cruise.