How To Dress For A Cruise

How To Dress For A Cruise

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Whether you are hopping aboard a cruise ship to see the breathtaking glaciers in Alaska or to soak up some sun on sandy beaches in the Caribbean, you will need to think about what to pack. Throwing a swimsuit or a parka in your suitcase might seem like an easy packing task. But cruising has an array of activities that call for you to wear proper attire. Are you wondering what to pack? Read on as we tell you how to dress for a cruise.

After booking your cruise, you should contact the cruise line and find out if there is a dress code to follow. Then, it’s time for you to get organized. We have the dressing items broken down into three categories: casual, dressy, and formal.


  • Shorts, skirts, and capris
  • Jeans and khaki pants
  • T-shirts, tank tops and polo shirts
  • Swimsuit, swim trunks and swimsuit cover-ups
  • Athletic wear, sportswear, sneakers, and socks
  • Sundresses and maxi dresses
  • Hoodies, sweaters, and sweatshirts
  • Light jackets
  • Flip-flops, sandals, slides, and flats


  • Slacks or dress pants
  • Button-down collared shirt
  • Sports coat and tie
  • Dresses
  • Pantsuits
  • Skirts
  • Blouses
  • Heels, boots and dressy flats
  • Closed-toe dress shoes


  • Tuxedo and dress shoes
  • Formal gown and dress shoes
  • Cocktail dresses and dress shoes
  • Dark suit, tie and dress shoes

That might sound like a big list of items for you to pack but take into consideration the activities, the dress code, and the length of your cruise. It’s probably best to pack a bit more than you need and be ready for any occasion. Keep reading this post as we answer questions and dig a little deeper into the topic of how to dress on a cruise.

A Closer Look At Casual, Dressy And Formal Attire

Our three categories of casual, dressy, and formal will apply to almost any type of cruise. Be sure to check the weather and keep in mind any land activities you have planned when packing. Let’s look closer at each category.

Casual Women

Women have many options for shirts, tops, and blouses. Paired with shorts, skirts or capris, just about any top can work for daytime activities. Sundresses are a comfortable and relaxed option if you are headed to a warm island.

And, for those days at sea, leggings and yoga pants are perfect for you to wear to the gym or an exercise class. Don’t forget to pack plenty of comfortable shoe options. You will do a lot of walking on board.

Casual Men

Men should pack their favorite shorts and t-shirts. Tank tops and muscle type shirts are also good options to bring along. Feel free to wear your loudest Hawaiian style print—you’re on vacation, after all.

Pack your athletic wear, socks, and sneakers to take advantage of the gym or other cool onboard amenities such as a basketball court or rock-climbing wall.

For women and men, be sure to pack your swim trunks or swimsuit. Even if you are headed to a cold climate, you will want swimwear in your bag. Most ships will have a pool or hot tub for you to enjoy.

Dressy Women

An easy way for you to dress up is to well, wear a dress, and pair it with a comfortable low heel. A cruise is an ideal time for you to splurge on a new “little black dress” for your closet. It’s smart to pack at least one skirt and several blouse options so that you can change your look. Remember, you want to be comfortable, but you are on vacation, so bring your inner fashionista out.

Dressy Men

Men should pack at least one nice pair of slacks or dress pants. Pair your pants with a button-down shirt, a polo shirt or even a t-shirt with a blazer or sport coat. A suit with or without a tie is a smart choice for men to pack. You can always break up the pants and jacket to wear with other items.

You should pack a variety of shoes to wear. Your flip-flops and sneakers are not dressy. Think about bringing deck or boat shoes. You will need a comfortable closed-toed loafer type of shoe.

Formal Women

On a cruise, there are levels of formal. But, if there is a black-tie dining option or a fine restaurant, you’ll want to wear a fancy ball gown or cocktail dress. Sequins and sparkles are welcome here. Don’t forget to wear heels to finish out the look.

Formal Men

If black-tie is specified, you’ll want to pack a tuxedo. If a black-tie dress is optional or you're headed to a fine dining restaurant, a dark suit, tie, and dress shoes will be appropriate for you to wear.

Do You Have To Dress Up On A Cruise?

You might find figuring out what to wear on a cruise overwhelming. To decide if you need to dress up, consider your itinerary. If you are planning to visit some culturally conservative ports or churches, you might want to choose an outfit that is dressier than shorts and a t-shirt.

And of course, check the recommended dinner attire for your cruise. If there is a formal dinner that requires a black-tie type of attire or if there is a fine dining restaurant, then yes, you need to dress up. Many cruises offer other dining options that are more relaxed and casual if you don’t want to dress up.

How Should I Dress For Dinner On A Cruise?

How you should dress for dinner depends on the cruise and the tone of the dinner. Many cruise lines have moved away from a strictly formal affair but still have some restrictions for the dining room. For example, you might not be permitted to a restaurant if you wear jeans and t-shirts. Always check the cruise line’s dress code policy before you head to dinner. A safe bet for most dining rooms is slacks and a button-down shirt or polo shirt for men, and a dress, dress pants or skirt and blouse for women.

You should avoid wearing sneakers or flip-flops in the dining rooms. Remember, you need to pack at least one nice, dressier type of shoe.

Can You Wear Jeans To Dinner On A Cruise?

You can look dressy in your jeans. And it might be appropriate for passengers to wear jeans into any cruise ship restaurant. However, you should check with the cruise line and make sure.

Also, even if jeans are okay to wear, be sure to leave your ripped up, super faded jeans in your cabin. Opt for your sleek, darker denim jeans that are free of holes.

How Formal Is Formal Night On A Cruise?

The cruise line defines formal attire. While cruise lines encourage passengers to dress up for dinner, they might or might not have a traditionally formal night.

The cruise industry appears to be moving away from formal attire requirements. Dressing in your best gown or sleek tuxedo for a grand gala dinner is a fading tradition, but certain cruise lines still require formal wear. It’s best to check with the cruise line to determine their definition of formal. You certainly won’t be turned away by showing up to dinner in a grand ball gown or dapper tux. But you probably won’t be permitted to dine in jeans and polo shirt if fancy attire is required at dinner

What Kind Of Shoes Should I Wear On A Cruise?

We recommend packing several pairs of shoes for your cruise. All your shoe choices should be comfortable.

Here is a list of shoes to pack:


  • Casual sandals or flip-flops
  • Sneakers or athletic shoes
  • Dressy flats, sandals or heels


  • Sandals or flip-flops
  • Sneakers or athletic shoes
  • Closed-toe dress shoes

Optional shoes for both men and women depending on your travel destination:

  • Hiking boots
  • Winter boots
  • Water shoes

Pro Packing Tips For Happy Sailing

According to Cruise Lines International Association, almost 32 million people are expected to cruise in 2020. That’s a lot of people and a lot of clothing that needs to be packed.

Follow our pro tips:

  • Read the cruise line’s dress code—they all have different definitions
  • Know where you are going on and off the ship—there might be dress a code
  • Be familiar with your dining options, and some might be formal or dressy

The cruise lines will have plenty of options if you want to hang out in shorts all day.

We hope we’ve helped you figure out how to dress for a cruise. Bon voyage and happy sailing.

How To Dress For A Cruise

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