Stylish Ideas for What to Wear on a Cruise

Are you planning to escape on a glamorous cruise? Soon, you’ll be soaking up the sun, island hopping, and eating gourmet meals every night.

If you’re scratching your head over what to pack, don’t worry! Most cruises these days are very relaxed, so you need to look casually brilliant. Here are some cute ideas for what to wear on a cruise.

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What to Wear on a Cruiseship Vacation  – Daytime Dressing

During the day, you’ll be by the pool, visiting the spa, taking a fun wine-tasting course, eating lunch at the buffet, and doing many other very relaxed, casual things. You don’t need to be dressed up! You’re on vacation, so resort wear is just fine.

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Shorts, sundresses, casual skirts and tops, jeans, capris, cropped pants, and pretty or sporty tops are all perfectly acceptable cruise clothes. You’re even fine in your bathing suit, with a lovely kaftan that covers your bottom if you walk around.

Sneakers, sandals, and flip-flops are the typical daytime shoes for a cruise ship. Comfort is the key to dressing on board during the day.


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Once you reach your port, there are always plenty of fun excursions. There’s shopping, snorkeling, biking, and hiking adventures, visiting local tourist attractions….you name it! Layering your clothing is the best way to dress for one of these excursions. This way, you are prepared for anything.

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For example, if you are planning to swim with the dolphins or hang out at the local beach, wear your swimsuit with your shorts and a T-shirt over the top, and you may even want to tuck a stretchy athleisure wear jacket into your backpack or an oversized canvas tote bag.

Remember, if you are going to do a good deal of walking, flip-flops or sandals will not do. Wear sneakers or perfect walking shoes, so you don’t have to worry about blisters or even a twisted ankle.

What to Wear to Dinner on a Cruise

Traditionally, the cruise line hosts three types of dinners in the main dining rooms at set times. Each has its dress code:


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Casual Dinner Dress

The casual dinner is usually the first night of the cruise since everyone is tired from boarding and settling. It’s often the last night, too, as everyone is busy and packing up. For a casual dinner, you can wear casual resort wear such as a summer dress, relaxed pants, top, dark jeans, and a nice top. It’s the type of thing you would wear to your local neighborhood restaurant for dinner. You may like a sweater if you go sleeveless. Sometimes, it is chilly with the air conditioning.

Men would wear pants, jeans, nice shorts, and a bright short-sleeved t-shirt, polo, or printed shirt. You can also wear a casual dress to the ship’s evening buffet every night of the cruise if you don’t like eating in the dining room.



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Smart Casual Dinner Dress

Think of smart casual as one step up from casual dinner. Most nights on a cruise, the dress code is smart casual, which means a little dressier than straight informal. Think of it as a little more upscale- what you’d wear if you were going to a classy restaurant for a special occasion.

For example, cruise outfits for a brilliant casual dinner could be a lovely dress, a skirt, a blouse, or a classy top with long pants or sporty cropped pants. (White pants always look fabulous with a pretty top on a cruise). You can even wear your favorite little black dress or a cocktail dress (but not one with a lot of glitz.)

Men should also look more spiffy and wear casual pants and a collared top such as a polo or a shirt and a sports jacket – no tie required.  *Smart Casual is required if you want to eat in one of the specialty restaurants too.


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What to Wear on Cruiseship – Formal Night

Often, there is one night during the cruise: the formal night. This is the night you meet the captain and crew, and there’s a lot of excitement and festivities. This is when you can pile on the glitz and glam. Women can wear fancy cocktail dresses (or just a dressy dress) and long dressy maxis or evening gowns. Remember the jewelry and fancy accessories. Men should wear a dark suit and tie or even a tuxedo!

If you don’t like dressing up, you should skip the formal dinner and go to a restaurant or buffet that night. But if you do want to go, remember there is a range of how dressy is dressy depending on the formality of the ship, so an adorable dress, pretty shoes, and lots of jewelry could likely be delicate. Check with your cruise line before you depart.

Bright Casual Dress is required for cruise specialty Restaurants


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NEW! Freestyle Dining

Nowadays, some cruises like Norwegian have moved to one type of dining called Freestyle dining. This means no set dining time, relaxed attire in the dining room, and flexibility to eat at one of the many onboard restaurants, cafés, and grills.

Smart Casual is the typical dress code for freestyle dining. This includes the following clothes for a cruise: dresses, casual pants or jeans, skirts, and tops. For men, jeans or slacks with a collared shirt and closed-toed shoes. I’ve been on lots of these cruises, and the Freestyle dining code makes dressing much less stressful. You think “nice restaurant” always, and you have intelligent casual nailed.

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9 thoughts on “Stylish Ideas for What to Wear on a Cruise

  1. We’ve been cruising for 15 years, and dress is much more casual now, but I’m dressing up almost every night, and I enjoy seeing others who do this as well. I know dressing up doesn’t appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy pretty things, this is the time to pack.

    1. Hi Roberta, I agree with you. There aren’t a lot of reasons to dress up anymore so a cruise is always exciting. I think when you dress up a little it feels more vacation like and you get some great photos too! Happy sailing! Cheers, Deb

  2. I recently found your blog by following a pin on Pinterest and have a question for you. Could you put a link to the clothes you have featured in your blog posts or your Pinterest board so we could look up those items to purchase for ourselves possibly? I am limited by where I live as to what is available in a store, and I do most of my shopping online. Thank you so much. I am learning so much from your blog. Blessings, Pam

    1. Hi Pam,
      We usually put links, but the clothes sell out fast, so the connections go down once they are sold out. If you ever want something, email me, and I will see if I can find something similar for you. Thanks for taking the time to write. Cheers, Deborah

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