Planning to escape on a glamorous cruise? Soon you’ll be soaking up the sun, island hopping, and eating gourmet meals every single night. If you’re scratching your head over what to pack, don’t worry! Most cruises these days are very relaxed, so you just need to look casually smart. Here are some cute ideas for what to wear on a cruise.
What to Wear on a Cruise ship 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.
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 nice kaftan that covers your bottom if you are walking around. Sneakers, sandals, and flip-flops are the typical daytime shoe for a cruise ship. Comfort is the key to dressing on board during the day.
Once you reach your port, there are always plenty of fun excursions to go on. There’s shopping, snorkeling, biking, and hiking adventures, visiting local tourist attractions….you name it! The best way to dress for one of these excursions is to layer your clothing. This way you are prepared for anything.
For example, if you are planning to swim with the dolphins or just 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 a big canvas tote bag.
Don’t forget if you are going to do a good deal of walking, flip-flops or sandals will not do. Be sure to wear sneakers or really good 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, there are three types of dinners the cruise line hosts in the main dining rooms at set times. Each has its own dress code:
Casual Dinner Dress
The casual dinner is usually the first night of the cruise since everyone is tired from boarding and getting settled. 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, and a top or 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 or nice shorts and a smart short sleeve tee-shirt, polo or print shirt. You can also wear a casual dress to the ship’s evening buffet which is every night of the cruise if you don’t like eating in the dining room.
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 casual. 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 smart casual dinner could be a nice dress, a skirt, and 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 a little more spiffy and would wear casual pants and a collared top such as a polo or a shirt and sports jacket – no tie required. *Smart Casual is required if you want to eat in one of the specialty restaurants too.
What to Wear on Cruiseship – Formal Night
Often there is one night during the cruise that is 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. Don’t forget the jewelry and fancy accessories. Men should wear a dark suit and tie or even a tux!
If you don’t like dressing up, you might want to skip the formal dinner and go to a restaurant that night or to the buffet. 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 a very nice dress, pretty shoes, and lots of jewelry could likely be fine. Check with your cruise line before you depart.
Smart Casual Dress required for cruise specialty Restaurants
NEW! Freestyle Dining
These days 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, it’s 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 simply think “nice restaurant” all the time, and you have smart casual nailed.