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What to wear on a Cruise- Cruise wear women

Posted by sandhya garg on

What to Wear on a Caribbean CruiseShip- Cruise Fashion Explained

A cruise vacation is a fun way to travel, relax and have fun with your partner, family and/or friends without worrying about or planning about what all to see, what all to do or where to eat and shop. The cruise company takes care of all the planning while you sit, relax and truly enjoy your vacation.  Cruises blend casual entertainment with upscale dinner parties on one floating location. The mix of activities necessitates a mix of clothing styles for women. Create a packing list for your cruise vacation to ensure you bring the correct clothes without overpacking. 


What is Cruise Wear?

Here you can find advice and options on what to wear on a cruise. A complete guide to Cruise wear Dress code.


Cruise wear is clothing meant to be worn when you are on a cruise ship vacation holiday. You can wear Resort Casual, which includes bright dresses, colorful clothing, sun hats, T-shirts, shorts, Fun printed clothing, Linen dresses, maxi dresses, sundresses, sandals, tote bags. Some cruise line dress codes accept a clean T-shirt and jeans as acceptable evening attire, while others require a jacket and tie if you want to dine in the main restaurant.


Unless otherwise indicated, a formal dinner cruise calls for full formal evening attire. For ladies, full-length evening gowns with heels, attractive jewelry and perfectly done hair and makeup are the norm. Men's formal wear includes tuxedo or dark suit with polished dress shoes -- never any khakis, polo shirts or boat shoes. Check with your cruise line beforehand if you do not have any formal wear; some lines may relax the rules, but others may refuse service.

What should you wear during the day on cruise ship?

On warm-weather cruises, loungewear and beachwear are suitable both onboard and off the ship. Pack T-shirts, tank tops and other clothes that are easy to mix and match. In cooler weather, passengers will wear hiking pants, jeans and some loungewear. Luxury ships tend to be a little more formal (i.e. smart casual during the day). On expedition ships, rugged wear is more acceptable. In general, be mindful of any shore excursions and any country-specific dress codes when packing. For example, you might need clothes that cover your shoulders and knees to visit a mosque, or a hat, durable shoes and socks for a rainforest hike.

Cruise wear for women, Resort casual blue top

Fashion for Cruise ships is so much fun. Packing for a sunny break to the sea is super fun and whimsical, suitcases can be lighter (not like big mountain ski trips!). 
If your still wondering why take a cruise vacation, maybe this may help you decide-  If you have a place on your bucket list, a cruise will get you there. Cruises cover the world, taking millions of passengers each year to destinations like the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Alaska, Europe, the Mediterranean and even Antarctica. Cruise vacations offer a tremendous value, with trips that include your lodging, meals and entertainment, all rolled into one. Cruising means seeing the world while unpacking only once.

Factors to consider

Each cruise line sets its own dress code with specific types of clothing outlined. The dress codes typically highlight types of clothing for different times of day or activities. For example, daywear is more casual than formal nights on the ship. Check your specific cruise line's recommendations before packing.

The type of activities and your cruise destination also play roles in what you pack. You wouldn't pack the same type of clothing for an Alaskan cruise as you would for one to the Caribbean. If you plan to spend your days lounging around the ship's pool, you'll need plenty of swimwear and cover-ups. Choose clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for the activities you plan to do both on board and at ports of call.

Casual Clothes

Casual clothing is common during the day on the ship. In addition to swimming gear, pack shorts, Capri pants, slacks, tank tops and casual shirts. Depending on your destination, jeans and a sweatshirt or raincoat also are options. If you plan to exercise on board, pack a jogging bra, exercise clothes and socks.

Is there a dress code I have to follow at night? How fancy do people get on formal night?

Each cruise line has its own dress code for evening attire. Nights are typically either casual or formal, but vary by line and dining venue. Some cruise lines use their own dress code terms that might be a bit confusing. For example, "smart casual," "casual elegance," "cruise casual" or "resort casual" all mean the same thing: Dress like you're going on a dinner date -- not too sloppy, but not uber-fancy either. Cruise lines will usually list outfit recommendations and restrictions for both men and women, but you'll see a variety of interpretations on your cruise ship. How dressed up you get on formal night is more of a personal preference than a requirement. Again, you'll want to check your cruise line's dress code policy. Formal evening wear can range from cocktail dresses and dark suits to show-stopping gowns and tuxedos. If you don't want to get dressed up, avoid the main dining room and specialty restaurants on formal night and stick to the buffet, room service or other casual venues that don't require formalwear.

Dressy Clothes

The evening hours on the ship typically call for attire much dressier than you wore during the day. Most cruise ships have some formal nights and some informal nights, but even on an informal dining night the cruise line might expect female guests to wear dressy slacks, a pantsuit or a casual dress. On formal nights, some cruise lines expect cocktail dresses or even more formal ballroom-style dresses. A restriction often exists stating that jeans and other casual clothing is not allowed in the formal dining facilities.
Related- If you are planning a Resort Vacation, Read about Resort Dress code here
vacation packing list resort wear
Cruises also provide a wonderful option for families, with many ships offering things like waterslides, mini-golf courses and fun clubs for kids and teens -- all inclusive. Planning is easy: Pick your destination and the right ship for you. The cruise line makes it simple, offering packages to help you save on extras like alcohol, shore tours or even airfare. With all this pre-planned all you are left with is to think about your cute cruise outfits, that make you look gorgeous and memories that you will make. The life of a cruise fan can be full of surprises. But when it comes to dress codes, there are some hard and fast rules you should think twice before breaking (for everyone's sake).
shop pink plisse dress casual resort wear dress
Having been on a few Caribbean cruises, enjoying sunny skies, turquoise waters and plenty of cruising fun.I can tell you that if you can put together a well planned cute wardrobe of cruise outfits before you step on board, you are going to have a much more fun time.Packing for any vacation can be stressful, but we are here with our vacation packing tips to share our favorite summer trends that are perfect for your cruise vacation! (You can see our packing tips here.) So let’s get to the fun part, what trends should definitely make the cut! When I travel, I make sure my clothes and accessories follow a color palette & that they can easily be worn together. There is a seamless flow in between pieces.
Thinking about your fashions way ahead of time allows you to shop wisely and pack with the utmost confidence.  When you look great, you feel great, and life is so much more fun! 
The right clothes and shoes can put you in a relaxed vacation mood, thanks to beautiful colors and patterns and soft fabrics and comfortable shoes. Plus, knowing ahead of time how and when you are going to wear your outfits makes your trip and packing stress free. Here are some of our top tips on what to pack, and some cute outfit ideas for what to wear on a Caribbean Cruise.


In order to plan your cruise wardrobe, you might want to first check with the cruise line you’re traveling with, but there are several general things to keep in mind no matter who you’re traveling with.

1. You may want to pack for the destination you are traveling to and what are your own personal preferences. Even on summer sailings or cruises to tropical destinations in the Caribbean or South Pacific, it's always a good idea to bring a warm layer for unexpectedly cool or rainy days or overly air-conditioned spaces. Like me if you are always feeling cold while traveling, then packing a few layering pieces like a light weight cardigan, light jacket or a light blanket may be a good idea. For Caribbean vacays I always tend towards embroidery, prints, light layers and flirty fabrics. And comfort is always queen. I prefer when pieces can overlap into day time & night. Often Lido deck cocktails can turn into steak house dinners. You can bring a cashmere wrap for when the evening winds pick up. 

Cruise dress vacation dress california

2. Packing good walking shoes is a must to make the most of your travels. For all the adventure seekers, you need comfortable shoes for on shore excursions which may include hiking, biking, adventure sports, shopping or local sight seeing. I recommend a pair of comfy closed-toe shoes for the same.  

 3. Always pack 2-3 outfits for special events. Whether it's a dinner party, a romantic date, a themed cocktail party in the ship or a fine dining night. Always have a few formal dresses for the event. 

Cruise wear plus size cruise wear women maxi dress

4. Cruise Casual Wear for day time, cute bikinis and swimsuits are essential, but so are cover ups for when the sun is too strong or when it ducks behind the clouds. Pack cruise casual wear for the day. Once upon a time, women’s cruise wear was always dressy, but these days things are more casual. Most cruise lines recommend cruise casual. For women, this means casual sundresses, skirts, and pants including capris. The key when you cruise is to relax in style. Outfits should easily be mixed and matched. I prefer looser styles to tighter ones when the weather is hot. Dresses, playsuits and rompers are super cute & comfy. I also bring a PJ type lounge set. Makeup should be light and sun kissed. There is nothing worse than makeup that melts all over your face in the heat. Keep colors light and shimmery.

Cruise wear dress for women, casual resort dress

5. I always pack a crushable straw hat for the sun as well. There are plenty of travel friendly & fashionable hats these days, they are not too expensive and look great on the pool deck. Accessories are important too. I love comfortable pieces that can be worn both day and night. A pop of color here and there is fun too. A day tote bag is essential for my camera, towel, change of clothes (for off ship excursions) sunscreen and magazines. For the evening I pack a small clutch, metallic is always a favorite. It helps to dress up the simplest of outfits. If you are planning any upcoming cruises be sure to check the Cruise line website to plan out. A versatile tote bag. When traveling, you always want to downsize your handbag. I also recommend packing a neutral one like this on-trend woven bag that will go with every outfit in your suitcase. I prefer the cross-body strap that can be tucked in for optimal versatility. This bag had me covered from the pool deck to the dining room.

Shop Beach tote bag

6. A breezy caftan- There is just something so chic and timeless about a caftan (or kaftan). They are certainly not a new concept, but they have made a major comeback in the last few years. And, in my opinion, there isn’t a better occasion to try one than by a pool or on a beach. They are perfect for throwing on over your swimsuit to explore the local town or to head in for lunch. I personally love styles that balance the volumes shape with a deep V-neck and slits on either side.

Cruise wear wrap, casual wrap dress, silk kimono

7. Nautical stripes + statement t-shirts - When you are packing for a cruise ship, how can you not want to look the nautical part? I love this flowy striped maxi dress paired with a yellow sun hat. 

Striped nautical maxi dress plus size, cruise wear

8. A swimsuit with cutouts - When it comes to fashion this year, cutouts were the biggest statement maker, so it is no surprise the swimsuit designers took notice as well. I am in my early thirties and a mother of two so it’s definitely time I embrace the one-piece, but I am not ready to completely throw in the towel, either. I love all the trendy cut-out one piece bathing suits that let you feel stylish, yet conservative and appropriate at the same time.

 9. Pack smart casuals for evenings - If you plan to dine in one of your ship’s fine dining restaurants or dance the night away at their disco, then you’ll want to pack something that is a little more upscale than what you’d wear during the daytime. Think about a smart-looking dress or slacks and a dressy blouse. And don’t forget a little bling. Accessories are small and easy to pack and are great for transitioning an outfit from day to evening.

cruise wear women

10. Pack a few outfits for special events- Part of the fun of a cruise is the special on-board events for guests. Whether it’s a cocktail party with the Captain or a special fine-dining night, there is always something going on so make sure you have one or two dressier outfits that are a little extra special. Check with your cruise line how dressy you should pack. Some ships require dressier outfits like long gowns and fancy cocktail dresses. Others are a little less formal, and a maxi dress or little black dress will do.

11. Travel journal- To keep a record on your memories.

shop travel journal


Fashion for Cruises

Cruise ships offer numerous activities for travelers: swimming pools, casinos, gala banquets, theater nights and nightclubs might be just a few of the amenities offered by your vacation cruise line. These activities could create problems for packing since you’ll be expected to be properly attired at these venues. Dressing norms can vary depending on the cruise line, but chances are that you’ll want to look respectable for vacation photos. Understanding some basics about fashion for cruises will help you pack more effectively.


I always take a pair of shorts on a cruise, but I usually end up wearing cropped pants or jeans. They look so fresh, cool and classy, and they go with everything.

Here’s an outfit that would be great for around the ship or if you went onshore to do a little shopping or sightseeing. These cropped pants are made from linen, so they are fresh and cool to wear. I love the side buttons which give them a nautical feel. Pair them with a pretty tee in a pink or coral to bring out your tan and don’t forget a cute pair of strappy sandals. These are nice and flat ( read comfy) the lace-up straps that tie around the ankle give them real style!

You really don’t need a very big bag when you are cruising, but it helps if it has a strap so you can go hands-free. This white woven bag is very cute and just big enough to carry your passport, money, and your sunscreen. I like it because it is casual enough for day, but dressy enough for night, and the raffia makes it feel tropical.  

Casual cruise wear look for women


Here’s a cute, daytime outfit that is right on for your cruise. You can’t go wrong with a pair of crisp white shorts and a striped linen top.  Add some sleek white slip-on sandals and a cute, colorful bag and you are island ready.

Don’t forget a cute pair of sunglasses. You might also think about taking a hat.  Not only does it keep the sun away, but if your color your hair and don’t wear a hat, your hair will get bleached out by the strong Caribbean sun

Here’s another shorts outfit that is really cute too!


I’m a big believer in packing a few easy-breezy sundresses. They look good, they keep you cool, and they are a nice way for your legs to get a bit of sun. This relaxed shift dress has a fun, go-anywhere feel to it. There’s also need to worry about eating an extra bun at dinner with this dress. It camouflages your tummy perfectly.

The best dresses to wear on a cruise ship have a cute neckline such as lace-up,  halter style, off the shoulder or a keyhole neckline.  Fun details like a bit of exotic beading or embroidery will make you look more relaxed and vacation ready. Bright, happy prints in tropical colors to relaxed neutrals help set the mood.

Shop Blue Sundress, casual resort attire

If you are wondering what shoes to wear on a cruise, I would suggest flats or something low and more on the chunky side. Spiky heels are not very practical. A cruise ship is as long as a football field, and there’s always lots of walking across all kinds of changing surfaces. If you feel you must take a heel, make sure it is something you feel very comfortable walking in, like a kitten heel. Wedges are good, and so are sandals with block heels.


Blowing sea breezes, hot, hazy days strolling around the ship….A cruise is the perfect setting to wear a maxi dress. Choose something fun and tropical. Wear it by day with flats and a big floppy hat or dress it up at night with sexy evening sandals then head off the theater to catch a live show.

Cruise wear maxi dress, evening resort wear dress

5. GLAM BATHING SUIT and The Cover Up

Swimwear is perfectly acceptable by the swimming pools and spas, but don’t make the mistake of trying to wear your bikini or swim trunks all over the cruise ship. Instead, make a fashion statement by wearing a sophisticated, comfortable cover-up that doubles as a dress so that you can transition from the pool deck to a casual bistro or retail shop without having to return to your stateroom. Outside of the swimming areas, men are expected to wear shirts. Packing a well-made, long-sleeve button-up shirt helps you achieve a classic leisure look if you roll up the sleeves and leave a few buttons undone.

Life at sea cruising while from one destination to the next means lots of time spent lounging by the pool…darling!!!  A swimsuit is one item you will probably want to splurge on (even if you never plan to set foot in the water).

Go all out and tell your fashion story. Find yourself a glam bathing suit, movie star sunglasses, and a chic tote. Don’t forget a fabulous cover-up. It’s a necessity when you are running off to the buffet or the spa in between sun tanning and dips in the pool.

Cruise wear swim coverup women


Cruises are easy, breezy and so a pair of wide flowy linen pants. These comfy drawstring pants are perfect for a sun and sea vacation.

Cruise wear palazzo pants


If you can’t find any flowy pants you like, then a jumpsuit is another option.  The shoes make it a bit dressy for dinner but you could wear it with a lower or flat sandal too. ! I love the circle bag. It’s a style that is really popular at the moment and easy way to show everyone that you are on top of your fashion game!

Answering some common Cruise wear Questions here-

Am I allowed to walk around in my bathing suit?
Yes, but keep a change of clothes or cover-up handy. Swimsuits aren't allowed in most public spaces, including some outdoor dining venues. Buffets are usually more lenient; you can dine in your swimsuit in the outdoor seating area, but should wear something over it when standing in line for food.
Swim coverup resort wear, casual cruise wear
Do I have to dress up on theme nights?
Theme nights are common on mainstream cruise ships, but that doesn't mean you have to participate -- sometimes it's fun just to watch. If dressing up sounds entertaining to you, find out what theme night (if any) will be available on your cruise, so you can prepare. Some popular events include Disney Cruise Line's Pirate Night, Norwegian Cruise Line's White Hot Party, Princess Cruises' Love Boat Disco Party and Royal Caribbean's Prohibition Party. Themed outfits range from funky caps and sunglasses to head-to-toe costumes. If you missed the memo or change your mind, some ships' stores sell themed accessories, like hats or other accessories.

Smooth Seas, Starry Nights

Cruise ships often set evening dress codes that take effect after 6 p.m. Most nights will be “resort casual,” when fashion dictates bright sundresses or khaki blazers. However, on formal nights you’ll feel more comfortable in a tuxedo, suit and tie, and evening gown. Some cruise lines offer tuxedo rentals if you decide to go formal last-minute. Because sea breezes can be chilly even on balmy nights, pack a silk scarf or light shawl to keep warm.

Are shorts and jeans allowed in the main dining room?

Many cruise lines allow jeans for casual nights in the main dining room, while shorts are more universally prohibited. (Carnival and Norwegian are two of the few cruise lines that allow shorts in the main dining room for dinner.) Breakfast and lunch are more lax; you can usually wear shorts in the main dining room before 6 p.m.

Resort Casual

Can I buy clothing on the cruise if I accidentally leave something at home?

Most cruise ships have shops onboard, where you can purchase clothing, shoes (typically sandals and flip flops) or accessories you forgot to bring. The options are limited, so if you're picky, wait until you're in port to shop around.

Can I do laundry onboard so I don't have to bring as many clothes?

If you're a light packer or want to reuse some of your clothing items during the cruise, most cruise lines -- including luxury and river -- offer laundry services onboard. Prices are typically based on single articles of clothing and fluctuate depending on the cruise line. Expect to pay roughly between $2 to $8 per shirt or blouse, unless you're in a suite or loyalty program that includes laundry service. Some cruise lines even put self-serve launderettes on their cruise ships, if you want to save money and wash your own clothes -- a cheaper but more time-consuming option.

How many different outfits should I pack?

It really depends on your personal preference -- whether you'd rather pack light and re-wear some items, or have fun with new outfits every day. You can get away with packing less by bringing tops and bottoms that are easy to mix and match, or shirts that can be dressed up at night and worn more casually the next day.  It's always a good idea to overpack necessities such as undergarments. Bring more than one swimsuit if you plan to swim on consecutive days, as it will give one time to dry while you wear the other. To play it even safer, pack an extra evening outfit or two, as you might change your mind about the way something looks once you're onboard.

How can I find out more about what to wear on a cruise?

You might also like the following articles:

  • Cruise Line Dress Codes

Want to see more cruise wear for women? Check out these other ideas for what to wear on a cruise ship.  

If you are still wondering- 

What to Bring & Wear on a Cruise?

Although you might associate a cruise with glitzy evening wear and specialty attire, cruise clothing today can be as formal or informal as you want. Many cruise lines do have gala nights, masquerade balls and evening dress codes, but many also have more casual meal options like buffets or pizzerias where virtually anything goes. Check your cruise line's dress code for specific clothing recommendations.

Warm-Weather Essentials

Warm-weather destination cruises mean spending most of your days wearing shorts, khakis, T-shirts and bathing suits. Bring along at least two bathing suits so you will have one to wear while the other dries. Pack lightweight clothing made of breathable fabrics, such as cotton, to keep you comfortable in warm, humid environments. Most cruise lines do not allow bathing suits in the dining areas or public rooms so bring along some cover-ups. Evenings on the ship can be chilly, even in the tropics, so bring along a lightweight sweater or jacket.

Cold-Weather Cruising

If your ship will visit colder climates, such as Alaska or Scandinavia, bring lightweight layers that will help keep you warm and dry. Pack at least two sweaters or fleece pullovers, or one pullover and one vest, which you can pile on over your T-shirt to add warmth. Top off your attire with a lightweight, waterproof jacket, a warm hat and gloves. Don't forget a sun hat and sunscreen -- you can get too much sun even in colder northern climates. On May or September Alaskan cruises, bring along a pair of long underwear.

Evening Attire

"Dressy casual" clothing -- polo shirts or short-sleeve dress shirts for men and slacks, skirts, cocktail dresses and blouses for women -- usually works for most evenings on cruise ships. Men might be required to wear a jacket at dinner on some cruise lines. When packing, stick to separates that you can dress up or down, but definitely bring along some nicer outfits for formal evenings. Most ships host a captain's gala party to which men can wear tuxedos or a jacket and tie and women might dress in long dresses or cocktail attire.

Tips and Suggestions

A sturdy pair of rubber-soled sandals or walking shoes is a cruise essential for warm- or cold-weather cruises. Other handy items include a pair of sunglasses, a foldable tote bag, plastic bags to carry wet bathing suits and towels and flip-flops for walking around the pool area. Decide on shore excursions before leaving so you can bring along necessary items, such as wetsuits, snorkeling equipment, horseback riding attire or hiking boots.

Bon Voyage!

Shop more cruise finds

Sandhya Garg is a Project Runway dsandhya garg project runway lifetime tv making the cut amazon primeesigner. She studied and specialized in women's fashion at London College of Fashion, UK and has worked at Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Liberty London, Alice Temperley to name a few. She has her own successful resort wear, vacation dresses, special occasion dresses, wedding guest looks, swim coverups label. While on Project Runway Season 13, she won 2 challenges and was fortunate to show her collection at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. The brand has been featured in Marie Claire US, Workshop at Macy's, Ftv.com, Elle Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vogue online to name a few. 

She designs limited edition high end printed spring dresses, casual resort attire and swim coverups. Beautiful prints are inspired from around the world to be worn during travel, resort stay or cruise holidays.




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