Clothes to Take for a Cruise

Cruising Couple

Knowing what clothes to take for a cruise can make the difference between feeling comfortable and stylish on your cruise vacation or just feeling out of place.

A Word About Luggage

The first thing passengers need to be aware of when packing clothes for a cruise is luggage limitations. While most cruise lines do not limit the amount of luggage passengers may bring on board, it is wise to remember that cruise ship cabins do not have highly generous closets. Furthermore, passengers who need to fly to the cruise port will need to contend with limitations imposed by airlines.

However much luggage passengers opt to bring, it is important to pack essential clothes in carry-on luggage in case larger bags are misdirected or delayed. Pack swimwear, extra socks and intimate garments, and a casual change of clothes in carry-on bags to be prepared for this unfortunate eventuality.

Pack for Your Itinerary

When deciding which clothes to take for a cruise, the key consideration should be the cruise itinerary. Tropical ports of call require different attire than an Alaskan getaway, and the season of travel can also impact which clothes will be most suitable. Savvy passengers will research recommended attire for their destinations and should pack accordingly. When in doubt, contact the cruise line or a cruise travel agent for recommendations.

Which Clothes to Take for a Cruise

One outfit per day is simply not sufficient for a stylish and fashionable cruise vacation. From early morning workouts to late night dancing, passengers who come prepared with different types of clothes will be able to take advantage of all the different amenities their cruise ship has to offer.

Day Wear

Casual clothes are key for most days during a cruise vacation. Items to pack include:

  • Slacks, jeans, or shorts depending on the destination
  • Comfortable shoes or sandals to wear onboard the ship
  • Appropriate swimwear, including extra swimwear to wear while one suit dries
  • Swim covers if desired
  • T-shirts, tank tops, or other comfortable, loose clothing
  • Socks, lingerie, and other necessary garments
  • Sunglasses, hats, and other casual accessories
Tropical clothes for a tropical getaway.

For Shore Excursions

When exploring different ports of call, suitable attire can vary based on the type of activity. Consider packing the following clothes for your cruise:

  • Shorts or pants with deep pockets to keep a wallet secure
  • Comfortable walking shoes suitable for your activity level
  • Appropriate attire to visit recommended sites, such as more modest cruise wear for visiting temples or churches
  • Functional swimwear for snorkeling, diving, or other water-based shore excursions

Evening Attire

Most cruise ship dining rooms have basic dress codes passengers must abide by during evening meals. Cutoff shorts, swimwear, and tank tops are typically not allowed, but otherwise most ships permit "resort casual" attire such as:

  • Golf shirts or short-sleeved dress shirts with dress slacks for men
  • Dress slacks and blouses, skirts, or cocktail dresses for women

Cruise ship formal nights have a more upscale recommended dress code, including ties for the men (jackets are usually optional) and more elaborate skirts or dresses for women. Some passengers opt for a truly formal wardrobe including tuxedos and ball gowns, though formal or semi-formal attire is not usually required if a passenger does not wish to participate in the more formal dress code.

Later in the evening, passengers may want to visit a ship's numerous night clubs and dance facilities, and trendier, more fashionable clothing that can be flexible as well as comfortable may be desired, though many passengers simply continue to wear their dinner attire throughout the evening.

Other Clothes to Pack

Depending on the time of year, itinerary, and available facilities on your cruise vacation, additional items of clothing you may find useful could include:

  • Rain gear
  • Light jackets or sweaters
  • Formal shawls
  • Exercise clothes
  • Wetsuit

Additional Clothes Tips

No matter where your cruise is sailing or what you plan on wearing, these tips can help you make the most of your wardrobe choices:

  • Choose interchangeable pieces of clothing that can be used with multiple outfits while conserving room in the luggage.
  • Freshen up an outfit with eye-catching accessories such as jewelry, ties, scarves, belts, shoes, or other small items.
  • Use dry cleaning or self-serve laundry facilities where available to reuse clothing and conserve luggage space.
  • Pack several very comfortable, loose outfits in case of weight gain from decadent cruise dining.
  • Be sure all shoes are comfortable and broken in but still sturdy enough to provide adequate traction on wet decks or unstable surfaces.
  • Buy souvenir clothes from on board gift shops to augment your wardrobe when you return home.

When in doubt about recommended or required attire, passengers should consult the cruise line for guidelines. Luxury lines may have more stringent requirements, while some adventure cruises encourage passengers to dispense with formal attire altogether.


There are many clothes to take for a cruise, but understanding how cruise activities, shore excursions, and dress codes can affect passengers' wardrobes can help you make wise and fashionable choices so you can set sail in style.

Clothes to Take for a Cruise