Cruise Attire to Get You Ready For a Luxury Vacation at Sea

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Finding the appropriate clothing is important no matter what kind of vacation you're planning.

Preparing for a cruise, however, carries some added importance. While there is shopping on board, it is limited. So if you want to be comfortable in your own style, it is best to plan ahead. Plus, there are some unwritten (and a few written) rules when it comes to cruise attire. But don't sweat it. Follow a few simple steps below to make sure you're cruising in style and comfort. After all, it is a vacation. Deciding what to wear shouldn't be stressful.

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What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial

  • Know your cruise line. Every cruise is different, and so is the cruise attire for those on board. Whether you're on a large family carrier or in a small yacht club, you will want to comply.
  • Know your own tastes. Even within the range of acceptable cruise attire, you have plenty of room for expressing yourself. So whether you want all new clothes or old favorites, you can probably make the right choices.
  • Know your climate. This might be the most basic tip, but could be the most important. Pack clothes for the type of weather you can expect at all your ports and excursions. 

Instructions -- How to Pack the Right Cruise Attire

There might be a few parameters regarding cruise attire with your particular vacation. But aside from those, we encourage you to select clothes that suit you best. You'll be the one wearing them, so make sure you're comfortable. We've got a few tips to help you achieve that goal.

1. Layers, Layers, Layers

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Mette Sivebæk Knudsen

If you've been on a few cruises, you've probably experienced unexpected weather changes. Even the expected temperature ranges on a typical cruise can vary widely. So experts recommend the classic look of layered clothing. Not only is it a pretty timeless way to dress, it is also supremely practical.

You can take off a coat or even a sweater when the sun comes out. But having it around when it gets cold or drizzly will be a lifesaver. So pack a few lightweight coverings and maybe a heavy coat depending on your plans. But make sure you have plenty to wear underneath to enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

The layered look has always been a timeless approach to making wardrobes more versatile. This simple trick might be an open secret in the fashion world. But it will serve you especially well when you're on a big boat surrounded by water.

2. Pare Down Your Pairs

suede boots, cruise attire

Credit: Flickr, jdog90

We think the clothes themselves are the main component of cruise attire. Shoes are important for comfort, but not for providing variety. If you can include just two or three pairs to cover all events, you'll have much more room. Then you can pack a bigger variety of clothes to match any potential weather or excursion.

Try to match your formal attire to one pair of shoes that will go with each outfit. Then a comfortable and stylish pair of sneakers should cover everything else. With space at a premium, it is important to prioritize what you pack. And we hate to break it to all the shoe lovers out there. On a ship, you're favorite articles just don't carry enough weight for you to carry their weight.

We get the desire to show off a bit when you're on vacation. But in reality, shoes on a vacation like this are more a tool than a fashion accessory. You want something to keep your feet comfortable through lots of walking. So sure, choose something fashionable. But put the priority on lightweight and easy to wear shoes or sandals.

3. Don't Be Extreme

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You can make the argument that tank tops have their place. But most folks will probably agree that place is not at one of the ports on a luxury cruise trip. You can pack athletic wear and sweats if you plan on hitting the gym. But as part of your cruise attire, T-shirts and shorts should be as casual as it gets. And when you get off the ship, you should probably bump that up a bit. You're likely to have a better time if you dress in a nice polo and khakis or something equivalent.

Check with your individual cruise line to determine if there are any prohibitions. Sometimes jeans or other casual wear is off limits.

But our advice to avoid extremes cuts both ways. In all but some specific circumstances, we recommend leaving the tux at home. Maybe some nice cocktail attire is appropriate for men and women. Formal wear will be a bit much for most of the places you'll go, though.

4. Relax!

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While you're packing you cruise attire, always remember where you're going. This is a vacation and the purpose is probably to recharge and get away from work. If you're replacing that stress with the stress of finding the right outfits, you're missing the point. So sure, do the research you need to make sure what you have the right clothes. 

But beyond ensuring you are comfortable physically and with your appearance, don't sweat it. Because at the end of the day, everybody else around you is on vacation. And chances are they aren't paying a lot of attention to what you decided to pack. Heck, you'll probably just be surprised by what some others consider cruise attire. If you're putting thought into it, you're probably already ahead of a lot of your shipmates.

So if you like what you have in your suitcase, that's really the main thing. And with the state of the industry these days, you're not likely to stand. As long as you don't go overboard (no pun intended), you should be safe.


The purpose of a cruise should be rest, relaxation and fun.

Don't let your trip be ruined with an avoidable mistake like packing the wrong cruise attire. We've provided a few of our tips. Beyond that, you'll have to figure out what works for you and your trip.

If you found our guide helpful, share it with the seafarers in your life. And leave us a comment below if you have any final thoughts or questions.

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