Deciding what to wear on a cruise can be a challenge. While cruise liners don't have the same capacity issues as planes, you might need to fly to your departing port, meaning you're still limited by luggage weight and need to pack smart.
Learning what to wear on a cruise can solve a pre-vacation sartorial meltdown. A jam-packed holiday, where you're likely to visit numerous destinations and have a range of activities on offer, the range of clothing you might need to wear on a cruise can leave some feeling overwhelmed. Before embarking on working out what to wear on a cruise, you will need to consider the type of cruise, such as river cruises vs ocean cruises - as they might require a different wardrobe.
While a cruise might not have a strict dress code in the same way the races do, there are a number of events throughout your trip that you'll need to account for. While the era of ballgowns at dinner has largely (sadly) departed, it is generally still expected that guests will dress up a little for the evening meal - which is fun for holidaymakers too. Then consider days by the pool and excursions off the boat and you've got a fall wardrobe to prepare. When planning what to wear on a cruise, consider the number of days you're going for and the climate - the best river cruises in Europe might not be quite as hot as Caribbean cruises. Try to limit heavy and bulky items, such as shoes, opting for versatile items that can work across outfits. If you prefer separates to dresses, ensure your holiday looks can be mixed and matched to give you maximum wear per garment, dressing items up and down for the range of activities encountered, creating a capsule closet.
What to wear on a cruise: From day to evening, the looks to pack
To ease you into vacation mode, we've compiled a guide of some of our top pieces to slide into your suitcase and how to wear them. As a starting point, divide your wardrobe into six sections. While some items may work across categories, thinking about the different needs of your cruise wardrobe, will ultimately help you to navigate what to pack, without going overboard.
1. Casual attire
Casual attire will be the majority of what you pack when deciding what to wear on a cruise. Essentially a capsule wardrobe for your vacation, you want to have a varied selection of basics that you can mix and match throughout your trip, items that will take you from breakfast, to sightseeing and beyond. Think your best t-shirts, mixed in with shorts, relaxed-fit trousers, maxi skirts and the best summer dresses. Seeing you through the largest part of your trip. Some of these items will be able to be dressed up for more laidback dinners, or like a luxe linen shirt, used as an easy pool-side cover-up too.
RRP: $24.99 / £17.99 | In 95% cotton, this shirred waist dress is ideal for keeping you feeling and looking cool. An easy day piece, you can wear this both on and off the cruise ship for effortless summer style. The floaty sleeves offer arm coverage.
RRP: $45.90 / £29.99 | Treading the line between smart and casual, tailored shorts will give your outfit structure while still embracing those summer vibes. The high-waisted style is ideal for supporting midriffs on apple body shapes.
RRP: $140 / £110 | A printed tiered maxi skirt is a great choice for your cruise wardrobe. One of the big fashion trends 2022, this design offers light and breezy coverage and can be easily paired with t-shirts or slipped on over swimwear for great summer style.
RRP: $168 / £154 | Crafted in 100% cotton for breathability, these navy trousers will be a welcome addition to any holiday wardrobe. Ideal for wearing on a cruise for their lightweight feel and smart finish, you can pull these on post pool or for heading to breakfast.
RRP: $99 / £59 | A linen shirt is wardrobe must-have come the summer months and it makes for a great throw on piece for a cruise capsule closet too. Wear open over a camisole, tuck into trousers, or half-tuck into shorts, it's a real 'wear with everything' item.
As you gently sail from stop to stop, you'll want to enjoy the onboard facilities. The pool, or pools (depending on the size of your liner) is largely where a lot of the daytime activity is happening and offers a chance to unwind when you're not exploring a new city. When choosing the best swimwear to wear on a cruise, we recommend taking a 3-4 looks for a week long trip. Consider the most comfortable swimsuits for your body type, that will offer the most support to your silhouette, from one-pieces to bold two-piece designs, neutral and block color hues offer the most in terms of style longevity, although the swimwear trends 2022 are definitely worth checking out too for directional pieces.
RRP: $67 / £36 | Kick back and relax, by the pool, or at the beach when the ship docks. The best swimsuits and bikinis are a must when working out what to wear on a cruise. This one-shoulder design feels modern, while the classic hue renders it timeless.
RRP: $78 / £87 | If you're looking for some of the best plus size swimwear with added coverage, then these swim shorts should be on your list. Covering the upper thigh, this ribbed design will offer contouring properties and can be paired with its matching bra top.
RRP: $280 / £260 | This gorgeous red swimsuit with scalloped edge gives off a delightfully retro feel. With a shoulder covering cap sleeve, and bold hue, this swimsuit could easily be paired with trousers, skirts or shorts as a top for added versatility.
RRP: £45 (UK only) | Leopard print never goes out of style and this small animal print design is an ideal silhouette for smoothing and sculpting your shape. The plunge neck and statement buckle will help to elongate your frame for a flattering fit.
RRP: $33.99 / £19.50 | Featuring a directional square neckline - a great shape on all bust sizes, this high-waisted bikini is ideal for those looking for added tummy support. With a classic monochromatic print, you can wear this summer after summer.
3. Swim Cover-ups
With the best swimwear comes the need for the best beach cover-ups, and if you're planning on spending time around the pool or hanging out on the deck, then investing in items to up-style your swim looks is a must. Save space in your case and give yourself extra day outfits by opting for cover-ups that are multi-functional. From floaty kaftans that offer instant glamour, to classic sarongs that act as a skirt over your outfit, to dresses that you can slip on and off and rework as casual or evening attire.
RRP: $123 / £99 | A kaftan dress is ideal for throwing over swimwear as you relax by the pool. Smart and elegant, yet equally cool and casual, this blue and white iteration will never date and will offer great coverage in the midday sun.
RRP: $69.50 / £75 | Heading from the pool to grab some drinks or food, slip on a pair of lightweight cotton trousers, that can also be worn for sightseeing excursions. Featuring an elasticated waist for added comfort and a summer-ready leg vent to finish.
RRP: $229 / £149 | While this embroidered beauty is sat in the beach cover-up section, its real charm is in its versatility. Easily pairable with some palazzo chiffon trousers, this richly detailed kimono can double up for the evening - helping you to pack smarter.
4. Dinner outfits
While dressing to the nines used to be the norm on a cruise, these days, dinners are not quite as fancy. That doesn't mean to say you should be showing up in your flip flops though. Even though you no longer need to pack a ballgown, it is still general practice to get changed from casual and poolside attire for dinner and the evening entertainment. When deciding what to wear on a cruise for dinner, opt for easy to pack styles that offer a nod to glamour without going over the top. Think your most flattering jumpsuits, on-trend dresses and your best tuxedo inspired separates for outfits that will make you feel dressed up without too much fuss. Swap sandals for wedges, or low block heels for a smarter finish, or go for flats with added jewel detail for a little glitz.
RRP: $135 / £89 | If you normally like a stylish jumpsuit, then this two piece gives the illusion of an all in one but with the versatility of a top and trouser set that can be separated and worn with other items in your wardrobe. The floaty fabric adds elegance.
RRP: $445 / £376 | With a fitted bodice and stretchy waist for ease of movement, this slip dress is timeless. A great solution when wondering what to wear for a cruise dinner, the era of the ballgown might be over, but the cocktail frock still reigns supreme.
RRP: $179 / £151.51 | Utterly elegant, this simple but chic overlaid jumpsuit is also available in full navy. Flattering on all shapes and size, the overlay skims stomachs, hips and thighs, while the lightweight fabric will keep you cool on the warmest evenings.
RRP: $897 / £650 | Evenings on a cruise ship can require a certain element of 'dressing up'. A relaxed fit dress in an eye catching print is an ideal way of fulfilling the brief. Breathable, with added sleeve drama, this is one of the best wedding guest dresses too.
RRP: $245 / £150 | Prefer something a little more tailored for the evening? These smart black trousers with satin waistband give a nod to the best tuxedos for women. A leg lengthening silhouette, this shape is ideal for apple bodies. Pair with a silky blouse.
RRP: $29.90 / £19.99 | If you're wearing trousers in the evening, opt for lightweight tops that can easily be mixed and matched. This up-styled tee benefits from a draped neckline, adding elegance to a timeless basic. Available in three versatile colorways.
Many of us are guilty of overpacking on footwear when we head on vacation, but too many shoes is such a waste of space in your suitcase. Instead, opt for neutral shoes that will go with all your outfits and be strict about the number of shoes that you truly need to see you through the trip. If you're planning on disembarking, you'll want some comfortable flats such as trainers or plimsolls for walking, as well as a pair of flip-flops or sandals for round the pool. When it comes to the evening, opt for a neutral or metallic colored flat sandal, wedge or low block heel that will give your dinner looks a more dressy feel.
RRP: $38.35 / £32 | All that glitters. When planning what to wear on a cruise, footwear is of upmost importance. From the pool to the spa and mooching around on the deck, a pair of flip flops will never date and will always be handy, it's a vacation classic.
RRP: $105 / £85 | A neutral hued wedge sandal is ideal when selecting what to wear on a cruise, discreet with comfortable added height and instantly summery, they team well with both smart and casual outfits, offering real versatility to your holiday wardrobe.
RRP: $115 / £69 | Great for every day excursions, these plimsolls come in several colorways - so you can choose a pair that teams well with your cruise capsule closet. Using Hotter's Freesole's energy return they offer cushioned support with every step.
RRP: $99.95 / £75 | The iconic Birkenstock is back in fashion and we're thrilled. This classic shape sandal now comes in regular and wide fit, with its timeless, molded foot-bed, expect unparalleled levels of support and comfort. We love the metallic hue here.
RRP: $190 / £164.46 | A number of cruise ships have gyms on board, so if you like to keep fit, even on holiday, packing a pair of trainers is a good idea. This smart and sporty white pair, with a dopamine dressing pop of neon will work with your casual wardrobe too.
RRP: $53 / £39.99 | Flat or wedged sandals are perfect for switching up your cruise wardrobe. Taking your from day to evening this gold pair will team well with dresses, shorts and trousers. The combination of white and gold evokes sandy beaches too.
When it comes to accessorising your cruise wardrobe, we say keep to the core necessities, the best sunglasses, a great hat for sun protection and a bag that will allow you navigate handsfree. When it comes to jewelry though, we say less is more. If you love to add finishing touches, go for a couple of statement pairs of earrings that you can team with several looks, tapping into the jewelry trends 2022 to give wardrobe basics a directional feel, or for a more relaxed, boho feel, try inexpensive layered chains or lightweight bangles.
RRP: £370 (UK only) | Evocative of the summer season, these white and tan sunglasses will give your look an instant lift. In a wood-like design, these frames channel the latest eyeglasses trends 2022 and feature discreet side branding.
RRP: $150 / £89 | One of the best crossbody bags, Apatchy offer dozens of iterations of this classic style. Just the right size to stow your essentials for trips on and off the ship, the crossbody strap also allows you to enjoy your day handsfree.
RRP: $62 / £59 | For something more heavy duty, the best backpacks for women give you plenty of room for the essentials. This classic black design offers secure, zip fastened pockets and a timeless style that can be used for multiple trips.
RRP: $46.35 / £39 | We recommend keeping jewelry to a minimum when travelling, particularly expensive pieces. Instead, opt for trend-led styles, such as these neon hoops, or pretty layered chains to help dress up your outfit without over investing.
RRP: $249 / £210 | A fashion pack fave, this leopard print hat is fun and directional. A great piece to team with neutrals, it has a statement look that will work on daily excursions, as well keeping you protected by the pool. Crafted in linen, it's easy to pack.
RRP: $160 / £98 | Even the warmest of destinations can get chilly at night and a lightweight scarf will add a pretty and soft layer of protection. Ideal if you're wondering what to wear on a plane too, this cashmere scarf will go with absolutely everything.
Rivkie is a fashion editor, writer and stylist with over fifteen years' experience in the industry. Having studied design and pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion, Rivkie fell in love with styling and journalism, covering fashion weeks in London, Paris and New York.
Specialising in plus size fashion, Rivkie has long championed that style is for everyBODY and has been a regular talking head on a host of radio stations and television shows, pushing for greater representation for plus size women and fashion throughout her career.
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