Ultimate Guide: What to Wear on a Cruise – Dress Code Tips for Formal Nights & More

Preparing for an upcoming cruise can be stressful, and you must consider what you will wear. Selecting the right clothes for a cruise is more than just filling up your suitcase—it’s about curating a wardrobe that sails smoothly from the sun-soaked deck to the main dining room. As the choices in cruise dress-up evolve, gone are the days of mandatory tuxedos and evening gowns. Today’s cruise ship clothes offer a delicate balance between elegance and ease.

What to Wear on a Cruise

Table of Contents show

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the shift from traditional to modern cruise attire, allowing for sophistication and comfort.
  • Learn how to perfectly blend in or stand out with the right clothes for various cruise ship activities.
  • Ascertain the importance of balancing the cruise line’s dress code with your style preferences.
  • Recognize how the proper attire can enhance your cruising experience and match themes and onboard events.
  • Discover the essentials for looking chic and comfortable on deck, during dinners, and at special events.
  • Grasp the nuances of dressing for a cruise with practical wardrobe choices tailored to your travel plans.

Do you have to dress up on a cruise?

The dress code on a cruise ship can vary depending on the cruise line and specific sailing. While some cruise lines have formal nights where dressing up is recommended, others have more relaxed dress codes. You must check the dress code guidelines provided by your cruise line and plan your attire accordingly.

Some cruises may have specific dress code requirements for certain events or venues onboard. For example, formal or gala evenings may call for more elegant attire, such as cocktail dresses, evening gowns, tuxedos, or suits. These dressier nights allow you to celebrate and showcase your sophisticated style while enjoying a special evening onboard.

On the other hand, many cruise lines also offer more casual dining options where you can dress comfortably. Various clothing options are essential to accommodate different activities and dress codes onboard. This can include casual, comfortable outfits for daytime activities and more formal attire for special events or evenings.

Dressing up on a cruise is not mandatory, but it can enhance the overall experience and add to the festive atmosphere onboard. Whether you embrace formal nights or opt for a more relaxed dress code, the key is to feel comfortable and confident in what you wear.

What do you wear on a dressier night on a cruise?

Dressier nights on a cruise, known as formal or gala evenings, allow one to dress up and celebrate. Cocktail dresses, evening gowns, tuxedos, or suits are appropriate for these occasions. It’s a chance to showcase more elegant and sophisticated attire while enjoying a special evening onboard.

On dressier nights, you can embrace a more glamorous and refined look. Ladies can opt for a stunning cocktail dress or an elegant evening gown that complements the occasion. Choose fabrics like chiffon or silk to add a touch of luxury to your ensemble. Complete your look with stylish heels and statement jewelry to enhance your overall appearance.

Gentlemen can dress to impress with a tailored tuxedo or a well-fitted suit. Pair it with a crisp dress shirt, a tie, and polished dress shoes for a sophisticated look. Consider adding a pocket square or cufflinks to elevate your outfit further. Remember to ensure your attire is well-pressed and the details are well-groomed.

What do you wear on cruises during the day?

Casual and comfortable attire is essential during a cruise. Whether you’re planning to lounge by the pool, explore the ports of call, or participate in fun onboard activities, it’s essential to dress appropriately for the weather and the activities planned for the day.

Shorts and T-shirts are popular for men and women, providing a relaxed and breezy look. Sundresses are also an excellent option for women, offering a stylish yet comfortable outfit. To keep cool under the sun, opt for lightweight and breathable fabrics.

Comfortable shoes are key when it comes to footwear. Sneakers or sandals with cushioned soles are ideal for long walks or excursions, while flip-flops or water-resistant slides are perfect for poolside relaxation. Remember to pack a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and a hat for added sun protection.

Remember that the daytime dress code on a cruise is generally laid-back and relaxed. So, embrace the casual nature of your cruise vacation and enjoy the freedom to dress comfortably while you explore and unwind during the day.

What clothes should you be sure to pack for a cruise?

When preparing for a cruise, it’s essential to pack various clothing to suit different activities and occasions. Below are some essential items you should consider including in your cruise wardrobe:


Don’t forget to pack your favorite swimsuits for fun-filled days by the pool or at the beach. Whether you prefer a one-piece or a bikini, bring enough options to enjoy the sun and water.

Swim coverups

Stay stylish and comfortable with swim coverups. They provide coverage when you’re away from the water and can be a fashionable accessory for your poolside or beachside looks.

Sweater or fleece

A lightweight sweater or fleece with air conditioning is essential, especially for cooler evenings or areas of the ship. A cozy layer is always a good idea to keep warm and comfortable.

Sunglasses and sun hats

Protect your eyes and skin from the sun’s rays with sunglasses and sun hats. These accessories shield you from harmful UV rays and add a touch of style to your cruise outfits.


Wear a watch to keep track of time on your cruise adventure. This practical accessory ensures you won’t miss any planned activities or dining reservations. Many cruisers might use a phone, which can be tricky when traveling. So a standard watch can help you stay on “ships time” throughout your cruise easier. It’s not uncommon during a cruise for the ship’s time to change once or more as you travel great distances.

Casual, comfortable attire

Opt for casual and comfortable attire for daytime activities onboard or during port excursions. T-shirts, shorts, sundresses, and sneakers are perfect options for exploring, lounging, and participating in onboard activities.

Dinner or “smart casual” attire

Regarding evening dining or “smart casual” dress codes, bring a selection of pants, jeans, a dress or skirt, blouses, a nice top, or a button-down shirt. These outfits are perfect for a delicious dinner while looking stylish and put-together.


Layering is essential to adjusting to changing temperatures throughout the day. Bring lightweight cardigans, wraps, or jackets that can easily be added or removed to accommodate different environments, both onboard and ashore.

What kind of shoes should you wear on a cruise?

Choosing the proper footwear for a cruise is vital for comfort and style. Here are some options to consider:

Flip flops, sandals, or waterproof slides

Flip-flops, sandals, or waterproof slides are a must for pool days and beach excursions. They are easy to slip on and off and perfect for lounging by the pool or exploring sandy shores. Many of the beaches in the Caribbean are beautiful, but they can also be rocky, and I often wear strap-on water sandals to protect my feet from any sharp rocks or debris. Many cruise line pool decks can get extremely hot, so water shoes are vital for kids who want to ride the slides. Shoes often have to be removed before sliding down, so consider this. Kids should always have water shoes for the beach as the sand can also be hot and rocky.

Sneakers or comfortable walking shoes

If you plan to go on shore excursions or explore the cruise ship extensively, opt for sneakers or comfortable walking shoes. These will provide the support and comfort needed for long walks and ensure you can enjoy your adventures without discomfort.


Boots are an excellent option for colder weather destinations or activities like hiking. They provide extra warmth and protection, making them suitable for outdoor pursuits.

Shoes or sandals for dinner

When going to dinner on a cruise, bringing dressier shoes to elevate your outfit is a good idea. Whether it’s a formal night or a casual evening, having the right shoes can add a touch of elegance to your dining experience.

Understanding Cruise Dress Codes

What to Wear on a Cruise by LifeWellCruised.com

Embarking on a cruise entails knowing the nuances of cruise attire. As passengers, we navigate a sea of clothing options divided into distinct categories, each tailored to a specific part of the cruise experience. Casual dress cruises have reshaped our views on sea travel, offering comfort without compromising charm. Yet, the essence of cruise elegance remains an inviting prospect for those who relish the opportunity to dress up. Much of this depends on the cruise line and the type of cruise experience it offers its guests.

Packing for Daytime Adventures Onboard and Ashore

Daytime Cruise Attire Essentials
Ultimate Guide: What to Wear on a Cruise - Dress Code Tips for Formal Nights & More 16

Selecting the right cruise ship clothes transforms your daytime experiences into comfortable, memorable adventures. Whether lounging poolside or exploring exotic locales, understanding what to wear on a cruise during the day is essential to enjoy every moment. Below is a guide to the crucial items in your suitcase.

  • Lightweight dresses or polo shirts for a versatile, comfortable look suitable for dining or daytime entertainment onboard.
  • Quality swimwear that provides style and functionality for those refreshing dips in the pool or ocean snorkeling adventures.
  • Comfortable t-shirts and shorts for strolling on the deck or engaging in onshore activities.
  • Wear protective sun hats and UV-blocking sunglasses to shield you from the sun’s intense glare at sea or on the beach.
  • Durable water shoes that safeguard your feet during water-based excursions or on sandy shores.

When considering things to wear on a cruise, it’s not just about clothing. Accessories and footwear are pivotal in ensuring comfort, safety, and enjoyment. Here’s a breakdown of essential daytime cruise attire categorized by activity:

Poolside RelaxingSwimwear, Cover-UpsSunscreen, Sun HatFlip Flops, Sandals
Gym or Sports ActivityWorkout GearWater Bottle, Sports WatchAthletic Shoes
Shore ExcursionBreathable ClothingBackpack, CameraWalking Shoes, Water Shoes
Casual Onboard ActivitiesT-Shirts, ShortsSeabands, NovelCasual Sneakers

Remember that daytime cruise attire should suit the diverse activities available onboard and ashore. By packing smartly, you blend in with the cruising culture while prioritizing your comfort and readiness for any adventure that calls your name.

What to Wear on a Cruise During the Day

Ultimate Guide: What to Wear on a Cruise - Dress Code Tips for Formal Nights & More | 19
Embarkation and Debarkation days should be casual and comfortable attire that looks and feels good. (Photo by John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

When sunlight graces the decks of your cruise ship, your attire should blend comfort and style suitable for many activities. From breakfast on the balcony to exploring exotic destinations, choosing the right day wear is essential. This section will guide you through the essentials for comfort and style, ensuring your cruise wardrobe is on point from dawn to dusk.

Comfort Meets Style: Day Wear Essentials

Slide Time!
Meagan takes her first turn down the ship’s slide. (Photo by John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

Day wear on a cruise encapsulates casual and functional elegance. For the women, think of the breezy women’s cruise wear, such as flowy dresses and lightweight tops perfect for strolling the ship or a local market. Men can opt for casual cruise wear for men, including relaxed button-up shirts and breathable shorts, making transitions from onboard leisure to shore excursions seamless. Remember comfortable footwear; supportive sneakers are ideal for daytime exploration, while sandals work well for casual hangouts.

Poolside Fashion: Swimsuits to Sun Hats

Ultimate Guide: What to Wear on a Cruise - Dress Code Tips for Formal Nights & More | 19
Pool Deck aboard Carnival Cruise Lines Mardi Gras

When it’s time to unwind by the pool or hit the shores, what to wear on a cruise ship during the day includes swim-ready attire. Women can bask in the sun in one-piece suits or trendy bikinis, complimented by a chic cover-up. Men can wear stylish swim trunks with a casual shirt, epitomizing the cruise for men’s attire. Protective gear like sun hats and UV-filter sunglasses are more than fashion statements; they’re necessities to shield you from the midday glare. Below is a table highlighting essential day wear for your next cruise.

Day Wear ItemsWomenMen
Top WearLightweight blouses, T-shirts, Tank topsPolo shirts, Casual button-ups, T-shirts
Bottom WearShorts, Skirts, Casual dressesShorts, Breathable trousers
FootwearComfortable sneakers, Sandals, Flip-flopsSneakers, Boat shoes, Sandals
Swim and BeachwearSwimsuits, Cover-upsSwim trunks, Light shirts
AccessoriesSun hats, Sunglasses, Beach bagsSun hats, Sunglasses

The key to perfecting your cruise wardrobe is anticipating your needs for the day ahead. Whether participating in onboard activities or venturing ashore, the proper attire will enhance your comfort and overall cruise experience. Please remember to make your clothing choices for the cruise’s destinations and anticipated weather conditions. This way, whether you’re soaking up rays on the deck or discovering new cultures on land, you’ll always be adequately dressed for the occasion.

Cruise Wear for Sophisticated Evenings at Sea

Guests dining at Indochine Restaurant
Guests dining at Indochine Restaurant, Silver Muse

When the sun dips below the horizon and the evening lights begin to twinkle on deck, cruise guests delight in the opportunity to showcase their style with cruise evening wear. As the ambiance onboard shifts to a more elegant setting, passengers are faced with the delightful decision of what to wear to encapsulate the sophistication of the sea at night.

Non-Formal Night Outfit Ideas

For those evenings when the dress code is relaxed yet chic, passengers seek attire that balances comfort and fashion. Women might opt for women’s cruise evening wear that includes flowy dresses or sleek jumpsuits paired with delicate jewelry, while men can don men’s cruise wear clothing such as lightweight blazers over casual shirts paired with chinos. These versatile outfits resonate with the laid-back luxury of a cruise and ensure a memorable dinner under the stars or a serene walk along the promenade deck.

‘Dress Your Best’ – Selecting Attire for Cruise Elegant Evenings

Evening dresses for cruise ships can include dazzling gowns with tasteful cuts or sophisticated cocktail dresses that reflect a timeless cruise cocktail attire. Men are encouraged to don suits or sports coats, adding a touch of suavity with a tie or a pocket square, capturing the essence of cruise line clothing. The tradition of “dressing your best” remains intrinsic to the cruise experience, inviting all aboard to indulge in the night’s festivities with style and grace.

Gala Nights and Special Themes

White Party aboard MSC Cruises

Themed evenings and gala nights are the hallmarks of cruise entertainment, demanding a wardrobe that elevates your style to match the night’s festivities. From the lively spirit of a themed party to the sophisticated ambiance of a gala, every event presents an opportunity to showcase your fashion while adhering to the cruise party dress code.

The Glamour of Gala Night: A Guide to Upscale Attire

When it comes to gala nights at sea, envision a red-carpet event where everyone is a celebrity. These nights are synonymous with gala night attire, where sequins, ties, and flowing gowns become the norm. The key to mastering cruise formal night attire is understanding the event’s tone:

For a traditional ‘Captain’s Gala,’ think timeless elegance with a modern twist – a tailored suit for men and an evening gown or a chic cocktail dress for women. But don’t fret if your closet isn’t brimming with tuxedos and ball gowns – a dark suit and a sophisticated little black dress can go a long way.

Preparing for Themed Parties: Costume Ideas and Tips

Themed cruise events vary widely from nautical nuances to roaring twenties extravaganzas. For instance, a white night on a cruise suggests guests don all shades of white, turning the deck into a sea of elegance and purity. To ensure you’re prepared, research the kind of parties planned on your cruise and consider these ideas:

  • Luminous white attire for “White Night” events, from sundresses to smart-casual shirts.
  • Pirate-themed accessories for a buccaneer bash, including eye patches and bandanas.
  • 70s disco gear for retro dancing featuring colorful jumpsuits and flared pants.

Remember, while dressing up is part of the fun, comfort shouldn’t take a backseat. Opt for themed cruise attire that allows you to enjoy the party from dusk till dawn.

Event TypeRecommended Men’s AttireRecommended Women’s Attire
White NightWhite linen shirt, white slacks, deck shoesWhite cocktail dress or maxi dress, strappy sandals
Pirate NightCasual shirt with pirate motif, black trousers, bootsPeasant-style top, layered skirt, headscarf
Gala NightOn gala night, upscale attire and personal flair are required. It’s all about balance—you want to be overdressed rather than underdressed, but comfort is essential to a night of dining and dancing under the stars.

Adapting Cruise Wardrobe to Varied Climates

Icy Strait Point
Icy Strait Point (Hoonah, Alaska) (Photo by John Shallo/Cruise Addicts)

When planning your wardrobe for a cruise, considering the climate is paramount. For those setting sail on a Caribbean cruise, you’re likely heading to tropical locations with a hot and humid forecast. Here, lightweight and breathable clothing is essential. Consider packing items like linen shirts, flowy dresses, and shorts. Plus, don’t forget swimwear for those beach excursions and comfortable sandals that tackle sand and deck.

Layering is critical if your destination is a bit cooler or you’re planning what to wear on a cruise to Hawaii in the breezier months. Start with a base of moisture-wicking fabrics and add layers such as cardigans, pullovers, or light jackets that you can remove or add as needed. This approach allows for seamless transitions from the calm wind on the deck to the warmer interior spaces of the ship.

  • April Showers: Waterproof jackets and hoodies for unexpected rain
  • Summer Sun: Extra sun protection, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Tropical Nights: Light cardigans or wraps for evenings on the deck
  • Shore Excursions: Comfortable walking shoes plus a small backpack for day trip

Final Thoughts

a man listening on his headphones while packing his clothes
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

As your voyage draws near, remember that the key to a seamless and enjoyable cruise experience is finding that perfect balance between practicality and sophistication in your wardrobe. Thoughtfully curated cruise ship outfits ensure adherence to the cruise line dress code and give you the confidence to partake in every activity easily. Whether you’re soaking up the sun on deck or indulging in a gourmet dinner under the stars, the right outfits to wear on a cruise can significantly enhance your overall enjoyment.

What To Wear On A Cruise – FAQ

Ultimate Guide: What to Wear on a Cruise - Dress Code Tips for Formal Nights & More | 19
Ultimate Guide: What to Wear on a Cruise - Dress Code Tips for Formal Nights & More 17

What is the dress code for formal nights on a cruise?

The dress code for formal nights on a cruise typically requires guests to wear formal attire, such as a suit and tie for men and a cocktail dress or gown for women.

Do all cruise lines have formal nights?

Not all cruise lines have formal nights, but many do. Please check with your specific cruise line to see if they have formal night requirements.

What should I wear during casual nights on a cruise?

During casual nights on a cruise, resort wear or casual attire is usually appropriate. This can include nice slacks, a blouse for women, khakis, and a polo shirt for men.

Can I wear jeans on a cruise?

While some cruise lines may allow jeans in specific dining venues, it’s best to avoid them on formal nights. Please check with your cruise line’s specific dress code to make sure you follow their guidelines.

What is evening chic attire on a cruise?

Evening chic attire on a cruise is a step below formal wear but still requires guests to dress up. This may include a dressy skirt or pants with a nice blouse for women and a jacket with dress pants for men.

Should I pack a formal gown for a cruise?

Packing a formal gown for a cruise is recommended if you plan to attend formal nights. However, a cocktail dress or dressy outfit will also be good enough to avoid bringing a gown.

Are there specific dress codes for activities during the day on a cruise?

During the day on a cruise, resort wear or casual attire is usually acceptable for most activities. However, if extraordinary events or excursions are planned, you may need to pack specific attire

John Shallo
John Shallohttp://www.cruiseaddicts.com
John Shallo is the founder and editor of Cruise Addicts. Since 1999 it has been a leading destination for cruise travelers and self professed Cruise Addicts looking for the latest news, ship reviews and travel tips.

Related Articles

cruise deals
Visit our Cruise Forums Today!cruise forums