What to Wear on a Cruise


Set Sail in Style with Cruise-Ready Clothing

The buffets really are extravagant, so packing a few elastic-waist pieces isn't the worst idea. But taking a cruise requires more than just casual wear. Plan to dress up for dinner, dress down for adventures on land and strip down to a bathing suit on the pool deck. Be ready for anything and everything, with these cruising essentials.

Pack: Walking Shoes

Some cruisers choose to be sedentary during the trip, but they miss out on a lot. And if you're cruising with kids, you will definitely cover a lot of ground. Bring supportive walking shoes that you've already worn in. You can wear them to explore the ship, during excursions and to exercise on the ship's track, if there is one.

The same goes for your kids. Cruise ships are huge, so it's possible to walk miles per day when you're trying to keep them busy and active. And even though ships are really safe, you'll probably feel more comfortable watching them walk near railings on a slippery deck when they're wearing secure, slip-proof shoes.

Pack: Mix-and-Match Casual Wear

With the exception of evenings, you can live in casual clothing during a cruise. Think khakis, jeans, shorts, yoga pants and T-shirts. State rooms are cozy, so be wary of overpacking. Pack three or four casual bottom pieces and a mix of short- and long-sleeved tops. Use the same approach with your kids, but pack a few more pieces per child. They can get messy easily, and doing laundry on a ship is an expensive hassle.

Look at the weather forecast for the destinations you'll be visiting to determine what sort of climate you'll be traveling through, and to decide whether you should focus more on shorts and tank tops or long pants and long sleeves.

Bring colorful or patterned pieces made of synthetic, wrinkle-resistant fabric. They'll hold up to multiple wearings better than light-colored cotton or linen might.

Pack: Jacket With a Hood

It gets chilly out on the open sea, and rain shouldn't ruin your one chance to explore Nassau or Cozumel. Bring a windbreaker or light rain jacket for every member of your group. Sometimes it also pays off to stash plastic ponchos in your day bag, so you can leave your jackets behind during warm excursions but still have protection from the occasional shower.

Pack: Dressy Dinner Outfits

Strictly speaking, dressing up isn't a requirement on a cruise. Most ships have a variety of dining options, so guests can opt to grab pizza instead of sitting down in a formal dining room. But going to these fancy dinners is part of the fun of cruising, and they don't require ball gowns and tuxes. Dress pants, collared shirts and ties, skirts and blouses, cocktail dresses—anything you might wear to a semi-formal wedding is suitable for a cruise. The same goes for your kids.

Check your cruise line's policies before making your choices. Every line is different. For instance, the dining rooms on Disney cruises have casual dress codes, which means you and the kids can wear your daytime clothes to dinner if you want. But you can choose to dress up—and if you decide to take advantage of Disney's babysitting services and go to dinner at one of the adults-only restaurants, you'll need dressy clothes for that.

Skip: Revealing Swimwear

Cruises have tight quarters, and the pool deck tends to be crowded with people from all walks of life. Save your string bikinis and barely-there briefs for the beach.

Skip: Anything Controversial

Again, cruising means being confined with people whose tastes and backgrounds may differ from your own. If you own any clothing emblazoned with names or slogans of political figures, leave them at home.

Skip: Shoes with Wheels

If your kids have roller shoes with embedded wheels, roll them on into a closet at home. They're not safe on a cruise.