The Ultimate Guide on What to Wear on a Cruise

by Lee Gardens
December 26, 2022

If you are having trouble deciding what to wear on a cruise, you are in the right place. In this article, we will highlight what you need to know about the dress code for a cruise, and a few tips on what to pack for your cruise vacation.

Packing for a cruise can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you do not know about the cruise line’s dress code. After all, the last thing you want to experience is ending up on the cruise and realizing you do not have anything to wear because you have not packed accordingly.

what to wear on a cruise

Continue reading to find out more about what to wear on a cruise.  

Basic Cruise Line Dress Codes

Before going into detail about what to wear on a cruise, you should follow dress codes for specific occasions on the cruise, let’s break down the three main dress codes. These dress codes describe the type of clothing cruise lines expect you to wear for certain occasions. Understanding the different dress codes will give you a better idea of what type of clothes you can expect to pack for your next trip. 


Casual attire is commonly known as everyday wear type of clothes it is also referred to as a non-dress code because of how simple it is. The casual dress code is probably the easiest and most comfortable to follow. Despite the casual dress code being acceptable for comfortable clothing, it is important to remember that what you wear on a cruise should always be appropriate. To help give you a better idea of the types of clothes that you should wear for casual occasions on a cruise, here are a few items that are considered casual:

  • Jeans 
  • Shorts
  • Cargo pants
  • Khakis
  • Skirts
  • T-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Polo shirts
  • Sun dresses
  • Sneakers 
  • Heels  

Smart Casual 

Smart casual is one level up from casual and is known to be a more formal dress code than casual. It is typically a combination of casual and formal attire or casual and business attire, giving you a look that is comfortable and elegant. Smart casual is one of the more popular dress codes requested on cruise lines for most occasions. This means you should pack quite a few smart casual items for your next cruise. A few of these smart causal clothing items might include: 

  • Shirts
  • Polo shirts
  • Blouses 
  • Chino pants
  • Dress pants
  • Pencil skirts 
  • Dresses 
  • Blazers
  • Buttons down shirts
  • Heels 
  • Leather shoes 


The formal dress code is one of the harder dress codes to follow, but it is essential to ensure you have packed a few formal items to wear on your cruise. Formal attire is the most elegant dress code typically worn on cruises and falls between cocktail and black tie. A few items to pack for a formal occasion on your next cruise includes: 

  • Dinner suit
  • Business suit 
  • Dress shirt 
  • Cocktail dress
  • Long dresses 
  • Tie
  • Leather dress shoes
  • Heels 
  • Pumps 

What to Wear on a Cruise in the Evening?

Deciding what to wear on a cruise in the evening will usually depend on where you plan to go on the ship that evening. Typically most cruise evenings call for smart casual attire, but you can choose to wear formal clothes if you wish. Keep in mind that the evening is the time most cruise lines have photographs of their guests taken. This is another reason why it is important to be a bit dressed up, especially if you are going to have a photo taken. 

If you plan on having dinner in the main dining room or one of the specialty restaurants, then it is a good idea to stick to one of these dress codes. For certain specialty restaurants, it may be acceptable to wear smart casual. However, casual attire might not be acceptable for these locations. If you have not packed formal attire or do not feel like getting dressed in the evening and you would rather stick to a more casual dress code, you can always choose to dine in the casual dining room. This can include the buffet restaurant or even a few of the more causal resultants on the ship. Many times the main dining room will accept casual attire.

Almost all cruises will have at least one specified formal night. Cruises that are longer may have two or more formal nights. These occasions are sometimes referred to as the Captain’s Dinner and have a strict formal dress code. Most guests will choose to be dressed in an elegant dress or suit for this evening. 

What to Wear for a Casual Dinner?

As mentioned above, casual attire includes most everyday items that are comfortable and appropriate. It is a good idea to follow a smart or elegant casual dress code for a casual dinner. Here is a list of a few outfit combinations you can use for ideas for a causal cruise dinner.

Outfits for women over fifty years old:

  • Flowy dresses 
  • Jumpsuits
  • Dark denim jeans with a blouse 
  • Dress slacks with a blouse
  • Midi skirts with a blouse

All these outfit options can be paired with either pumps, low heels, or even high heels.

Outfits for men over fifty years old: 

  • Chinos with a golf shirt or button-up shirt
  • Dark denim jeans with a golf shirt or a button-up shirt
  • Dress pants with a button up

If you would like to dress these outfits a bit more but keep them casual, you can add a blazer. For shoes, these outfits can be paired with leather dress shoes or even sneakers. 

What to Wear on a Cruise During the Day?

During the day, the more appropriate choices are casual or smart casual. If you are planning to stay on the ship and visit the pool, you can keep it casual with your swimming suit underneath. Keep in mind when walking through the ship, it is best to wear clothes, a wrap, or even a robe over your swimming costume. 

If you are planning to go on a day excursion, it is a good idea to check with your excursion guide about any outfit recommendations before planning what to wear. Certain locations may require comfortable shoes, heat protection along with sun block, or even a jacket if you are opting to do a winter cruise. 


What do most people wear on a cruise?

Most people choose to go for more casual attire on a cruise, this includes items like t-shirts, tank tops, skirts, shorts, etc. 

Do you have to dress nicely on a cruise?

It is recommended to dress nicely during your cruise vacation but ensure your outfit is comfortable for you. If you do not enjoy dressing in formal attire, it is always best to stick with the smart or elegant casual dress code.

What should you not pack on a cruise?

You should not pack extremely warm clothes for a summer cruise. It is best to stick to cool clothing items, and it may be a good idea to pack a jacket. On the other hand, for a winter cruise, it is best to pack clothes that will keep you warm and leave out items like shorts, and sundresses. 

Does Royal Caribbean have a dress code?

Royal Caribbean does not follow a strict dress code. You can wear casual or smart casual clothes during your cruise. Royal Caribbean does have a Captain’s Dinner, which is a formal night, and it is recommended that guests wear formal attire. If you are planning to cruise with Royal, it is also a good idea to pack a full white outfit as the cruise line has its well-known White Party, where guests are requested to dress in full white. 

Final Thoughts

Most cruise lines typically stick to casual, smart casual, and formal dress codes. This is why it is a good idea to include clothing items that fall into these categories. Now that you know exactly what to wear on a cruise, you do not have to worry about not having the correct outfit. This will give you more time to enjoy your cruise while being perfectly dressed for the occasion. 

In conclusion, what you wear on a cruise can greatly impact your experience. By following our guide, you can ensure that you feel comfortable and confident in your attire, while also adhering to any dress codes or expectations onboard. Remember to pack for various occasions and climates, and don’t forget about accessories and footwear. With the right wardrobe, you’ll be ready to make the most of your time at sea.

For more cruise tips and secrets, check out our article on Important Cruise Secrets. From saving money to finding the best activities, this guide has everything you need to know to make your cruise vacation unforgettable. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your dream cruise today!

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