It’s cruise time! This is a chance to be a little more daring with your fashion. The other cruisers will never see you again. Take a chance by adding more gaiety or more formal pieces to your wardrobe. I don’t mean baring it all; I mean, wear those bright colors (men and women), statement jewelry and high heels with your swimsuit.

While it is important not to overpack, you do not want to under-pack and spend your precious cruise time shopping on board for a formal outfit or swim cover-up. While they usually have these things for purchase on board, you will pay premium.

Here are my tips for packing for your cruise with confidence:


Your swimsuit will probably be the first thing you unpack when you arrive on the ship. Bring suits that you feel confident in, and consider something with a touch of flair, such as ruching, ruffles or ornamental metallic detail, in a fun pattern or bright color. A matching cover-up is key, especially if you plan to spend the day in your suit. You are not allowed into the most restaurants without shirt or shoes.

Formal dining/theme nights

Bring lightweight festive wear, as well as cocktail attire for one night. Even though I’ve seen tank tops and shorts in the formal dining room, let’s not be influenced by the lowest common denominator. Dress for the occasion with a nice sundress and a wrap. Another comfortable and fashionable option is palazzo pants with a dressy blouse.

Dance floor

This is a different outfit than what you will wear to the formal dining room. So there will be a costume change right after dinner, but before any evening performances.

Choose flirty dresses, or festive casual attire. This is where I stand on my soapbox and remind my dear readers that wearing your mini nightclub dress comes with the frequent awkward moments on the many stairwells on a cruise ship. To keep from flashing their nether-regions, women wearing super-short dresses on the cruise ship clutch the hem of the dress with fists at both hips stretching the fabric over their bottoms to keep lurkers from catching a peek as they traverse the stairs. It’s not a confident look, and it’s simply an awkward movement and posture. Solution: keep your hemline at mid-thigh or longer.   

On-shore adventures

Choose shorts or casual stretch skirts for on-shore excursions. T-shirts, tanks, capris, sundresses and maxi skirts are great for shopping and touring in the tropics.

Add in:

  • Fresh pajamas and a lightweight robe. You never know when you might have to leave your cabin unexpectedly, or when you order room service.
  • A light, colorful jacket or wrap, for when it gets chilly.
  • Fresh workout wear for those mornings when you feel inclined to check out the on-board gym.

Accessories are a must

  • Sunglasses — Bring a couple of pairs for different looks. Classic aviators, oversized Chanel or sporty wraparounds are good options. Cheap or expensive is up to you and how often you tend to leave them behind on the tour bus or poolside table. Don’t you love it when the cabin staff makes a cute towel “animal” wearing a pair of your sunglasses and stages it on your bed?
  • Wide brimmed hat — Packable/crushable ones are readily available at most department stores. A cruise is a perfect time to don a dramatic straw hat by the pool. Bring your trusty visor for land excursions and stretching your legs on the promenade deck in the mornings at sea.  
  • Sunscreen – Need I say more?
  • Faux jewelry – Leave your valuable jewelry at home. Wear inexpensive impersonators of your precious jewels on the ship for peace of mind.
  • Small crossbody bag or wristlet — This is useful for carrying your room key, drink card and small incidentals like Chapstick or Bonine.
  • Tote — Bring a bag for shoreside touring or carrying your towel and sunscreen to the private beach. It’s just sad to see people carrying the plastic logo bag from the ship to the beach.

Footwear is key

  • Take fresh flip flops for poolside, because that soft serve ice cream machine can be seen from your pool chair, but footwear is a must in the dining room and in the buffet line.
  • Sandals with wedge heels are a must on a cruise. The heels will not get caught on the metal grated stairs, and you will feel sturdier wearing them in the event of choppy seas. They look great with skirts, shorts, capris and even your bathing suit.
  • Wear heels for dining. You’ll be sitting most of the time, and the handrails in all of the hallways are meant for women in heels on unsteady seas. Don your bejeweled sandals paired with your cocktail dress for formal night in the dining room.
  • Bring adventure shoes (leave your white athletic shoes at home) or closed-toe adventure sandals to wear in water, walking over cobblestones while shopping or hiking in the jungle.

Leave behind

Denim, camouflage, leather jackets and work attire. Leave your knee-length bedazzled jean shorts at home too. It’s a cruise in the middle of the ocean, not the Fourth of July at the rodeo.

Last Tip

Cruise ships do not allow you to bring clothing irons on board. When looking to update your cruise attire, look for items made from Tencel. You can find it in casual drawstring pants, lightweight jackets, tunics and summer dresses. It is a soft, packable organic fabric that looks like linen without the hassle of ironing.

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