What to Wear on a Cruise – Cruise Clothing Guide

Your cruise vacation is a time for relaxing and enjoying yourself. It’s important for you to feel comfortable and ready to rock the world at the same time. If you don’t spend a lot of the time on the beach or cruising in the Caribbean, you might have some questions about what to wear on a cruise vacation. See below for ideas, recommendations and tips!

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Maybe you heard that your cruise line has a dress code (some part of the ship/events do). That alone can get you to panic. So let’s cover everything you need to know in a step-by-step clothing guide for your next cruise vacation.

What Should I Pack? What Clothes Will I Need on the Cruise?

It depends on what you want to do on your vacation and the type of traveler you are. If you love the thrill of adventure and are planning to go white water rafting or horse-back riding, you will need to dress for the occasion. But overall, your cruise attire will most likely be split into these types:

  • Casual Sea Day Clothing (for the days you are on-board)
  • Casual Beach/Pool Clothes (a couple of swimsuits are a must!)
  • Port of Call Outfits (how to stay comfortable, prepared, and fashionable)
  • Casual Evening Clothing (it can get a little chilly, in case you want to change from the swimsuit)
  • Elegant Dining Attire (that dress code everyone is talking about)

Read along as I will go over all of the outfits mentioned above and share some tips along the way! As you are packing, use my handy and editable Cruise Packing list to keep you organized!

I will send you a FREE copy of the smart and printable packing list plus travel tips, discounts and giveaways from Travel Eat Blog!


What Do You Absolutely Have to Bring on a Cruise

It’s better to be ready than to buy everything on-board at a higher price. I highly recommend bringing a beach hat (the sun is so strong, you should protect yourself from heatstroke) and sunscreen (no one likes to be sunburnt on the first day of the trip).

Also, don’t forget to grab a beach bag with zippers or something that you feel secure about. I really like this one I found on Amazon, it’s waterproof, secure and super cute! You can take it with you to ports of call and bring your documents, cell phone, camera, and water bottle in case you need those. Check out my full list of what you absolutely need to bring to your cruise vacation.

Carnival Cruise Dress Code

Generally, you don’t have to worry about a dress code on a Carnival or a Norwegian Cruise. Most of the time you should just aim to feel comfortable. The only places on the ship that has a dress code are the Main Dining Room, the Steakhouse and the Lido Deck buffet. At the Lido Deck, you are just required to have shirts, bathing suit cover-ups and footwear at all times. But if you are interested in having a more fine dining experience (which you should, it’s included and is absolutely amazing), then you will need to think about the Elegant Night and more formal outfits.

What to Wear on a Cruise: Casual Sea Day Clothing

Casual cruise outfit ideas

Think shorts and tank tops. It gets really warm and really fast. You want to wear something over your swimsuit but also something that you can wear at the lunch buffet. Stay comfortable, before your trip, go shopping for something fun and cute.

For women, I recommend wearing summer dresses, skirts, shorts, tank tops, pants, and blouses. Take a pair of flip-flops and sandals you will feel comfortable in.

You should also take one or two sweaters or cardigans for the colder evenings. See some of my casual clothing ideas on my Cruise Casual Outfit Idea List on Amazon.

For men, take a couple of t-shirts, short-sleeved shirts, shorts, flip flops, and sandals.

Main Dining Room and Steakhouse – Casual Nights and Days

For the Main Dining Room, there is a No-List that you should follow at any time of the day: flip-flops, skates, gym and basketball shorts, swimsuits, beach flip-flops, Т-shirts (sleeveless shirts), and hats.

Casual Beach/Pool Clothes

Matching Couple's Swimsuit

Chances are, you are going to spend a lot of time by the pool. Hopefully, you will swim in the Caribbean, too! What a great reason to get a new swimsuit (or two).

I would recommend having a couple just so they dry up before you decide to go to the pool again. See some ideas on the list of my favorite swimsuits on Amazon. I really like the bright summery colors for a cruise, or go with elegant and classic black or white. You choose!

What to Wear on a Cruise: Port of Call Outfits

cruise port of call outfits

This one is a little more complicated: it depends on the type of shore activities you choose. My biggest tip for Port of Call Clothing is very comfortable walking shoes.

If you are planning to experience the new island, you don’t want to end up with calluses on the first day. Take comfortable shoes and a beach hat to keep from the sun. You may want to wear shorts and a t-shirt to stay comfortable.

Cruising Tip: Don’t forget to grab an umbrella or a rain jacket, as it rains a lot in the Caribbean islands.

Casual Evening Clothing

I recommend having warmer clothes for the evening. It can get a little cold, especially if you would like to spend some time outside, watching a movie under the stars.

But, if you want to go dancing in one of the night clubs, pick out a cute outfit you would wear to a party. If you are planning to have meals at the buffet on Lido Deck, bring some casual outfits and remember, there is a shoe and shirt policy.

What to Wear on a Cruise Elegant Dining Night

elegant night attire on the cruise

One or two nights during your cruise, you will have an Elegant or Formal Night. This is mainly referred to the clothing you should wear in the Main Dining Room or the Steakhouse. On this day, you will see not only the regular Dining Room restrictions, but the cruise line invites you to dress up.

Women can choose a cocktail dress, a pantsuit, or nice skirts with blouses. Although it is not required, on an elegant night many guests choose to dress formally (suit and tie, tuxedo, and the evening gown).

elegant night cruise outfit

Men are asked to wear nice slacks and shirts, a sport coat and a jacket (but not required).

Cruising Tip: Carnival knows that it may take a while for you to get your luggage on the first day. That’s why the very first night is a lot less formal than any other night, so you can wear pretty much anything. The First Sea Day Dinner is usually elegant as you have more time to get dressed and ready for a nice evening out.

Another Cruising Tip: There’s no age limit for dress code on Carnival, kids are expected to comply with the same rules as for the adults in the Main Dining Room. A pair of khakis & a polo for your boy or a cute sundress for you girl will do the trick.

I wrote a really comprehensive list of best Cruise Tips and Hacks on everything from booking to fully enjoying your cruise vacation. See more great tips for your next cruise!

Carnival Cruise Clothing is Very Casual

All of that to say, I haven’t seen anyone kicked out from the Main Dining Room for under-dressing. I think the dress code is made to give us a reason to dress up and enjoy ourselves. Even on formal nights, many people are walking around the ship in shorts and no one really cares.

If you are looking for a relaxing vacation, Carnival is a great choice. You don’t actually have to dress up, especially if you are going to a buffet on the Lido Deck.

What clothes to bring on a Cruise

Did this help you find some ideas about what to wear on a cruise? Share your tips and comments below, I would love to know what you think!

5/5 - (2 votes)
Hi, I'm Marina, passionate traveler and blogger, based in the United States and travelling the world. Thanks for following me on my life and travel adventures!


  1. The Wayfaring Redhead
    March 14, 2019

    I have yet to do a US cruise but it’s on my list. Thanks for the great packing advice.

  2. Justine
    March 18, 2019

    So helpful – thanks!! Will definitely be back to re-read closer to our cruise ♥

  3. Albany
    March 27, 2019

    Thanks for sharing these outfit ideas! A girlfriend and I are planning a cruise and this post will definitely come in handy on what to pack.

  4. ปั้มไลค์
    June 22, 2020

    Like!! Great article post.Really thank you! Really Cool.


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