What to Wear on a Cruise: 15 Must-Pack Pieces

what to wear on a cruise

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When thinking about what to wear on a cruise, remember that most cruises encompasses a range of activities, from casual to formal. From spending time at the pool or on the beach, to exploring new cities or hiking in rainforests at your destinations, to dining in world class restaurants or dancing the night away, there is usually an activity for every type of traveler.

That means packing a wardrobe versatile enough to work in a variety of settings. This is our ultimate guide for what to wear on a cruise, including a few functional items you might otherwise forget.

1. Polarized Sunglasses

cheap polarized sunglasses


There’s nothing like looking out over seemingly endless water while cruising along, but sometimes the sun hitting the water can create extra irritating brightness. Polarized sunglasses reduce the glare reflected off the water while protecting your eyes. The lenses are UV400. They also restore true color to things, so you know the view you’re getting isn’t tinted, but the real deal.

These Merry sunglasses are unisex and work well on most face shapes. The metal frame is lightweight, something users loved about them. They’re also very affordable for the quality. They’re perfect for lounging by the pool, but durable enough to withstand adventure activities like rafting, zip lining, and other opportunities at each destination. When it comes to what to wear on a cruise, sunglasses are one of the most important things you can bring.

Price: $12.25

Buy the Polarized Sunglasses here.

2. Bathing Suit

cruise ship swimming suit


A stylish, comfortable bathing suit is one of the most important things you can pack for a cruise. After all, you’ll be wearing it almost daily. The retro look is in in 2018, and this retro one-piece looks great on a variety of body types and comes in five colors. It has a scoop neck, an open back, and a high-cut leg. If you’re looking for a two-piece suit, try this floral suit from Cupshe. It fits right in on a tropical vacation!

Men can go with classic Speedo swim trunks, which come in 17 colors. They’re made of 100 percent polyester and have a mesh key pocket, perfect for holding your cabin key while you’re at the pool. For something more fun, try this slim-fit suit in 12 patterns. The shorts cut off just above the knees.

If you can’t decide, why not pack a few? There are plenty of opportunities to wear more than one!

Price: $17.99 to $80, depending on style and color

Buy the Women’s One-Piece here.

Buy the Women’s Two-Piece here.

Buy the Men’s Speedo suit here.

Buy the Men’s Slim-Fit Pattern here.

3. Quick Dry Sarong

quick dry sarong


Ladies, this one is for you. A quick dry sarong is one of the most versatile things you can pack for a cruise, as it can be used as a towel, as a skirt, as a dress, and as a cover up in a wide variety of ways. Go from lounging by the pool to cocktails in seconds with a quick twist of fabric.

These beautiful sarongs are made in Bali and come in 13 colorful patterns. The rayon fabric is breathable and dries quickly, so you can use it as both a towel and a cover up. Each one is 78 inches long and 43 inches wide. Amazon reviewers say the colors are true to photos. Check out the Amazon link to see multiple ways to style your sarong.

Price: $$8.99 to $15.75 depending on pattern

Buy the Quick Dry Sarong here.

4. Cocktail Dress

cruise cocktail dress


Most cruise ships have dress requirements for formal nights. A classic black cocktail dress is always an easy, appropriate option. This one, made of 65 percent cotton and 35 percent polyester, is a slimming sheath style with a high neckline and a knee length hem. It has eyelet lace accents at the collar, back, and bottom.

Reviewers said the dress was fitted, but the material was stretchy enough that it didn’t feel stiff or hard to fit on. The dress is fully lined, adding to its comfort, and Amazon reviewers say it’s not itchy. One thing to consider is that the lining is shorter than the dress, which people found surprising but not negative. If you don’t like black, the dress comes in five other colors including a navy and a red.

Price: $35.99

Buy the Cocktail Dress here.

5. Men’s Formal Shirt and Dress Pants

men's formal cruise wear


While casual clothing is fine for much of your trip, a more formal outfit is required for few restaurants and venues on most cruise ships. Pack dress pants and two or three button-up shirts.

These Izod chinos come in eight colors and a wide range of sizes. They’re relaxed fit with a straight fly and a button closure. One of their best features though is that they’re wrinkle free, which is great for travel. Reviewers said the pants look more expensive than they are, are fit true to size.

The Van Heusen poplin dress shirts come in 12 colors and are regular fit, meaning they have relaxed arm holes and a “generous” cut through the chest and waist. Like the IZOD pants, they’re designed for travel, and can be washed and dried and don’t need to be dry cleaned. One reviewer noted that it was great for warm climates because it’s made of a light polyester/cotton blend.

Price: $18.99 to $125.63, depending on style, color, and size.

Buy the Men’s Dress Pants here.

Buy the Men’s Dress Shirt here.

6. Linen Sport Coat

mens sports coat


A sport coat is a must for formal nights in many cruise ship restaurants, and a linen one is perfect for a cruise to tropical destinations. This one from U.S. Polo Assn. is a modern, slim-fit with two buttons. It has four inner pockets.

Reviewers said the fit was for the most part true to size, though some found it a bit snug. It comes in eight colors, a few with patterns. U.S. Polo Assn. is a reputable brand, known for quality and customer service.

Price: $26.15 to $89.99 depending on color

Buy the Men’s Linen Sport Coat here.

7. Sunscreen

sunscreen spray


This seems like an obvious one, but if you forget it to bring and wear it, you’ll end up paying much, much more at some touristy port pharmacy. Buy this double pack on Amazon and save yourself dollars (and a sunburn).

We like sport sunscreen for cruises because it stays on through sweat and time at the pool or beach. The spray feature helps you access hard to reach spots, so you don’t end up with splotches of color. Coppertone delivers broad spectrum UVA/UVB cover that protects from 98 percent of the sun’s most harmful rays, so you know you’re keeping your family’s skin safe. This double pack of SPF 50 also has Vitamin E and moisturizers, helping to keep your skin in good shape even after lots of time in chlorine.

Price: $12.32

Buy the Two-Pack Coppertone Sunscreen here.

8. No-Slip Flip Flops

slip resistant flip flops


Cruise ship decks get slippery. Pack a pair of slip-resistant flip flops to ensure you don’t end up with an injury during your trip. These flip flops from Gold Pigeon come in a few different colors and are unisex, so you can buy a pair for everyone in your family.

They’re extremely lightweight, but also last through beach days, adventure activities, and of course lots of time on deck. They have slip-resistant grippy bottoms, and perforated upper soles to keep them smelling fresh. The rubber material is waterproof and bounces back easily, which is nice for maintaining shape. The shoes come in half sizes, and a half size up from your normal size is recommended for those with wide feet. With so much time on slippery surfaces, no-slip sandals are one of the items you’ll wear on a cruise the most.

Price: $14.99

Buy the Non-Slip Sandals here.

9. Sunhat

hello sunshine sunhat


Keep your face and eyes safe from the sun in an eye-catching straw hat. This one fits most head sizes, and is floppy so it won’t lost its shape when you pack. It’s lightweight and comfortable, made of 100 percent paper.

The saying on the hat, “Hello Sunshine,” is not customizable. Reviewers say it’s true to the color in the photo, and easily molded into shape after removing it from the box it comes in.

Price: $16.07

Buy the Hello Sunshine Sunhat here.

10. Sundress

sundress with pockets


A simple, flowing sundress will be your best friend on a cruise. It goes easily from day to night, and can be thrown over a swimming suit as a cover up. This one from Auselily is made from rayon and spandex, and comes in 11 colors.

The relaxed shape flatters all body types, and one reviewer even called it the “best summer dress on Amazon.” Another said it was the “most comfortable dress I’ve ever owned.”

Possibly its best feature is the pockets, which are perfect for holding your cabin key or phone while roaming the ship or exploring at your destinations.

Price: $19.99

Buy the Sundress With Pockets here.

11.  Versatile Shorts

casual shorts


When thinking about what to pack for a cruise, don’t forget a versatile pair of shorts. This chambray women’s pair comes in a range of colors and can be made casual or more dressy, depending on color and outfit. 

Men can opt for a dressy chino short, like this one that comes in 12 colors, or a more casual drawstring short perfect for wandering around ports.

Price: Varies depending on style 

Buy the summer shorts here.

12. Cardigan

drapey cardigan


Air conditioned restaurants and casinos on cruise ships can be chilly, and sometimes it can be breezy on deck too. An oversize cardigan takes you from sunset gazing to dining, yet is casual enough to wear around your cabin. This one, which comes in a few neutral color variations, is made of 59 percent cotton, 38 percent polyester, and three percent spandex.

It’s cozy, chic, and machine washable. The front doesn’t have buttons or other closures, but has enough fabric to wrap around yourself. Reviewers said the fabric was soft and stretchy, and the fit was as described in the sizing chart.

Price: $34

Buy the Drapey Cardigan here.

13. Waterproof Valuables Pouch

waterproof pouch


Whether you’re heading out on a kayaking or snorkeling excursion, or just don’t want your valuables getting splashed by the pool, a waterproof pouch is a great solution. This one from Blue Sky Basics provides protection up to 32 feet underwater, and it also floats if you’re not wearing it. One Amazon user said it floated even with a pound of rocks in it!

At 9 x 6.7 inches it can fit phones, most tablets, a small camera, keys, a wallet, or any other small items you deem valuable. The adjustable straps can buckle around your waist for safekeeping, or be used as a shoulder strap. The translucent bags are touch screen friendly, so you can actually use your phone while it’s inside the bag (hello underwater photos!).

The pouches come with a 100 percent lifetime guarantee, that’s how confident the company is  it can protect your belongings from water damage, theft, and loss. Users overwhelmingly love this product, and attest that it keeps valuables safe and dry even after extended time in the water. Make sure to pack this for your next cruise!

Price: $17.97

Buy the Waterproof Valuables Pouch here.

14. Sneakers

lightweight sneakers


Take advantage of the cruise ship gym and work off some of those desserts from the unlimited buffet. Lightweight sneakers are a great option to bring on a cruise, because they don’t add bulk to your suitcase and can usually bend easily to fit in small spaces. Aside from working out, they can be worn on day hikes around islands or while exploring new cities.

This pair from Skechers is made from knit fabric with a rubber sole. It comes in a wide variety of color mixes, like gray and pink, blue and green, and black and white.

Customers said they were very comfortable, true to fit, and the colors appeared as advertised. Skechers is a well-known footwear brand, with reputable customer service and quality products. (Don’t forget to pack your other workout gear as well!)

Price: $26.99 to $114.4

Buy the Skechers Lightweight Sneakers here.

15. Dress Shoes

cruise dress shoes


While most people remember flip flops and casual shoes, some forget to bring more formal shoes, and end up not being able to dine in some of the nicer restaurants on board.

These La Milano leather shoes are a classic Oxford style, meaning they go with almost any outfit. They come in black, cognac, and dark brown. Made with genuine Argentine leather, they’re stylish but durable, and look good as they age.

Reviewers raved about the look, and said they fit true to size.

Price: $56.99

Buy the La Milano Oxford Classics here.

See More:

10 Best Travel Accessories for Women 

10 Best Travel Accessories for Men: the Ultimate Guide

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