What to Wear on Cruises? The Truth Will Make You Happy

What to wear on a cruise

First time cruisers probably worry about what to pack for a Caribbean cruise. It could be scary as you have no idea what to wear and you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb.

You see ads online, on TV, in magazine of beautiful, perfect body, well dressed men and women strolling on the promenade deck or sitting on their balcony.

I’m happy to report that this is not the reality! At all!

What to wear on a cruise ship vacation is the same as going to a resort in the Caribbean OR actually pretty much the same as what you wear at home during summer months.

For formal nights, you would dress up as if you were going to a wedding. Nothing complicated.

In my case, after more than 40 cruises, I have specific Caribbean cruise outfits for formal nights that I only wear on cruises.


Because I don’t have any occasions in my ‘regular’ life for a long skirt or palazzo pants.

And I never wear a cocktail dress on a cruise or at home. I just don’t like wearing dresses!

Let’s answer some questions about cruise clothing

What to wear on a cruise during the day?

If you’re at sea:

You’ll go to breakfast and then enjoy the sun on your balcony (what we do), by the pool or on many sundecks around the ship. Or you’ll participate in workshops or visit the galley.

Shorts/capris and a top or sundress and bathing suit with coverall. Flip flops or sandals. That’s all you need. You probably have most of these around at home, but you might want to go shopping for new outfits. 🙂 See, nothing complicated.

If you’re in port:

You’ll go to breakfast and then most likely get off the ship for an excursion, go to a beach or just walk around the port.

Same clothing as above except you would need good walking shoes. And you would bring a day bag with a beach towel, water bottle, maybe a change of clothes, a book, snorkeling gear, copy of your passport.

So far so good, right? Nothing out of the ordinary.

What to wear on a cruise formal night?

Now that is probably your biggest worry.

There are usually 2 – 3 formal nights, depending on the length of your cruise.

Captain's champagne waterfall on Regal Princess

So what exactly happens on formal nights? You can think of it as a big party when passengers ‘dress up’. Over the years, dressing up has changed a lot. Very few wear tuxedos and sparkling long dresses.

Instead you’ll see many different styles of attire. For women, a short cocktail dress or a long skirt with a top. For men, a dark suit with a tie.

Here is a cruise packing tip: ladies, choose clothes that you can mix and match to minimize space. I bring a long black skirt and black palazzo pants. I alternate a few different tops. My husband only brings one suit and change his shirt.

But you don’t have to dress up

Most people dressing up are the ones that go eat in the Dining Rooms. So if you intend to go there, I would suggest you follow the dressing code I described above.

We don’t go to the dining rooms anymore. When my daughter was with us, she loved dressing up, so we did then.

Now we either eat at one of the specialty restaurants or in the Lido which is the buffet.

Years ago, the buffet restaurant was not open for dinner, on Princess ships anyway. I remember the first time it was opened and we went on the Grand Princess, there were very few of us. Now, it’s pretty full every night, so we’re not the only ones staying away from the dining rooms. It’s nice to have a choice.

I do wear my formal cruise outfits though, even if we don’t go to the dining room.

What about the other nights?

On Princess, they refer to them as ‘smart casual’. I would wear capri pants with a top. I’ve seen others wear long pants with top or summer dresses. Men wear casual pants with a sweater or shirt.

Same kind of outfits you would wear going to a restaurant at home.

If you’re going to be watching a movie outside, on Princess it’s called Movies Under the Stars, on a giant screen, you can wear whatever you want but I would suggest something warmer, even if you’re in the Caribbean. And you might want to eat right there on your lounge chair, pizza or burger with fries or hotdogs, popcorn. No need to dress up for sure.

I hope this helps you ease your mind about what to pack for your Caribbean cruise. Enjoy every minute of it! You deserve it!


  1. OMG you make me want to go on a cruise… I’ve only been on one & it was spectacular but your expertise & advice are so helpful… Takes a lot of stress off our shoulders.. Would continue following… Thanks!!!

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