Cruise Clothing 101: What to Wear on Your Cruise!

Not sure what cruise clothing means? Chances are, you have everything you need! In this post, we break it all down about what to wear on a cruise, with tips for specific cruise lines.

Cruise Clothing

Cruise Clothes

We just finished our first cruise – and it was a blast. I wish we could still be on it (though at times, it feels like we still are – we feel so wobbly on land right now!).

Over the next few weeks and months, I plan to share all the tips and tricks about cruising I’ve learned along the way…but today, I’m going to talk about what to wear on a cruise.

Leading up to the cruise, I read all sorts of opinions on what you should wear, which stressed me out more than it should. However, I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what’s expected, so I’m excited to share a little more about what to bring with you.

**We booked our cruise through our #1 travel agent – Get Away Today. We’ve used them for many trips, and they made the cruising process even easier. You can get $10 off any cruise package using the code Clarkscondensed**

Cruise Clothes

One thing to keep in mind when you are packing is not just the cruise itself, but the destination you are going to.

Certain countries may have different customs that require a certain type of clothing (or some of the places you visit while in those countries).

You want to make sure you have appropriate clothing for the weather and activities you will be doing. It would be a big bummer to sign up for an excursion where you are going on a hike only to forget any type of hiking shoes or clothes at home!

The good thing is, you really don’t have to get a brand new wardrobe for a cruise. For the most part, you should have everything you need already. Though it can be fun to get some new items.

Both Forrest and I got a Stitch Fix box before our cruise, and it was so fun to get a few new items (more on that in a bit!).

Most cruise lines have at least some guidelines online so you can have *somewhat* of an idea of what to wear – and it is different based on the cruise line. I thought I would share the guidelines from a couple of the most popular cruise lines here in the US:

Cruise Dress Codes

Carnival Cruise

Carnival Cruise Line

We are on a Carnival Cruise, so that’s what I looked into first. Fortunately, they have a lot of good information on their website.

Essentially, there are three different categories to concern yourself with:

The last two are in regards to eating in one of the main dining rooms (if you choose not to do this and want to eat in one of the more casual places like the Lido or Guy’s Burger, it is a more casual environment.

If you are on a cruise for 2-5 days, there will be one formal night. If you are on a cruise longer than that, there will be two. I saw everything from tuxes and elegant gowns to nice dresses, button up shirts, and pantsuits. I think as long as you try to up your game a little bit, you’ll be a-okay.

I’ve seen all sorts of clothes while on the cruise. Some people live in their swimming suits (especially the younger crowd). I’ve just opted for comfortable, yet fashionable. We haven’t spent much time in the pool (Oliver isn’t allowed to swim because he isn’t potty trained), so wearing swimming suits and covers around hasn’t really been our jam this time around.

Royal Caribbean 

This is another very popular cruise line (we almost went with them!). They have three designations for their dress code:

  • Casual – whatever is comfortable! They do ask that you keep swimwear just to the swim deck
  • Smart Casual – This is requested for most dinners. I would put in the same line as business casual
  • Formal

Casual is for during the day, smart casual is for most dinners, and formal is for the formal dinner evenings.

3-5 day cruises will have one formal night, while cruises longer than that will have two.

You can read more details on the Royal Caribbean dress code here.

Disney Cruise Line Dress Code

Disney cruises are definitely geared more toward the younger crowd, therefore, the dress code is a little laxer. The “formal nights” are optional. Most of the time, you are welcome to wear what you want for dinner (with the exception of being shirtless or wearing your swimming suits). There are adult only restaurants that have more regulations for dress code.

One thing to keep in mind is that Disney cruises have themed nights – the longer the cruise, the more they have! One night is usually pirate themed, and then there is usually an optional formal. On the longer cruises, there is typically a semi-formal night as well.

You can learn more about the themed nights, as well as the dress code for the adult only restaurants here.

Princess Cruise Dress Code

I get the feeling that Princess is a little bit of a “higher class” cruise line – on their website, it says, “You should dress for a cruise with Princess the same way you would for any stylish land-based resort. Casual sportswear, including shorts, lightweight pants, and jogging suits, is the order of the day both at sea and ashore in hotter climates.”

So think country club.

When dining on board, their designations are “smart casual” and “formal”. If your cruise is 1-4 days, there will be no formal nights.

You can click here to read more about cruise attire on Princess Cruise Lines.

Norwegian Cruise Dress Code 

On their website, they say, “On Norwegian, you can pretty much wear what you want to wear, when you want to wear it. Go cruise casual or get all decked out and look your best – it’s totally your call. That’s the freedom of Freestyle cruising.”

They ask that you keep the following in mind when deciding what to pack and wear:

  • Dress for the destination
  • Dress for the event – there are a few formal events you can attend that formal clothing would be more appropriate for
  • Cruise casual – during the day
  • Smart casual – for most meals
  • Kids 12 and under can wear shorts in the dining room, but they should be nice
  • Tank tops (for men), flip flops, baseball caps, visors and overly faded/torn jeans cannot be worn in the restaurants or main dining rooms.

You can read more about their recommendations here.

Clothes to Wear for a Cruise

In general, it seems as if most cruise lines want you to be as comfortable as possible – but have at least one formal night, sometimes more depending on the length of the cruise.

With the guidelines I found above, I put together a list of cruise clothes ideas (this is based on a warm-climate based cruise. If you are going on something where you will encounter colder weather, you’ll need to adapt accordingly :). Chances are, you already have these in your closet.

  • Two swimming suits
  • Swim coverup
  • Comfortable shorts or capris (one per day)
  • Sun dresses, maxi dresses, etc. I loved wearing a few of these that I had – they were perfect throughout the day, as well as for dinner.
  • A couple blouses or polo shirts
  • Nice dress (or two, depending on how many elegant dinners there are) for women; pantsuits are also considered acceptable for elegant wear
  • Suit and tie, or a dress shirt, tie, and slacks for men
  • A light jacket or sweater for breezy nights
  • Flip Flops or Sandals
  • Close Toed shoes or classier sandals for dinners
  • Athletic/Tennis Shoes (if you plan to work out, go on a hike, or do an excursion that requires them)
  • Athletic shorts/shirt
  • Underwear/undergarments
  • Pajamas
  • T-shirts or casual shirts for during the day
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses

Looking for ways to save on your cruise? Be sure to read this post – How to Save Money on a Cruise: The Best Tips For Cruising on a Budget

Although I have clothes that fall into all those categories, I thought it would be fun to bring a few new items with us for both Forrest and me.

Because I’m a big fan of Stitch Fix, we partnered with them to show you how easy it is to get a new wardrobe for your upcoming cruise. This is the first time we have tried Stitch Fix for men, which made this extra exciting for us.

If you’ve never tried Stitch Fix before, now is a perfect time – anyone who receives a Fix by June 30th will be entered to win one of ten trips to anywhere in the continental United States AND a Fix for their trip. By scheduling your Fix for before June 30th, you will automatically be entered.

Below are the items that they sent us for the cruise. I felt like they totally nailed it with my style this box. I wasn’t sure what to expect for Forrest, but he ended up loving all the items he received as well. We have worn all of them on the cruise, and if you are looking for some new pieces for your upcoming cruise, definitely consider using Stitch Fix.



Make sure you are very specific with what you are looking for. You will fill out a style survey, but you can also leave notes for your stylist. It’s such a fun and easy process!

Cruise Elegant

Forrest really loves this outfit. The shirt definitely screams cruise! The shorts are great, and they worked well for a variety of occasions on the cruise. 

I loved this dress, and I wore it for the formal night. Many people were ballroom gowns, but there were plenty of people in dresses similar to mine. I loved all the colors and patterns on this. And it was SO comfy!

There is just something about TOMS that scream cruise, don’t you think?

These cropped pants were so comfy to wear around, and I was able to wear them to dinner easily!

One of my favorite items in my box (just ignore the leggings, those were mine, and I did NOT wear them with this outfit). It was so lightweight and airy. Perfect for the cruise!

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