Women’s cruise clothes: what to wear on cruises

Ladies – this is for you!

Are you sailing soon and need to start packing? After over 25 cruises and spending 105 days on a ship for a semester in college, I feel very confident in being able to pack well for a cruise.

While some may get overwhelmed with packing for a cruise, I find packing for a cruise is very predictable.

Packing for a cruise will depend greatly on the itinerary. I’ve sailed all over the world – from Europe to Asia to the Caribbean – and every destination requires a slightly different wardrobe. Expeditions and daily style should also be considered when deciding what to pack.

With every cruise, there are definitely some essentials I will always keep in my bag.

cool ships

One thing is universal while sailing – the cruise ship is always cold. My mom taught me this from a young age. I have not yet been on a cruise ship is not cool!

Whether it’s your dining room, theater, or cabin, you’ll likely find that you’re feeling cold inside because of the air conditioner.

For this reason, I bring a light jacket to dinner every night. Even while cruising in the scorching Southeast Asian heat, I found myself chilling inside the ship every night. You’ll find that the lighter jacket is very versatile and travels well during day trips too.

dinner clothes

When packing for a cruise, I like to start with dinner clothes first. If you’re sailing for 7 nights, that means you’ll need about 7 different costumes to wear to dinner. With longer cruises, I usually dress up as a diner to make room for a suitcase.

I’ve found that casual dresses are perfect for dinner on a cruise. These travel well and are easy to dress up or dress down. You can add a cute shawl, jean jacket, or jacket to switch things up if needed. I’ll pack some signature necklaces and earrings to complete the outfit.

As you decide what to pack, keep in mind that you will likely be eating and drinking more than usual. For me, this means that packing dresses are not very suitable. There is nothing worse than trying to wear tight clothes on vacation and feeling shy or excessively bloated.

Pack comfortable dinner clothes and always make you feel comfortable. Want to enjoy your meals on the plane – for me, the food is my favorite part! To avoid uncomfortable clothes, I pack some loose, flowing dresses—usually perfect at the end of a cruise.

Most cruises will have at least one official night. Some women wear formal clothes. If you’re someone who loves an excuse to get fully dressed, do your best!

For the most part, cruises are a judgment-free zone. You’ll see people in cool ball gowns and others in casual jeans for a formal night out. Most women fall in between somewhere when it comes to a formal night out.

Pack what makes you feel confident for formal nights. I usually wear a smart romper or a formal night suit and a pair of high heels.

Convenience and versatility

After packing my dinner clothes, I start packing for days in port and on the ship. This will take up most of your suitcase space, so don’t even think about packing! Comfort and versatility are key.

Pack clothes that fit your usual style at home. If you’re someone who likes to be casual most of the time (ahem – me!!), plan to pack your favorite casual wear. In my opinion, most women wear casual clothes on the plane, especially if your itinerary has a lot of sea days.

If I’m cruising in warmer climates, my everyday outfits will consist of a variety of shorts (preferably high-waisted). I bundle several tops that can easily be paired with other pieces.

For cooler climates, I’ll focus more on layers and bundles of leggings, jackets, and multiple jeans. Because eating and drinking are my favorite tourist activities, I’ll leave my skinniest jeans at home.

Again, a cruise ship is a judgment-free zone most of the time. Feel free to wear whatever makes you feel your best!


If you have specific trips planned, read the tour description and decide if you need to pack anything in particular. If you do something active like ATV riding, zip lining, or hiking, you need to pack appropriately.

I’ve found that a pair or two of shorts and a T-shirt can be very versatile on active trips. It dries quickly and is easy to clean if it gets dirty.

Cooler climates may require a pair of workout leggings. I prefer to pack a basic pair of black leggings that can be worn on a hike or on a day trip.


As someone who loves to buy shoes, it can be difficult to narrow down to just a few pairs of shoes. I wish I could pack a whole bag of shoes!

Birkenstocks are my favorite travel shoe. I’ve walked the entire island of Santorini wearing a pair of Birkenstocks and have never had blisters! It’s very comfortable for day trips, but it has many styles that go well with dinner outfits as well. I love to wear these to walk around the ship, too.

Along with Birkenstocks, I pack a pair of high heels to wear to dinner and a formal night out. Nothing crazy, but basic bare heels usually do the trick.

I always pack black Nike tennis shoes that I can wear for long walks or even walks around the harbor. This is a must for any trip.

If you plan on kayaking or doing a lot of water activities, you may want to consider packing water shoes. I found it great for water activities or rocky beaches. I’ve also worn it while roaming around outlets that may not be clean. Water shoes are easy to clean if they get dirty.

If you are going to enjoy a cooler climate on your cruise, you may want to pack a good pair of shoes. I’ve found Sperry shoes to be comfortable for walking but also great for cold, wet climates. Timberland shoes have served me well, too.

Keep culture in mind

Depending on the itinerary, women need to consider different cultures when packing. Churches in Europe (particularly Italy) expect women to cover their knees and shoulders.

I visited the Vatican on a cruise recently and completely forgot to bring something to cover my knees and shoulders. Guess who sat outside while the rest of the family was walking around the church? Yes..there was no way to get around the fact that I was wearing shorts and a tank top and nothing to cover my shoulders or knees.

This is where your light jacket can come in handy! A light jacket is perfect for covering your shoulders when culturally necessary. A simple scarf or shawl can also be used in this case.

If you are sailing in the Middle East or Africa, women are expected to dress modestly. While in Morocco, I wore long skirts and modest shirts. I also had a scarf that I kept with me to cover my head in certain places, like walking around mosques.

Multiple swimsuits

If you plan to be at the beach or on the pool deck every day on your cruise, packing multiple swimwear is a no-brainer. But, you should also consider multiple packages Species of swimsuits. You may not be in the mood to wear a bikini all the time!

I prefer to pack a variety of swimwear to make sure I always have something I feel comfortable and confident in.

The classic one-piece swimsuit is the perfect piece to pack on your cruise. You can also wear it with cute shorts for an easy look when heading to the beach. One-piece suits are also great when you have water activities or active excursions.

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