Cruise Clothes for Women: Packing Light

Starting to plan and pack cruise outfits for your cruise vacation? Wondering what cruise outfits you should bring with you? When it comes to cruise clothes for women, our biggest cruise tip is to strive for comfort and pack light.

I see a common question in travel and cruise groups: “what do I wear?” What kind of cruise clothes should I bring? What shoes should I bring?

Ultimately the answer to this is… wear what you feel the most comfortable in!

We know we have several things under our cruise essentials list, which may make it appear like we don’t travel light, but when it comes to my cruise outfits, I like to bring the basics. I like to be stylish but comfortable during our cruise vacations.

I bring core cruise outfits with me on every cruise, mixing and matching them throughout the week. Sometimes I even re-wear them later in the week. Why can’t I wear a dress again that I wore for two hours at dinner last night?

I know some cruise lines are somewhat formal, and you may want to pack a couple more cruise outfits that are chic and dressier. But for the most part, I cruise in my casual cruise clothes. I also mostly cruise Norwegian Cruise Line because of their freestyle concept.

But I remember when we cruised on the Celebrity Cruise Line, their evening chic nights threw me off. So out I went to look for a fancy pair of sandals to go with my chic and formal dresses. I refuse to bring and wear heels, so they had to be flat. It’s all about comfort!

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In this article, I’ve put together a list of cruise clothes for women to help inspire your cruise wardrobe. But most importantly, you’ll look stylish and feel comfortable without packing too much! Whether you’re hitting the pool or the casino, these cruise clothes for women will have you looking your best.

What to wear on a cruise?

For the most part, you are in a casual atmosphere on a cruise. You will want to be comfortable while still feeling good, looking good, and adhering to any strict guidelines the cruise ship may have (example: no shorts in the dining room).

What should you not wear on a cruise?

First, you should see the cruise line’s guidelines in place. You should not wear anything that is considered inappropriate. For example, don’t wear pajamas outside of your cabin.

Do you have to wear formal clothes on a Cruise?

Most mainstream cruise lines will have at least 1-2 formal nights. You don’t HAVE to attend or participate in the formal activities.

Do cruise ships have dress codes?

Yes, cruise ships will have a dress code. The cruise line’s website should list its dress code policy.

Do you have to dress up every night on a cruise?

No, you don’t have to dress up every night on a cruise. But you do want to dress decent and presentable for dinner. On formal nights, if you’d like to eat in the dining room, you must wear formal attire.

Can you wear jeans on a cruise?

Yes, you can wear jeans on a cruise. If it’s a hot destination, we suggest only wearing a nice pair to dinner as it gets way too hot for them during the day.

Cruise Clothes for Women

What should a woman wear on a cruise?

Women should wear cruise clothes that they feel comfortable in. There I said it. It’s not about looking good for other people, it’s about feeling comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing.

You don’t need to bring your entire closet on a cruise. You can create a great ensemble for your cruise vacation with some selected pieces.

Here are some key tips:

  • Pack like colors or colors that will go together. So when you mix and match items, you have a whole new cruise outfit. Think of it as a capsule wardrobe that you can use throughout your time on the cruise.
  • Learn to roll and pack your clothes. Several helpful videos on YouTube will help, like this one.
  • Use packing cubes. Not only does it help organize your clothes, but you’ll see that it will help save you space in your suitcase for other items. Packing cubes are also helpful when you start to unpack on embarkation day.

With that being said, here are some ideas for cruise clothes for women. We are listing items more geared towards warm weather and Caribbean cruise vacations. Of course, we will discuss pieces you can layer for those cooler nights.

1. Sundresses

You can never go wrong with a sundress. They’re the perfect option when you want to feel put together but don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about your outfit. A sundress is probably one of the cruise outfits for ladies we can all agree on one. They are a sweet and easy summertime staple!

I live for sundresses on vacation… and at home, too. They are comfortable and can easily be dressed up or down with the right sandals and accessories.

You can wear a sundress during the day on the ship or when you go to dinner.

Target is one of my favorite stores to shop for affordable, beautiful sundresses that will last a long time. I’ve also had some luck on Amazon. I own the blue dress above, and it’s one of my favorite dresses. The fabric is super soft, fits loosely but nicely, and has pockets.

2. Maxi Dresses

Maxi Dress is another staple to add to cruise outfits for ladies. They can be as elegant and casual as you want them to be. I love how they flow when you walk and make you feel like a goddess.

I suggest packing at least a couple of maxi dresses. They take up little space in your suitcase and can be worn multiple times on your cruise, just like the sun dresses. Between the sundresses and the maxi dresses, you’re pretty much set for dinners on the cruise.

If you have a maxi dress that you can get away with on a formal night, pack it. One less thing to worry about.

I own the blue flowery and black dress above – true to size. I recently wore the blue printed one to dinner at Le Bistro on the last night of our cruise.

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3. Tops

Cotton t-shirts, button-ups, and blouses are all great cruise wear options. Pick colors and fabrics that will mix and match your shorts, pants, and skirts.

Cotton t-shirts or tank tops are a great way to pack light and save money. I recommend packing neutral colors, like black or white (or any other favorite). Throw one on with a pair of shorts or wide legs. You can dress it up and down as much as you want.

A button-down shirt adds a layer of sophistication to your cruise outfit. I like to wear one with white shorts or pants and sandals. You can also tie the shirt around your waist. You can also use the button-ups as a layer over your dresses or swimsuits.

A stylish blouse or two you can wear to dinner one night is always a win.

I always pack a few t-shirts or tanks, at least one button-up, and a pretty blouse.

You can also use the button-ups as a layer over your dresses.

4. Shorts

During the day, there is such thing as casual cruise wear. If you’re not by the pool, you may want to hang around the cruise in a pair of shorts. You can wear a nice pair of chic shorts to dinner, too.

I prefer linen or cotton shorts as they are comfortable and breathable in the heat.

Getting ready for sail away on the Norwegian Joy.

Also, a pair of jean shorts is always a classic fit. I recently wore my favorite pair of jean shorts (not affiliated) to embark on the Norwegian Joy with a cotton tee. I spent the entire day comfortably in my cruise outfit.

5. Pants & Wide Legs

If you don’t want to wear shorts, don’t worry, there are many different kinds of pants that you’ll feel comfortable and look cruise ready in. Pants are a great way to show off your style while being comfortable and presentable for dinner.

I’m a fan of wide-leg and linen pants. They are airy, flattering for most, and come in many colors and patterns.

A pair of nice slacks or capris also may be a nice option.

For a more casual vibe, denim is also an option. I usually don’t pack denim on a cruise as it can get pretty hot, but if you’re going on a cooler cruise, like an Alaska cruise, denim may be a better option.

All of these go with the tops above. You might need to tuck or tie them at the waist for a more fitted and clean look.

What NOT to Pack for a Cruise

We’ve covered all the cruise essentials you should pack, but do you know what not to bring on a cruise? From prohibited items to things, you can leave at home. Keep them off of your cruise packing list.

6. Bathing Suits

Of course, you will need at least two bathing suits on a cruise. You will probably use it to spend time sunbathing by the pool deck, and you never know when you’ll want to take a dip in the pool or jacuzzi.

You will also need a swimsuit for beach destinations and water activities at the port.

When it comes to swimsuits, you must wear what you feel comfortable in. If you don’t feel comfortable in a bikini, don’t pack one just because you think you should.

7. Cover Ups

A lot of times, when you’re on the ship, you’re in your bathing suit. But there are moments when you want to get out of the sun or go into the buffet for lunch, and you don’t want to put on regular clothes just yet. That’s where a cover-up and beach kaftans come in handy.

I suggest packing at least two bathing suit covers. You’ll use them on the ship and out in port. They’re also pretty easy to wash in the cabin stateroom sink and then hang to dry, if necessary. And they are easy to roll up when you pack.

The first printed cover up above is one of my favorites. It’s soft, easy to wear, and perfect to go over a swimsuit.

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8. Formal Night

You will want to pack at least one nice outfit for a formal night. I’m not talking about a ball gown, but something you would feel comfortable and confident in.

Many ladies like to wear cocktail dresses or evening gowns on formal nights. If that’s your style, pack one by all means. Sometimes we have these beautiful dresses in our closet without being worn for a long time. This may be your chance to pack it and show it off.

If you have a little black dress, that will work perfectly for a formal night. You’ll be all set with some nice sparkly sandals or heels (if you want to bring them) and some statement jewelry.

Don’t worry if you don’t own a little black dress, there are other options like a jumpsuit or even a maxi dress that can work for a formal night. You just need to look a little more dressed up than usual.

No shorts. No t-shirts. No denim.

The little black dress above is my go-to most recently for any event that requires a cocktail dress.

9. Cardigans & Wraps

Even though it’s hot on the ship, there are places where the air conditioning is blasting. You may want to have a cardigan or wrap with you to throw on when you get cold. When you’re outside at night, it’s windy and chilly.

Usually, I’ll bring one nice sweater cardigan that will go with everything. I like to use them as an extra layer over my sundresses and maxi dresses for dinner as I get cold easily. Also, my button-down tops will work great for that, too.

Some women like to bring a wrap. It can also go nicely with almost everything. Again, these don’t take up much space in your suitcase and come in handy when you least expect it.

10. Footwear

Let’s talk about shoes. You will probably want to bring 2 to 3 pairs. This depends on your plans off the ship and what kind of cruise you’re taking. I recommend a minimum of two pairs, one for everyday use and another for dressier occasions.

If you do any excursions involving walking long distances, you’ll want a comfortable pair of sneakers or tennis shoes. Those you can wear on travel days free up space in your luggage.

When choosing which sandals to bring, ensure they are comfortable and go with the chosen cruise outfits.

For the most part, I usually cruise with a pair of tennis shoes, sandals that go with everything, and flip-flops. If there is a formal night, I will bring a glittery pair of flats I own to wear on those nights.

11. Sunglasses & Hats

12. Purses & Bags

While this article is about cruise clothes for women, we can’t leave out one of the most important accessories: a purse and beach bag. You’ll need a place to store all your stuff while on the ship and at the port. I recommend bringing two bags with you.

A small crossbody bag is perfect for carrying your ID, cash, credit cards, and lip balm when you’re out in port. It’s also small enough to take with you on excursions.

A larger tote bag or beach bag is great for carrying your towel, sunscreen, and other things you need when lounging by the pool or spending a day at the beach.

Tip: Use a travel tote bag that you can double its use as a personal carry-on bag, and then take it with you to port for your towels and accessories.

These are just general guidelines for packing light and smart for your cruise outfits as a woman. Again, the most important thing is to pack what you feel good in that makes you happy. If you’re comfortable in your clothes, you’ll have a great time no matter what you wear!

Do you have any other suggestions for cruise outfits for ladies? Let us know in the comments!

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