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What to Wear on a Cruise

Deciding what to wear on a cruise means considering many different factors: your cruise destinations and their climates, the activities you’re going to pursue onboard and on shore and your opportunities for formal dining. Deciding what to wear on a cruise to Alaska will of course be quite different to picking out what to wear on a cruise to the Caribbean.

Packing for days of beachgoing and shopping will call for different outfits for adventures like horseback riding, ziplining and ATV tours.

It’s most important that your cruise outfits are comfortable. Remember, there’s only so much room in your suitcase and stateroom, yet you’ll need enough clothing to take you from arrival to departure and every excursion in between.

Take your time and put some thought into packing for a Carnival Cruise and you’ll be ready to dress perfectly for every cruise occasion.

family playing football on the beach in the caribbean

What to Wear: Warm Destinations

Wondering what to wear on a cruise to the Caribbean, The Bahamas or another warm destination? Packing for a cruise somewhere hot and sunny is relatively easy, and the good news is that warm-weather clothing tends to take up much less room in your suitcase.

It’s still a good idea to pack items of clothing that are versatile, for example sundresses or shorts that can take you from the beach to dinner, or shorts that work for both hiking and hanging out on deck. We suggest you pack the following:

  • At least two or three swimsuits – most passengers cruising to a warm destination spend lots of time in the pool or ocean. With multiple swimsuits you’ll never need to wear one that’s still wet.
  • Shorts – several pairs in a few different styles
  • Short-sleeved shirts, T-shirts, tank tops and/or blouses
  • One or two sundresses or skirt-and-top outfits for women
  • Several swimsuit cover-ups e.g., a cotton sundress or caftan
  • A light outer layer in case of cooler evenings e.g., a pashmina, thin cardigan or light jacket
  • Sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats
  • Water shoes or non-slip boat shoes with traction
  • A lightweight, packable waterproof jacket in case of rain

family on a catamaran in the caribbean

Packing for Warm Destination Excursions

Some excursions in warm-weather destinations require extra items in your suitcase. Sturdy, comfortable hiking or athletic shoes are obviously needed for hiking excursions, such as the Scenic Coastal Hike in St. Maarten or the Hop-on, Hop-off trolley tour in Key West. Also know that closed-toe shoes are mandatory for zip-lining and most horseback riding, ATV and bike tours. Check for these kinds of requirements before you set sail.

Sturdy water shoes are great for activities that take you from land to water, such as the Rainforest and Waterfall Hiking Adventure in Maui, excursions to the world-famous Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and any other adventures.

family paddleboarding in the caribbean

What to Wear: Cold Destinations

If you’re cruising to a destination with a cold climate, such as Alaska or parts of Europe, it’s important to pack clothing that will keep you warm on the ship as well as on shore. Even if you’re cruising to Alaska in the middle of summer, expect temperatures to range from the mid-50s to mid-60s (degrees Fahrenheit) during the day.

Of course it’s colder at night, and during the earlier and later times in the cruise season. Rain is always a possibility too.

When packing outfits for a cruise to a colder destination, plan to dress in layers to help you    adapt to changing temperatures from day to night, as well as on and off the water. We recommend the following items:

  • Long pants in several styles e.g., jeans, khakis, fleece-lined leggings, cargo pants
  • Shorts for warmer days
  • Sweatshirts in a few different styles and weights
  • T-shirts, both long- and short-sleeved
  • Thick wool socks and thinner socks
  • A lightweight, packable rain jacket
  • Swimsuits for the sauna or spa
  • Workout gear if you plan to hit the gym. (A tip: Bring workout clothes that double as everyday wear.)
  • Comfortable walking shoes e.g., sneakers, hiking shoes, plus sandals for warmer days on board

couple in the middle of a glacier walk in skagway

Packing for Alaskan Excursions

Many shore excursions available on Alaskan cruises require some additional clothing items, especially outdoor adventures. Do some research on the excursions you’re considering and make sure you have the appropriate footwear and clothing to stay safe and comfortable.

Double up on the warm layers and include a heavier jacket or coat if you’re planning an excursion out on the water, such as the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour or the Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer. Also add a warm hat, scarf and gloves to your packing list. These items are essential as well for glacier excursions like Dog Sledding on Mendenhall Glacier via Helicopter.

If you’re going hiking, biking or ATV riding, especially in a rainforest or glacial region, don’t forget a rain jacket with a hood and comfortable, waterproof hiking boots or shoes.

canoes from a shore excursion in skagway

Clothes for Special Occasions

Cruise ships have a wide variety of restaurants onboard, and some of our restaurants enforce dress codes. Be sure to include at least one outfit that fits every requirement so that you can enjoy any restaurant you desire. At any restaurant and any time of day, you at least need to cover up your swimsuit and wear water shoes .

Avoid having to go back to your stateroom to change between pool and restaurant by bringing along cover-ups like sundresses or shorts and T-shirts.

In the evenings, some of our ships enforce a “cruise casual” dress code. For men this dress code can call for longer dress shorts or pants (jeans are OK too) and a collared polo shirt. For women, the dress code may ask for sundresses, skirts and blouses, dress shorts and capri pants are acceptable.

Don’t wear sleeveless shirts (for men), cut-off jeans, T-shirts or gym shorts.

If you want to attend a “cruise elegant” evening, bring a fancier, more formal outfit. Men can wear suits or dress slacks with a sport coat and dress shirt. For women, cocktail dresses, pantsuits or elegant skirts and blouses are appropriate. Some guests like to go all out with a tuxedo or ball gown.

group of people enjoying an evening at the chef’s table

Ready to Pack Your Bags?

When packing for a cruise, it’s important to dress for the occasion. The great thing about cruising is that so many different “occasions” are packed in to one vacation, from formal dining to snorkeling and sipping cool drinks by the pool or trekking through a rainforest.

Spend some time planning your outfits and we’re sure you’ll find room in your suitcase for everything you need. Remember to save a little space for souvenirs!

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.