It’s cruise time! If you’re planning to take to the high seas for your next much-needed getaway, you have to know what to pack. These days, cruising is vastly more casual than it used to be — but it’s also an opportunity for you to indulge in the good life. And yes, that applies even on the weekend party ship from L.A. to Ensenada (I’m looking at you, Carnival).
You want to stay cool and comfortable, of course. And even in warm weather destinations, you’ll need a light layer to protect you from the winds. But you might also want to bring along a flashy evening outfit, just for fun. Not every cruise has a formal night, but I can say this from experience: On a cruise, you can’t get too dressy or too casual. There will always be someone who outdoes you at either end of the spectrum. Might as well use that to your advantage, right?
Here’s the Budget Fashionista take on what to wear on a cruise.
What to Wear on a Cruise: Daytime
Shorts + tees
There’s nothing more classic or reliable than a pair of relaxed shorts and a laid-back tee. This is your go-to outfit for those balmy days at sea when you’re content to wander from deck to deck, sipping cocktails. You’ll exude a fresh and aquatic vibe in a pair of striped linen shorts, like these from Express.
One thing you absolutely need to plan for when going on a cruise? Warm weather, naturally. That’s what makes a maxi dress such a great addition to your vacation wardrobe. Mix it up with different styles — opt for flowing tank styles, or dress it up a touch in something like this version from LOFT.
The wrap silhouette exudes a more glamorous, dressed up feel, while the paisley pattern on the rich fuchsia backdrop feels just perfect for vacation.
A pair of metallic sandals is as vital to your cruise vacation as a pair of shorts! They’ll show off your glossy pedicure, and they go with everything, including your maxi dress, shorts, jumpsuit, jeans, skirts, cropped pants, and — you get the idea. In short, you can wear them with anything, and they’re more practical for your ocean journey than a pair of ballet flats, which can cramp your toes. Plus, a little heavy metal is just right for illuminating your look.
Here’s what’s amazing about swim cover-ups on cruises: They’re perfect to wear over bikinis and one-pieces by the pool, of course. But a cover-up can easily be worn everywhere else on the ship, too. Think practical if you plan to do that. Something that’s opaque yet light and airy is perfect.
You can easily throw on this Venus cover-up with cute pom-pom details, step into a pair of flip-flops, and look phenomenal in an instant.
What to Wear on a Cruise: Formal Night
A jumpsuit is a chic approach to formal night and versatile enough to wear even when the attire isn’t specifically formal.
Add a splash of color to your look and prepare to make memories galore in this Socialite V-neck jumpsuit. The bold blossom print is just right for a dressier event on the water, while the scalloped neckline adds an unexpected element to the look.
Even if your cruise doesn’t specifically have a formal night, you can still bring your cutest cocktail dress aboard. Because, well, why not?
Dress this number up with stilettos or dress it down with flats. Its nylon construction and short length makes it travel-friendly, too.
Don’t Forget to Layer Up
Definitely do bring a light layer that’s versatile enough to over most of the pieces in your bag. A cropped length, dark wash denim jacket ticks all the boxes: you can smash into a corner of your suitcase and it won’t wrinkle and it’s as versatile as those gold sandals.
Tanya is a seasoned journalist based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Specializing in fashion, beauty, and travel, she loves to explore new places, read as much as possible, and scour the web for fabulous finds — all in the name of research, of course.
Thanks for stopping by! I'm Catherine, your Budget Fashionista style editor. I'm a bargain shopper at heart, as I love nice things but hate paying for them! I'm also a personal finance writer who's been featured on USA Today and MSN Money.