It’s easy to go light and still look like a fashion plate

By Patti Pietschmann Travel Diva

Okay I’ll admit it.  I used to be one of those women who never wore the same outfit twice on a cruise.  My wardrobe would fill a steamer trunk. But that all changed with airline luggage limits and a mate who didn’t appreciate having to hoist heavy bags.

Besides incurring the wrath of my first mate, I realized I never wore most of the outfits.  To conquer the battle of the bulging bags, I follow a Gospel of Prudent Packing which states:

“Thou shall put into one’s suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for myself.

Beating the battle of the bulging suitcases

With a little creativity, women’s cruise wardrobes can be a breeze to assemble. Dress as you would for a fine shore side restaurant or tropical resort.  Be as snazzy as you feel on formal nights in long gowns or cocktail dresses; take a few pretty gauzy or silk numbers for informal wear and pantsuits, resort chic dresses or slacks and pretty tops for casual evenings.

To lighten your load pack pants or skirts with an assortment of different tops. You can use casual tees during the day and sparkly blouses at night.  During the day, especially in tropical areas, you will probably spend a lot of time sunning and lounging by the pool and will virtually live in your bathing suit.

While short shorts and jeans are taboo in most dining rooms they are acceptable wear for daytime deck buffets or at the casual deck buffets offered on all ships.

For walking around port or daytime indoor activities you’ll want slacks, nice shorts, jeans, T-shirts, cotton or silk blouses and good walking shoes. If you’re into fitness, be sure to pack workout wear to use in the gym and running shoes for the jogging deck. Please dress respectfully in foreign countries and at home.

The male wardrobe

Men’s biggest obstacle is formal night. Thank the fashion police, tuxedos are not as mandatory as back in the day. But some lines still host formal nights. Men can get away with a dark suit or jacket, tie and of course trousers. Besides tuxes take up  a lot of room and require extra accessories.

FYI: I have seen tuxedos for rent on board some ships such as Princess, Celebrity, Carnival, Crystal and others. For other evenings you’ll want a sports jacket and appropriate shirts, tie and shoes for informal nights and pants and nice shirts for casual nights. Daytime wear is a snap, a bathing suit for sun/pool time, shorts or jeans, tank tops, T-shirts etc. for strolling into port, and workout wear.

Most upscale ships (Celebrity, Oceania, Seabourn, Silversea, Wind Star, Regent, etc)  provide robes for use while on board as well supplies of  shampoo, conditioner, body creams, shower gels and even toothbrushes and razors on request.  But not usually sun screen (although ships such as Seabourn,Silversea and Crystal often have some on deck).

One final Gospel of Prudent Packing commandment before you go:  Thou shall open my bags after I’m packed and discard about half of the items. And that folks, is exactly what you’ll most likely use on board.


All cruise ships assign daily designated evening dress codes–casual, informal, formal– that take effect in public rooms and restaurants from 6 p.m.   Do read the “Before You Go” section of the website of the cruise line you’re on for details.  Be sure to check if there are formal nights as many lines have abandoned them or lowered the requirement.

Another tip is that  Mediterranean cruises generally dressier than Carib­bean, Mexican Riviera or French Polynesia journeys.

If you’re still not sure, check out The Fashion IQ of the following cruise lines:

Carnival:  pretty darn asual by day; almost anything goes by night.

Celebrity: casual by day, resort chic at night. Some guys wear tuxes on formal nights. Women respond in kind.

Costa: casual by day, not overly dressy at night.

Crystal: stylish resort wear by day, slightly more elegant by night. Men still wear tuxedos on formal nights but they are optional.

Disney: casual by day and resort casual by night.

Oceania:  country club casual is the theme

Princess: casual by day, “tropical chic” by night, about half and half tuxedos to suits on formal night.

Regent Seven Seas requests casual wear during the day and resort casual at night. Most women wear pretty dresses or nice tops with pants and skirts at night except on cruises over 12 days when more formal wear is requested on designated nights. Tuxedos are optional.

Royal Caribbean International: casual by day a mixed bag at night leaning more to suits than tuxedos.

Seabourn: casual chic by day, tres chic by night.

Silversea: casual chic by day; striking and stunning at night.

Windstar: Millennial, yuppie, Gen-Xer, Armani, Gap, super casual.

These packing tips also work for tours and travel.

Bon voyage.

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