By Published On: 17 Aug 2015

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Considering what to pack for a cruise can be daunting, especially if you are new to cruising. Thankfully cruise travel is much more relaxed and casual than it once was and this is reflected in the onboard attire of many guests, but there are certain do’s and don’ts when it comes to taking things onboard. Here’s our expert guide on what to pack for a cruise.

What to pack for day 1

If you’re cruising on a large liner it may take some time for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom, so we recommend packing a small carry-on bag with your travel documents, a change of clothes, swimsuit and exercise clothes for your first day. Having the carry-on bag means you can get on with whatever you want to do without having to wait for checked bags to arrive in your stateroom.

What to wear during the day

Everyday casual clothes is what to pack for a cruise. Smart casual clothing and shoes are required in public lounges and restaurants on most ships. For women this means casual skirts or sundresses, slacks or jeans, casual shorts and T-shirts. For men CruiseOyster advise shorts, jeans and casual khakis as well as T-shirts and polo shirts. Be mindful that tank tops can be considered out of place on some up-market ships and thongs or flip-flops are usually not ok in lounges and restaurants on any ship.

Packing for the pool-side

Ultra-casual – even on the most posh cruise ship! Pool-side attire includes swim suits, speedos, board shorts, athletic shorts, tank tops, hats of all shapes and sizes and of course sun screen! We recommend taking two swimsuits (in case the other is wet). You’ll also need a pair of casual shoes (e.g. thongs, sandals, running shoes) as the pool deck can be hot to walk on.

Evening attire

After 5:30pm on most ships the dress code changes from casual daywear to elegant casual. For women this means smart or cocktail dresses, elegant skirts and blouses. While for men trousers, jeans, polo shirts, shirts and sports jackets are all perfect. Temperatures will drop in the evening so when thinking about what to pack for a cruise remember to include a jacket.

What to pack for formal nights

If your cruise has a formal night you will be notified when you receive your cruise documentation. At a very minimum this means cocktail dresses for women and slacks and jackets for men, although most guests go all out an wear ball gowns and tuxedos!

Cocktail parties

You may be invited to an officers cocktail party whilst onboard, especially if you are a return guest. The appropriate attire for these events is elegant casual – cocktail dresses for women and trousers with jackets for men.

What to pack for a cruise on theme nights

More and more cruise lines offer theme nights, from Mexican Fiestas to Caribbean Beach Parties. They can be great fun and offer guests the chance to show off their fancy dress skills! So if your cruise has a theme night don’t forget your costume and props! However, CruiseOyster recommend doing more with less when it comes to costumes and props. Going overboard with your costume means taking up valuable packing space that could be used for something else.

Fitness clothes

If you’re going to use the onboard fitness centre or sports equipment make sure you bring extra shorts, T-shirts and socks for the work out, as well as a pair of tennis or running shoes, or trainers.


Don’t forget about shoes when considering what to pack for a cruise. CruiseOyster recommend packing at least three pairs of shoes: dress or formal shoes, smart casual and sandals or thongs. You might also like to pack running shoes or trainers.


If you have medication we recommend packing this in you hand luggage. If it needs to be kept cold make sure you pack it with and ice-pack or some other form of chilling.


Let’s face it, we all take our devices on holiday with us now and cruise ships are no exception! When you are onboard you should be able to connect to the ships public wi-fi (sometimes free, but more often than not for a fee), but watch-out you don’t exceed any download limits. Also remember to take chargers and powerpoint adapters as necessary.

Toiletries to pack for a cruise

Your cruise ship should provide soap and shampoo, but you’ll probably find they also supply conditioner, body lotion and even mouth wash and tissues.  Many ships have a hair drier in the bathroom, but these are generally not very powerful. Bear in mind that storage space in most stateroom bathrooms is limited, so when thinking about what to pack for a cruise don’t overpack toiletries.


Most lines will allow you to bring non-alcoholic beverages onboard, though as we have reported some like Carnival have tighter restrictions than others. CruiseOyster recommend not trying to bringing any alcoholic beverages onboard. Cruise lines are getting increasingly strict about this ‘illicit’ alcohol on their ships and it may even be confiscated!

About the Author: Jason Kerr

Jason is the founder and Managing Editor of The Luxury Cruise Review. He has a passion for travel, a weakness for espresso coffee and a love of Greek cuisine.

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