“What should I pack?” is one of the most frequently asked questions among first-time cruise vacationers who aren’t sure what to expect on board. Experienced cruisers know that while there is no standard answer to this question, there are some general guidelines. What you should pack depends on the formality of the cruise line and ship you choose, as well as where you are going.
First, consider the ship. On a luxury or premium cruise line, the dress code during the day is likely to be resort wear – casual shorts and shirts, or Capri pants and sundresses for women. In the evening, the dress code changes to long pants (no jeans) and collared shirts for men, with silky pants and coordinated tops or dresses for women. These cruises are also likely to have multiple formal nights, when you’ll see everything from suits and cocktail dresses to tuxedos and glittering ball gowns. However, some high-end cruise lines have changed to more casual dress codes, welcoming shorts and t-shirts much of the time. A cruise consultant can help you understand all the nuances of your ship’s dress code.
If you selected a more casual cruise line, including those that cater to families, the dress code is probably more relaxed. Shorts and t-shirts, even swimwear with a cover-up, are likely to be acceptable anywhere on board before six in the evening (each cruise line varies). After that, jeans or khaki pants with polo-style shirts for men, and casual dresses or pants outfits for women abound. Kids can usually wear jeans and any clean shirt for dinner. Still, you’ll find that many people love dressing up for the evening – you would fit in well in a beaded cocktail dress or a dark suit and tie.
In addition, consider where you’ll be sailing and what you plan to do on shore. Will you need sturdy walking shoes? Are you visiting a place where it may be considered offensive to show too much skin? Will you need a sweater or jacket for cool nights? Again, a professional cruise consultant can help.
One more general rule is to pack less than you think you will need. No one will notice if you repeat an outfit. And, you’ll want to leave room in your luggage for new favorite clothing items that you may pick up along the way.