“Oh my Gawd, what am I going to wear?”

You’ve heard the wail and I’m sure you’ve made it. The great dilemma of a woman’s life is how she is going to present herself to the public, especially what to wear on a cruise.

A cruise is the ultimate catwalk for cruise wear. You’ve got lounge chair wear, swimwear, cruise walking wear, dinner wear, workout wear, evening wear and on shore excursion wear!

Cruising is a fun time for fashion.

But, there’s no need to walk the plank with an overstuffed suitcase. My simple cruise packing checklist and handy packing tips for a cruise will help you!

Carnival Vista Ship in the Grand Caymans
Safe and sound in the Grand Caymans

There are many different types of cruises, but it’s easy to have just one cruise packing list to make your life simple.

We’ve done multiple cruises of varying lengths and my list of things to pack for a cruise has never changed – just the style of the clothes has.

I’ve used our recent 6 day Western Caribbean cruise as the example for this cruise packing checklist.

With the following six questions, you’ll rarely go wrong when planning your outfits and packing for a cruise.

They will help you adapt your packing and cruise outfits for any destination and length of cruise.

Grab a coffee and a pen and start planning your list for your cruise.

1. What will the weather be like?

The ultimate question when deciding what to wear on a cruise is what will the weather be like. Cruise wear is governed by what the sun, rain and wind are doing!

Of course, you don’t have a crystal ball, but the weather forecasts should help with your cruise planning.

Before our Carnival Vista Western Caribbean Cruise we had our eyes peeled to it thanks to the arrival of Hurricane Irma!


2. How long is the cruise?

No you know how many pairs of undies and change of clothes you need. Be sure to consider day wear (activities based) and evening attire (casual and more elegant evenings).

3. What type of cruise activities am I doing?

Good planning is essential for a happy cruise.

Research your cruise for the kind of activities they offer and what outfits you’ll need, not just for the boat but your on shore excursions.

It’s more than likely you’ll be spending most of your time in a swimsuit and flip flops, which is great news for your packing.

Our simple cruise packing checklist  (which you can download a free printable copy of below) will help you.

4. Who am I traveling with?

If you’re traveling as a couple you may choose to pack your sexy lingerie.

If you’re traveling with kids, the old granny ones will do, because you’re not going to have much time or space for romance.

If your’re single, you might pack more outfits for the nightclub to party with your friends.

5. What are my luggage limitations?

The luggage police are out to restrict our wardrobes. Plan carefully, you don’t want to get stuck with excess luggage fees getting to the cruise (if you fly).

Cruise luggage limits are typically 2 x 50 lbs (23kg), although they do recommend you bring only one suitcase. I also recommend that!

6. What’s my transportation to the cruise and back? (Bag drag)

If getting to the cruise departure port involves dragging your bag around, you may want to reconsider how much you pack.

If you are moving from your front door, to the car, to the cruise front door, you might feel okay with packing a little more as you won’t be lugging the luggage.

My packing list will work for any kind of cruise. It’s simplistic so you don’t over pack or over stress.

I’ve not listed quantities so you can use it for any length of cruise. I think you can easily determine how many dresses, shorts, undies and tops you need.

It all depends on the length of your cruise and your activities.

What to wear on a cruise
Lounging all day in swimwear is great

Okay, let’s dive into a little of the types of cruise clothing you’ll need.

Excursion outfits

What are you going to do when you are in port? This will determine what to wear.

For example, on our recent cruise, here were our three island destinations and what I wore.

  • Ochos Rios, Jamaica – we were zip lining and walking through the water up waterfalls. I wore my board shorts, costumes, and a simple tank top, my Keen shoes and my day pack.
  • Grand Cayman Island – we hired a car to cruise the island. I wore my swimsuits and a summer dress with my flip flops
  • Cozumel, Mexico – we had a lazy beach day swimming in the ocean. I wore my swimsuit, kaftan, beach dress and flip flops. Beach bag had cruise towels, reading book, journal and sunscreen.

If you are exploring the city, you might wear shorts and a tank top.

Whatever your activity, make sure you have comfortable walking shoes as the days can be long and the feet sore.

On board the ship

Your cruise wear will be multi-dimensional on board the cruise. You might put your workout gear on for early morning yoga, walks on the deck, boot camp or gym workouts.

Breakfast can be casual shorts/ skirts and tops. If you eat at the buffet, you can even walk in with your swimwear! Maybe put a kaftan over the top.

If you eat in the restaurant for breakfast or lunch then definitely wear an outfit. It can go over your swimsuit though. And make sure you wear shoes.

There are lots of activities you can do on board the ship like mini-golf, basketball, and high ropes course, which will see you more in your active gear.

Otherwise, you’ll be in your swimsuits in the water or by the pool deck. That’s when your hat, sunglasses and kaftans, and summer dresses come in handy!

It’s very laid back and casual.