Avoid These Clothing Mistakes on Your Next Cruise

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The dress code on a cruise isn’t as simple as ‘anything goes’. You might be tempted to pack your entire wardrobe, but dressing appropriately can make a big difference in your experience. Cruise lines often have specific guidelines for different occasions, from casual daytime wear to formal evening attire.

A woman in a green shirt is standing in front of a clothing rack, thoughtfully considering different outfits. The rack is filled with colorful clothing options, including red, orange, blue, and beige garments.

If you don’t want to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, here are nine things you shouldn’t pack for your next cruise…

1. Inappropriate Slogan Tops

A man wearing a white t-shirt with the text "CRINGE ALERT" is standing on the deck of a ship, with a vast, calm ocean and a clear blue sky in the background. The ship's railing and the open sea create a serene maritime scene.

Ah, the offensive T-shirt – the clothing equivalent of a loud, unfiltered relative at a family gathering. These garments might raise a few eyebrows on land, but at sea, they can sink your social standing faster than the Titanic.

Picture this: you’re lounging by the pool, sipping on a colourful cocktail, and in walks, someone sporting a shirt with a slogan so cringeworthy it could wilt the flowers on the deck. Not exactly the relaxing vibe you were hoping for, right?

Let’s be clear: cruises are floating paradises where people from all walks of life come together to enjoy the open ocean, indulge in gourmet meals, and participate in fun activities. The last thing anyone needs is to be confronted by a T-shirt emblazoned with rude remarks, political jabs, or questionable humour. It’s like bringing a skunk to a garden party – it stinks up the place and makes everyone uncomfortable.

Remember, you’re in close quarters with your fellow passengers for days or weeks. The ship is a small, floating village, and word travels fast. That hilarious-to-you shirt might quickly turn you into “that person” – you know, the one everyone whispers about and avoids at the buffet.

2. Fancy Dress Costumes

the image of a cruise passenger in an elaborate, fancy costume.

Fancy dress costumes can be great fun at a themed party or on Halloween, but on a cruise; they can turn into a comedy of errors – and not the good kind. Imagine striding into the dining room dressed as a pirate, complete with an eye patch and plastic sword, only to realise it’s not pirate night and everyone else is in cocktail attire. Suddenly, your swashbuckling swagger becomes a sheepish shuffle to the nearest exit.

Cruises often have themed nights, but there’s a time and place for everything. A surprise appearance by Cleopatra or Batman at the wrong moment can be more awkward than amusing. It’s one thing to dress up for the costume party on board; it’s another to walk around in full regalia during a casual lunch or a sophisticated evening event. You might think you look dashing, but to others, it might seem more like a misguided escapade.

3. Towering High Heels

High heels with different colors lined up beside each other in a wardrobe

We know high heels look fabulous and give you that extra height, but let’s face it: They are a disaster waiting to happen on a moving ship. Imagine this: you’re strutting down the promenade, feeling like a supermodel on a runway, when suddenly the ship hits a gentle wave. One moment, you’re towering gracefully; the next, you’re flailing like a baby giraffe taking its first steps. Not exactly the elegant entrance you envisioned, right?

Sky-high heels and the undulating rhythm of the ocean do not mix. And let’s not forget the narrow, often swaying staircases that become dangerous obstacles. A slip here, a trip there, and you’re providing the evening’s entertainment, albeit unintentionally.

There’s also the practicality issue. Cruises are all about relaxation and fun, not hobbling around with blistered feet. You’ll be exploring the ship, going on excursions, and dancing the night away – activities that require comfortable and stable footwear. Trust me, there’s nothing stylish about nursing a sprained ankle in the infirmary while everyone else is enjoying the sunset deck party.

4. Swimwear In The Dining Areas

A lady on a swimwear confidently sitting in a dining area during a meal

Swimwear is fantastic—on the beach, by the pool, or when lounging on a sun-drenched deck. But when it comes to dining areas on a cruise, it’s a definite no-no. Imagine being seated in a lovely dining room, about to dig into a gourmet meal, when someone in a dripping bikini or a pair of soggy trunks strolls in. Suddenly, your appetite is doing a disappearing act.

So, what’s the solution? Cover-ups, sundresses, shorts, and T-shirts are your best friends. They’re quick to throw on over swimwear and perfectly acceptable in casual dining settings. 

Many cruise ships have a “no swimwear” policy in indoor dining areas, so it’s good manners and good sense to follow suit. You’ll be comfortable, others will appreciate it, and your dining experience will be all the more enjoyable. Save the swimwear for the sun decks and pools, and everyone will have a much more pleasant cruise!

5. Casual Clothes on Formal Nights

A person wearing a casual attire during a formal night

Formal nights on a cruise are like stepping into a scene from a glamorous movie – elegant gowns, sharp tuxedos, and an air of sophistication. It’s a chance to dress to the nines, capture stunning photos, and maybe even pretend you’re at a fancy gala. 

So, imagine the dissonance when someone shows up in jeans and a T-shirt. It’s like a beautiful symphony interrupted by a kazoo solo.

Casual clothes on formal nights stick out like a sore thumb. These events are special, designed to elevate the cruising experience, and wearing your everyday attire can make you feel out of place faster than you can say “black tie optional.” Even if you’re not one for dressing up, think of it as part of the fun – an opportunity to indulge in fantasy and flair.

Additionally, formal nights provide some of the best photo opportunities. The ship’s photographers are out in force, and the backdrops are often stunning. Do you want to be immortalised in your comfy but uninspiring cargo shorts and graphic tee in the cruise album? Probably not. Embrace the occasion, and you’ll have beautiful memories (and photos) to look back on.

6. Combat Chic

A man looking far on a cruise ship deck  wearing a full camo outfit

Camo and military apparel might be great for blending into a forest or showing off your tactical fashion sense, but on a cruise ship, they’re about as subtle as a foghorn in a library. Unless you plan on staging a surprise attack on the midnight buffet, there’s no need for camouflage gear on a cruise.

There’s also the cultural sensitivity aspect. In some countries, wearing military-style clothing is frowned upon or even illegal if you’re not actually in the armed forces. You don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone or find yourself awkward when you disembark for a shore excursion. Plus, camo doesn’t exactly scream “tropical paradise” – it’s more “lost in the jungle” than “lounging by the pool.”

7. Too Much Jewellery

A woman wearing multiple bracelets and rings on her hand, holding her arm up with the beach and ocean blurred in the background during sunset. The jewelry includes seashells, silver rings, and an intricate silver bracelet.

Jewellery can add a touch of sparkle and elegance to your cruise clothes, but when it comes to accessorising, less is often more. Picture yourself poolside, dripping with gold chains, bangles jangling, and rings on every finger. Instead of looking glamorous, you risk resembling a walking jewellery display – not to mention the tan lines will be something else!

Security is another concern. Cruises are generally safe, but flaunting an excess of valuable jewellery can make you an unwitting target for theft, especially during shore excursions.

You’re there to relax and enjoy, not to constantly worry about the safety of your expensive baubles. Keep it simple with a few versatile pieces that complement your outfits without overshadowing them.

So, when packing for your cruise, remember: a few well-chosen pieces of jewellery can make a statement, but too much can become a burden. Opt for simplicity, security, and comfort; you’ll shine without excess bling. 

8. Heavy Clothes for Tropical Destinations

A man wearing heavy winter clothing, including a fur-lined parka, scarf, and gloves, stands on a tropical beach with palm trees and a cruise ship in the background. The scene contrasts his winter attire with the sunny, warm beach environment.

Picture this – you’re sailing through the Caribbean, the sun is shining, the sea is a dazzling blue, and there you are, shuffling along the deck in your puffer jacket. Not only will you be sweltering in the tropical heat, but you’ll also stick out like a snowman in July. Cruise wardrobes should be as light and breezy as the destinations themselves, not reminiscent of a trip to the Arctic.

Heavy outerwear can be cumbersome and takes up precious suitcase space that could be better used for more cruise-appropriate attire. For those occasional cool evenings, think sundresses, shorts, swimwear, and light cardigans. 

Pack a light sweater or shawl if you’re worried about being cold in air-conditioned areas or during evening events. These items are easy to carry and perfect for layering without making you feel dressed for a snowstorm. They’ll keep you comfortable without weighing you down or taking up too much space.

9. Snug Pants

A person is seen buttoning up a pair of teal pants that appear snug around their waist. They are wearing a light-colored, striped t-shirt, with their hands focusing on fastening the button.

Ah, tight pants – the fashion statement that promises style but often delivers discomfort. They might look fantastic in the mirror, hugging all the right places, but they can become your worst enemy on a cruise. 

Cruises are synonymous with relaxation and enjoyment, which extends to your wardrobe. Tight pants can severely limit your ability to move freely and comfortably. Navigating the ship’s narrow staircases, lounging by the pool, or participating in a lively dance night – all these activities become much less fun when you’re constantly adjusting and fidgeting in constricting clothing.

Also, cruises often involve a lot of eating, and those endless buffets are a highlight. Tight pants and expanding waistlines are disastrous, leading to the dreaded after-dinner bloat and discomfort.

You want to enjoy the culinary delights without feeling like your pants are staging a mutiny. Opting for looser, more forgiving attire allows you to savour every bite without a second thought.

Wrapping It Up

By avoiding these wardrobe pitfalls, you’ll ensure your cruise is as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Focus on packing versatile, comfortable, and climate-appropriate clothing, and you’ll be ready for anything your cruise adventure throws your way. Whether you’re lounging by the pool, exploring exotic ports, or dancing the night away, you’ll look and feel your best.

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I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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