What to wear on a cruise

Lynnette Peck / 26 May 2016

If you're struggling to whittle down your suitcase when packing for your cruise, we're here to help...



With one in eight foreign package holidays booked in the UK taking place aboard a cruise ship, cruising is now worth £2bn to the UK economy. And no wonder; it’s a great way to see lots of places on one holiday and there is a huge diversity of interests catered for on board.

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Once you’ve booked your cruise holiday, checked your passport is not out of date, told all your friends and family you’re going away, and you’re essentially all set, then next is the dilemma of what to pack and wear. You might be away for a couple of weeks or for a few months, but once you start packing, you’ll probably remember that the fun of filling a suitcase is never that much fun in reality. We’re here to gently guide you, so you pack only what you will wear; no more and no less.

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What luggage to take

Check the weight restrictions on luggage with your tour operator, but generally cruise passengers can have two 20kg suitcases per person, plus one item of hand luggage. Hard suitcases are good quality and durable but weight can be an issue, so if you opt for soft suitcases they will be lighter and have the additional bonus of being able to slide under your cabin bed. And remember, whilst cruise ships may not usually be strict on luggage, if you are flying to the port then you will need to abide by the airline luggage rules.

Pack smart

Once you check your bags on to the ship they then go through security checks so may not appear in your cabin for a few hours. We suggest you pack a smaller carry-on bag filled with the essentials – swimwear, sun cream, sunglasses, medication and a camera are good starting points (just remember to decant any sun cream or other liquids into individual bottles of no more than 100ml, and pop them into a transparent plastic bag to get through airport security).

Cruise packing checklist

  • Underwear/socks – the basics
  • Swimwear – for pools and hot tubs on deck and when using spa facilities
  • Sun hat/sunglasses – the sun can be a lot stronger at sea
  • Raincoat/light jacket – perfect for both cooler climates and tropical locations
  • Tank tops/t-shirts – the basics
  • Pashmina/shawl/cardigans – it can get chilly on deck at night and some dining rooms are heavily air conditioned
  • Trousers/shorts – the basics
  • Dresses: day/evening – pack both as sightseeing by day and dinners by night will require different styles
  • Shoes: beach/walking/formal – decks can be slippery so bear this in mind and take at least one pair of shoes that give you sturdy footing.

If you know you are an over-packer, then once you have laid out all the items you wish to take, cut the clothes by half and shoes by a third.

Make a summer splash

The cruise blogger’s wardrobe

Expert cruiser and blogger Danielle Fear from cruisemiss.com says:

1) Always pack a little bit of everything, but cool and comfy is the key, especially for warm voyages.

2) I always like to make sure that I pack at least two pairs of trousers that are just a little bit too big for me. With all that delicious food on a Saga cruise, you may be glad of the extra room by the end of it!

3) Don’t forget your swimwear, as even if it is too cold to use the outdoor pool cruise ships like Saga Sapphire offer a rather impressive indoor pool – and the water is warm too!

4) Always pack a trusted pair of comfy shoes for your days ashore; there’s nothing worse than blisters when you’re on holiday.

5) A light cardigan is always recommended; in the height of summer even the Mediterranean can get a little chilly in the evening on the open decks. Don’t worry too much if you forget to pack one, as Saga provide blankets for use on the open deck.

Find out how you can dine out on a diet

What to wear for dinner on board

Many people who are new to cruising worry about formal dinners and having to sit with the same people every night - but the truth is that many of the rules of the past are now more relaxed. On Saga ships passengers choose what time to eat in the ship’s restaurants at no extra cost and open seating policies are now common with many companies. Dress codes are still adhered to but tend to be less strict and usually it is shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops that are discouraged for diners – but this rule applies for many restaurants on land too. Most evening wear is now referred to as ‘resort casual’ and this simply means they prefer you to look smart – this runs from jumpsuits and cocktail dresses to skirts and tops. Ask your tour operator if you are confused about specific rules on the ship you will be going on.

Find your perfect Saga ocean cruise


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.