11 Clothing Items You Shouldn't Wear on a Cruise
Hit the sea in style with these expert-approved tips.
You've booked the cruise of your dreams and you're ready to set sail. That is, you will be once your bags are packed. But if deciding what to take makes you feel lost at sea, worry not—the key, experts say, is to blend comfort and style while being mindful of just a few simple rules to dressing on deck. By leaving certain things at home, you'll not only meet the dress code but also avoid wardrobe malfunctions and earn style points. Read on to learn which 10 clothing items you should never wear on a cruise.
Excessively revealing swimwear
When you go on a cruise, you're likely to spend time lounging by the pool and visiting beaches at various ports. Though swimwear tends to be revealing in general, experts advise leaning conservative on cruises, which are billed as family affairs.
"Comfort is king, of course, but it's good manners to strike a balance between relaxation and respect for others," explains Elaine Warren, founder and CEO of The Family Cruise Companion. "While the sun might be beckoning, super-revealing swimwear or outfits can be a bit much for some fellow cruisers. Think stylish yet modest when you're wandering the ship's decks," she suggests.
Several of the experts we spoke to said that you should also leave all camouflage clothing items behind when you go on a cruise.
"Camouflage clothing is a big no for cruises," says Sarah Murphy, an outdoor adventure expert, professional travel photographer, and founder of Explore More NC. "It is not just a fashion statement—in destinations such as Jamaica, Antigua, and St. Lucia, wearing such apparel is reserved exclusively for military personnel," she explains.
Suzanne Bucknam, CEO of the travel site Connecticut Explorer, agrees that camouflage clothing should be nixed from your suitcase, and adds that it's always wise to learn the local customs in the various places you may visit. "For example, some Catholic churches require visitors to cover their upper arms, and skirts or shorts must be longer than knee-length," she notes.
Bathrobes, pajamas, and slippers
Comfort should be a priority on any vacation. However, unlike certain resorts where bathrobes and slippers might fit right in, cruises often come with elevated expectations for clothing.
"Strolling the ship's corridors in your coziest PJs or robe? Not the best look. Keep that comfy feel to your cabin or special themed nights," advises Warren. This is especially true in the evening hours when more formal attire is usually expected.
Graphic tees that could offend
There are plenty of ways to express yourself through fashion without resorting to offensive slogans or images on your t-shirts. Warren says you should be mindful of others when you make your packing list, and not assume that everyone is in on the joke.
"Shirts or items flaunting offensive graphics or language? Best left at home," she says. "Cruises are all about shared experiences, so it's kind to consider the vibe of the whole ship."
Choosing the right footwear can also transform your trip. Though you may wish to bring some low heels for formal evening events, it's best to avoid any shoes that leave you feeling unstable, since the boat may rock subtly underfoot.
This is especially important if you're heading out for a prolonged walk, says James Smith, founder of Travel-Lingual: "You're probably picturing yourself strolling down the Promenade in stiletto heels, but rest assured, comfort is essential on board. You'll be walking around the ship a lot, whether it's for sightseeing or for shore excursions, so make sure you bring comfortable, supportive footwear for those walks."
Leaving your most precious pieces of jewelry at home can lower your odds that they will be lost or stolen.
"Although cruising is generally very secure, it's always a good idea to leave your most expensive and sentimental possessions at home," says Smith. "Instead of bringing a full jewelry box, choose a few versatile pieces you can wear with multiple outfits. It's all about finding the perfect balance between being comfortable, stylish, and practical."
Baseball caps and athletic wear in the dining room
While it's perfectly practical to pack athletic wear for the gym and a baseball hat to cover up from the sun poolside, these are items that you should leave behind when you're heading for the dining room, says Murphy. This is also true of athleisure wear, which walks a fine line between gym attire and everyday clothing.
Bathing suits in the dining room
Another thing you'll want to avoid wearing in the dining room is your bathing suit. "Although you are on vacation and might want to spend every minute of the day lounging by the pool, swimwear is generally not considered appropriate dining attire on cruise ships," says Marcello De Lio, co-founder of High Seas Cruising.
Most cruise lines don't actually allow swimwear in the main dining room. "Even when it is allowed, you will get looks from the other passengers," De Lio adds.
Leather or suede items
As you pack, you may also want to avoid any items made of leather or suede, says Luke Xavier, travel expert and founder of the travel and cruise site USA Rover. This would include shoes, belts, luggage, and accessories.
"The sea air can damage these materials. Stick to cotton, linen, or synthetic fabrics that can better withstand humidity," he tells Best Life.
Uncomfortable evening wear
You'll want to plan carefully to hit the mark on evening wear. These days, formal events on board call for both elegance and comfort.
Warren says that while many cruise lines have eased up on their formal dress codes, you should still put in effort to preserve the night's glamor. "When it comes to the main dining room or those glittering formal nights, sticking to the suggested dress code adds to the ambiance," she says, adding the reminder that you're "celebrating the magic of evenings at sea."
That said, Smith says you can "forget the tuxedo and ball gown unless you're going on a luxury cruise where formal evenings are the order of the day… Stick to smart-casual outfits; you'll look good and feel good."
Anything that bucks the dress code
Before you depart for your voyage, it's always a good idea to take a good, long look at the cruise company's dress code, says Smith. This will help you meet the requirements for various activities on board by defining broad terms like "casual" and "formal," which can be left open to wide interpretation.
If something is expressly forbidden on your ship, it's of course best to leave that item at home. This will save you the embarrassment and inconvenience of being asked to change.
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