What to take with you on a sea cruise
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea.
Besides incurring the wrath of her male travelling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny wardrobes. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself.
Following that advice is getting easier these days because, for the most part, cruising has become a much more casual holiday -- even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it's just more economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.
The Female Wardrobe
First Things First: Short shorts are best kept to the pool deck or at the gym. You can stretch it by wearing them to lunch in the lido buffet ... but that's it. swimming costumes or bikinis are even more limited and should be worn only at the pool (though appropriate cover-ups are fine for lido lunching).
The Daytime Guide: Good bets for indoor activities include walking shorts, casual trousers, jeans, casual skirts and sundresses. Outdoors, of course, swimsuits and, again, casual shorts or jeans and T-shirt ensembles are de rigueur.
On Shore: Rules of taste vary; if you're heading off to a kayaking expedition or a snorkelling sail, the most casual of clothing is appropriate. If you're heading into town, opt for those items specified above in "Daytime Guide."
Evenings: Cruise ships assign daily dress codes -- casual, informal, resort casual, formal -- that take effect in public rooms and restaurants from 6 p.m. onward. (Daytime is always casual.) Normally, on seven-night trips, you can count on two formal nights, a couple of casual evenings and between one and four semiformal occasions.
For all but the most formal of evenings (even on the more upscale ships), resort casual is the common dress code. That means elegant attire, though not in the silk gown milieu. Think flowing cotton dresses or silky mix-and-match pants outfits that would be appropriate at a nice restaurant or a symphony concert on land.
The Male Wardrobe
First Things First: Consider khakis and a navy sport jacket -- a can't-miss uniform when accompanied by everything from a polo shirt or (nice) T-shirt to an Oxford. You can wear this type of outfit just about anywhere but dinner on formal night. Also, unless you're by the pool, some kind of shirt is required.
The Daytime Guide: Shorts are pretty versatile (sports versions for the gym and the pool deck, not-quite-knee-length for indoor activities). Jeans and casual khakis work, too. T-shirts and sports shirts go everywhere.
On Shore: Again, going too casual (vest, scruffy jeans, any kind of athletic get-up) is considered disrespectful in many ports of call. And let's face it: You'll generally be more warmly welcomed in restaurants and shops if you're dressed nicely. The only caveat for men is the same as for women: On active shore excursions or beach days, ultra-casual is just fine.
Evenings: You can pack a tuxedo -- hey, if the mood strikes, you've got a much more elegant photo op -- but tuxes are increasingly being outnumbered by suits or a jacket on formal nights. On some ships, you can rent tuxedos. But, for most folks, we'd recommend that you do pack at least a suit and tie because some onboard alternative restaurants are so elegant that you really will feel out of place without them, including onboard Cunard and P&O ships. And don't forget the shoes to match.
Sweaters and Jackets: Embrace the layered look. You will want a rain jacket and sweatshirt on a Caribbean or Hawaii cruise for those less-than-perfect island days. And Norwegian Fjord cruisers have been known to need everything from swimwear and short-sleeve tops to warm fleece jackets, hats and gloves; the same goes for cruising round the Horn of South America and Alaska. Rather than pack clothes for multiple temperatures, bring cardigans or jackets to wear over lighter layers if it gets cold.
Hats: Throw in a hat to protect against the sun or keep your ears warm during scenic glacier cruising, and remember your sunglasses, as well. Consider headbands and scarves for practical and style concerns.
Shoes: Ladies especially should try not to pack a suitcase full of shoes. Try to bring styles that can serve multiple purposes (such as trainers that go from gym to sightseeing or comfy sandals that work as well by the pool as they do at a casual dinner). Colour coordinate your formalwear so you only have to pack one pair of dress shoes.