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What Clothes To Pack For A Cruise: A Concise Packing List (For Men)

Effortless Gent

by Karlton Miko Tyack  |  in Smart Casual

Heading out into the open seas soon, and want to make sure you’re dressed right? Look no further. We’re gonna cover exactly what clothes to pack for a cruise in this article.

And yes, you’re on a menswear website, so our focus is on tackling that cruise packing list for men. There seem to be more guides out there designed for ladies when it comes to packing for trips. This, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that men’s suitcases are a straight-forward endeavor.

This is true when it comes to packing for a cruise, and especially when figuring out what to include in your vacation wardrobe.

Not all boat holidays are the same. Different parts of the ship have different temperature situations to consider, not to mention the range of programming and points of disembarking—sometimes it feels like you’re packing for every season. Keep reading to get the details!

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If you just need a checklist to start packing, to check over what you’ve already packed, or to jog your memory for things you might’ve forgotten, I’ve listed everything right in this section (we’ll get into each item further down in this article):

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Regardless of whether you’re on a cruise in the Caribbean or a multi-stop European voyage, you’re definitely going to need a few style basics that can be used to create several outfits.

In general, you’ll want to follow the basics and guidelines we outline in our men’s summer fashion article.

We’re assuming a 7-day cruise for this packing list, but if you’re taking a longer 10- or 14-day cruise, you may have to double up on some of these.

When going on a cruise, you should bring at least two different swimsuits. You have the option of buying various quick-drying swim shorts that are comfortable and excellent for catamaran snorkeling trips and beach outings.

Obviously, you’ll go for your favorite colors to wear, though if you’re on a tropical cruise, it’s a good time to experiment with brighter hues and lively patterns if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the opportunity.

If you know the programming will have a white party or a deck cocktail, and if you’re more of a sunbather and feet-dipper, rather than a full-on swimmer, here’s a trick to help you pack more efficiently.

Go for fitted, above-the-knee shorts, in white or cream. If you aren’t planning on getting wet, it’ll serve all of the above purposes.

Last but not least Like its socks or boxer briefs, Mack Weldon has turned its penchant for design and performance into some must-buy swim trunks. These feature four-way stretch fabric and zip front and back pockets to protect your EDC from wind and waves.

Which leads us to our next cruise essential…

When choosing what clothes to pack for a cruise, remember that you’ll always look great in beige or tan shorts with a classic fit

Again, depending on your poolside preferences, jersey or linen shorts will get a ton of mileage on a cruise.

Wearing shorts made of jersey material with pockets is ideal when you’re lounging by the pool, walking around the cruise ship, or visiting the ports, since it’s lightweight and made for comfort and warm weather.

Unless there’s a non-neutral color that you really love and want to wear a lot, shades like gray, navy blue, black, and olive will be the easiest to partner shirts with (in addition to the prior mentioned white or cream).

Khaki pants should always be on your list of what to pack for a cruise. In general, cruises are mostly resort-casual during the day, and chinos are a perfect, elegant approach to a relaxed on-vacation look. Plus, they’re super versatile.

Chinos are ideal for a variety of occasions, including smart casual evenings and events that take place in the ship’s main dining rooms and restaurants

BR has a variety of chinos in different fits and fabric styles, some 100% cotton, others with a bit of stretch for comfort.

Bring along at least one or two pairs of classic pants that you can wear with a button-down shirt or a polo top—a pair of maroon pants might be a fun option.

Long-sleeve linen shirts are worth mentioning. They’re lightweight and look cruise-appropriate, with or without a collar.

Again, because of the casual-leaning nature of cruises, they may not be as versatile as their short-sleeve, collared counterparts (which are perfectly appropriate by the pool and walking around during the day).

But to be honest, I’d recommend a linen shirt for your everyday, walk-around outfit because they look so great in tropical locales (and on ships). They’re flowy and cool, as well, and are easily dressed up or down.

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If you opt to bring a long-sleeve linen shirt, you can pair it with chinos and leather loafers for an elegantly casual dinner look. If you don’t bring one, just replace with a short-sleeve collared shirt and a blazer.

Polo shirts and short-sleeve button-ups, like khaki or linen shorts, can do double and triple duty on basically any kind of cruise.

Fit check!

How Should Polos and Short Sleeve Button Up Shirts Fit?

In fact, unless there is formal programming on the boat, you can likely get away with just packing a polo a day in different colors, since you can wear them with shorts or pants, and with or without a blazer or jacket.

Short-sleeve button-ups are even more versatile since they can sometimes pass as more formal shirts when paired with a sport jacket.

Speaking of jackets, you should probably bring a sport coat. They’re the cherry on top for the resort casual or smart casual outfits you’ll be wearing on the ship.

The one exception is if you’re packing a full suit. If you are strategic with your suit selection, you can skip bringing a sport coat and just wear the suit trousers and jacket separately as needed. (See below for our thoughts on bringing a suit.)

A luxurious, open weave wool silk blend fabric from Italian mill Lanificio di Pray. This perfect relaxed, versatile, warm weather jacket features an unstructured cut with no padding or canvassing.

So what kind of sport coat? I’d recommend a lightweight, unstructured navy jacket made from cotton, linen, silk, wool, or some combination of those. That’s gonna be your most versatile and comfortable jacket. It’ll go with stone chinos, white denim, light grey linen trousers, light khaki chino shorts, everything.

For shoes, you’ll need: One sharp pair of loafers, one pair of white / neutral low-profile leather or canvas sneakers, and a pair of flip-flops or slides for the pool or beach. 

A leather boat shoe (worn with or without socks) could replace both flip flops and sneakers, though if they get scuffed up on the beach or wash away with the waves, you won’t have a backup casual shoe option.

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Most likely, your loafers will see the most use. That’s because they’re a great option for your resort casual outfits. Minimal canvas or white leather sneakers (or boat shoes) are fine too, but how often do we get to step up our style in a fun, OK-to-show-out situation such as a fancy cruise?

Loafers are the most balanced way to approach effortless formality, perfect for a cruise. They can be worn with shorts and they’re great traveling shoes too, since they’re easy to slip on and off.

When it comes to accessories, consider bringing a leather belt, one or two watches, a pair of sunglasses, and one to two hats. You may need one or two ties, too, if you have any formal dinners to attend.

You’ll like this one, too

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For ties, you’re certainly welcome to pack just one, if you’re okay with not mixing it up. And, you can also pack several if you know you’ll be wearing a tie often, and it doesn’t take up packing space from the essentials. Some cruises do have more than one semi-formal in its duration.

For watches, you can bring one, as long as it’s a versatile, luxury sport watch. Most luxury sport watches can be paired with a suit. And if there’s a truly formal, tuxedo-appropriate event, you can just go watchless, per old traditions. Otherwise, bring one dress watch and one casual watch.

To protect yourself from the sun, bring hats and sunglasses—two of each in case you lose one.

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Now that we’ve covered the essentials you’ll need on every cruise, here are some pieces you may need to consider for more specialized situations.

A lot of these can actually take the place of some of the above essentials, if you like, though they aren’t as easily multi-use. Read on to see what I mean!

While you won’t always need a fully formal/black-tie optional situation, you may need at least one proper suit.

If a particular program or time of evening at a ship’s dining hall is truly black tie, you’ll know because the cruise line will fully communicate that to you. However, in the semi-formal or cocktail realm, it’s best to avoid landmines and just bring a suit. 

The perfect suit to have, if you only have one suit. Available in classic colors and a variety of cuts.

When you’re on the boat, you’ll never be that far away from your room, and if you don’t end up wearing the jacket and the pants together, they’ll be effective separates for dinner or drinks.

Even if you don’t wear a dress shirt, you can wear a short-sleeve button-up, camp collar shirt, or ribbed hem polo shirt in its place. Plus, the jacket can serve as a piece of outerwear for places on the boat that are air-conditioned.

If, and only if, there’s formal programming at any point in the cruise, will you need a tuxedo plus all its accoutrement. And typically, the cruise line will be pretty blatant about it in their messaging.

In fact, most cruise lines won’t have anything that formal, and you’ll more likely run into this situation if you’re on a private cruise. Meaning, perhaps the social club you’re in or the company you work for is throwing a special event.

That being the case, there might be a formal dinner with a presentation, maybe there’s a Bond-like casino theme going on, or sometimes one of your stops includes a banquet hall situation. 

These days, you can often wear a crisp black suit to formal events. You’ll just need a different suit, maybe in gray or navy, if there’s a cocktail on another day, so that you can differentiate your formal and cocktail attire.

Similar to a tuxedo, you won’t often need a dress shirt at most resort-style cruises. Naturally, you’ll need at least one or two, if any of the above formal situations are expected.

Otherwise, it’s a matter of how much you want to spruce it up at semi-formals, at dinner, and at cocktail events.

Dress shirts aren’t as versatile as short-sleeve button-ups, when it comes to what goes on during a cruise, but they also don’t take up that much room. 

As always, feel free to pack one or two, if you like, as long as it doesn’t take up the space of an essential.

If you have a nice pair of leather or suede loafers such as what I’ve mentioned above, you can probably get away with that for most resort casual and formal dress codes.

Again, pay attention to the cruise’s schedule of events. If you’re attending a particularly high-end cruise trip, then you may need specific dress shoes like oxfords or bluchers, which are a step above loafers in terms of formality.

If you’re going on a cruise built around a specific hobby or activity, like golfing or hiking, you’ll obviously need to pack accordingly.

You might do some hiking during general travel cruises, in which case your sneakers will do just fine. However, if it’s an actual hiking tour, you’ll need your trail shoes or hiking boots.

Make sure your boots are fully broken in, or you’ll be in a lot of pain during the activities!

Other possible sports clothes and gear you might need include golf cleats, since golf tour cruises are common among hobbyists, and possibly even wetsuits, if you go on a diving cruise. 

Diving cruises typically provide all of the gear though, so it really depends on the cruise line. It’s the same situation with golf gear.

Which leads us to our next topic…

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You’ll probably find soap and shampoo in your stateroom on cruise ships just as you would in a hotel. But, the onboard items might not work well for your hair and skin, or you might not like the scent.

If that sounds like you, then it’s best to bring your own toiletries whenever possible—especially if you have allergies.

Since you’ll be under the sun a lot, sunscreen is also very important!

Pack more than you believe you’ll require because it might be challenging to get your preferred brands in ports outside of the country and cruise liners often charge exorbitant fees for the sale of necessities.

Not all of us have the good fortune to live within a couple of hours drive of a major seaport. The majority of cruise passengers must either fly or drive to their embarkation port, which means they must pack for both modes of transportation. 

Accessories for the airplane, such as a neck cushion, eye mask, or noise-canceling headphones, should be included for lengthy flights and overnight flights leading up to a cruise vacation. 

If you have a pre-cruise hotel stay planned, you might want to think about packing the essentials for that extended stay in a separate bag so that you won’t have to unpack as well as repack your primary suitcase.

This will save you time and energy.

You’re going to want to bring your tablet computer or an electronic book reader with you for both the pre-cruise travel and if you want to relax with a good book, or audio book, under the sun while you’re on the boat. 

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Try this:

Choosing one option from each line is a simple outfit option that would cover a wide range of cruise dress codes (or lack of dress codes).

Of course, if you’re attending a formal event or lounging by the pool, you’ll need something a bit different. See the above article for all our suggestions.

If you follow the Lean Wardrobe philosophy, most / all of your individual items can be mixed and matched into a number of wardrobes, so you don’t have to bring tons of stuff.

In general, you should carry enough clothing to make at least 6-7 outfits (individual items can be repeated in several of these outfits, of course). Depending on the cruise program, you will need a mix of formal / semi-formal outfits and resort casual outfits.

You’ll also need pool and loungewear, and practical attire for adventures on dry land.

The goal here is to be casual, yet put together and stylish. Try tailored shorts, linen shirts, and minimal canvas or leather sneakers, for starters. This will take you from the deck to the dock, throughout the towns you’re exploring, and back again.

Don’t forget your accessories, like a straw panama hat, a handkerchief or bandana (to wipe your hands or sweaty brow) and classically shaped sunglasses for a bit of sun protection.

Yes, jeans are generally OK on a cruise, particularly during the day or in casual settings. For max versatility, bring a pair of clean, dark wash, straight leg jeans with minimal distressing and fading. These can easily be dressed up or down.

It’s best to avoid distressed or overly casual jeans. They’re not as versatile and may not be suitable for some dining venues or formal events on board.

Shorts are perfectly fine for daytime activities, though they are most likely not appropriate for the cruise ship’s formal dining settings and events. To be safe, wear trousers or chinos paired with a collared shirt for a more polished, dinner-appropriate look.

The more casual dining venues or buffet-style restaurants may be more lenient with their dress code, allowing shorts during meal times.

Smart casual attire for men on a cruise ship might include dress chinos or tailored trousers, a crisp button-down shirt or ribbed hem polo shirt, and a lightweight sport coat. Finish the look with loafers or dress shoes, a clean dress belt, and a refined watch.

The smart casual dress code allows for a more relaxed vibe while still maintaining a refined appearance, perfect for most cruise ship events and dining venues.

You can probably leave these things at home:

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When traveling on a cruise, it’s common to bring too many clothes and forget everything else.

When you take your luggage out of the closet and start packing for your next trip, refer to this list so that you can make sure you have everything you need, not only in terms of clothing but also the accessories and toiletries you’ll need. 

Most importantly, loosen up and enjoy yourself. You’re going on a cruise! If you have any more questions on what to pack for a one or two week cruise, you can DM us on Instagram anytime.

Published on March 28, 2023

Category: Smart Casual

Tags: casual, clothing, lifestyle

I’ve distilled the perfect casual wardrobe down to 11 essentials every Effortless Gent needs in his closet. They’re the basic ingredients of your wardrobe. Can I send you my list of essentials? 👇🏽

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