9 Things You Should Never Wear On A Cruise

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The dress code on a cruise is a little more complicated than ‘anything goes’.

Unless you want the role of ‘most memorable passenger’ for all the wrong reasons, here are nine things that you most definitely shouldn’t pack for your next cruise…

1. Sky High Heels

a woman wearing high heels on the wet and slippy deck of a cruise ship

Even if you’re used to wearing five-inch stilettos on a night out, you might want to consider leaving them at home on a cruise. 

Once the ship starts rocking, walking is only going to get more tricky. Combine that with a drinks package and you have a recipe for a broken ankle. The smooth outdoor decks can be particularly slippy, especially if they’re a little wet from rain or pool splashes. 

Wearing super high heels on a cruise is like wearing skis in a ballet – a spectacular performance nobody asked for. So save the acrobatics for the professionals and opt for shoes that don’t double as impromptu ice skates. Remember, the only thing you want to go overboard is your sense of adventure, not you in your high heels.

2. Offensive T-Shirts

A mean wearing an offensive t-shirt (blurred out)

Wearing a shirt that screams “I make questionable decisions!” in bold, offensive print might seem like a laugh at home, but on a cruise, it’s a no-go. It’s the fashion equivalent of bringing a whoopee cushion to a funeral.

Most cruises are filled with either older people, or parents of kids who are old enough to read. And neither of those are going to appreciate your offensive slogans. 

3. Fancy Dress Costumes

A man dressed as a clown on a cruise

A few years ago, someone decided to dress as a clown on a cruise. The cruise line had a policy of ‘no fancy dress’, and so some guests took offence to the outfit. The result was a mass brawl with plates and furniture being used as weapons. Six people were assaulted and two people were arrested once the ship docked in Southampton.

Of course, there are some cruises where fancy dress is okay, such as Pirate Night on a Disney cruise, where it’s encouraged. But don’t just turn up in a costume for no reason, as the other guests probably won’t like it. And you’ll look silly.

4. Swimwear In The Dining Areas

A man wearing a swimsuit at the buffet

Strolling into the dining area in your swimwear is akin to showing up to a job interview in your pyjamas – sure, you’re comfortable, but you’re also the only one who is. It’s a buffet, not a pool party, so you’re going to have to throw on some clothes.

A simple beach cover-up is all that’s required for ladies or a vest for the chaps. Don’t forget some shoes though, you can’t go in there in bare feet either.

Of course, if you can’t bear the idea of getting dressed, or perhaps your swimsuit is still wet from the pool, then almost all cruise ships have outdoor snack bars. Here you can walk up and grab a burger, fries or a slice of pizza to take back to your sun lounger, no problem.

5. Casual Clothes on Formal Nights

Ah, formal night: when a cruise ship turns into a sea of tuxedos and evening gowns, and you show up in denim. Formal night is optional of course, so if jeans are all you’ve packed then you’ll be welcome to eat in the buffet or order room service.

The cruise lines vary in terms of ‘how formal is formal night’. On a recent P&O Cruise, my husband was wearing a smart suit with nice shoes, a tie and a waistcoat. He was turned away from the main dining room because he didn’t have a jacket. He explained that it was far too hot to wear a jacket in the Mediterranean and looking around the restaurant, everyone else’s jackets were on the back of their chairs.

Apparently, the jacket was required to walk from the entrance to our table ten feet away. Just as he was about to ask a fellow diner if he could borrow their jacket for the journey, the maitre d’ agreed to let him in.

To be on the safe side, gents will require a full suit with a jacket and tie and ladies will need a nice dress or trouser suit. You really can’t be too formal, so if you want to go full penguin and sparkles, you’ll fit right in.

Suggested read: The Best Cruise Dresses for Formal Night

6. Camo or Military Apparel

A person wearing a camo tshirt in the Caribbean

You’re on a ship, not in stealth mode, so why the camouflage?

Seriously though, in certain ports in the Caribbean, wearing camo clothing is illegal. And the ban on camouflage often encompasses all types of camo patterns, not just those that closely resemble the military uniforms of the country. This means even camo-patterned accessories, such as hats, bags, or shoes, might be frowned upon or could lead to issues with local authorities.

If you’re planning a cruise that includes stops in any of these locations, it’s wise to leave the camo gear at home to avoid any legal complications or disrespecting local laws and customs.

7. Heavy Outerwear for Warm Destinations

Sure, you’re prepared for a blizzard, but you’ll also be sweating like a contestant on a cooking show when the sun comes out. Packing bulky coats for a cruise to warm destinations also takes up unnecessary suitcase space. 

Of course, what you consider warm may vary. I recently took a Mediterranean cruise in January where I was sweating in my shorts and t-shirt. Meanwhile, the Italians and Spanish on board were wearing puffa jackets and scarves on what they considered to be a chilly day.

My suggestion is to pack light, layer up, and save the polar expedition gear for actual polar expeditions. But even if you’re cruising to the Caribbean, bring a cardigan or sweater, as the ship’s aircon can be a bit fierce sometimes.

8. Too Much Jewellery

Decking yourself out in bling on a cruise might make you feel like royalty, but it also turns you into a walking treasure chest for pirates – or, more likely, pickpockets.

Think less “crown jewels” and more “casually jewelled.” Remember, the only thing you want to attract attention as you wander around a city abroad is your dazzling personality, not your personal wealth display.

9. Tight Pants

a woman struggling to button tight trousers

Wearing tight trousers on a cruise, or anywhere for that matter, can be a fashion faux pas for several reasons, not least of which is the comfort factor.

Imagine navigating the endless buffet lines, indulging in the five-course dinners, or simply lounging in a deck chair with trousers that feel like a vice grip around your waist. Tight trousers leave little room for the inevitable holiday weight fluctuation, making it difficult to enjoy your vacation fully.

If you really do want to wear your favourite pair of skin-tight leather pants, I suggest wearing them on the first day and saving the floaty dresses for later in the cruise when you’ll be thankful for the extra space around your waist.

The Bottom Line

So, now you know what not to wear on a cruise. The next step is to make sure you pack everything you should wear – because going naked is frowned up too, on most cruises at least.

Read this next to make sure you pack everything: Guide To What To Wear On A Cruise.


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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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1 thought on “9 Things You Should Never Wear On A Cruise”

  1. Do any of the sailings have cruises specifically for Transwoman and lgbtq etc
    I did ask the question previously


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