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10 Ship Tips: What To Wear and How to Prepare for the Perfect Summer Cruise

Anita McLachlan - 6th March 2011

Getting ready for your summer cruise and no idea what to pack? Here's our packing guide to staying stylish on the high seas.

You can pack as much or as little as you want into your Cruise. A bit like your suitcase really.

Hanging out poolside, dining day and night, non-stop entertainment, drinks with names you've never heard before, and someone else doing all the navigating; cruising may just be the ultimate holiday.

Think of your ship as a floating resort, a destination itself, that occasionally sails into town.

1. Plan ahead
If you're like us you'll be so excited that you'll have read the cruise itinerary front-to-back, inside out and upside down before you set foot on board. You'll therefore be well briefed on what's likely to be happening both on board and off, day and night.

Note down the main points, and any land excursions you've booked. Now you know what you have to cater for in your suitcase.

2. Dress Codes and On Board Etiquette
Most cruises are relaxed affairs, and as a rule of thumb you can wear casual dress by day and 'smart casual' by night. Typically there is one 'formal' night a week, so be ready to ramp it up a little with your prettiest cocktail dress (and make sure the boys pack their best jacket).

Etiquette guidelines are worth checking out too. For example, whilst it's okay to be in your bathers poolside, it's not okay to wear them throughout the rest of the ship. So swimwear cover-ups are a must.

3. Luggage Restrictions
Generally airlines impose tighter restrictions on luggage than cruise ships, so space rather than weight is the issue when you're on board. As a rule of thumb you're allowed two 32kg bags per person, but in a small cabin less is definitely more.

4. Laundry
All ships will have either a laundry facility where you can do your own, or offer a laundry service. Use it. Pack for a week and wash as you go. To save money and avoid waiting for your essential items to come back, pack your own small travel clothes line so you can do your smalls and light weight clothes in your cabin.

5. Clothing Essentials
Versatility is the key. Pieces that can be worn during the day, then be dressed up for the evening with a minimum of fuss, are your best friends when it comes to packing light and right. Accessories and extras that will easily change a look when layered over, an absolute must.

Kaftans are a very versatile piece in your armory. They really are the perfect swimwear cover-up: you can wear them like a dress, or belted and tied, they become a top. Choose cool cottons and breathable high quality rayons for day wear and a couple of silk kaftans for night.

Summer Dresses - one that makes you feel fabulous for evening and one that you wear all the time at home. Odds on if you love it at home, you'll love it on holiday.

Layering basics to throw under kaftans/tunics and create multiple looks.

  • Cotton leggings (ditch the synthetics – the humidity will make you sweat)
  • Tank tops are a great layering option too. A little extra warmth and coverage without having you feel over-heated.
  • A slip dress is an absolute must. At night, layer over pants – Neutral tones work best as they will go with everything. Black and white if they work best with your overall packing colour palette.
  • Throw in a couple of fine cotton long sleeves as base layers, or wear them on their own if the weather cools down.

For layering over kaftans and dresses, you can't go past:

  • a well cut denim or neutral light cotton jacket in white or an earthy neutral tone. Not a jacket girl? Then a fine pashmina throw is the go. It will breathe in the heat and double as a go-anywhere blanket; handy when in transit too or when the wind picks up on deck. Wear your 'layering over' option in transit then you don't need to pack it.
  • Even better, a cape or kimono 'vest' that you can wear over your tops and dresses will instantly transform an outfit. Many can double as a swimsuit cover-up by day. Gotta love that!

6. Footwear Must Haves
For on-board wear think stylishly sensible. Flat soles and not too high. Metallic or neutral leather sandals are the most versatile option for day and night. So are 'walk all day long' wedges (espadrilles are fabulous). The heel gives you maximum support whilst not compromising on style. For night, stash a sexier leather version. Leave the joggers for the gym and exercise. You may be on holiday, but there's no need to stand out like a tourist. So three pairs of shoes should do it, tops, plus the ones you wear in transit.

7. Accessories
Pack as many as you can into a clutch that you'll take to dinner and drinks. Accessories don't take up much room and they can transform an outfit from day to night brilliantly! Just changing the colour of a necklace or scarf can breathe new life and freshen up a look instantly.

8. Swimwear
Two sets: one in the wash, one to wear.

9. Hat
A wide brim hat is a must. Look for a travel hat that will roll or fold and then spring back to life when you need it. Not sure how to pack it. Here's how.

10. Rain Jacket
You might never have to use it, but it's worth throwing in a light weight, rain resistant, hooded anorak that rolls down to nothing, for those on-shore excursions when it's showery or windy.

Cruising is fun. Keep things simple and think 'mix-n-match' with versatile separates that will take you from day to night, from poolside to party with effortless ease.

Happy Cruising!

Anita xx
@ Sequins and Sand

File download:

Download File: P&O On Board Guidelines & Etiquette (PDF 3.7 Mb)