Women: What to wear on your next cruise

If you are female and have booked your first cruise the chances are you are agonising over exactly what to put in your suitcase. Fashion guru Jan Shure offers her advice.

By Jan Shure on 28 September 2012 in Travel Articles

You have heard (and probably read in the cruise literature) about "formal nights" and, unless you are going on a line such as Ocean Village, which makes a virtue of its informality, you are right now panicking at the possibility that you will have to go out and buy a half-dozen new evening frocks.

While it is never a bad idea to go shopping for a gorgeous, posh frock you don't actually need to buy a long or very formal gown unless you really want to. Cocktail and short evening wear is perfectly acceptable on even the most glamorous and up-scale ships, providing you look as if you have ramped up the glam quotient with high-octane accessories and jewellery.

If you are cruising for just a week, your itinerary will probably feature two formal nights. You could either pack two cocktail dresses, or one cocktail dress plus some infinitely versatile evening separates. Palazzo pants or the fresher, very on-trend harem or peg-top trousers in silk or satin, can be worn with a glamorous little silk or lace vest top for formal nights, and with something more covered up and casual for other evenings.

Alternatively, an on-the-knee skirt in satin, ottoman, georgette, leather or velvet (depending on the season and the temperature of the region where you are cruising) can, likewise, be dressed up with lace vests and pretty blouse, or dressed down with silk T-shirt.

One way to ramp up the glamour for dressier evenings is to add crystal-embellished sandals and a fabulous and very on-trend clutch bag. And do add fabulous jewellery which, does not, by the way, have to be real (personal security issues while passing through airports, and transferring to ports lead most women to leave their real rocks at home, and wear the copies), fabulous fakes or some of the stunning costume jewellery currently around.

Long, drop earrings or bold, statement necklaces or statement cuffs (but not all together) can glam up the simplest outfit. And if you are wearing anything bare, do remember to pack a pashmina – you may have to go on deck to reach the restaurant or the bar, and sea breezes can sometimes be cool after the sun has set. Remember, too, that restaurants cooled to the temperatures preferred by American guests can sometimes lead to goosebumps if you don't have a cover-up.

For non-formal nights, the kind of dress or smart separates that would work at dinner in any chi-chi resort will be perfect on board ship, again paired with great accessories.

For days on board ship, the rule is resort clothes: if you are sailing in sunny climes, that means fabulous swimwear, plus cover-ups and casual pieces to wear at breakfast and lunch. In a cool climate, pack those sporty pieces – sweaters, jeans, cardis, jackets and scarves. And don't neglect to pack a warm hat – if it is a chilly region, it is even colder at sea.

Wherever you are going, what you will do on shore and the appropriate dress for climate and culture will determine the rest of your daytime wardrobe. A great summer dress, or a stylish skirt and some tops, can be worn for a sightseeing-and-shopping day with flat shoes and a big, slouchy bag, then do double service for evening with heels and a clutch, plus jewellery.

For more adventurous day-trips, ensure you have appropriate outdoor clothing and, for walking or climbing, including trainers, perhaps a hat and maybe a small backpack that leaves your hands free while hiking or climbing.

Jan Shure is director of online fashion portal SoSensational


Anna Kirsen, Bristol, UK

My husband and I booked a Monaco Grand Prix package with an online F1 tour operator and I packed thinking that being aboard a yacht would be the same as being aboard a cruise ship. How wrong I was! Had to leave the high heels ashore as you can't wear shoes on board a yacht!

11 October, 2012

Stephanie Diehl, Illinois

I agree and definitely bring costume jewelery & smart classic styles always travel well.

7 March, 2010

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