What I take on a cruise

The Suitcase

A 20/22 inch suitcase. It does expand, but I do not take it expanded. I can expand it if needed on the way back. That way I have room for souvenirs. I have recently changed to a 20 inch suitcase – still works for me. I actually usually check this bag.

Remember, in addition to this small suitcase, I also take a small carry on case. Usually something like a duffel or large tote.


I wear one pair of jeans or yoga pants, and take one pair of something I can dress up (slacks, palazzo, etc), and one “other”. These are my spare casual pants. You could substitute a skirt, shorts, or something else if you prefer. Often I take black pants, but the color needs to go with the rest of your clothes. Blue jeans would work just as well. If you are going to Europe, make sure the jeans are nice looking – no holey, ratty jeans. So I have with me a total of 3 pairs of pants, including what I am wearing.


Don’t take ratty shorts with you. Even if you have old cut off jeans, just get them hemmed (use iron on fusible webbing to hem them if you have to). Take jeans that are not full of holes. They don’t have to be new, but try to make them something your sister, girl friend or wife won’t be embarrassed to be seen with you. For casual pants, you can wear chino, Docker, or even linen style pants. If they are nice chinos, I’ve even seen men wear them with sports jackets for formal nights.


One pair is heels for formal wear, one pair is for walking (usually sneakers for me) and the other pair is just to throw on when your feet are tired. These are hopefully slip on shoes you can wear on the plane. I’ve been known to take Keds slip ons for this pair. In a pinch, I just take two pairs depending on what I am planning on.


Men can get by with a lot fewer shoes. I’ve seen sneakers used as all purpose shoes, especially leather black sneakers. This is usually by those men that dress more casually. Few men actually wear formal shoes or lace up dress shoes. Slip on loafers are a good choice for informal and formal nights. Some men even wear boots instead of shoes.

Formal Wear

Note the heels are the ones listed above, and the pants are listed above. I take two silky jacket/shirts and two tanks to go under them. This is a good place to add jewelry and scarves. Also these items are kind of mix and match. These items are things you would wear out to a fine restaurant, maybe opera (if its not a real formal place). You could replace one of these tops and jackets with a dress. If you do, make sure the jacket goes well with it. Since ships tend to be air conditioned, a cover up is often desired – use the jacket or a shawl, but take something. Formal dresses are always an option on a cruise. But beware, not all cruises are formal. Some have what the call ‘Gala’ night, not formal night. That may be more of party style than formal.


For men formal can be a tuxedo, it can be slacks with a dress shirts, tie (optional) and jacket, or it can slacks, mock turtleneck, and a jacket. Even a polo shirt with tie can replace a shirt and tie. Jackets can be just a sports coat and not a business or formal jacket.

Informal Wear

For informal, but not casual nights I can wear the evening pants listed above. I take a white blouse, then two other nicer tops. Think something you would wear to a nicer dinner, but not fine dining place. Just an FYI – I consider fine dining someplace with a dress code asking men to wear jackets.

So the difference between casual and informal wear is sometimes grey. It could be a dress for a woman, but its kind of the difference between day time work clothes (possibly informal), and off duty clothes (sundress is definitely casual).

For a man informal could be a dress shirt without a tie, and casual could be a short sleeve printed shirt. And yes, some guys just wear a colored tee shirt as casual wear. As long as it fits and looks decent, that’s okay too. If it has stains, holes, is stretched out, holey – maybe not the best look.

Tee Shirts

I just take a variety of solid and print t-shirts. I figure take 7-9 of them. If I were going to cold weather climates, I would add in some longer sleeve tees, and less short sleeve.

Men can get by with colored tees, polo shirts, shirts, camp shirts, etc. as day to day wear. And yes, I’ve seen guys wear their tee shirts day, night, casual, informal, and formal (with a jacket).


I don’t wear tanks often, but if its a hot climate its nice to have a few. If you wear tanks more then tees, flip these around and take more tanks and less tees. Again solids or prints, whichever you prefer. If it were expected to be cold, I probably would not take any tanks unless they were for layering under clothes.


The staples are items I don’t do without. One is a sweater, mine is cashmere. You can wear it for evenings with jewelry or a scarf, or you can just throw it over your shoulders and tie it in front. I’ve needed this sweater more times then I care to admit. I actually take it in my carry on.

The jacket is for wandering around the cruise ship, in cool rooms. I like it to have pockets so I don’t have to carry a purse while on the cruise ship. Depending on your preference, it could be a knit material, cotton, more formal collared jacket, etc. But for evenings in the dining room its nice to have. If it were cold weather I would add or substitute a heaver jacket, maybe polar fleece. I try to make this the jacket I wear on my flight.

The spare pants, listed above are great to have in case of emergency. When your other pants/jeans need to be washed, you have something to wear.

Basics are your basic essentials – bras, panties, undies, undershirts, socks, jammies, etc.