What to wear on your winter sun cruise

Packing for a winter sun getaway doesn’t have to be tricky…

There is no doubt about it: the weather in January is miserable. But at least you’ve developed a formula for dressing in the ever-present rain, snow, sleet and wind. However, if you are lucky enough to be heading off on a short sojourn to warmer climes, or taking a cruise somewhere a little more tropical for some winter sun, you might be feeling a little off-balance when it comes to packing.

The key is understanding the myriad dress codes set out by cruises and knowing how to pack without taking your entire wardrobe. Daytime wear is generally casual, so the pressure on your sartorial choices is left to the evening.

Traditionally, cruises have multiple dress codes which vary according to the evening’s theme: formal, semi-formal, cocktail etc. Depending on where you are dining, you may also need to check the dress code for the restaurant or dining room you have chosen.

But you don’t have to pack in the dark: most cruise line websites have sections dedicated to dress-codes and your itinerary should indicate what dress codes have been assigned for each day. Cruise Critic put together a useful round-up of dress-codes for each of the major lines.

Here is a very simplified way to think about cruise ship dress codes:

  • Casual: Polo shirts and trousers
  • Smart Casual: Collared shirt, jackets/blazers and ties
  • Formal: Suits and ties or tuxedos

You will also hear the term ‘resort casual’ used. Interpret this as elegant clothing that you may wear to a nice restaurant or bar on land. A tie is a good bet here to avoid looking too casual.

Despite the holiday vibe, shorts and t-shirts are never acceptable in the dining rooms. Although you may now be thinking about jeans, even dark well-cared for ones are generally a no-go in main dining areas but are acceptable in the ship’s more casual restaurants and cafes.

Now that we have the codes and rules out of the way, it’s time to pack.

Here is my guide to packing for a cruise:

  1. Pack a combination of smart casual shirts, trousers, blazers and ties that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits. Navy and charcoal blazers are hard-working options that go with a variety of shirt and trouser colour-ways.
  2. Add in a couple of polo shirts. You will get great wear from these during the day with shorts, and dressed up with a blazer and chinos in the evening.
  3. Classic white shirts are a must for your suitcase; however, a subtle print can liven up an outfit if a tie isn’t required. We have some classic options if you are in need of shirt inspiration.
  4. A linen suit in a lighter colour is a sensible addition and will work well for lunchtimes, daytime occasions and cocktails where darker colours can feel oppressive. There is nothing worse, however, than an ill-fitting linen suit (think 1980’s over-sized, rumpled creations), so bespoke or made-to-measure is highly recommended. If you aren’t a fan of linen’s ability to crush in your suitcase, we have some great fabrics which reflect the nature, colour and appeal of linen but are sophisticated alternatives that don’t crease.
  5. Nights on deck can be cool and quite breezy, particularly if you will be in the northern hemisphere at this time of year. Beat the sea breeze by layering a jumper in light-weight merino or cashmere under your blazer.
  6. Formal night dress. Tuxedos are becoming less common, and most cruise lines will accept a dark business suit. But it’s a special occasion, right? If you want to dust off that tuxedo and embrace full black tie – go for it!
  7. Three pairs of shoes – no more! Colour coordinate your outfits so you only have to take one pair of shoes for evening, one for daytime dining and one casual pair. It’s also a good idea to wear your heaviest shoes on the plane or when you embark as this will save weight and space in your suitcase.
  8. Don’t forget your accessories. Ensure you pack ties, collar stays and cufflinks. While novelty ties are never okay, let your personality shine through with your cufflinks – perhaps these shark jawbone cufflinks to take the nautical theme a bit further?

You can find more winter getaway ideas and packing tips in my post Where to go and what to pack on a winter escape.

Bon voyage!