Common Sense Tip: Short shorts are best kept to the pool deck or the fitness center. You can push the limits by wearing them to lunch in the lido buffet ... but that's about it. Bathing suits are even more limited and should be worn only at the pool. Appropriate cover ups are required for lido lunching
Indoor fashion diva apparel: This can include walking shorts, slacks, jeans, casual skirts and sundresses. Outdoors, swimsuits and casual shorts or jeans and T-shirt ensembles are the norm onboard.
On Shore: So… if you're heading off to a kayaking expedition or a snorkeling sail, the most casual of clothing is appropriate. If you're heading to shore, what will you be doing? Obviously if you are headed for an iceberg laden sea, you wouldn’t wear what you would to an Austrian symphony. Think off ship activities.
Evenings: Individual ships have daily dress codes -- casual, informal, resort casual and formal. These dress codes apply to public rooms and restaurants from 6 p.m. onward. (Don’t get me wrong, I have been known to scurry back to my cabin and get more comfortable before hitting the night scene on formal night) Ordinarily, on seven night voyages, you can count on two formal nights, a couple of casual evenings and between one and four semiformal occasions. Semiformal occasions on most larger ships equate to a more casual dress. Note: Not a formal night kind of person? You can forego the restaurants and opt for pizza or buffet dining. Disclaimer: This will result in a lack of unimaginable cuisine that you do not normally make for family dinners.
For all but formal evenings (even on the more upscale ships), resort casual is the common dress code. That means elegant attire but not formal. A nice cotton dress or a country club casual pants outfits that would be appropriate at a nice restaurant or a symphony concert on land. I personally opt for black pants and nice tops for most dining experiences. It looks to your dining companions like you have a new outfit each night, but your packing becomes way more simple.
Now for the Guys:
Fashion sense : Consider khakis and a sport jacket – the perfect uniform when accompanied by everything from a polo shirt or (nice) T-shirt or Izod. You can wear this type of outfit most everywhere except formal night dinner. Shirts are always required unless you are hanging out by the pool. Like the ladies, a couple pairs of dark slacks or khakis and your wardrobe is complete for most dinners.
What about Daytime : Shorts are pretty versatile (athletic versions for working out and the pool deck). Jeans and casual khakis are also welcome.
Shore Time: Again, going too casual (tank tops, athletic clothing, scruffy attire) is considered disrespectful in many ports of call. You'll generally be more warmly welcomed in restaurants and shops if you're dressed decently. On active shore excursions or beach days, super casual is just fine.
Evenings: Tuxedos are increasingly being replaced by business suits on formal nights. On some ships, you can rent tuxedos. It is recommend that you do pack a suit and tie because some onboard alternative restaurants are so elegant that you will feel “ like a fish out of water” without them. Other than that, on non-formal nights, khakis or dress pants are your friend.
For One and For All:
Sweaters and Jackets: Embrace the layered look. You will want a rain jacket and sweatshirt on a Caribbean or Hawaii cruise for those less-than-perfect island days. And Alaska cruisers have been known to need everything from bathing suits and short-sleeve tops to warm fleece jackets, hats and gloves; the same goes for cruising round the Horn of South America. Rather than pack clothes for multiple temperatures, bring cardigans or jackets to wear over lighter layers if it gets cold. I can say from personal experience that glacier viewing commands temperatures drops that require coats and gloves in order to be able to comfortably view them for any length of time. Glacier Fans Click Here
Hats: Throw in a hat to protect against the sun or keep your ears warm during scenic glacier cruising, and remember your sunglasses, as well. Consider headbands, bandanas and scarves for practical and style concerns.
Shoes: Try to bring styles that can serve multiple purposes (such as sneakers for the gym and sightseeing and sandals for the pool, hanging out on deck and casual dinners). One pair of dress shoes should work for formal nights. I know this is hard…but do not bring a suitcase full of shoes “because you might need them.” Save that for fashion week in Paris.
Carry Alls: Small backpacks/ fanny packs or totes can be quite useful for carrying cameras, books, sunscreen, water bottles and other items around the ship or in port.
Electronics: If bring your smart phone, don’t forget your charger. Check about foreign country and onboard roaming charges before you turn your phone on mid-cruise; if you bring a laptop or plan on accessing Wi-Fi, inquire about potentially hefty Internet usage rates onboard before logging on. Since many cabins have limited electrical outlets, some folks bring extension cords and power strips.
Beverages: Some cruise lines will let you bring soda and water onboard. Check cruise line requirements, however, as Carnival has banned passengers from bringing bottled beverages onboard. One warning about bringing/packing "liquor": cruise lines have increasingly cracked down on the practice (they'd rather you buy drinks at their bars), so consider yourself warned. Your bottle(s) might be confiscated on arrival depending on the cruise line's policy.
Other Necessities: The ship will normally provide soap and shampoo at the very least (and often body lotion, conditioner and body wash). The same goes for hair dryers. If you can't deal with the low wattage of in-cabin dryers, bring your favorite with you. Additional personal items to consider include any medications you will need sunscreen if sailing in sunny climates.