Cruisewear for men: What guys should pack for a cruise
Perhaps one of the most understated joys of cruising is that you only have to unpack once. The challenge lies in what to pack in the first place. While some may say that guys have it easier than women, choosing the right cruisewear for men can be just as tricky.
No matter the destination, men will need certain clothing essentials for a cruise that they might not need for other vacations. This can range from attire for formal or themed nights to the right outfits for a range of activities in port.
For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.
If you’re wondering exactly what you need to wear on a cruise — or need to assist your husband, father, son, partner or male friend — we’ve got you covered with helpful specifics on the perfect cruisewear for men. Read on to discover what guys should pack for their next cruise.
What should men wear during the day on a cruise?
Most cruises are casual getaways during the day. Pack and dress for the kind of activities you’ll enjoy on board, whether it’s lounging at the pool (a rash guard, swim trunks, flip-flops and a hat), sweating it out in the gym (athleticwear and sneakers) or hanging out with a book or card game in a lounge (shorts or jeans and a comfortable top).
Daytime dress can be a bit more elevated on Europe cruises, as well as ships with older or wealthier clientele. This more refined style can best be described as resort casual, where you’ll find mostly polos and collared shirts during the day. Linen or khaki pants or Bermuda shorts complete the look.
Don’t forget to pack appropriate clothing for activities in port. You’ll want to dress in layers, bring a hat for sun protection, a jacket or vest for cool mornings or windy afternoons, and wear sturdy shoes for hikes or sneakers for exploring a town. Tote around beach flip-flops for a quick change if you’re mixing up beach time with excursions that require more walking.
What’s acceptable attire for men for dinner on casual evenings?
Across all cruise lines, table service dinners will always feel more elevated, often the only time of day when a dress code is clearly communicated. That said, casual evenings have become more casual, especially on the big-ship lines – which can be a relief to men who don’t want to schlep their workweek suits on vacation with them.
As a general guideline, if you’re at a table service restaurant for dinner (whether it be the main dining room or a specialty restaurant on board), men should dress in a collared shirt and long pants. Jeans tend to be acceptable on casual evenings, as long as they’re not riddled with holes, and on some lines, like always-relaxed Norwegian Cruise Line, a nice T-shirt is fine. (A fitted T-shirt with a jacket over it is never a problem.)
What you can’t wear, according to the dinner dress code on most lines, are bathing suits, cutoff jeans, sleeveless shirts and baseball hats.
Shorts are an ambiguous, often frowned upon, option for evening attire. Most dress codes won’t specifically prohibit shorts, leaving it up to the individual. A pair of chino, pleated or linen shorts can suffice for a more refined look, especially when paired with a collared shirt. Cutoffs, denim, cargo shorts and sports shorts at any seated, table service dinner are a no-go.
Related: Cruise packing list: The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise
As for shoes, sneakers can be permissible on nonformal nights, but footwear like beach flip-flops are often prohibited.
While teens should emulate the grown-ups for dinnerwear, most cruise lines don’t fuss about the dress code for younger boys. If you can’t get your kid into a polo shirt and khakis, a clean shirt and nonathletic shorts will suffice.
If you’d rather spend your evening in gym shorts and flip-flops, the buffet and other fast casual or counter-service venues will have more relaxed dress codes at night. Or, you can order room service and enjoy dinner in your bathrobe.
Are formal nights still a thing? Will I need to bring a tuxedo?
Most major cruise lines hold formal nights, usually twice on a weeklong sailing. These days, the theme is more “dress your best” or “elegant” than strictly formal. Even on big-ship cruise lines, guests find it fun to don a more upscale look, pose for a professional photo shoot and enjoy dinner, drinks and perhaps a show in style.
Formal nights on most lines don’t mean black tie. On casual lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, men can get away with a button-down, long-sleeve shirt, khakis, nice shoes and no tie. On more upscale lines, guys should pack a suit or at least a sports coat and slacks. Ties are usually optional.
When in doubt, pack a jacket you can always take off if no one else is wearing one.
Some cruise lines, however, skew a bit fancier. Cunard features black-tie galas on its sailings that are often themed (think Roaring '20s and Masquerade Ball). P&O Cruises typically has signature black-tie evenings, and many smaller luxury lines (including Silversea, Seabourn and Regent) will host black-tie evenings throughout extended sailings.
While full tuxedo regalia on black-tie evenings is encouraged (satin lapel, pocket trim, satin side stripe down the leg of the trousers), a dark suit and necktie pass muster.
Related: Bow ties and ballgowns: 5 reasons I always dress up on cruise ship formal nights
Also, culturally appropriate formal attire is always an option, such as Scottish kilt suits or military dress uniforms.
If you’re traveling with family, boys and teenagers are required to dress in accordance with the guidelines for dining at table service restaurants on formal nights as well, but the stakes are lower. The minimum requirement for kids is nice slacks and a collared shirt. Teens should opt for dress shoes, but younger boys can get away with sneakers.
If you’re taking family photos, tuxedos, suits, blazers and ties are not required but add flare and personality to a look. Get creative with kids who prefer comfort; put babies in a tuxedo-print onesie and young boys in an adorable sweater vest on formal evenings.
On some lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, elegant night is always optional.
Do guys need to dress up on theme nights?
Many cruise lines will have themed evenings or parties where you might want to dress the part. If you’re attending a themed cruise (such as a gay cruise or music cruise), be prepared for costume parties on multiple nights.
Popular theme nights are wide-ranging, though the most recurring are tropical parties (Hawaiian shirts encouraged), ‘80s nights and white nights (all-white attire).
Disney Cruise Line passengers regularly dress up for its hallmark Pirate Night. Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Night encourages guests to don red attire.
Themed attire on theme nights is not required for dining and is opt-in fun. If you’re traveling with a group, organizing matching costumes or outfits can enhance the fun and make for great vacation photos. Check with your cruise line about which theme nights you should expect.
Related: What to wear on a cruise: Cruise attire and cruise line dress codes
What are the best cruise clothing and accessories for men?
Need to add a few new pieces to your wardrobe before your cruise vacation? Here are our picks of cruisewear staples for men.
A classic Hawaiian shirt
If you’re sailing on a tropical itinerary, you’re going to want to make sure you pack at least one Hawaiian floral shirt. The Columbia Men's Super Tamiami Ss Shirt is a top choice, with SPF 40 sun protection and nice ventilation.
A shirt for hot days in port
At sea, you’ve got the benefit of the ocean breezes, but tropical ports can get sweltering hot, especially in the summer months. Opt for the Vineyard Vines Men's Destin Stripe Sankaty Performance Polo for its moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabric, along with its SPF 30 sun protection.
A pair of travel pants
The best pair of travel pants balance comfort and function and are acceptable on board and in port. The 33,000ft Men's Waterproof Pants are surprisingly comfortable, breathable and have a nice flexible give to them. They also feature a commendable 10,000mm waterproof rating, great for coverage if you get stuck exploring in the rain.
A pair of sandals for most occasions
From the pool deck to the streets of a port, the right pair of sandals signify vacation. The sophisticated yet practical Ecco Men's Flowt Luxe Slide Sandals are an ideal match for days spent walking, yet have an elegant design that can fit well into a smart, casual dinner on board. If the dinner dress code has a strict no-sandals policy, the Cole Haan Men's 2.Zerogrand Penny Loafers are a great nautical alternative.
The ideal layer for windy nights on deck
When you’re out at sea it can get windy, especially at night. Pack The North Face Men's Cyclone Windbreaker Jacket, which features a compact, lightweight and durable design. The jacket is windproof, water-repellent and has UPF 40+.
Water shoes to protect your feet
If you’re planning for any water-based adventures on your cruise, a high-quality pair of water shoes will help protect your feet. Merrell Men's Wildwood Aerosport Water Shoes are light, comfortable and breathable. They also offer great traction on slippery rocks, shell-ridden beaches and the ship’s decks.
The best men’s cruise travel accessories
- Accessory storage: Keep your neckties crisp with this sturdy case for storage and travel. Or, fit all your formal night accouterments in this men’s accessories storage and travel case.
- A compact on-the-go bag: The Bellroy Mini Sling Bag is great for roving both the ship and port with enough room to store your cellphone, ship pass and a few essentials such as lip balm, sunscreen and hand sanitizer.
- Shoe maintenance: These quality shoe bags keep your street and deck-worn shoes separate from your clothes. SneakErasers are a great travel accessory to buff out any scuff marks you may pick up on your journey.
- Staying hydrated: A reusable water bottle is essential on a cruise, especially while in port. The Hydro Flask water bottle is a favorite for its durable design and temperature retention. Cruise lines allow reusable bottles, though they must be empty when boarding.
- Express yourself: Stretch beyond your normal style — you’re on a ship! Cruise life gives you the freedom to add some character and flair to your look, so pack some fun accessories like these nautical cuff links, colorful lapel pins or a flashy hat.
Related: 20 must-have cruise items — including a roll of duct tape
It’s not "anything goes," but you’ll find more flexibility than ever when it comes to cruise line dress codes. When in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, especially when arriving for a seated dinner. Better to pack the tie and jacket and ditch them if no one else is wearing them than to risk awkward conversations with the crew or side-eye from other diners if you’re not in compliance with the attire policy.
And if casual is the only way you wish to dress on vacation, know you can always go to the buffet or order room service, and you won’t go hungry for want of khakis and a button-down shirt.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- The ultimate guide to choosing a cruise ship cabin