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Hot or Not: 9 Cruise Fashion Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them

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A glaring fashion "don't" has an appeal akin to the mythological Medusa; while you try hard not to stare, sometimes it's impossible to look away. Cruise ships have both written and unwritten wardrobe guidelines, yet, despite the obvious -- say, no jeans on formal night -- some passengers still don't catch on.

Every cruiser has encountered someone whose onboard style has seemed inappropriate -- whether it's as simple as a lack of taste (high-waters aren't necessary for the high seas) or something more dramatic, like exposure to places where the sun doesn't -- or shouldn't -- shine.

We've compiled a list of nine cruise fashion faux pas, drawn from our own experiences and from those of our members. If you follow these rules, you might not make the Lido Deck best-dressed list, but you will avoid becoming a fashion fool on your next cruise.

Note: Wearing camouflage is illegal in many cruise destinations throughout the Caribbean (including Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia and Grenada) and elsewhere around the world, such as in the Philippines and Oman. Disobeying these laws could result in fines, or even worse, jail time if you don't pay them.

Updated January 8, 2020

No Bathrobes Outside the Spa or Your Cabin

No Bathrobes Outside the Spa or Your Cabin

It can't be that hard to pack loose-fitting loungewear for when you want to be comfy. Bathrobes are intimate articles of clothing that aren't meant to be worn like ponchos over your birthday suit. Even worse is donning them at the buffet, as our members have documented in our forums; food and private parts do not go together in public.

Wear instead: A nice swimsuit cover-up, sundress or casual romper show your smarts, not your skin, around the ship. 

No Speedos at the Pool

No Speedos at the Pool

Once dubbed a crime against fashion, the Speedo has made a return in recent years, thanks to hunks like David Beckham and Hugh Grant sporting these tight togs. But we still don't like seeing them on our cruises. Unless you're built like a soccer-playing heartthrob, we recommend avoiding this one on the pool deck.

Wear instead: Swim trunks that provide coverage and dry quickly are your best bet.

No Fanny Packs on Shore Tours

No Fanny Packs on Shore Tours

We're perplexed by the fanny pack phenomenon. How do stores still make money off these things? Aside from being downright silly looking, they give off an impression of being naive and inexperienced, which can put you in a vulnerable state. This is one '80s fad we don't want to come back.

Wear instead: A day pack with anti-theft technology keeps your items secure, without advertising that you're a tourist.

No Hawaiian Button-downs on Nontropical Itineraries

No Hawaiian Button-downs on Nontropical Itineraries

You might be feeling giddy about your upcoming cruise to Alaska. But just because you're finally going on vacation doesn't mean you should pack that token Hawaiian party shirt you sport on Caribbean itineraries. Pack for the destination, not just any vacation.

Wear instead: Button-down camp shirts from designers like Tommy Bahama come in attractive solids too.

No T-shirts You Bought at the Previous Port

No T-shirts You Bought at the Previous Port

We don't blame you for loving the Bahamas. But please leave the "I Heart Nassau" T-shirt you just bought in your suitcase. In fact, don't even buy the darn thing. (The odds are slight it was made anywhere close to port.) Bring the local flavor home with you by putting your money toward a memorable keepsake, like handmade jewelry or a painting by a local artist.

Wear instead: We like vintage-style T-shirts that display a touch of home, like your favorite sports team (instant conversation starter), a favorite band or ironic TV show.

No Big Purses From Home

No Big Purses From Home

A woman's purse is like a black hole, filled with credit cards, an assortment of lipstick colors, perfume, a pharmacy, perhaps a few snack bars, loose expired coupons, a bundle of old receipts (because it's important to remember you spent $44.19 at a gas station last month) and so on. Cruising is meant to simplify your life.

Wear instead: Leave the chaos in a bag at home, and pack only the necessities in a smaller purse or clutch.

No Expensive Jewelry During Water Activities

No Expensive Jewelry During Water Activities

Someday, divers are going to make a fortune off all the wedding bands at the bottom of the ocean. Do unto your expensive jewelry as Michael Douglas did to El Corazon in the action-adventure love story, "Romancing the Stone" (even if that means removing it from an alligator's mouth). If you insist on bringing your most prized possessions on a cruise in the first place, then make sure they're locked in the safe before you head out on your shore excursion.

Wear instead: A waterproof divers watch means you can go down the waterslide and still know when it's time for trivia.

No String Bikinis on the Waterslide

No String Bikinis on the Waterslide

If you rock bikinis, you know they're the best when you need to get some color without worrying about awkward tan lines. But they're the worst for waterslides. (If you haven't lived this horror story, we're sure you've heard of it.)

Wear instead: Bring an athletic-style swimsuit with more coverage if you want to make a splash.

No Wet Bathing Suits in Casual Dining Areas

No Wet Bathing Suits in Casual Dining Areas

No one wants to sit on damp butt-cheek imprints when they're chowing down for lunch. So don't be that passenger who sits down in the buffet, drenched in a concoction of chlorinated water and sunscreen, and leaves his mark for an unsuspecting victim.

Wear instead: We know that food breaks from the pool are meant to be quick. But a mere three minutes of hair rinsing, towel drying and tossing on a beach dress or a pair of shorts can go a long way.


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