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Cruise Fashion: What Not to Wear on a Cruise

Gina Kramer

Last updated
Oct 7, 2022

Read time
6 min read

The life of a cruise fan can be full of surprises. From Goth and vampire conventions to Hogs on the High Seas, you'd be forgiven for thinking that at sea, anything goes. But when it comes to dress codes, there are some hard and fast rules you should think twice before breaking (for everyone's sake). Inspired by our Cruise Critic members' forum "What's the strangest thing you've seen on a cruise?", we've pulled together some of their top tips on what not to wear, from cabin to pool and everywhere in between -- and what to wear instead.

1. Speedos

Gentlemen, it's time to face facts -- Speedos are not your friend. Borderline unacceptable even on super-hunks and models (David Gandy, we're talking about you) these Australian micro-trunks are a harsh taskmaster on any man. The same goes for thongs, g-strings and any other below-the-waist sartorial offering that can be measured in millimeters rather than inches.

Our advice? Don't do it. But, a word to the wise from our Cruise Critic members -- if you do decide to take the plunge, remember: running in Speedos is never a good idea.

What to wear instead: Board shorts are festive, yet long enough to take on the Flo-Rider without coverage issues.

2. String Bikinis

Popular in the '70s, the string bikini has been a beach-time staple ever since. A firm favorite with some cruise lovers, it can often be more foe than friend, and tales of accidental flashing and abundant "excess baggage" are much loved on the forum. While the old saying goes "if you've got it, flaunt it," make sure you're not revealing more than you (or your fellow cruisers), bargained for.

What to wear instead: For most of us, a flattering cover-up removes any danger of "oversharing" when getting up from the sun lounger or wandering to the bar.

3. Unusual Swim Accessories

Trunks, swimsuits, bikinis and board shorts -- there's a wide range of swimwear out there to suit everyone, and it's always nice to chuck on a few accessories to make the outfit your own. Yet there are some little extras that you can (and perhaps should) avoid, whether it's pantyhose under your swimsuit (complete with reinforced gusset and toe), a tattooed crotch or underwear in lieu of an actual swimsuit. Also, dental floss has no place on the pool deck.

What to wear instead: A cute sun hat is one accessory that's always in style at the pool.

4. Bunny Slippers at Dinnertime

From monster claws to kittens, there's a fluffy foot covering for everyone, and bedroom slippers are perfect for relaxing in your cabin. However, a glamorous evening dress topped off with a pair of cozy slippers is apparently not as unusual of a sight as you'd think. Return trips to the buffet are undoubtedly comfier minus the heels, but when it comes to dining outside your cabin, most cruise fans advise you to leave the bunnies 'til bedtime.

What to wear instead: You don't have to wear high heels to make an impression at formal night; a pair of sparkly flat sandals will do just fine!

5. Pajamas and Bathrobes in a Restaurant

Cruises are all about relaxing. There's nothing like slipping into soft, snuggly plaid at the end of a long day, and many cruise lines provide bathrobes for free in suites, mini-suites and deluxe balcony cabins. That said, wear your bathrobe to dinner and you might spot a few raised eyebrows or be turned away from the restaurant if it has a formal dress code.

Can't bear to be bathrobe-less? Make it an event -- such as the bathrobe-themed anniversary dinner we read about on the forum -- and wear your pajamas with pride!

What to wear instead: If you're looking for something comfy-cozy to pull on for a quick buffet trip, a pair of casual athleisure pants work great.

6. (Unintentionally) Revealing Clothing

Staple of the seas, glamorous cocktail dresses come hand-in-hand with daring necklines and the occasional flash of leg. The issue comes (and the glamour goes) when the flesh you flash is more than you bargained for. Such was the tale we read of a stylish lady whose loosely-tied wrap dress fell to the floor on the way into dinner, revealing a tiny g-string and not much else.

The moral of the story? Save your blushes and fasten ties and belts securely (and always wear underwear you don't mind showing off!)

What to wear instead: A faux wrap dress gives you the same look, without the potential for disrobing drama.

7. Your Birthday Suit

While there's nothing like the warmth of the sun on your skin, sunbathe naked onboard and you could feel the burn. Most cruise lines that cater to Americans do not permit nude or topless sunbathing on a cruise. The lure of an all-over glow can prove too much for some, and stories of full-frontal displays and naked strolls along the deck abound across the forum -- accompanied by a decent amount of sniggering.

Save your birthday suit for your cabin, but beware of leaving the curtains open; the forum is full of anecdotes of half-asleep cruisers rising from a deep slumber to wander naked around their cabin for the world to see (and laugh at). Your private balcony is also not as private as you might think. A naked salute to the sun might not be the best idea (particularly if you're a late riser).

Amorous balcony/open-curtain activities are also the source of much amusement, as are "romantic" moments in glass elevators (a cruise ship's answer to the mile-high club?).

What to wear instead: Did you know that there's such a thing as tan-through swimsuits? We'd go this route, rather than baring it all.

Bottom Line

From phallic-shaped necklaces and huge hair (hiding some seriously illegal substances), to 24/7 lifejackets, sailor outfits and a briefcase full of cat pictures, there's many a sight to be seen at sea and our Cruise Critic members have shared some of the best.

But, when packing for your cruise, it's important to remember this: cruises attract travelers of all shapes, backgrounds and tastes and, as individuals, there's no accounting for taste. After all, one man's fashion is another man's faux pas. The important thing is to feel comfortable and wear what you like best. If that happens to be a gorilla suit or skin-tight leopard-print spandex, so be it -- at the very least you'll give your fellow cruisers a laugh, and most likely have one yourself.

Note: Wearing camouflage clothing 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.

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