Cruise Fashion: What Not to Wear on a Cruise

By Sarah Wagner, Cruise Critic contributor

Orange bikini floating in the pool

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 lovely 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.

The Beach Pool

At the Pool


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 European 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.

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. 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. That said, as the old saying goes “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” — just make sure you’re not revealing more than you (or your fellow cruisers), bargained for.

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. Often, the appropriately-named top deck will be the designated area for topless sunbathing, but policy varies depending on the cruise line and ship. If you do decide to flash the flesh, it’s worth bearing your fellow passengers in mind. While many happily ignore or cheerfully engage in a little topless tanning, the lure of an all-over glow can prove too much for some. As a result, stories of full-frontal displays and naked strolls along the deck abound across the forum — accompanied by a decent amount of sniggering and some lewd jokes too.

Unusual 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. That’s said, whether it’s pantyhose under your swimsuit (complete with reinforced gusset and toe) or jumping in the Jacuzzi in your underwear, poolside flossing (of the dental variety) or a tattooed crotch, there are some little extras that you can (and perhaps should) avoid.

Tuscan Grille on Celebrity Eclipse

At Dinner

Bunny Slippers

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

Pajamas and bathrobes

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!

(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 glamor 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!)

Balcony Cabin on Norwegian Breakaway

In Your Cabin

Cruises are social hubs, and if you fancy a bit of quiet time or a relaxing afternoon snooze, your cabin can be an oasis of calm. As your private space, you can wear whatever you want, whenever you want, with one big exception — when the curtains are 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).

The same goes for balconies — if you’re lucky enough to have a balcony cabin, it’s a good idea to remember that you’re never alone on a cruise, and 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?)

In Brief

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.


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