What to wear when boarding a cruise ship. Embarkation day outfits.

What to Wear When Boarding a Cruise Ship {Embarkation outfits}


We will look at all the key considerations when determining what to wear on embarkation day as well as some embarkation day outfit ideas.


What to wear when boarding a cruise ship.  Embarkation day outfit ideas.  Image is me in a sundress looking over the cruise ship railing



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What to wear when boarding a cruise ship?

The short answer is, the outfit you wear on the first day of your cruise should be:

  • Comfortable
  • Resort casual – I’ll explain below
  • Inline with the weather forecast
  • Something you want to wear for your embarkation photo
  • Adhere to the cruise line’s dress code
  • Restaurant approved

It is important to remember that you won’t have access to your stateroom until the early afternoon (often around 2pm). Your checked luggage won’t arrive to your cabin until the afternoon or early evening.

Choose an embarkation day outfit that you can wear at least until evening or pack a change of clothes in your cruise carry-on bag.

Let’s look at the answer to what to wear when boarding a cruise ship in more detail.

Me on one Carnival cruise ship looking at another Carnival ship anchored in Belize
Sundresses make great embarkation day outfits




Resort casual attire – What is this?

Resort casual attire is clothing that is a little step up from casual wear and is what is often accepted at vacation resorts and on cruise ships.

Examples of resort casual attire for women are:

  • Sundresses
  • Shorts (appropriate length)
  • T-shirts
  • Rompers
  • Nice tops
  • Tank tops
  • Summer skirts
  • Capris


Examples of resort casual attire for men are:

  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Polo or golf shirts
  • Short-sleeved button up shirt
  • Khakis


Resort casual is sometimes referred to as smart casual, but it pretty much the same thing.


A young woman in a sun hat wearing a skirt and tank top looking out over the cruise ship railing

My daughter’s cute skirt, tank top and sunhat make a great embarkation day cruise outfit.






Things to consider when choosing what to wear when boarding a cruise ship.

1. Weather conditions

It is always a good idea to check the temperature and forecast of your cruise departure port. This will help you determine how warm you need to dress.

Layers can be a good idea, especially for Alaska cruises. A light jacket or cardigan is a good choice.




2. Embarkation day plans

If you are wearing your swimsuit, don’t forget to pack a pair of undies in your cruise carry-on bag.

Keep in mind that if you pack your swimsuit in your bag, you, in most cases won’t have access to your stateroom until the afternoon. You will have to change in a washroom.

When boarding a cruise ship, kids should definitely wear their bathing suit.






3. Embarkation photo

Most cruise lines have a photo station set up as you board the ship along with professional photographers to capture your first day cruise memories.

There is no obligation to purchase the photo, but it does make a great keepsake and something many cruisers like to collect.

Consider your embarkation photo, is your embarkation outfit one you would want in your photo if you do decide to purchase it?






3. Adhere to the cruise line dress code

It is basically something that is respectful, especially in the common areas. No offensive t-shirts, things like that.

The buffet restaurant and other casual dining venues don’t allow swimsuits. You must be covered up. This is often enforced. So basically don’t board the cruise ship wearing nothing but a bikini. Add some cute swim coverups to your cruise packing list.

The main dining room and other specialty restaurants usually have stricter dress code policies. If you aren’t planning on changing your clothes before dinner, be sure your cruise outfit is suitable for your restaurant of choice.

The main restaurant often has a casual dress code for the first night (often still no short shorts, flip flops, baseball caps, etc.) This is because not everyone may have had their luggage delivered to their cabin yet, especially if you have an early dining time.





4. Cruise shirts






Cruise embarkation outfit ideas

For warm-weather cruises, my go to outfit for wearing on the first day of a cruise is a sundress. They are comfortable, can be worn easily over a bathing suit, and are suitable for the restaurants.

This is one of the ones I have. I love that it has pockets. All the summer dresses I buy now have pockets. This one comes in several different colors and patterns.

AUSELILY Women Summer Casual T Shirt Print Floral Pleated Dresses Beach Cover up Tank Sundress (L, Green)





This is another sundress I have. It too has pockets. This is actually what I wore on embarkation day on our recent Carnival Radiance cruise.

Me wearing a red sundress on embarkation day on our last cruise





A romper is a cute cruise embarkation outfit idea. Don’t forget your sun hat and sunglasses.

DouBCQ Womens Summer Casual Sleeveless Loose Jumpsuits Romper with Pockets (Navy Blue, Large)






Or go with the cruise casual look of a cute t-shirt and shorts.

MOUSYA Anchor Shirt Women Cruise Life Shirt Nautical Shirt Funny Beach Shirt Summer Navy Sailor Vacation Tee Tops



While these embarkation day outfit ideas are a great choice for a Caribbean cruise or a Mediterranean cruise, you will want warmer clothes for Alaskan cruises.  In that case choose nice jeans or pants and a top.  This will depend on the temperature of your departing cruise port.


This classy top with a black cardigan would be a nice cruise outfit for cooler temperatures.

Dokotoo Sexy Blouses for Women Casual Short Sleeve V Neck Solid Color Ladies Wrap Draped Front Business Fashion Chiffon Shirts Dressy Tops Spring Summer Western Clothes 2024 Apricot Large



Any of these cruise outfits can be worn on sea days or on shore excursions as well.

Dresslily has some cute sundresses as well.






Embarkation day outfit ideas for men

Here are a few examples of what men might want to wear on the first day of a cruise.

SOLY HUX Men's 2 Piece Outfits Tropical Print Short Sleeve Button Down Hawaiian Shirt and Shorts Set Black and White Tropical M






COOFANDY Mens Coordinated Outfit Short Sets 2 Piece Short Sleeve Polo T Shirts And Shorts Set, Black, Small






For men who like to wear golf shirts (polo shirts) there is a nice vacation themed one.

APTRO Men's Hawaiian Polo Shirts Short Sleeve Tropical Golf Shirt #P13 Grey Palm S





Comfortable travel pants like these is a good choice for Alaska or cooler temperature cruises.

UNIONBAY mens Rainier Lightweight Comfort Travel Tech Chino Hiking Pants, Charcoal, 34W x 30L US





The first day of your cruise you don’t have to worry about any of the formal wear you may have brought.  Those cocktail dresses or little black dress and dark suit you packed will look amazing on the formal nights.  But, cruise line dress codes the first night will likely be a casual night.






What to wear when boarding a cruise ship summary

In summary, preparing for embarkation day on a cruise ship is all about finding the balance between comfort and style. Whether you are planning to lounge by the pool, explore the ship’s amenities, or just soak in the excitement, choosing the right embarkation outfit sets the tone for your cruise adventure.

Remember to check your cruise line’s specific dress code guidelines, pack smartly in your cruise carry-on, and don’t forget those essential items like sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.