Nothing says ‘bucket List’ like a Mediterranean cruise vacation! Blue seas, balmy winds, and Instagram-worthy ports of call. But for first time cruisers in the Mediterranean, packing for a luxury cruise in Europe can be a challenge. What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise is very different from what you’d wear on a Caribbean cruise.
On a Mediterranean cruise you will have the occasional beach stop, but for the most part, your itinerary will feature intensive touring days. Most ports feature historic sites and cultural activities that involve a lot of walking and exploring. Upon return to the ship, you’ll want to relax, and enjoy the evening but remember, the passengers on luxury cruise ships, especially in Europe, will dress for dinner. Not necessarily ‘formal’ attire, but t-shirts and flip flops are usually not welcome in the dining room.
So what will you need to pack? Dressy, but comfortable, outfits for evenings on board ship, appropriate touring outfits for port days, and beach/resort wear for days on the beach or by the pool. All having to fit into luggage meeting the usual overseas baggage restrictions! Luckily, after five wonderful cruises in Europe, we’ve learned a thing or two, and share our tips in this post.
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Free printable Mediterranean cruise packing list below.
What to Wear on a Luxury Mediterranean Cruise
Research your luxury cruise line before beginning to pack
Actually, research the cruise line before you book your trip. Check out websites like Cruise Critic to ask questions of people who have sailed on the ships. Those reviews can be invaluable in understanding the tone of the cruise line.
Dinner and evening wear: Most cruise lines will have dress requirements listed on their website, but don’t hesitate to call to ask a question. Are there ‘formal’ nights or is every night formal? And, how formal is ‘formal attire’? Cocktail dresses and tuxes? Wedding chic? Alternately, is every night ‘country club casual’ or ‘elegant casual’, but not formal. All these style names are great for marketing but can be confusing for new cruisers! Call the cruise line to check on what is expected if you can’t find the information online.
Cruise line specific examples of what to wear on a luxury cruise ship in Europe:
Princess Cruise Line – In cruises of 7 to 13 nights expect 2 formal nights. Minimum requirements for men is dress slacks, dress shirt, and tie. Women may wear a dress, or nice slacks. Many will dress up more than that, but that’s the minimum standard. On most Princess cruises there are alternative restaurants for those who don’t want to pack formal wear.
Regent Cruises – Elegant Casual: Skirt, or slacks (no jeans) with a blouse or sweater, pant suit or dress for ladies; slacks (no jeans) and collared shirt for gentlemen
Seabourn Cruise line: Elegant casual on most nights, after 6 p.m., in all restaurants and public areas. On formal nights, tuxedo or suit and jacket for men; evening gown or cocktail attire for women.
Viking Cruises – Elegant Casual for all dining venues, performances and special events. Women – dress, skirt or slacks with a sweater or blouse. Men – trousers and a collared shirt. A tie and jacket are optional; jeans are not permitted.
Windstar Cruises – evening wear is defined as “casual elegance” or country club casual, but in the specialty restaurants the dress code specifies no t-shirts, shorts, jeans, hats or flip-flops. In our experience, most dress for dinner in Amphora, the general dining room. We have seen people in shorts, etc., but they are the exception.
Note: even if there are no formal dinners, many luxury cruise lines restrict what you can wear in the dining room.
Laundry services: How easy is it to get clothing cleaned? Some ships have laundry rooms with self-serve washers and dryers, and some provide overnight delivery for a price. We balked at using the laundry service on our first few cruises, but now happily send out a bag to wash if we’re traveling more than a week. Keep an eye on the daily newsletter, as there are often specials.
Anticipate what activities you’ll be doing in port
Before beginning your packing, think about your anticipated shore excursions.
Visiting religious or sacred sites? Be respectful and wear culturally appropriate clothing. Women may need to have their shoulders, knees and head covered. Some mosques and churches can issue you a robe and/or head covering, but there is no guarantee of cleanliness of these shared outfits… It’s easier to dress conservatively and carry a scarf.
Hiking or exploring ancient ruins? Good footwear is a must! And wear a hat, the sun is intense in the Mediterranean. Most cruise ships will supply water for your tour, but you bring a reusable water bottle to save on plastic waste. For more ideas on being an earthy-friendly traveler read: Sustainable Travel
Snorkeling, kayaking or beaching it? Sunscreen! You can purchase this on the ship or ashore, though your favorite brands might not be available. Consider bringing a rash guard or swim shirt if you’ll be spending a lot of time in/on the water. I’ve added a super lightweight, sun protective, top from Coolibar to my travel wardrobe.
Barcelona in Spain? Read: Barcelona in One Day… or more!
Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast? Read: Best Excursions from Sorrento – Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi Coast
The Island of Rhodes? Read: One Day in Rhodes
Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian Coast? Read: Dubrovnik Port of Call
Venice? Read: Venice off the Beaten Track
Suggestions for packing for a luxury cruise in Europe
Pack carry-on if possible!
For many of us, a Mediterranean cruise involves an overseas flight, with all the usual luggage challenges. After the European cruise when my brother’s family’s luggage was lost in transit, (and didn’t catch up with the ship for 5 days!) we have tried to pack carry-on only. Or at least pack one day bag with 2-3 days of clothes (including one of your nicer outfits), bathing suit, and basic toiletries. Then if our shared checked bag gets lost, we are comfortable knowing we have clothing to last a few days. We also ‘cross pack’ for all overseas trips where we’ll be checking luggage. Adding a few essential items to each other’s bags makes losing luggage much more bearable.
This is the trip of a lifetime, so it’s extra important to pack wisely. Bring only items you love and are comfortable in. You can look fabulous, and Instagram ready, in comfortable clothing. As always I try to pack light using a capsule wardrobe. But I do give myself liberty to add a few more colorful, and elegant items. And I always add extra bling (costume jewelry, of course. Don’t travel with anything you’d regret losing!)
Basic clothing guide for your cruise vacation
A reminder on how to pack a capsule wardrobe: Choose a base color (I’d go with a light color for a Mediterranean cruise, and maybe black for a central European cruise). Pick a top, bottom, and perhaps a dress in this color. (Your LBD, little black dress, is the perfect choice for your capsule if it’s light and easy-care.) Add print tops, or toppers, that are based on your color, and liven it up with colorful scarves, accessories, and perhaps, a couple of cheerful sundresses. (see our Capsule Wardrobe Guide or check out my list below) Everything should work with everything else! Don’t forget a light sweater or jacket for over air-conditioned dining rooms.
My favorite easy to pack travel clothing for women
For Men: khakis, shorts, polos, all in quick-dry material, if possible. A hat or baseball cap is essential for sunny days. Dave packs light sweaters and always adds a sports coat for our Windstar cruise vacations. He hasn’t worn the sport coat yet but that lightweight jacket would be mandatory on a Seabourn cruise!
Packing for a Mediterranean Cruise: Shoes
On the Ship: rubber soles are recommended for safety on most ships.
In Port: All travelers need supportive and comfortable walking shoes. Sneakers, or tennis shoes, will do but will immediately identify you as a tourist. To blend in better (and not get ripped off by touts!), bring shoes that are more fashionable or subtle.
Three of my favorites (from left) –
- Ecco Damara gladiator sandals are remarkably comfortable with a cushioned footbed, yet are elegant enough for dinner in a specialty restaurant.
- Chaco Outcross is an athletic shoe but has the advantage of being waterproof. Think hiking or kayaking!
- Teva has a wide range of shoes that work for active traveling. I like the stylish Teva Tirra.
Dave swears by his Tevas.
Note: many ships do not allow men to wear sandals in the dining rooms. Bring a casual shoe just in case.
Exercise gear is always a good idea. Sneakers, tee shirts, and shorts. There is usually a fitness room with an extraordinary view on every ship! You WILL need to work off that gelato!
Most ships offer laundry services, but we carry Woolite packets to do some hand washing just in case. Pack merino wool items whenever possible to cut down on luggage volume, weight and necessary washing! Since our first overseas adventure, we have been investing in quality clothing items. I anticipate our luggage on our next cruise will be much lighter with my favorite merino wool items!
Gear & Gadgets to Pack for Your European Cruise
Don’t underestimate the beauty or the architecture you’ll be seeing on this trip.
- Camera or high-quality cell phone – We love photography, so each carry a camera. The latest cellphones work well if you’re looking to cut down on gear, but make sure you have a way of backing up photos as you travel. Wi-Fi can be spotty onboard the ship. And don’t forget a secure camera bag for carrying on your excursions.
- Extra battery for your camera and memory cards.
- Electrical adapter (and converter if necessary). I recommend a power strip with multiple USB outlets for charging your devices.
- Portable charger/power cell for your tablet or phone. We always download a movie or two for an overseas flight and don’t want to run out of power halfway! (Most planes have power outlets at each seat, but on one long flight, our outlets did not work, so we don’t rely on those outlets…)
- eReader – for the overseas flight and sea days by the pool. We find eReaders much easier to read in sunlight than a cell phone or tablet.
- [optional] Binoculars – a lightweight pair of binoculars will be great for examining architecture, as well as to enjoy nature and birdwatching.
More cruise essentials to pack for your travel to Europe
- Nausea medicine – most ships are very stable, but we always pack some Bonine, just in case. If ocean cruising, and susceptible to seasickness, ask your doctor to prescribe a scopolamine patch, or something similar.
- Electrolyte powder packets are great for those days when you’ve overdone the sun, the touring, or otherwise just exhausted yourself.
- Sunscreen and/or other lotions for your skin type. Most ships will have a store offering toiletries and sun protection products, but if there’s something that works well for you, then include it in your packing.
- Blister bandages. Even with the best walking shoes you might develop a blister or two.
- Day pack – this might be your airline personal item. Just be sure to have something lightweight you can carry on shore excursions.
- Packable duffel – you WILL find some wonderful souvenirs to bring home. Pack the duffel with clothing and carry your breakable treasures in your carry-on.
- Sun hats!!! And at least on pair of sun glasses!
- A magnetic hook is great for cruise cabins. Stick it to the door or wall to hang your cover-up or secure the daily bulletin.
What I packed for our First luxury Mediterranean cruise
This is my pack out from our cruise in 2015. While most of these items are still favorites at home, I’ve gradually invested in lighter weight, more versatile items for travel. For example -the cotton tops (#5 and #8 shown) took forever to dry in my stateroom, I now pack merino wool. (Keep reading for what I packed for my most recent European cruise.)
#1- Darby Mack camera bag, doubled as a cute purse
#2- two pairs cropped pants. (update: I have been converted to Athleta travel pants. So comfortable and usually have a hidden zipper)
#3. two scarves, can be used as a swim cover-up, or as a head covering in a sacred spot (update: I LOVE my Diane Kroe chiffon toppers – can be worn as a scarf, cover-up, cape, or flowy jacket)
#4. two pairs of shorts, (mid to Bermuda length for most over 50 women – good for you if you are still rocking short shorts!)
#5. workout wear, tees, shorts, and exercise pants
#6. two dresses, one short and one a lightweight sundress (update: currently packing a Wool& merino wool dress. Versatile, odor resistant, and lightweight!)
#7. four dressy blouses (lightweight sleeveless tops are practically weightless, but great for a new look.)
#8. general tees and tops – those shown in photo are cotton. I love the versatility, but now pack only merino wool tops. Merino wool is quick-drying, lightweight, and odor resistant. We recommend Icebreaker tops.
#9. one or two lightweight sweaters – we recommend Wool& Landmark Cardigan (#gifted to us in return for an honest review) or Smartwool merino wool sweaters.
Since this post was originally published, I’ve discovered a few more great items for traveling on a European cruise. Some are listed above, but a few I’d like to add:
- Betabrand Skort – perfect knee length skort with zippered pockets. My go-to for city touring now.
- Diane Kroe One-4-All, Mariposa, etc. I love these as they’re lightweight and immediately dress up my capsule wardrobe. Check out the website for lots of innovative travel options.
What I packed for my most recent luxury Mediterranean cruise
This trip I was able to travel carry-on only for two weeks! With the investment in merino wool and multifunctional clothing, I saved a lot of space (and aggravation!)
In addition to the items shown in this graphic, I packed a silky sleeveless top, a light sweater, workout wear including 2 merino tees, and swim wear. I also packed a windbreaker which happily went unused.
The scarf shown, and the faux wrap dress (both by Diane Kroe) could be used as swim cover-ups. I also used the scarf as a head covering when entering religious sites. As you can see from the graphic, the faux wrap dress can also be worn as a top or a skirt. Another versatile item. the blue shift dress (merino wool by Wool&), can be styled in multiple ways.
Note: Images are from brand website and may not be the exact item I purchased. Also, the photo on the bottom was from an earlier cruise. But some styles are timeless and are packed for every trip!
For more examples of capsule wardrobes I’ve packed read: 10 Piece Travel Capsules: what’s really in my bag
Do you have a favorite item you pack for luxury cruising? Share in comments below!
Download our printable European Cruise Packing List
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3 thoughts on “Packing Smart for a Luxury Mediterranean Cruise in 2023 (free packing list)”
Such a detailed packing list! So helpful.