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What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise – My 6 top tips

What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise – My 6 top tips

Decisions, decisions. It’s all part of the fun of the holiday deciding what to pack for a Mediterranean cruise, but you can’t just pop into the nearest trendy boutique for anything you forget. For my recent MSC Mediterranean cruise, I knew I’d need clothes for sightseeing, an outfit or two for dinner and perhaps something more dressy for formal nights with a chance to play at being glamourpuss.

Then I might be relaxing on the sun-deck, trying out the spa or making time to visit the gym to work off all that delicious food. And of course I do like to travel light, who wants to be lugging heavy cases around?

So here are my 6 top tips for what to wear on a Mediterranean Cruise, based on my experiences with MSC Cruises and some advice from my blogger friends too.

What to pack on a Mediterranean Cruise - a light cardigan to wear on cooler evenings Photo:

What to pack on a Mediterranean Cruise – a light cardigan to wear on cooler evenings

Tip 1 – Check the weather forecast

A Mediterranean cruise in late May should be the perfect temperature for sightseeing and I was hoping for warm sunny days with cooler evenings. However, living in England where the weather is so changeable I’ve learned never to take sunshine for granted. So the week before our cruise I checked the weather forecast for the coming week in the destinations we would be visiting.

My mobile has a handy weather app for the 7 day outlook and I also used another website to check the typical temperature and rainfall for that month. I learned that the weather was likely to be in the 22-25 degree celsius range, cooling down at night, so not blistering heat and I’d definitely need a jumper in the evenings. In the end we had sunny days for most of the week although there were a few showers as we arrived back in Barcelona, so I was glad I’d packed my rain jacket.

Blogger tips – What to pack for a Mediterranean cruise

Danielle Fear of Cruise Miss says; ” A light jacket during the spring time is also a must! The Mediterranean is warm but evenings can still get a little chilly and you want to be prepared just in case a sharp shower is forecast. Remember to also take a light cardigan or scarf with you when ashore ”

Gary Bembridge from Tips for Travellers says; “Even on warm itineraries in season in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, it can get chilly at night on deck or in the mornings on excursions. Plan to wear layers that you can easily peel off and always include a layer to cope with downpours even if a small folding umbrella or lightweight rain poncho.”

What to pack for a Mediterranean Cruise - a light jacket - Barcelona at Casa Mila Photo:

What to pack for a Mediterranean Cruise – a light jacket

Tip 2 – Consider the activities you’ll be doing

I thought about what to pack for a 7 night Mediterranean cruise and decided that my wardrobe need to cover four different types of activity; clothes for sightseeing, relaxing on board around the pool, dressing up for dinner and a couple of outfits for formal nights. As we’d be visiting a different destination every day and as we like to be pretty active, I packed comfortable but smart city trainers and my new Flopz flip flops for time on board.

My sightseeing wardrobe consisted of pretty t-shirts and cut-off trousers, but I also packed some vest tops like the orange linen Eileen Fisher top I’m wearing in the photo below for time around the pool. For the evening I packed a couple more dressy tops and my white jeans that would mix and match with my daytime wardrobe. For a formal night I decided to forego the ball gown as I knew that things are quite relaxed on MSC cruises but instead packed a lovely sparkly top from Eileen Fisher as well as my silky Joseph Ribkoff evening cover-up that would make a simple outlook look a lot more glamorous.

You may also enjoy: Norwegian Encore review: a fun cruise experience from Norwegian Cruise Line

What to pack for a 7 night Mediterranean cruise - On Board MSC Splendida with my Eileen Fisher linen vest Photo:

What to pack for a 7 night Mediterranean cruise – my Eileen Fisher linen vest

Blogger Tips – What to wear on a Mediterranean Cruise

Danielle Fear of Cruise Miss says; “I can’t pack for a Mediterranean cruise without a pair of pretty flip-flops. They are ideal for both ashore and onboard and if I forgot to pack them I would go into meltdown. One thing I would highly recommend for your Mediterranean adventure is a comfortable pair of shoes or sandals. There is so much to see and do and trust me, you won’t want to miss any of it.”

What to wear on a Mediterranean Cruise - On board MSC Splendida with my FlopZ flip flops Photo:

What to wear on a Mediterranean Cruise – FlopZ flip flops

Tip 3 – Pack versatile clothes that work with each other

One of the secrets of packing light, I’ve learned, is to limit your wardrobe to just one colour scheme per trip. This works well for long weekends where you want to travel with just a small bag, although for the week’s cruise I allowed myself a couple of different colour schemes. For most sightseeings days I stuck to shades of beige, cream and soft pink, while for evenings and days on board I teamed orange tops with white or black trousers. The same black trousers could double for evening wear when teamed with a more dressy top. Take a look at the photos below to see how I stuck to one colour scheme so that I could mix and match different tops with the same pair of trousers.

What to pack on a Mediterranean Cruise - mix and match cruise wardrobe

What to pack on a Mediterranean Cruise – mix and match cruise wardrobe

Blogger Tips

Donna Hull from My Itchy Travel Feet says; “When packing for a cruise, I ask myself, “Can this item be worn at least twice?” If I answer no to the question, then that particular clothing item goes back in the closet. And when I say twice, I don’t mean repeating the same outfit. Using separates, I mix and match clothing items to create many outfits from a small selection of clothing. It’s challenging but fun.”

Emma Gray from Emma on Board says; “My biggest tip for Mediterranean cruising is to keep it simple. Pack dresses you can wear for dinner and then again during the day sightseeing. Stick to one colour tone and you’ll be able to mix and match all your accessories, bags and shoes to make outfits look and feel completely different.”

Tip 4 – Respect the local culture

I find you have a better travel experience if you are sensitive to the culture of the places you visit. I wince when I see ladies wearing shorts and vest tops in a Muslim country! As I enjoy sightseeing there’s a good chance I’ll end up looking around a beautiful old church, where even in Europe it’s considered respectful to cover your shoulders and knees. As we planned to visit Tunis on our MSC Cruise, I made sure to pack a top that was appropriate for the more conservative dress in a Muslim society. My Eileen Fisher orange linen top was cool and elegant, yet covered me in all the right places. Elbow length sleeves, no cleavage, no shoulders or knees on show and you will avoid getting attention of the wrong kind.

Blogger Tips

Danielle Fear of Cruise Miss says; “Ladies, always pack a pair of ¾ casual trousers and should you wish to enter any religious sites then you do need to ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. ”

Sarah Lee from Live Share Travel says; “A pashmina is a fantastic accessory, which you can use throughout your cruise – to cover shoulders for formal dinners, maintain discreet dress if you should visit a religious site, or to protect against those sea breezes “

What to pack on a Mediterranean Cruise - my Eileen Fisher linen top

What to pack on a Mediterranean Cruise – my Eileen Fisher linen top

Tip 5 – Dressing up is fun, but check the dress code first

On cruises I’ve learned that different cruise lines have quite different approaches to formal nights. Of course we Brits love to make an occasion of dressing up, with glamorous gowns and Black Tie for the men, while some of our American and Aussie friends would happily go to dinner in shorts. The MSC Cruises dress code is geared for the European dress sense which is elegant but possibly not as formal as some of the Cruise lines that have a lot of UK guests.

My tip is to check the formal dress guidelines on the cruise company website or with your cruise agent, so you know where you need to be in the glamour stakes. Sometimes the websites don’t make it completely clear, in which case head for the discussion boards on sites like Cruise Critic where you’ll generally find some useful guidance. Based on this, Guy decided not to pack his dinner jacket since our suitcase space was limited, but to go for a blazer and smart trousers that he could wear every evening. His decision proved to be sound, since I saw very few tuxedos being worn on board, even on the gala evenings where the norm was a smart suit and tie. Rather than pack my cocktail dress I went for my Eileen Fisher sparkly top for the gala evenings and my Joseph Ribkoff evening cover-up on other evenings when I wanted to dress up.

Blogger Tips

Gary Bembridge from Tips for Travellers says; “Every cruise line has their own approach to what people should wear on board – as well as the extent they enforce them. For example, Cunard have a strict dress code around “formal” and “informal” nights and men will be expected to wear black tie and jackets and ladies cocktail dresses and smart separates on those respective nights. However, lines like Disney can allow shorts to be worn on some cruises at dinner time. ”

Ana Silva from Mrs O Around the World says; ” Pack cocktail dresses to add a bit of old-school glamour to your cruising experience. Pick some that travel well. No need for crazy heels – simple flats will do and will get you in a Med state of mind. ”

Emma and Keri from Ladies What Travel say; “Getting glammed up for the formal dinner nights on our MSC Cruise was great fun and a fantastic part of the cruising experience. The dress code ranged from casual to cocktail and the newsletter delivered to our cabin gave us all the info for that evening. So pack yourself a posh frock – ideally one that doesn’t crease too much – and enjoy.”

Liz Jarvis from The Mum Blog says; ” The Swarovski-studded staircases on board set the tone – MSC is a very glamorous, very Italian cruise line. In the evening, guests dress up for dinner and do that European thing of promenading, so I would definitely take a few gorgeous dresses.”

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my Eileen Fisher sparkly evening top

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my Eileen Fisher sparkly evening top

Tip 6 – Travel crease free

On some cruise ships I’ve been on there were laundry rooms for guests to wash, dry and iron their clothes so I was surprised to find that there was not even a facility to iron creased clothes on board MSC Splendida (except of course the laundry service which you have to pay for).

However, it didn’t really matter as I had employed my top tip for packing crease free, which is to roll rather than fold your clothes, pack them tightly into the case, then shake them out and hang them up immediately you get on board. Obviously it also helps if you select clothes from your wardrobe which are made of crease resistant fabrics, like my lovely Joseph Ribkoff evening cover-up below which I reckon I could have screwed up in my case and it would still have come out looking elegant and crease-free.

Blogger Tip

Zoe Dawes from The Quirky Traveller says: “I have a full length black dress in jersey with short sleeves which is my absolute favourite for cruises. I dress it up with pretty necklace or colourful scarf and high heels or casual with flat pumps. It rolls up and never creases.”

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my Joseph Ribkoff evening jacket

Gala night on MSC Splendida with my crease-free Joseph Ribkoff evening jacket

Thanks to Eileen Fisher, Flopz and Joseph Ribkoff for providing me with some lovely things to wear on my cruise and of course to MSC Cruises who we travelled with in style on MSC Splendida.

Other articles in my Mediterranean Cruise series

Join me on a week’s Mediterranean cruise with MSC cruises
All aboard at Barcelona – Day 1 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Bonjour Marseille – Day 2 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Palazzo and Gelato in Genoa – Day 3 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Naples and an excursion to Pompeii – Day 4 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Tunis and Carthage – Day 6 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
A day at sea and back to Barcelona – Day 7 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise

MSCCruiseslogoThanks to MSC cruises who hosted* Guy and Heather’s Mediterranean cruise. Heather and Guy travelled on MSC Splendida from Barcelona on a 1 week cruise calling at Genoa, Marseille, Naples, Messina, Tunis. Prices for a similar cruise start at around £700 per person. For more information, visit the MSC Cruises website or follow them on Twitter or on the MSC Facebook page.

* More info on my policies page

This article is originally published at

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JAC Thorne

Monday 19th of August 2019

Hi Heather noticed that most of your clothing seems to be very casual for day/night. Been on several cruises over the years and tend to dress up at every opportunity as planning your wardrobe is part of the fun. But really feel it’s up to individuals to dress how your comfortable. Noticed that there is a mix of casual and dressy on board and it’s good to have that mix as there isn’t any pressure. I always take a stain remover bar as easy to pack and great to sort stains while on board. An umbrella and lightweight fold up jacket for unexpected showers. And of course a high factor suncream as sunburn can ruin the trip. Enjoy all newbies to cruising as amazing way to travel

Heather Cowper

Wednesday 28th of August 2019

@JAC Thanks for all your tips on what to take - I know that some people like to dress up and others to be casual, luckily there are lots of cruise options so you can choose the style that suits you.


Saturday 23rd of June 2018

I’ve always heard amazing things about cruises but have never been on one. Seems like a great way to travel and have an adventure on a budget.


Monday 16th of April 2018

Hi again Heather,

great travel tips for the Mediterranean cruise.

I haven't done one yet, but we hope to take the whole family very soon.

Love your guidance on what to wear and your great travel tips.

Cheers Sharon...

Heather Cowper

Thursday 19th of April 2018

@Sharon So pleased you found this useful

Maureen Boardman

Friday 30th of March 2018

Thanks Heather your tips and photos have put my mind at rest as I am going on my first cruise in a couple of weeks and as I am not one for dressing up for formal gatherings and don't want to go to the expense of buying evening wear knowing it will get pushed to the back of the wardrobe have bought some nice dressy tops and trousers that I will wear again when the cruise has ended.I was a bit worried in case I would look out of place but your blog has made me feel more confident.

Heather Cowper

Saturday 31st of March 2018

@Maureen Even though most people pack a lot to wear on a cruise, I like to make my outfits multitask so that I can travel light and find that a few colourful and dressy tops look great for evening wear.


Thursday 8th of March 2018

I travel the med. : never wear circus colors, jeans, shorts,'tank top' (except as a vest with a light over or under piece), or stupid "i am a tourist" hat. but the worst suggestion is flip flops - sloppy, showing ugly toes and a disaster waiting to happen on loose ground or cobblestones. and cheap loose clothing doesn't hide bulges. but do take several sizes and colors in cotton scarves for coverage, for interest, as jewelry, hair tamer, belt...for the most versatile piece to change up a wardrobe. wearing neutrals as basic pieces blends into any circumstance or location. 'brights' should only be accessories. once you are in a location, just look for what the classy local women are favoring... if their slacks are shorter, roll yours; if fitted pullovers are de rigeur, button your cardigan in the back and wear a necklace. if no one wears socks, wear pedis., high heels abound? wear lows heels, but heels when going out to dinner. there are always clever ways to look like you belong! do take a short sleeve, deep pocket, above knee length knit dress and a dark, long straight skirt and one nicely tailored pale top. take several light, cheap but attractive jewelry items. use a light, short poly robe for sleeping, for a bathing coverup, for a light jacket. be creative! but always tasteful. you should not be the show.