Skip to Content

How to pack the ULTIMATE Cruise Capsule Wardrobe for women

How to pack the ULTIMATE Cruise Capsule Wardrobe for women

Wanting to pack light for a cruise and wondering how to put together a cruise capsule wardrobe? In this guide we round up the principles of capsule wardrobes for travel and help you put together the ultimate cruise capsule wardrobe.

Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Why should I pack a cruise capsule wardrobe

Before we get into how to put together a cruise capsule wardrobe first we are going to go through why you pack a capsule wardrobe for a cruise for those that are on the fence.

For those of you who are first time cruisers it it worth pointing out that cruise cabin staterooms are not renowned for being large. By packing a capsule wardrobe you will be taking up much less space in your cabin which is always a plus.

Also by packing a capsule wardrobe you will be able to use less bulky luggage. As you have to store your luggage in your stateroom it is always an advantage to be able to use less busy luggage. This is particularly useful if you are going on an extra long cruise i.e. a world cruise (please check out this how to pack for a world cruise or transatlantic cruises posts for more information on packing for longer cruises).

Capsule wardrobes for river cruises are also especially important as river cruises tend to have even smaller cabins than their ocean going counterparts.

Also there is a chance (depending on how good you are and how much of an over packer you are you may be able to do a cruise with carry on only.

For a full cruise packing list regardless of the destination check out these posts:

How to Put Together a Cruise Capsule wardrobe tips

Woman on cruise ship - What to wear on cruise embarkation day outfit inspiration
What to wear on cruise embarkation day outfit inspiration

Now capsule wardrobes are great not only for cruises but for other types of travel and for those who want to minimise their wardrobe more generally. For information on how to pack a minimalist capsule wardrobe check out this post.

As such there are a few main capsule wardrobe rules or principles that you should try to abide by when putting together your cruise capsule wardrobe

The main rules for putting together a cruise capsule wardrobe are:

Only take beloved items

Now by this I mean only take items that you are absolutely 100% sure that you want to wear. If there is something that is on your maybe pile or an item of clothes that you find yourself not wearing much at home my advice is to leave this at home.

If you don’t wear it at home it is unlikely it will be come a go to item on a cruise ship.

Everything must work in more than one outfit

Don’t pack anything that can only be worn in one way. Everything you pack must work in several outfits and be dressed up or down with different accessories.

Pack less but get more

In the theme of the above the whole principle of capsule wardrobes, its tagline if you will is pack less get more outfits.

You could also try using the 5 4 3 2 1 Packing Method.

Color schemes

Now this isn’t necessary in all capsule wardrobes but I like to pick a color pallete to that everything I wear goes with several other things.

So now we have discussed why you should pack a capsule wardrobe and the basics about packing capsule rules we will turn our attention to how to put together a cruise capsule wardrobe.

How to put together a cruise capsule wardrobe (what is should include)

Note: This cruise capsule packing lists is designed to be used on wherever you are going on your cruise however some cruises do require some adjustments based on the weather and activities you may be doing on your cruise.

Please see some of our more location specific cruise packing lists to tailor your cruise capsule wardrobe more to your locations.

Cruise Capsule Wardrobe Packing List

T Shirts

T Shirts are a staple of any cruise capsule wardrobe. If you are cruising somewhere hot then t shirts should be included on your Caribbean cruise capsule wardrobe packing list as they are cool and if you are going somewhere such as Alaska or Iceland they are a great base layers.

I take several usually one for each day of the cruise.

Click here to shop t shirts


Tailored shorts are perfect for hot weather cruises. Pick a color that matches most of your tops to make sure it is interchangeable.

I normally take one slightly more Casual pair and one slightly smarter.

Capri Pants / Long Trousers

Capri pants or long trousers in a versatile color are a must for any capsule wardrobe. They are great for locations where you need to wear long length trousers i.e. the Middle East or religious sites but also can be used on smart casual evenings in the main dining room dressed up with some wedges or pashmina and top.

I normally take one smarter and one more casual pair of trousers with me on every cruise.

Click here to shop trousers


A blouse again is the perfect day to night transition item. During the day it is perfect for day’s when the weather is cooler or you need a more conservative outfit i.e. in places like Qatar with a strict dress code.

It can also be dressed up with jewellery and a pashmina for a smart casual evening in the dining room.

Click here to shop blouses

Maxi Dress

Maxi dresses are another great transition item for day to night wear. Maxi dresses are great in hot weather during the day especially if you pick a cotton fabric (which we recommend you do as irons are a cruise prohibited item and firmly on the what not to pack on a cruise list).

Click here to shop Maxi dresses

Then again they can be dressed up with a pashmina or jewellery.


A pashmina is a great way to turn a day time look into a night time look. It helps dress ups any outfit and it is a vital item to protect you from the ship’s air conditioning which can be fierce.

Click here to shop pashminas


This can be either real or imitation. Personally I don’t wear my nice jewellery when in port but use on the cruise in the evening to dress up outfits and then leave it in the safe for when I am on shore.


Wedges for me are the perfect evening shoe. They are dressy enough for formal nights but also can be worn as a daytime sandal too.

Click here to shop wedges


If you are anything like me you will do a lot of walking on your cruise excursions. Make sure you have a really comfy pair with you that you have already worn in.


These are perfect for round the pool deck, on beach excursions and fi you pick a pair with good arch support they will also be great for walking in.

Click here to shop sandals with good arch support


This is an essential if you are planning on using the gym on the cruise ship or taking a class like a yoga class. Ideally you will be able to use this on one of your more active shore excursions too.


Ok, it is hard to have swimwear that has more than one purpose but you will definitely want to take this with you.

Beach Cover or Sarong.

If you are doing lots of beach excursions or plan on spending lots of time on the pool deck you will want to add a beach cover or sarong to your packing list. I personally like a sarong as it is a bit more versatile that a sarong as it can be style in a couple of different ways to make the outfit look different.


We recommend packing a smarter hat rather than a baseball cap as these can be used in more places and as part of more outfits.


A must for any cruise as the sea can get dazzling.

Click here to shop our favourite sunglasses.


Depending on the cruise and expected weather I will probably add a jacket that goes with most things to my packing list.


For cold weather destinations and for those that get cold in air con I would also add a cardigan in a versatile color

Cross body bag

A cross body bag in a neutral color that works with all your outfits is perfect for shore excursions. As with any tourist destinations around the world there can be pick pockets looking to prey on unsuspecting tourists.

Make yourself a harder target by using a cross body anti theft bag instead of a backpack or other type of purse.

Click here to shop our favorite anti theft cross body bags.

Next Reads: Looking for more cruise related wardrobe and packing advice? Be sure to check out our cruise packing list guides:

Have you ever packed a cruise capsule wardrobe for women? What else would you add or what advice do you have – leave us a comment