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What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

17 May 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

For those who have never cruised to the Mediterranean or traveled to Europe before, packing for a Mediterranean cruise can seem stressful.

Family visiting Rome

Whether bringing clothing comfortable enough to walk around historic cities, modest enough to wear into churches, and dressy enough to dine at chic restaurants, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

In reality, however, there are only a few key differences to note between packing for a beach-centric Caribbean cruise and a Mediterranean cruise. From swapping flip flops for sneakers to packing nicer, fashionable outfits, here are our main tips and tricks to remember when packing for your Mediterranean cruise.

Comfortable walking shoes

Cruising to the Mediterranean can entail a lot of walking. It’s not unheard of for guests to walk several miles a day while exploring their ports of call. Therefore, packing a pair of sneakers or other comfortable shoes is essential to ensure you don’t get any painful blisters.

As far as closed-toed shoes, it’s not necessary to pack bulky tennis shoes that you would wear to the gym. Instead, casual yet comfortable shoes are recommended. Slip-on shoes, such as Toms, are comfortable enough to walk in all day, yet still appear sleek enough to fit in in a variety of destinations on your port day, like in restaurants, museums, and even the beach.

If you’re traveling to Europe in the peak of summer, though, you may prefer sandals. Pick sandals wisely, as it’s important to get a durable pair of sandals for a trip to Europe. Many streets in the Mediterranean are made from cobblestone, and walking in loose flip flops or thin sandals can easily get uncomfortable over the course of the day. Look for sandals with a durable sole and ankle strap for maximum comfort and reliability.

If you’re buying a brand new pair of shoes for your Mediterranean cruise, regardless of whether they are sneakers or sandals, be sure to walk around in them for a day or two before your cruise to ensure they are comfortable.

What shoes to NOT pack: While you may see European women walking around cobblestone streets in heels, these would not be the most comfortable shoes to wear for a full-day exploring port.

Breathable, light fabrics

The weather at Mediterranean ports, especially in the peak of summer, can get pretty hot. Cotten, linen, and other breathable fabrics are recommended. As a rule of thumb, if an article of clothing is comfortable to wear in the peak of summer back at home, it will probably be good to pack for a Mediterranean cruise.

Sundresses, rompers, and flowy shorts tend to be comfortable yet fashionable clothing for women while exploring the Mediterranean. Men may want to pack shorts or lightweight pants as well as t-shirts and light button-up shirts.

Casual yet nice clothing

Europeans take pride in dressing nicely, with a fashion sense that is, on average, more formal than what visitors from places like the United States or Canada may be used to, especially those who are used to cruising in the Caribbean.

The standard dress at Caribbean cruise ports tends to be extremely casual. Shorts, flip flops, and a tie-dye t-shirt from home are normal and acceptable. On a Mediterranean cruise, though, it’s smart to dress a bit more neatly.

During your port day in the Mediterranean, you may find yourself in a variety of settings, all with varying dress codes. From churches to restaurants, museums, and the beach, it’s smart to be prepared with the right outfit.

Men may want to wear well-fitted, nice t-shirts or short sleeved button-ups as opposed to old and baggy shirts. Instead of athletic shorts, opt for a nicer pair.

Women have a little more flexibility in terms of casual yet fashionable clothing. Lightweight sundresses, patterned shorts with a solid shirt, capris, a fitted t-shirt, and summer jumpsuits can all be great outfits on a Mediterranean cruise.

A great way to plan outfit ideas is by thinking of what you would wear to a semi-formal summer party back home. If you wouldn’t wear a wrinkled tie-dye t-shirt over stretchy athletic shorts, this probably isn’t the best outfit for a European cruise, either.

Pack appropriately if you plan to visit churches

Churches in the Mediterranean tend to have their own dress codes.

Those visiting Vatican City, for example, should have their shoulders and knees covered at all times during the visit. Offensive tattoos or apparel with slogans should not be visible and hats and caps must be removed prior to entrance. Generally, shorts, dresses, and skirts are allowed as long as they are at least knee-length.

A good rule of thumb is to wear what you would wear to church back home. If a crop top, flip flops, and booty shorts aren’t permitted at your local church, don’t wear this to a church in Europe, either.

You can always pack a change of clothes in your daypack if you're worried it might be too hot to walk around in the same clothing you wear into churches.

Purses and daypacks

Port days in the Mediterranean tend to be long, so it’s helpful to have a nice daypack or purse to carry your belongings in throughout the day. Choosing the perfect bag, though, requires a few more considerations than simply picking the first backpack you see.

While Europe is a safe destination for travelers, pickpocketing is not unheard of in major tourist areas, much like any other destination in the world. Be cautious of putting your phone or wallet in your back pocket, and choose a day bag wisely.

For ladies, consider a crossbody purse that you can wear from one shoulder to the opposite hip. This is a secure purse as it cannot easily fall off your body, and you can even place your hand over the crossbody bag while in busy environments like markets or the subway for added security.

If you prefer a larger backpack, consider a daypack with a “secret” back pocket. This is a backpack that has a zippered pocket at the back of the bag. As this pocket is against your back when walking, your valuables (passport, wallet, etc.) remain secure.

Please note that we’ve linked an item on Amazon, which contains an affiliate link. This affiliate link costs you absolutely nothing extra, but Royal Caribbean Blog makes a small commission if you purchase it.

Cruise attire

Aside from packing the perfect outfits to wear in port, it’s important to remember to pack for your time onboard as well. Onboard attire on a Mediterranean cruise will be similar to any other cruise, with casual attire during the day and nicer outfits for the evening.

Mediterranean weather should remain quite comfortable throughout the summer, although it’s a good idea to pack a lightweight jacket or cardigan in case of chilly weather in the morning and evenings while onboard. Likewise, those traveling to the Mediterranean in shoulder season will want to pack more warm-weather clothing like pants, long-sleeve shirts, and jackets.

Read more about what the weather looks like on a Mediterranean cruise month by month here.

What not to wear

Now that you have an idea of what to wear while on a Mediterranean cruise, what clothing items should you avoid?

Truthfully, there is no clothing item you necessarily have to avoid wearing on a European cruise that you would wear at home. There may be certain items that are unusual to wear among Europeans and clothing that will make you stick out as being from a certain location, but whether or not this matters to you is a personal choice.

You will stick out as a tourist when wearing items not usually worn by Europeans, including apparel with American sports team logos, American flags, camouflage patterned clothing, baseball caps, and workout apparel such as leggings.

This doesn’t mean you cannot wear these items, and you’ll see many tourists dressed like this, but it will make you stick out much more compared to wearing more neutral, neat clothing.

You may hear that Europeans don’t wear shorts or sneakers, but this is generally false information. You’ll see plenty of Europeans wearing shorts, particularly in cities near the coast. Sneakers are common as well, with brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Nike popular with Europeans throughout the Mediterranean.

More on the Mediterranean:

What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise - cruise outfit ideas

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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