Packing for a cruise and land based travel in Europe

I'm trying to figure out what to pack on our trip this summer. Our itinerary includes 3.5 days in Venice as well as 3 days in Rome at the beginning and end of a cruise to the Greek islands, Athens, Dubrovnik and Ephesus, Turkey. I've traveled pretty extensively in Europe with just a roll aboard suitcase, but with the upped formality of dress on the cruise (especially formal nights and dinners in the main dining room), I need some help. If it helps, I'm a male in my 40's, the cruise is 12 days on Princess, there are two formal nights and we're planning on doing laundry twice on the ship over the 21 days that we'll be gone. I'm especially concerned about shoes (I obviously need nice dress shoes and I want to bring a pair of sandals for the Greek islands/turkey as well as a comfortable pair of walking shoes. I'll obviously be wearing pants in Rome to see the churches and will probably wear my sport coat with jeans on the flights. I've asked this same question on Cruise Critic but most people on that site either don't seem to be independent travelers or are in line with traveling light or the temporary local style that I embrace. I'd love to hear suggestions on what to pack especially from people that have done this sort of thing before. I'll be more than happy to add additional information if this isn't enough to work on.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10883 posts

Are you single or a couple? You used the phrase, "our itinerary" and then state male in the 40s. We have been on 6 European cruises always combined with a couple of weeks on land. And we do it well with carry on but need an answer to first question.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

Cruise carry on adds only a couple items: One black blazer or suit coat, one of my shirt choices will be a button up white shirt, one of my pant choices will be a black pant (either the suit pant or dress slacks that match the blazer), add two solid ties in formal tones (black, red, silver, gold) for two different looks. I don't worry about a bow tie, right now long ties (and regular shirt collar) are more in style. I like to also add two matching pocket squares. One pair of my shoes will be a black dress shoe that also works well for walking (e.g. Eccos). I wear the blazer/coat on the plane rather than putting it in my carry-on. On the cruise, only a portion of the men wear tuxes, most of them have poor-fitting (and expensive) rentals. Most men wear a regular suit (only some have black suits). Some men wear only a blazer/sportcoat and tie, with a more casual shirt and pants. I find with a black suit (or black blazer/slack combo) with a nice white shirt, formal tie/pocket square, I look more dressed up than most - and have no trouble staying inside carry-on restrictions. My wife wears a polyester little black dress (cocktail length is fine for a cruise) and uses accessories (nothing very valuable) to create two different looks. A simple sandal in black patent leather (or similar look) is ideal. Those items pack to just about nothing in her carry on.

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
915 posts

We took a transatlantic cruise followed by 10 days in southern France several years ago, and managed to do it with just carry-on luggage by renting a tux through the cruise line. I think it cost $85, and included the tux plus two shirts with accessories, dress socks and dress shoes. We ordered it in advance and it was waiting in our room when we boarded the ship. Not sure if Princess offers this service but it's worth checking into. And worth every penny, in our opinion. In his carry-on he brought a pair of lightweight, dark pants plus a couple of nice long-sleeved shirts for casual nights (no sportcoat, which turned out to be fine), plus shorts and t-shirts, etc. He had some casual dark shoes, which he wore on the plane, and packed a pair of sturdy walking sandals. EDIT: Brad's right, you don't really NEED a tux. A dark suit (or sportcoat+pants) would work fine. We were on a Celebrity cruise with assigned dinner seating; just 3 of the 5 men wore tuxes on formal nights. My husband enjoyed dressing up, though, and his tux fit perfectly.

Posted by Kim
San Francisco
118 posts

I don't think I will be much help, but we have the same dilemma - a land-based week both before and after cruise, but I am not checking a bag! I think the kids and I can get away with dressing something up... but not my husband. We have only a 7 night cruise, so I think we may just hit the pool on formal night! I have also thought about mailing a box ahead to the hotel, and then mailing it back home... not sure.... Hopefully someone will have good suggestions! Kim

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

We are doing the same type of trip this year. I have decided to go "casual" on formal night. I would go as casual as you think you can "survive" and not worry about it. I am sure there will be folks on my cruise all done up but I will be in black pants, black top and my normal black travel shoees. Luckily as a woman I can add some "sparkle" with accessories, but that's all I plan to do for "formal" If you want to go less formal see if your line has alternative places that are open on "formal" night and just plan to eat there. For example on my cruise there is an evening buffet that's always informal

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

My carry-on pack list, including what I wear on the plane, includes the basics (all in colors that can be mixed/matched together): Bottoms - three pairs of pants (all pants that wash/wear easily); a pair of swim/walk shorts (usually a polyester swim trunk with pockets); pair of warm-up pants to use for really casual, pjs, and/or laundry days. Shirts - Five shirts (maybe add one or two more if you end up with extra space) including a couple of button up casual shirts as well a couple of casual tees - others depend on whether my overall need is more formal or more casual. Underwear/Socks - Three pairs each. I love underarmor boxer briefs. Socks are either non-cotton or very low cotton content black crews that are thick enough for lots of walking (underarmor makes crew socks too, but I prefer solid black, no logo). Shoes - Two pairs of shoes. Both good walking shoes. Ideally, one goes from business casual to dress, the other from very casual to business casual. I also try to bring a black and a brown pair (or similar) and pack a reversible belt. If you have space, add a pair of flip-flops for the pool on the cruise, laundry day,etc. Warm layers - If you're traveling in warm months, one lightweight merino wool sweater in a neutral color that matches everything in your carry-on is plenty. Add a second warm layer if you have room. In cooler months, I always pack two and make them a little heavier (but avoid bulky). Shell - One unlined waterproof shell with a hood, zip pockets, and long enough to cover your bottom is perfect. Next: How to make the basic list work for cruise formal nights...

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

You didn't say which cruise line your going on, but if it's a Royal Caribbean, Costa, Norwegian or that class of boat, the formal night means a dark suit. And one "formal night" is enough for me. (An Oceana or Seabourn cruise is a different matter.)
My last cruise was this past October, and I made it with my standard carry on rolling bag and a backpack to carry my shoes. No reason you cannot make the trip with the same, especially if you'll be doing a load of laundry on the ship.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

The OP stated that it's a Princess cruise and yes they do offer rental formal wear. Personally I think that's a good way to keep your packing light.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
671 posts

I agree with Nancy. Either rent a tux (and maybe the shoes that go with it) or skip formal night and eat at the buffet or wherever. We have cruised only on Norwegian, where formal wear (meaning suit or tux) is only one night a week in one dining room, and we skip it. I'm sure Princess has an alternative, or if you want to dress up once or twice, you could spring for a rental rather than lug around clothes you won't use otherwise. Sounds like a great trip, have fun formally or informally!