If you are female over 50 and have booked your first cruise the chances are you are agonising over exactly what to put in your suitcase.
You have heard (and probably read in the cruise literature) about “formal nights” and, unless you are going on a line that makes a virtue of its informality, you may right now be panicking at the possibility that you will have to buy a half-dozen new evening frocks. While it is never a bad idea to go online for something gorgeous, you don’t actually need to buy a very formal gown, unless you really want to.
Cocktail and short evening wear is perfectly acceptable on even the most glamorous and up-scale ships, providing you look as if you have ramped up the glam quotient with high-octane accessories and jewellery. If you are cruising for just a week, your itinerary will probably feature two formal nights.
You could either pack two cocktail dresses, or perhaps one cocktail dress plus some infinitely versatile evening separates. Palazzo pants in silk or satin, can be worn with a glamorous little silk or lace vest top for formal nights, and with something more covered up and casual for other evenings.
Alternatively, an on-the-knee or midi or maxi skirt in a luxe fabric such as satin, georgette, leather/suede or velvet (depending on the temperature of the region where you are cruising) can, likewise, be dressed up for formal and less formal nights with a whole variety of tops, from lace or jewel-encrusted top to vest-plus-blazer, to pussy-bow blouse, silk T-shirt or glamorous wrapover, cut-out or cold-shoulder top.
For dressier evenings, add crystal-embellished sandals with the highest heels you can wear (remember you will never have to walk very far while on board) and a fabulous clutch bag or a little cross-body or shoulder bag, ideally on a chain. And do add fabulous jewellery which, does not, by the way, have to be real (personal security issues while passing through airports, and transferring to ports lead most women to leave their real rocks at home, and wear the copies, fabulous fakes or some of the stunning costume jewellery currently around). A statement cuff or chandelier earrings or bold, statement necklaces (but not both together) can glam up the simplest outfit.
And if you are wearing anything bare, do remember to pack a pashmina – you may have to go on deck to reach the restaurant or the bar, and sea breezes can sometimes be cool after the sun has set. Remember, too, that restaurants cooled to the temperatures preferred by American guests can sometimes lead to goosebumps if you don’t have a cover-up. For non-formal nights, the kind of dress or smart separates that would work at dinner in any chi-chi resort will be perfect on board ship, again paired with great accessories – a bold necklace or fabulous earrings plus cuff or bangles plus a clutch or a timeless classic such as that Chanel 55 you have had tucked away in a cupboard.
For days on board ship, the rule is resort clothes: if you are sailing in sunny climes, that means fabulous swimwear, plus cover-ups and casual pieces to wear at breakfast and lunch. In a cool climate, pack those sporty pieces – sweaters, jeans, joggers, cardis, cashmere hoodies, jackets and scarves. And don’t neglect to pack a warm hat – if it is a chilly region, it will be even colder at sea.
Where you are going, what you will do on shore and the appropriate dress for climate and culture will determine the rest of your daytime wardrobe. A great summer dress, or a stylish skirt and top, can be worn for a sightseeing-and-shopping day with flat shoes and a big, slouchy bag, then do double service for evening with heels and a clutch, plus jewellery.
For more adventurous day-trips, ensure you have appropriate outdoor clothing and, for walking or climbing, ensure you have trainers or highly practical Teva sandals. You will also need a hat to protect your head from the sun. A small backpack that leaves your hands free while hiking or climbing is also a practical investment.
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