How To Dress for a Catamaran Cruise

Now that you have your catamaran cruise booked, you need to make sure your clothing choices suit the occasion. You want to look your best in the photos you share on social media and with your envious friends, but you also want to dress comfortably for a safe cruise. How do you dress for a catamaran cruise?

To dress for a catamaran cruise, ask about a dress code — is it “come as you are,” or black tie? For a casual cruise, wear jeans, sneakers, and a non-collared shirt. Formal cruises require tuxedos and evening gowns. Don’t forget to bring a straw hat and polarized sunglasses for UV protection.

Catamaran cruises offer a chance to relax and unwind. But before you go, there are a few things to learn about catamarans and cruising. You may be a lifelong landlubber, but after reading this article, you’ll be a stylish seadog.

What Is a Catamaran?

At first glance, a catamaran looks like two boats with a house hanging atop them. Catamarans are broader and boxier than traditional ships. Their width makes them more stable than a single-hulled ship. 

Nautical designers build racing catamarans for speed and cruising catamarans for comfort. Because they rock less than conventional boats, a catamaran ride causes much less sea sickness even in choppy waters. 

Many charter captains rent their catamarans for cruises. They may take guests out for a dinner cruise that features great food and sunset over the waves. They could offer all-day excursions with fishing and swimming. Or they might set sail with their passengers for distant islands.

Whether you’re going for an afternoon ride in the harbor or a catamaran cruise around the world, you’ll want to look your best. But before you ask, “What should I wear?” you should find out if your cruise operator has any rules regarding what you cannot wear.

Check Your Cruise Dress Codes

While many catamaran cruises have a “come as you are” attitude, some expect guests to dress for the occasion. At best, ignoring their dress codes will mark you as the person who showed up to a black-tie event in ripped jeans and a dirty T-shirt. At worst, they’ll turn you away at the dock. 

When in doubt, err on the side of good taste. Cruises are special events. Dress to impress, and you’ll make your cruise more enjoyable for yourself and your fellow passengers. 

Casual Wear on a Catamaran Cruise

Casual catamaran cruises are more about the scenery and the food than dressing up. Jeans, sneakers, and non-collared shirts are acceptable. Tank tops, flip-flops, and swimwear are frowned upon for hygienic and fashion reasons. And just because you can wear a T-shirt on a dinner cruise doesn’t mean that you should.

Boat shoes and leather sandals are more stylish than sneakers. Capris, sundresses, and knee-length skirts work well at a casual wear dinner cruise. Men will look comfortable and stylish in khakis, golf shirts, and button-up shirts. 

This Berydress A-Line Midi Sundress with a lace shawl or cover-up will look casual without sloppy. And men can’t go wrong combining Calvin Klein Stretch Chino Pants with a Lacoste Polo Shirt

Semi-Formal Catamaran Cruise Wear

There are many definitions of “semi-formal wear.” Perhaps the best way to approach a semi-formal cruise is to dress like you’re going to a wedding or a 5-star restaurant. 

Flats or low chunky heels will be better suited to a cruise than higher heels. While catamarans heel (rock) much less than conventional boats, waves can still lead to a “rocking horse” motion as the dual hulls rise and fall on the swells. Low heels will be better for your balance. And spike or stiletto heels are right out, as they can cause expensive damage to the decks. 

Combine this Haspel Poplin Sport Coat with these Perry Ellis Linen Pants and a button-down shirt for a look that’s both formal and relaxed. A white Julia Jordan Halter Jumpsuit will look fabulous combined with these blue FASZFSAF Flower Sandals.

Formal Wear Catamaran Cruise Events

When cruising, “formal wear” traditionally meant tuxedos and evening gowns. While some big cruise ships still hold formal events complete with tuxedo rental, the Titanic look has largely gone the way of the Titanic. (Many cruise guests are not happy with this situation).

Still, there may be times when you’ll need to break out the tie and tails or sport your designer best on a catamaran. Many travel-loving couples charter boats for their wedding ceremony. And when your catamaran docks, the yacht and harbor club may hold events where the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers look is de rigueur

For an authentic vintage tuxedo look, check eBay’s wide selection of vintage tuxedos. Cruise ship formal wear for women generally works best with simple elegance combined with a showpiece accessory. And when you’re sailing, you’ll find elaborate hairdos hold up more poorly in salt breezes than basic but well-done styles.

England is famous both for its fashion industry and its sailing history. In this British GQ article, Harvey James explains the differences between white tie and black tie dress codes. 

What Clothes Are Best for a Catamaran Cruise?

Whether you’re out for the day or weeks, there are traditional nautical fashions. These styles became popular because they both look good and meet guest and crew needs. What you bring when you set out is what you have until your catamaran docks. 

Here are some pointers for packing or for picking the right outfit for your short catamaran cruise:

  • Mix and Match Colors: If you have a limited number of outfits, make sure everything works with everything else. Some easily mixed colors include:
    • Navy blue, the color of the British Navy’s traditional officer coat, goes well with both neutrals and bright colors like red and yellow.
    • Pastels, especially pastel “sea greens” and sky blues, work with khakis, jeans, and white skirts. 
    • White matches everything and will keep you cooler on a hot day. Lighter colors should predominate in your outfit.
  • Stripes: Stripes pop out against a solid-colored wardrobe. Striped crew necks (named after a style favored by rowers) are popular on yachts and at yacht clubs. This inexpensive Uxcell Striped Crew Neck T-Shirt comes in a wide range of colors and sizes.
  • Fabrics: Breathable cotton and linen make your catamaran cruise more comfortable. Dry clean only outfits that might sustain damage from sea spray or a sudden storm should be left onshore. 

The following items may be handy on your catamaran cruise:


Those of us with thinning hair know all too well the heartache of the sunburnt scalp. A hat shields your face, head, neck, and eyes from harmful UV radiation and blinding light. When choosing a hat, look for a 3” to 5” (7.62 to 12.7-cm) brim around the cap. The best materials for sun protection are a very tight straw weave or a thick canvas. 

Bucket hats originally protected Irish fishers and farmers from sun and drizzle. Bob Denver made bucket hats famous on the TV series Gilligan’s Island. A Zero Restriction Gore-Tex Bucket Hat will keep your head dry through a summer squall and ensure you have a better (if shorter) cruise than Gilligan and the Skipper.


Chilly ocean breezes can blow on even the warmest days. And when the sun sets, the air may soon go from balmy to brisk. That light jacket you thought you would never need in midsummer will leave you comfortable while the less-prepared shiver.

Windbreakers like the Under Armour Women’s ArmourStorm Sonar Waterproof Jacket or Under Armour Men’s Scrambler Jacket offer protection against cutting winds and sea spray. They’re also lightweight enough to be folded into a day bag when the sun comes out again.

If your catamaran is sailing in cooler weather, consider a fisherman’s sweater. This Biddy Murphy Aran Knit Sweater is made with soft, non-scratchy Merino wool and comes in various sizes and colors. Irish fishermen wear these while sailing the North Sea. They should keep you fashionable and warm when things get dreary and damp. 


Clean, unripped jeans are acceptable for most cruises. But seersucker pants will be more breathable and look more upscale. If you’re going on a catamaran cruise, why not go that extra mile and wear a nice pair of Brooks Brothers Striped Seersucker Pants

Linen capri pants (also known as “clam diggers”) are a flattering option for women. These LinenMe Linen Clam Diggers will pair with just about anything in your wardrobe. They’re fetching, versatile, and can be used as part of many outfits after your catamaran cruise ends. 


In 1934, Paul Sperry slipped on his sailboat and fell into the cold Long Island Sound waters. Sperry made it safely back to his boat, but the experience shook him. He resolved to create a shoe that would give him better traction when at sea.

The following winter Sperry noticed how easily his Cocker Spaniel, Prince, ran up icy Connecticut hills without slipping. Inspired by Prince’s rough paws, Sperry cut grooves into a pair of gum rubber soles and glued them to canvas sneakers.

Today Sperry’s rubber-soled shoes are still beloved by naval personnel who want to stay on the deck or, in nautical slang, “topside.” Sperry Top-Siders are comfortable and fashionable. And their white rubber soles don’t scuff or mar decks, which makes them very popular with yacht owners too! 

If you want footwear for your cruise, you can’t go wrong with a pair of Sperry Top-Siders. These Sperry Men’s Mako 2-Hole Boat Shoes and Sperry Women’s Rosefish Boat Shoes will be stylish both on deck and dry land. And if any part of your cruise involves a walking tour, bring worn-in shoes to avoid blisters.


For men, button-downs like this Vivienne Westwood Poplin Orb Short-Sleeved Shirt and polo shirts like the Calvin Klein Men’s Quick Dry Polo are solid catamaran cruise options. 

Button-downs and polo shirts also work for ladies on a catamaran cruise. This Agan Traders Women’s Boho Lace Bell Sleeve Blouse is Bohemian enough for a coffee house and sufficiently light for hot weather. The long sleeves will also help protect you from sunburn. 


To cope with the hot, humid weather, early 20th century Bermuda businessmen began wearing trousers cut an inch above the knee. Much of the British Empire was tropical or subtropical, so Bermuda shorts became popular throughout Her Majesty’s realm.

Bermuda shorts are dressier than denim cut-offs but not so formal that you can’t pair them with a T-shirt. Island Trends Victoria Bermuda Shorts will look great with a brightly colored Cicy Bell Casual Blazer or with a Daily Ritual Oversized V-Neck Tunic. And there are few men’s yachting outfits more iconic than Bermuda shorts paired with a polo or golf shirt.


Sunlight glistening off the water can be dazzling, but a little goes a long way. If you’re out on the ocean, sunglasses are a must-have item. Along with a hat and sunscreen, sunglasses can be the difference between a pleasant cruise and a painful one.

Here are a few tips when selecting sunglasses for your catamaran cruise:

  • Be sure your sunglasses are polarized; non-polarized sunglasses will do little to keep out the light coming toward your eye from all directions. 
  • Also, check to see that your sunglasses block out harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. 
  • Many sailors prefer gray or copper-colored lenses. These provide the best contrast when exploring the water for fish or obstacles.

These Costa Del Mar Men’s FERG Square Sunglasses and Costa Del Mar Women’s Gannet Rectangular Sunglasses will protect your eyes on a cruise or in any other overly bright situation.


Catamarans are great for ocean swimming. Their lower draft (depth below the water) means they can sail into harbors that would ground most conventional sailboats. And their stability makes them excellent platforms for climbing into and out of the water. 

One-piece suits are versatile. Slip on a pair of Joe’s Jeans Bermuda Shorts or an R.Vivimos Cotton Floral Print Midi Skirt, and you’re ready to go from the ocean to a beachfront restaurant. 

For cruises, many experts recommend bringing at least two swimsuits. That way, you can leave one out to dry and wear the other when you want to visit the hot tub or lounge on the deck. And rash guards like the Quiksilver Men’s All Time Ls Surfer Shirt or Land’s End Women’s Crew Neck Long Sleeve Rash Guard can save you from painful sunburn. 

Packing Advice for a Long Catamaran Cruise

If you’re going on a multi-day catamaran cruise, you’ll want several changes of clothes on-hand. You want to bring your most flattering outfits, but don’t bring too many! 

Pack Lightly for Your Cruise

The Hemisphere, one of the largest charter catamarans, is 145 feet (44.2 meters). Charter catamarans typically range between 45 and 70 feet (13.72 and 21.34 meters) long. The Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship sailing today, is 1,128 feet (343.81 meters) long. 

Next to a big cruise ship, cruising catamarans look positively puny! But Symphony carries over 5,500 people on a typical cruise along with a crew of 2,200. The Hemisphere has a staff of eight and can accommodate up to twelve passengers in four doubles and one twin cabin. 

Catamarans have a rectangular deck that offers more space than a traditional boat of comparable length. This design gives passengers more room for walking about and for activities. Many of the largest catamarans have hot tubs and even pools! But storage space on a catamaran cruise will still be at a premium. 

You should be able to fit your cruise wardrobe in one large or two small soft-sided bags or duffel bags which you can store away easily. Soft bags are easy to fold away once you unpack, taking up less room. Hard suitcases are more challenging to pack away and may even scratch and damage cabin woodwork.

This Gonex 150L Foldable Duffle Bag comes in various colors and will give you plenty of room to store your things. 

Ask About Cruise Washing Facilities

Washing machines require lots of electricity and freshwater. They’re bulky and heavy. While cruising catamarans offer many luxuries, most don’t have onboard laundry facilities. That means you’ll probably need to wait until your catamaran docks to do your wash at a laundromat. Make sure you bring along enough clothes to tide you over between ports of call. 

If all else fails, you can always use the time-honored sailing tradition of washing your clothes in soapy salt water, rinsing them in a bit of freshwater, then hanging them out to dry. The ocean breezes will dry your garments in no time and leave them smelling like the sea.

The Tangie Stain Remover Bar is small, but if you need to get a stain out while traveling between ports, it’ll be a big help. 

Leave Your Expensive Jewelry at Home

Heirlooms and irreplaceable jewelry can easily get lost on a cruise. Expensive rings and necklaces may impress your cruise mates, but they’ll also draw the attention of thieves and ne’er-do-wells in port. 

You should also avoid long necklaces on sailing catamarans. If your chain gets tangled in the rigging, it could break. And be careful near the railing. If your diamond bracelet falls into Davy Jones’ locker, Davy keeps it. 

If you absolutely must bring expensive jewelry for a special night out, check to ensure that your cruise has a safe to store your irreplaceable heirlooms. Keep them safely stored away until you need them, then lock them back up until you return.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what to wear on a catamaran cruise. Catamarans are chic and often comfortable sailing in almost every sort of weather. With the pointers that you’ve learned from this essay, you can be fashionable and comfortable too! Happy (and stylish) sailing! 



Owner of A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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