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Embarking on a cruise around South America is an exciting adventure that promises diverse landscapes, rich cultural experiences, and unforgettable memories. As a woman preparing for this voyage, you’ll want to ensure that your packing list is not only practical but also stylish and versatile. From the sun-soaked beaches of Rio de Janeiro to the rugged beauty of Patagonia, South America offers a range of environments to explore, each with its unique clothing and accessory requirements.

Royal Caribbean Cruise ship in port

In this packing guide, I’ll take you through the essentials you need to pack to stay comfortable, look fabulous, and make the most of your South American cruise around Cape Horn. I’ll provide you with expert tips and insights to help you pack smartly for this once-in-a-lifetime journey. So, let’s dive in and ensure you’re prepared to make the most of every moment on your South American cruise.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. These links are just one way that I support my site. By clicking on these links I may receive a small commission. But don’t worry, you will not pay more for the products. 

To prepare you for this adventure, I will highlight the most important considerations when packing for your once-in-a-lifetime trip. In my article, How to Prepare for a Cruise Around South America and Cape Horn I provide an in-depth breakdown of what you can expect on a cruise of this type. At the end of this post, you will have the opportunity to receive a FREE printable cruise packing list you can use as a guide for your upcoming cruise around the Horn of South America.

So, there are no unrealistic expectations of what you will find in the following paragraphs, I should make it clear that this is not going to be a guide to an Instagrammable wardrobe. This packing list for your South American sailing is a practical how-to guide.

You will still look cute in photos but I’m not going to tell you to pack flowy dresses you will wear once. No cutesy hats. You won’t be packing 15 pairs of shoes or different sunglasses for every day. But since the age of cruisers to South America tends to skew older, you probably aren’t so young that you’re concerned with the Insta-worthy shots. Ah, the beauty of being a bit older and wiser!!

What to Know Before Packing for Your South American Cruise

Timing of a South America Cruise

Probably the most important thing you should know is that most South American Cruises are scheduled for the southern hemisphere’s summer month, beginning in November through early March. This makes a South American cruise ideal for those in the Northern Hemisphere who want to escape the cold winter weather.

Pack for All Four Seasons

However, despite it being summer in South America you are going to need some winter attire because it gets quite chilly at the “End of the World.” But no worries, it won’t be cold the entire time. On this cruise, you get to experience all four seasons throughout your sailing. This is one of the things that makes packing so challenging.

You should expect the daytime South American temperature to range from the upper 80s and 90s in Buenos Aires and as low as the 30s when sailing through the Strait of Magellan. This being the situation, you will need everything from swimsuits, sunscreen, and sandals to hats, scarves, and mittens.

Open partially packed suitcase with hat, flipflops, and sunglasses

Packing for Formal Nights on a South American Cruise

Most South American Cruises around the Horn are 10 days to 2 weeks. On a cruise of this length, you can expect two formal nights. This means you will need two outfits that fit the occasion. But formal nights are nowhere near as buttoned-up as it once was when sailing. This is good news in terms of packing.

Know what to expect before embarking. Read my guide to preparing for your South American and Cape Horn cruise

What to Wear on Excursions

Excursions in the ports of call range from city walks involving museums and cultural sites to trekking on glaciers and kayaking. Expect to do walking in a variety of conditions including uneven cobblestone streets and hiking trails. But don’t fret. One good sturdy pair of walking shoes will do the job for most conditions.

How to Pack Light for Your Cruise Around the Horn

One challenge I have found when packing for any cruise is they often depart from cooler climates to a warmer destination. On this cruise you can expect just the opposite, you’ll go from warm to cold and back to warm again.  These weather extremes make packing for a Cape Horn cruise especially difficult. No worries as I’m here to help. But let me be candid: you will likely need something larger than a carry-on. And if you don’t, then you should be writing this post.


Pack Versatile Pieces

The key to packing light for a cruise is layering and clothes that do double duty. That means packing sleeveless or short-sleeved knit tops. They are great for warm days and can act as a base layer when you arrive at those cooler destinations. Plus, if you have the right pieces you can dress them up for dressier occasions like dinner in the main dining room or the club at night.

Select Packable Garments

Also, typically, they are packable and require little or no ironing. If they do need some attention, usually hanging them in the bathroom while showering will steam out most of the wrinkles. If you need more, a spritz with a bit of Downy Wrinkle reducer. 

Downy Wrinkle Reducer

Stay wrinkle-free throughout your trip.

Skirts Rather than Shorts

I recommend packing skirts rather than shorts as they are super versatile. Wear them instead of shorts on hot days then pair them with leggings on cold days on land and nights on the ship. The right skirt will take you from day to night and even double as formal attire. Pair a black skirt with a simple top and pretty accessories to dress it up for the evening. (More about accessorizing in a moment.)

South American Cruise wear

While the picture above was not taken on a cruise this is something I might pack for a South American cruise. It’s a simple blouse that takes up almost no space in the suitcase, a plain black skirt that I can wear day or night, and black leggings underneath. All of these items can do double duty and that’s key. The skirt and the leggings can be worn independently giving you more options.

Opt for Neutral Colors

My second trick for minimizing the weight of my luggage is choosing neutral colors so you can mix and match. I try to stick to grey, black, white, and tan bottoms. But if you are like me, you probably like to have a splash of color too. I typically bring brightly colored tops and choose colorful accessories.

Stick to Classic Pieces

I love cardigans because they add warmth and can usually be casual or dressy. Take a style tip from Audrey Hepburn, pair a classic cardigan with pearls and you can’t go wrong.

Classic Women’s Cardigan

You can never go wrong with classics. Dress it up or keep it casual.

Pack a couple of scarves/pashmina. One to wear around your neck on those cold days (mornings in particular) and as a sarong over your swimsuit. Another to throw over your shoulders on a formal night. 

What to Wear in the Evening on a South America Cruise

Another challenge often encountered when packing for a Cape Horn cruise, but especially the longer ones is preparing for formal nights. If you are anything like me, it’s not so much about dressing up for dinner and photos as it is packing and lugging formal attire.

Keep to the Basics for Formal Nights

After, seven cruises I can say I have gotten better about this. Fortunately, formal wear doesn’t necessarily mean evening gowns and tuxes anymore (unless you are on a high-end luxury cruise). This helps a lot. These days a smart black skirt and a black sheath dress will be plenty. With the right coordinating pieces and accessories, you’re ready for the two formal nights on these longer cruises.

Limit Your Jewelry

I only bring a few pieces of jewelry on a cruise. A string of pearls and earrings are so elegant and can dress up any outfit. I also pack a few 36 to 40-inch beaded necklaces and a shortener enhancer clasp to twist and shorten the strands.

Necklace Enhancer

Wear one strand of beads in many ways with this shortener and enhancer

For a less formal evening, pair a skirt with a simple top and pretty accessories to dress it up. This will easily take you from dinner to a show or dancing and the casino.

What to Wear For Warm Weather

How to Dress During Sea Days and Warm Weather

For the first few days of your Cape Horn cruise, you won’t need much more than your swimsuit, a hat to shield your face from the sun, and some sunscreen during your at-sea days. For shore excursions, you are going to want to dress appropriately for the activity you have planned.

Women’s Sun Hat

This fun hat provides UV protection and has a hole for your ponytail.

Capris and skirts typically make more sense than shorts for packing light since they tend to be more versatile. One of the benefits of capris and skirts is they can often be dressed up a bit more than shorts. Of course, skirts and capris may not be practical for all excursions so you will need to consider this. For those ports of call, shorts, jeans, leggings, and yoga pants are a better bet.

Penguins in tall grass

For warm days and excursions pack a few tank tops or tees (I’m in the process of converting to all-wool tees for their all-season wearability, durability, and eco-conscious fibers). Using my packing list you will have options that work for any excursion.

What to Pack for Cold Weather Around the Horn

I’ve already told you that you are going to have some cold days. You will need to pack for this. And as much as you will be tempted, try to avoid packing bulky clothes. Here are the must-haves

  • Wool socks (I like Woolie Boolie or SmartWool)
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Hat and/or ear warmers
  • Base layers, under other clothes, I like Cuddl Duds and SmartWool products.
  • Fleece, a sweatshirt, or a pullover sweater
  • Jacket (I like puffer jackets)

Base layers are critical for cold weather. They should be thin and made of a wicking fabric (something I’ve come to appreciate as a cyclist) such as wool or polyester blend. Both fabrics are extremely packable, and warm when worn with a heavier top layer. Also, because they are thick enough not to be seen through, you can get away with wearing them as a top with yoga pants on transitional days.

SmartWool Thermal Top

This super versatile wool top will be your go-to item throughout your cruise and beyond. It’s sure to become a favorite in your wardrobe.

I’ve already suggested packing cardigan sweaters. You are going to need them when you make your way around the Horn and even in Ushuaia. If you want to save the cardigan for evenings, then you may want to pack a fleece, a sweatshirt, or a pullover sweater. This depends upon your aesthetic and the space in your suitcase.

Packable Puffer Jacket

Leave the heavy coat at home. This compact, lightweight puffer will keep you warm without the bulk.

Finally, you are going to need a jacket of some kind. I’m a fan of puffer jackets that can be rolled up and packed without taking up much space. But you are going to want to make sure that your jacket is warm and will block the cold wind. It gets chilly standing out on the ship’s deck as you travel around the Horn and through the Chilean Fjords oohing and aahing at the glaciers and penguin colonies. Of course, you don’t need to stand outside but for me, it was part of the experience.

What Shoes Should I Pack for My South America Cruise?

This is something I always struggle with but don’t go crazy with shoes. At most, you will need three pairs and you will be wearing one of them.

Wear the Sneaker/Tennies

Wear a pair of sneakers. You will want them for excursions and by wearing them you will not be using up valuable space in your luggage. Although this is a Patagonian cruise, you will not be doing serious hiking unless you are on a true adventure cruise, so there is no need to pack them.

Pack a Versatile Slide-on Sandal

For the warmer weather, on deck, and even dinner, I recommend a slide-on sandal with a low or wedge heel. I find them to be versatile and comfortable. You can wear them with dresses, shorts, pants, and swimwear. Also, if you have the right brand, you can wear them for sightseeing. I like Aerosoles or LifeStride.

LifeStride Sandal with Low Wedge Heel

A low-heeled sandal will take you from day to night with ease.

Dress Shoes for Evenings

As for dressier shoes, ballet flats are probably more practical but I like to have a pair of shoes with heels. While Ballet flats can be dressed up, I like heels for formal nights. They make me feel more put together.

What to Pack in Your Cruise Carry-on Bag

If you are coming from the Northern Hemisphere you have probably endured a long flight and will want to have the ability to clean up a bit when you get on board. After boarding the ship, it could be several hours before your luggage arrives at your cabin. Typically, it gets to your cabin by 8 P.M. But you will want to pack a small bag that will go to your stateroom with you when you arrive.

Girl with Backpack and suitcase

For a carry-on, I suggest a small backpack. It is something that you can use throughout your trip. It can be used to tote camera equipment on excursions. And, it’s also handy for carrying the layers of clothing you strip off as the day wears on and the temperatures rise.

Your carry-on luggage list should be short. Here are a few necessities you will want in your carry-on.

  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • The one cosmetic item you can’t live without
  • Swimsuit
  • Swim Cover-up
  • Sunscreen
  • One casual outfit
  • Any valuables (jewelry, camera, laptop, etc)
  • Important medication

You don’t need a lot in your bag but you will want some basic toiletries such as deodorant as well as a toothbrush and paste to freshen up. Don’t bother with soaps and shampoos. You will have those in your stateroom.

As women, we usually have some form of cosmetics we don’t go out without. For me that is mascara. If you have one of those items, toss it in your bag. It won’t take up much space. If you absolutely must have some color try something compact like e.l.f. Monochromatic Multi Stick, For Eyes, Lips & Cheeks.

Multi Stick for Eyes, Lips, and Cheeks

Give yourself a little refresh after what is sure to be a long travel day.

It should be hot when you arrive and you may want to have your swimsuit and a cover-up. Dinner that first night will be casual. Many people opt for the buffet, therefore there is no need for any special attire. Even if you choose the main dining room you are not expected to dress up. Maybe pack a clean shirt and shorts or a skirt.

If you have brought any valuables such as laptops, cameras, or jewelry you want to be sure to carry them onto the ship.

Also, be sure to have any medication you may need. On rare occasions, luggage gets misplaced and doesn’t find its way to your stateroom until the following day. I’ve personally never had this experience but I’ve heard of it happening.

What Not to Pack for a South American Cruise

Leave the Valuable Jewelry at Home

Avoid packing a lot of valuable jewelry. It’s just something to worry about losing or having stolen. Also, if you bring jewelry of value, you may want to consider only wearing it on the ship. I was warned about the security of the gold necklace I had around my neck during a walking tour in Valparaiso Chile.

Skip the Hiking Boots

Don’t pack your hiking boots. You won’t need them unless you are doing pre- or post-trip activities where they are necessary. The excursions in port are not significant enough to warrant them. Sneakers will be just fine. If you do have activities planned that will require them, I recommend wearing them so they do not take up valuable real estate in your luggage.

Overstuffed suitcase

Pass on the Gear

Also, there is no need to pack gear for excursions such as waterproof clothing for kayaking or spikes for walking on glaciers. Necessary, activity-specific gear will be provided by your tour operator.

Remember: Ships Have Laundry Service

A final note about packing for your South American cruise adventure: don’t forget you have laundry service available to you on the ship. However, you may want to avoid it as much as possible as it can get costly.  However, there are usually one or two days when the cruise line offers a special deal for laundry service. Typically, it is a flat rate for as much as you can stuff in a bag. This is when you will want to use it.

And, although a dry cleaning service is available to you as well, try to pack clothes that will not require pressing. Knits are typically the best for this.

Because so many of the clothes on this list can do double duty, you will find that following this South American Cruise Packing guide will give you plenty of flexibility.

Get your FREE Ultimate South American Cruise Packing list, now.

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6 Responses

  1. I have tried twice to get the printable packing list but still do not have it. Is it listed it in another place? It seems like a S. American cruise requires warm and cold clothes. We will be sailing in late December and early January…

    1. I’m sorry you have not recieved your packing list. I have done an override in my system and you should have it now. I also sent you an email with an update on this issue. Enjoy your cruise!

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