On the glamorous ocean liners of days past, long gowns and tuxedos used to be de rigeur for dinner. While some passengers – especially on luxury liners – still opt to get all “decked out”, the rules have become significantly more relaxed, and many of the old guidelines have fallen by the wayside.
With things constantly changing in the world of cruise “fashion”, it can be confusing to determine what to pack for a voyage. What’s appropriate can vary wildly by cruise line- and even by the type of ship! However, no matter which boat you choose, it’s still important to dress tastefully for every occasion, even if fashion is not always your thing. For the best photos and memories, feeling and looking your best is worth the investment.
Plus, let’s face it – everyone likes an excuse to go shopping, and an upcoming cruise gives you the perfect opportunity to refresh your wardrobe. If you’re stumped for ideas, designers like The Row, Tibi, Fendi, Carolina Herrera and others feature chic resort wear collections, so you might want to skim through their websites for inspiration. There are also trunk shows happening almost weekly where top international designers are showing their wares in Green Hills at Gus Mayer. It is the one-stop place where you are sure to find some pieces that easily elevate your traveling wardrobe and also where you can see the latest collections first-hand.
One thing to remember, the cruise lines will typically list what they deem appropriate dress, so be sure to reference the guidelines on their websites and confirm them with your agent when booking your cruise. We looked to CruiseCompete, where their readily available online resources and online member-agents are some of the most well- educated, forward-thinking and trusted cruise specialists in the industry. Because there are so many different types of cruises, not to mention destinations and climates, they are an ideal one-stop source about all of the different language used on dress codes and packing. This is what we found out in the mission for packing help and streamlining the terms used across the board.
Deciphering Cruise Line Dress Codes
Sport shirts for men and anything casual, but no torn or cutoff jeans. For women, any resort attire, including nice slacks and casual tops.
Business casual, Resort casual, Cruise casual, Smart casual, Country Club casual
All mean similar things. For men, slacks and shirts are a good option. Polo shirts are fine on most lines, though some prefer button-down shirts. For ladies, skirts, dresses, nice slacks and sweaters are appropriate.
Tip: For lighter luggage, women should plan to mix and match separates to create different outfits and to avoid over-packing. A well-cut black dress can be jazzed up with a jacket, wrap, jewelry and other adornments for a more formal look. Sandals with a casual skirt and an elegant blouse easily transform into cocktail attire when you add elegant jewelry, so be sure to bring some bling with you.
Elegant Casual, Cruise Elegant, Evening Chic, Semiformal
For men, dress slacks, dress shirts and sportscoats are preferred. For women, chic clothing of any type that you would wear to a cocktail party, including dress slacks. This is another case where accessories can add some extra glamour to more basic pieces.
Black Tie, Gala Attire & Formal
Formal attire for men refers to a tuxedo, a suit and tie or a designer-look sport coat with tie and nice slacks. For women, formal attire means cocktail dresses and dressy resort wear – at a minimum. A sparkly top and black pants might work for some situations. To really make a statement, go with a full-length gown.
Some passengers relish wearing tuxedos and evening gowns on formal nights, but most opt for suits and cocktail attire. Others prefer to stick with the minimum requirement – such as slacks, a sport coat and a dress shirt. Whatever works for you will be fine, as long as you’re dressing tastefully and within the guidelines. If you do decide to get decked out, just know that you won’t be alone as savvier fellow passengers will be doing it, too. And, even if you are in the minority, being overdressed is never really a bad thing no matter where you are.
Dining Room Guidelines
While dining room dress requirements have relaxed over the years, there are still basic standards. Cut-offs or ragged jeans and shorts (including gym and basketball shorts), flip-flops, bathing suit attire, hats, caps, and sleeveless shirts (for men) are generally not permitted. Dress requirements for children in the dining room are normally the same as for adults but do have a little more leeway. Cruise lines offer various dining options, so – depending on where you decide to go for your meals – you may not have to dress up if you don’t want to. Food is offered at buffets on deck and in cafés and restaurants throughout the ship, and most lines offer 24/7 room service.
Should I expect to have to dress formally?
This is one of the most frequent questions cruisers ask when reading over itineraries. Proper dining attire varies from ship to ship, depending on the itinerary and length of the voyage. One-week cruises typically have one or two formal nights, and luxury cruise lines with longer itineraries will be more apt to have additional dressy evenings or events.
When it comes to luxury cruise lines where a more fashionable traveler is the norm, these are the most popular ultra-luxury lines where you can expect to see designer fashion day and night: