What to Wear on a Cruise

Cruising is far less formal than it used to be, even on luxury lines with a reputation for requiring evening attire. Still, no one likes to stand out by turning up in the wrong clothes, so here are some hints about what you might be expected to wear while on your holiday afloat.

Dress codes

Just about every cruise line has a written dress code, though some enforce them more rigidly than others. Check requirements in advance on your cruise line’s website. Once on board, dress codes for particular evenings or venues are listed in the newspaper that’s delivered to your room each day.

Don’t worry too much. Staff generally overlook minor errors of dress, or will politely inform you that a jacket is required for a certain restaurant. There’s always an alternative dining venue with a more casual dress code, or you can dine in your cabin for a night if dressing up isn’t your idea of a relaxing holiday.

Casual clothes

Casual clothes might include shorts, chinos, trousers, polo shirts, capri pants, blouses, skirts or sundresses for daytime wear. Flat shoes with a good sole are advisable on board. Sandals or sneakers are ideal and useful for shore excursions too, plus a pair of jandals or flip-flops for heading to the pool. An extra bathing suit can also be a good idea: take the second one if the other is still wet.

Casual Clothes

Think about your activities both on and off the ship. You may need gym or jogging gear, something suitably sparkly for the nightclub, and perhaps a pirate or Halloween costume for theme nights on certain cruise ships.

Local conditions

Check the climate in your destination, as you may also need a sunhat, raincoat, sweater, warm coat or even (for places such as Antarctica) some serious cold-climate gear. Layered clothes and a windbreaker work well in places such as Europe where the weather can change from day to day. You’ll want comfortable, loose cotton clothing for tropical and desert climes.

Local Conditions

Think about local sensibilities. For example, bring a headscarf for visiting mosques, and clothing to cover both legs and shoulders in some cathedrals, such as St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Evening attire

Evenings on cruise ships are always at least somewhat more formal than daytime. Many cruise lines ban shorts, swimwear, jeans, singlets, T-shirts and toeless shoes in evening restaurants. Women will probably need pantsuits or dresses.

Men will need decent trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, plus a jacket and maybe tie for “smart casual” nights or for specialty (reservation-only) restaurants.

Formal nights

On the more luxe ships there may be three formal nights on a 10-day cruise, something to consider if you don’t want to wear the same outfit more than once. Changing the look with different accessories is a good idea, given limited cabin storage space.

Formal Nights

Women are expected to wear a cocktail dress or evening gown, though gowns are increasingly rare. Gentlemen are asked to wear a tuxedo, but this is never enforced, so be assured that a dark suit and tie will do just as well. Some ships offer tuxedo rentals if you want to get into the spirit of the night.