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The Guide to Cruise Dress Codes

Posted November 10th, 2013 in tips and tagged by Admin


Dressing for a cruise can be downright stressful if you don’t know what to expect. Where else can your dress code for dinner change nightly… not to mention going from a pool to a formal dining room in less than an hour?

The good news is that what you wear doesn’t have to be an ordeal. And no, you don’t even have to change out of your shorts if you don’t want to. Here’s some info about dressing up (or dressing down) for your cruise.

Note: These guidelines apply to the mass market cruises like Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Some other lines have more formal requirements.

What to Wear During the Day

Before we get to dressing for dinner, let’s first address dressing for the day.

For the large cruises, dress during the day is casual. Shorts, swimsuits and sunglasses are the order of the day. This applies to both inside the ship and on the outer deck areas.

When you are inside, keep in mind that you should cover up. That means shirts and shorts for both guys and gals. For ladies, sarongs or other wraps should be large enough to cover everything and not be see-through. It is especially important to cover up if you enter eating areas for health reasons and as a courtesy to your fellow passengers.

What to Wear at Dinner

While dressing during the day is pretty easy — just be comfortable — dinner can be a little more tricky.

Lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean typically follow a schedule of five “casual” nights for a 7-day cruise with two “formal” nights.

Dress Code for Casual Nights: Casual night might make you think shorts and t-shirts. But the casual code is a little bit more upscale. The cruise lines recommend nice slacks for men (not jeans), along with a button-down shirt and ideally a sport coat. Women have a little more lee-way in the dress code, but smart skirts or dresses are recommended.

Dress Code for Formal Nights:¬†Formal nights are just that — very formal. You will see many ladies in evening gowns and men in tuxedos (if you want one, you can rent a tux on the ship). Think of the formal nights as getting dress up for the prom back in high school. There is almost no way that you will be overdressed.

Now that we’ve covered the dress codes in broad detail, it’s time for a little fine print…

First, these dress codes are only for the ship’s main dining room and higher-end restaurants. On formal night you will see people all dressed up all over the ship during dinner time. But if you aren’t attending the dining room, don’t feel like you have to get dressed up too. There are many dinner options on the ship. So if you want to keep things relaxed, you can always eat in one of the alternate venues.

That brings us to our second point. The cruise lines want you to enjoy your cruise. Meanwhile, the waitstaff in the dining room are highly dependent upon gratuities for their income. That means if you don’t follow the dress codes, most people won’t even bat an eye.

During the casual nights — when most people are dressed at least “business casual” — we’ve even seen some patrons wearing shorts.

That said, we do recommend following the cruise guidelines for the dress code. It is respectful to other guests who want to enjoy the pomp and circumstance of formal dining. More importantly, it might make you feel uncomfortable wearing shorts and t-shirts when everyone else is in a tux!

Photo: garybembridge

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