Dress codes: The dos and don’ts when deciding what to wear onboard cruise ships

Feb 11, 2019

Choosing what clothes to take on your cruise can be a tedious task. When can you get away with shorts? What is best for a formal dinner? Is there black tie?

Dress codes onboard will most likely vary between cruise lines, however there is a lot of overlap when it comes to certain pieces of clothing.

So if you’re setting sail soon but are still not sure on what you’ll be packing or the rules at dinner, here are a few dos and don’ts:

Formal nights

While these nights are not as common as they used to be among cruise lines, it’s still fairly normal to see a formal evening on the agenda. Different ships will have different codes for their formal evenings however the general consensus is as follows: 
Formal means black tie and dark suit for men and evening dresses for women.

Semi-formal means a jacket and tie for men and cocktail dresses or pant suits for women.

Elegant casual or smart casual means a jacket with no tie for men and a nice dress, pants, or skirt and top for women.

Although they’re organised in the schedule, they’re also optional so if you don’t feel like bringing a fancy option then make sure to avoid speciality restaurants and the main dining room – instead sticking to the buffet or ordering room service.

Night time

Nights definitely have more rules for clothing than the day so it’s important to ensure you have the right clothes to transition from casual to more formal.

On most ships, the dress code is smart casual for the evening so just dress as if you’re going on a dinner date. In the main dining room, jeans are generally accepted by most cruise lines however shorts on men are more often than not prohibited after 6pm.

These rules definitely vary from ship to ship so it’s best to check directly with the cruise line for the most accurate information.


If your plan is to simply laze by the pool all day you might be wondering what the rules on walking around in your bathing suit are. While it’s completely out of the question at nighttime, during the day the rules can be a bit more lenient. 

You can generally head to the buffet and outdoor sitting area in your swimmers but most likely won’t be allowed in speciality restaurants or other popular public areas. If you do end up wearing swimmers outside the pool however, make sure you bring some spare clothes to cover up when necessary. 


Thongs are encouraged to be worn around the pool and are accepted in most areas outdoors, however, they shouldn’t be worn during the evening if heading to the main dining hall or speciality restaurants. Swap them out for boat or dress shoes for men or heels or sandals for women.

Don’t forget a pair of joggers or hiking books for activities that might happen on land, or if you choose to use the on board gym!


Are you heading on a cruise soon? What were you planning on packing?

Retrieving conversation…