Understanding cruise ship dress codes: your complete guide


Cruising has become an increasingly popular vacation choice for travelers all around the world. With a wide range of activities, entertainment, and dining options, cruises offer a unique and luxurious experience. However, one aspect of cruising that often confuses passengers is the dress code. Each cruise line has its own set of guidelines regarding what to wear on board, and it can be overwhelming to navigate through the various dress codes. In this article, we will provide you with a complete guide to understanding cruise ship dress codes, ensuring that you are well-prepared for your next cruise adventure.

Understanding Cruise Ship Dress Codes

Cruise ship dress codes can vary significantly depending on the cruise line, the length of the cruise, and the destination. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the dress code requirements before your trip to ensure that you pack the appropriate attire. Here are some common dress codes you may encounter on a cruise ship:


Casual dress code is the most relaxed and informal option available on most cruise ships. It is typically the dress code during the daytime and for certain dining venues. Casual attire includes comfortable clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, and swimsuits. However, it is important to note that swimwear is generally not allowed in dining areas or public spaces other than the pool deck.

Smart Casual

Smart casual dress code is a step up from casual attire and is usually required in the evenings. It is a more polished and put-together look, but still allows for comfort. For women, this may include skirts or dresses paired with a blouse, or dress pants with a stylish top. Men can opt for slacks or khakis paired with a collared shirt or a polo shirt. Jeans, t-shirts, and athletic wear are typically not allowed in smart casual venues.

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Formal dress code, also known as “formal night” or “gala night,” is an elegant affair that often takes place once or twice during a cruise. It is an opportunity for passengers to dress up and enjoy a sophisticated evening. Women are expected to wear cocktail dresses, evening gowns, or dressy separates, while men are required to wear a tuxedo, a suit, or a dress shirt with a tie and dress pants. Some cruise lines also offer tuxedo rentals on board for those who do not wish to pack formal attire.

Theme Nights

Theme nights are a fun and exciting part of many cruises, especially those catering to specific interests or age groups. These themed events often have specific dress codes that passengers are encouraged to participate in. Some popular theme nights include tropical nights, 80s parties, and masquerade balls. Passengers can get creative and dress up according to the theme, adding an extra element of fun to their cruise experience.

Specialty Restaurants

Many cruise ships offer specialty restaurants that require a more formal dress code. These upscale dining venues often have specific requirements, such as a jacket for men or a dress for women. It is important to check the dress code for each specialty restaurant in advance and make reservations accordingly.

Destination-Specific Dress Codes

In addition to the general dress codes on board, it is essential to consider the dress codes of the ports of call you will be visiting. Some destinations have cultural or religious customs that require more modest attire. For example, visiting a place of worship may require covering your shoulders or knees. It is always a good idea to research the dress code expectations of each destination and pack accordingly.

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Tips for Packing

Packing for a cruise can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to dressing appropriately for various dress codes. Here are some tips to help you pack efficiently:

  • Check the dress code requirements for each cruise line and ship you will be sailing on. These guidelines can usually be found on the cruise line’s website or by contacting their customer service.
  • Pack versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits. This will help you maximize your wardrobe options without overpacking.
  • Bring a variety of footwear, including comfortable walking shoes, sandals, and dressier shoes for formal nights or specialty restaurants.
  • Consider packing a small steamer or wrinkle release spray to help freshen up your clothes and remove any wrinkles that may occur during travel.
  • Don’t forget to pack accessories such as jewelry, scarves, and belts to add a touch of style to your outfits.
  • Remember to pack appropriate swimwear and cover-ups for poolside lounging or beach excursions.


Understanding cruise ship dress codes is essential for a smooth and enjoyable vacation experience. By familiarizing yourself with the various dress codes and packing accordingly, you can ensure that you are prepared for any occasion on board. Whether it’s a casual day by the pool or a formal evening at the captain’s dinner, dressing appropriately will enhance your overall cruise experience. So, pack your bags, follow the dress code guidelines, and get ready to embark on a fabulous cruise adventure. Bon voyage!


  1. Can I wear jeans on a cruise ship?
    Jeans are typically not allowed in venues with a smart casual or formal dress code. However, they are usually acceptable for casual dress code venues during the daytime.
  2. Do I need to pack a tuxedo for a formal night?
    While a tuxedo is a traditional choice for formal nights, it is not mandatory. You can opt for a suit or a dress shirt with a tie and dress pants as an alternative.
  3. Are there any dress code restrictions for children?
    Most cruise lines have dress code guidelines for children as well. However, they are generally more relaxed compared to adult dress codes. It is best to check with the cruise line for specific details.
  4. What should I wear on theme nights?
    Theme nights provide an opportunity to dress up according to the specified theme. Get creative and have fun with your outfit while adhering to the theme guidelines provided by the cruise line.
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