What to wear on a Cruise? Cruise Dress Codes!

Dress codes seem to be a common concern amongst people new to cruising.

Please don’t worry!

Ultimately it is your cruise, you have worked hard to pay for it, so you enjoy your cruise how you want to enjoy it.

If this is wearing your jeans and a T shirt throughout, then that is fine, if it is dressing in your glad rags every evening that’s fine too.

Life is short, your cruise is your escape for a week or two, so do what makes you happy!

If you are someone who likes to stick to the suggested dress code, there are a variety of cruise lines for you to sail with. I’ve experienced a few lines now ranging from very formal, like Cunard, to far more relaxed like Disney.  Then companies like P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises in between. Then there is Virgin Voyages, which breaks the mould of cruising in many ways including dress codes.

People seem to worry the most about Black tie events aboard. People either seem to love or hate them. Don’t worry!

You have two choices, you join in and dress up, or you don’t. It really is that simple. You will always get people who will judge you not following a dress code, but ultimately it says far more about them than you. It is your holiday.

Personally I adore dressing in my glad rags for the night and admiring everyone else!

I have included some of my favourite Cruise Ship dresses are below.

I do however, have the uttermost respect for anyone choosing to dress how they want. In my experience, cruises upon Cunard Line and P&O Cruises seem to have been my most formal, formal nights.

On Cunard Line, you will be invited to Gala nights. There tend to be two gala evenings on a 7 night voyage, and the dress code will be Black Tie. Attendance is optional and there will be areas of the ship in which the dress code will not be enforced, for example the Ship buffet. It is unlikely you’ll be welcomed to eat in the main restaurant or speciality restaurants without dressing to the dress code.

If you do enjoy dressing up in Black Tie, Cunard take their gala nights to an extra level and theme them. When I learnt that Cunard did Masquerade Balls, I was straight onto ebay / etsy etc to find a mask! Then actually on the evening, people did not actually wear masks much, however I did ensure I posed for some photographs before the mask went back into my handbag! You will also be treated to a Black and White Ball, A Red and Gold Royal Cunard Ball night, and a Roaring 20s themed night. You will find out prior to your cruise which themed nights will be included, you are unlikely to experience every night on the same cruise.

P&O Cruises are also quite the traditional cruise line. You will find a selection of Formal / celebration nights aboard their Ships. Prior to cruising check your cruise personaliser / summary and it will inform you the amount of formal nights you will have. Again, these are suggested dress codes, many follow them, as they really emcompass tradtional cruising and a lot of people do enjoy dressing up. However, it is your holiday, you can easily enjoy a Cruise Holiday with P&O Cruises, not dressing up. Dress codes come into place aboard a P&O Ship after 18:00. The code will be enforced in certain parts of the ship.

Check out a question and answer from the P&O cruises website below regarding the areas on the ships on which the dress code is expected to be followed. If you’re new to P&O cruising this does leave you with many venues aboard to enjoy your evening if dressing up is not your idea of fun.

taken from P&O Cruises website Q&As

P&O also helpfully include a suggestion of clothes to wear for a Black tie evening.

Men can wear formal black tie, however it is also acceptable to formally wear a suit and tie combination, this maybe a cheaper way to dress up for the evening. If it is your first cruise, you are probably unlikely to want to add to the cost of your holiday by buying a tuxedo you may never wear again, so try out the formal night with a suit and tie, if you love the formality of the evening and catch the cruise addiction , you can treat yourself to a Tuxedo! My husband never really enjoyed the thought of dressing up, but gave it a go, and now he seems to enjoy it! There is absolutely no need to break the bank buying a Tux many high street stores sell them, including stores such as Primark and M&S.

Taken from the P&O Cruises website

As you can see from the selection above, the dress code for women during a formal night does feel a lot more easy to follow. I feel that any woman is unlikely to need to buy any new clothes to cruise. Of course you may want to treat yourself. However with the cruise being a luxury and not always cheap, you may not want to spend more money.

Women can generally wear anything smart, this can include smart trousers and a top, smart separates, a smart cocktail dress, a smart midi dress, a smart maxi dress, even a ball gown! Anything you may wear to go out to a nice restaurant, or to a wedding would definitely suit a P&O Formal night. Bring along something that makes you feel a million dollars, then treat yourself to some photographs aboard with your loved one/s. Professional photographers will be aboard and will help you pose for formal photographs around beautitful parts of the ship. Pose for these photographs, have fun! You can then head to the Photo gallery in your own time and review these photos. You are under no obligation to buy them. I do tend to find the best photographs taken aboard are when they photorgaphers are roaming around events, these always seem more natural, so make friends with the photographers, notice them and smile! Then pose til your heart is content and treat yourself to some of the photos , to frame and decorate your home with!

Don’t have any worries about the dress code during the daytime. Anything goes, well within reason! You’ll find a cruise ship day time dress code is the same as an holiday resort dress code. Generally the main rule is no swim wear in restaruants. However with many outside eating venues dotted around Pool decks, you can stay in your speedos or bikinis all day and eat outside if you so desire.

Otherwise within the ship. t shirt, shorts, dress, combat trousers, anything goes! Whatever you would usually wear when you’re chilling out at home or relaxing in a hotel somewhere.

Having covered Formal nights, on the more formal Cruise Lines, I thought I would add some information for you about the dress codes aboard other cruise lines I have cruised with and to add to this post as I experience further cruise lines. For example, next year four of my cruises are with cruise lines new to me, Ambassador, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea. So I will let you know about the dress codes on these cruise lines over the next year.

For now, information for you, about dress codes with Cruise Lines I have cruised with.

All three Cruise Lines fit into the dress codes discussed above.

Tradewind Voyages – You may or may not have heard about Tradewind Voyages. They are a very new cruise line, having undertaken their first voyage, with their Ship, Golden Horizon back in July 2021. I was on board their maiden voyage, a UK coastal Voyage aboard the tallest rigged cruise ship in the World!

If she sounds like the type of ship check out my blogs, filmed aboard her Maiden Voyage.

The Dress Code aboard Golden Horizon, was relaxed. Smart casual, resort wear during the day, be it a sea day or a day ashore. Swimwear and Sportswear were acceptable attire in the Gym , on the sundeck or on the Marina.

There were no formal / gala nights aboard Golden Horizon, the dress code was described as elegant casual. Suggestions were made for gentlemen to wear a collared shirt and women to wear a dress or smart separates. I tended to wear a couple of dresses I had from New Look Curve aboard, and also did wear smart unripped jeans, with sparkly ballet pump shoes and a smart top.

Virgin Voyages – A new trailblazer in the Cruise industry!

Virgin Voyages and I pretty sure share the idea that you should wear what you are comfortable wearing on a cruise! You must use common sense and not turn up to a restaurant in your bikini, but then you probably would be frowned upon rocking up to your local fine dining establishment in a bikini!

Virgin voyages encourage you to feel free to express who you are aboard one of their Ladyships. I went for a Voyage and a night aboard Scarlet Lady and felt extremely comfortable wearing outfits ranging from a 1950s style dress I tend to wear on Formal nights on more traditional lines, to jeans and sparkly top. There were no feelings that anyone was judging you dressing too up, or too down, everyone was far too busy having fun!

Have a read below of Virgin Voyage’s own description of their dress code on board.

Whatever you decide to wear, I can assure you you’ll have the most fantastic evening with the most wonderful, delicious food.

Make sure you pack something Scalet / Red in colour, for Scarlet Night. Don’t worry if you do not own anything and all spare pennies went on treating yourself to the Voyage, I wore a black and white dress with bright red shoes, all articles of clothing I already owned. Booking a Cruise and clothes to wear on board need not need be expensive!

Check out my Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages vlogs, to see how much I enjoyed it!

Marella Cruises – A casual, laid back Cruise Line for everyone!

I undertook my first Marella Cruise in Summer 2021. I have to admit I did not know what to expect. Having undertaken 25 Cruises with P&O I was expecting something a lot more informal, not that P&O is overly formal, just different to what I expected from Marella. I was so pleasantly surprised, it is a fabulous little Cruise Line! Great for families and for couples. I am pretty sure I’d be happy cruising solo aboard Marella too!

The usual resort wear dress code existed on board during the day and evenings generally were Smart, casual. Many people wore smart, unripped jeans to the main restaurant, there really was a feeling of everyone being comfortable and enjoying themselves.

Marella hosts ‘Dress to Impress’ nights. In my experience aboard this involved women dressing in a nice dress, or smart separates and gentlemen in a shirt, tie and suit or chino type trousers and a casual shirt. I think the general consensus is you’re expected to make a bit of an effort, but you are not expected to be all out tuxedo and bow tie, unless of course you want to!

Check out my Vlogs filmed aboard Marella Explorer in Summer 2021.

MSC Cruises – a fabulous European Cruise Line for families, couples and solo travellers.

Have you cruised with MSC Cruises yet? I took advantage of Cruising aboard MSC Virtuosa on her Maiden Voyage in May 2021. We were kindly upgraded to the Yacht Club, the dress code in the Yacht Club and the rest of the Ship is the same.

Much like the more traditional lines, such as P&O and Princess, MSC has a very similar dress code.

Casual, resort wear for the daytime. Smart wear for normal evenings aboard. Occasion wear for special Gala nights. You will notice MSC also mention specific theme parties that they host aboard, and suggested dress codes for those parties. They are not compulsory, and if you don’t own the clothes to match the theme and don’t want to buy any new clothes, you do not need to. No one will mention you joining in , in a particular party wearing the clothes you love and feel most comfortable in!

Check out my adventure aboard MSC Ventura here :

Disney Cruise Line – A cruise line for families, couples and solo’s who love Disney!

I have to say when I googled Disney Cruise Line’s dress codes to share information with you, I wasn’t expecting there to be so much information!

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip aboard Disney Magic in Sept 2021, but I did not think to google dress codes! I had expected there would be a smart casual dress code for the on board main dinnig restaurants and then a more formal dress code in Palo for Brunch.

I certainly felt comfortable in jeans and a smart top in the main dining rooms aboard Disney Magic, I ate during the second sitting and this was mainly adults and older children. I expect eating during the first sitting could even be more casual. However if you wished to dress up each night, I don’t feel anyone would batter an eyelid.

It was noticeable that more people were dressed in a more smart manner up in Palo, an adult only restaurant aboard. I wore a maxi – shirt style dress and felt I was smart enough. Men were dressed in smart trousers and a shirt, no more formal.

One item that did seem part of the dress code aboard Disney Magic, was some Minnie ears! I was in the extreme minority without them. It did not bother me, however I think when I next cruise with Disney I will treat myself to a pair, to get into the Disney spirit!

Over the next 12 months I’ll be adding first hand experience of dress codes aboard the following cruise lines!

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