Knowing what not to wear on a cruise is an important consideration when you’re packing for your ocean voyage. Although the idea of being in a relaxed, vacation-like atmosphere may tempt you into foregoing traditional style dos and don’ts, adhering to them is as important on a cruise as anywhere else you travel. Historically, cruise lines required passengers to wear formal dress on cruises at all times. Generally, this is no longer a requirement, but you should still stick to the dress code and avoid packing anything unflattering.
At best, breaking the dress code could make you the object of uncomfortable smirks or stares, and, at worse, it could bar you from onboard entertainment and dining options. Almost every cruise line maintains a certain standard of dress, which you can learn about by visiting the company website or speaking with a travel representative. If wearing jeans and sweatshirts is important to you, check a cruise line’s dress code before purchasing your tickets. Passengers expect others to maintain the ambience by dressing appropriately, and it’s important to select a ship that gives you the option to dress in a type of attire that’s comfortable to you.
While your idea of casual dress might be a tee shirt and jeans, casual dress may mean something entirely different on some cruises. Casual resort wear, also known as resort casual, or country-club casual generally refers to skirts, dresses or suits for the ladies, and dress pants, collared shirts, and sometimes jackets and ties for the men. The terms informal or casual wear usually indicate that men are expected to wear jackets, and sometimes ties, while women should be prepared to don cocktail dresses or pantsuits. Even during informal or casual nights, shorts, swimwear, denim, and hats are usually banned from ship’s dining areas after six in the evening.
Cruise lines typically offer either freestyle cruises or traditional cruises. If you’re traveling on a freestyle cruise, mealtimes and entertainment aren’t set, giving you the option to dress casually, and eat and enjoy onboard shows at your leisure. Formal cruises schedule mealtimes and events, and passengers are required to wear appropriate dress to attend. On formal nights, women typically dress in evening gowns, while men don full tuxedoes. Even on “informal nights,” men are generally expected to wear jackets, ties, and dress shirts, while women wear suits or semi-formal dresses. If you love to dress up for dinner, a traditional cruise with formal dinners could be the perfect vacation, while if you prefer casual wear, you may feel at home on a freestyle cruise with few dress requirements.
Showing off your sense of style while onboard a cruise ship can help you fit in, and ensure that you don’t appear on television shows like, “What not to Wear on a Cruise” that highlight people’s lack of fashion sense. While complying with the dress code should be a primary consideration, it’s also essential that you follow fashion etiquette, such as not wearing clothes or swimwear that appear tight and overly revealing, or oversized and unflattering. It’s also important to dress in clothes that reflect your personal style, while also keeping in mind the styles of dress worn by locals who live in the regions to which you’re cruising.