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Do I Have To Dress Up on a Cruise? (Casual to Formal Attire)

Last updated on September 16th, 2023 at 07:31 pm

Are you wondering what to pack for your cruise - especially as it relates to formal night? Let's take a deeper look into the dress code expecations across a number of cruise lines.
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Cruises offer a delightful escape that is filled with relaxation, entertainment, and unforgettable experiences.

Among the many aspects that make cruising special are the designated formal nights, where guests have the opportunity to dress up and indulge in an elegant atmosphere.

Of course, depending on the cruise line you choose, it’s going to affect what you pack for your cruise and that’s why it’s an important thing to know before you go.

While the dress code varies across different cruise lines, including major ones like Royal Caribbean and Carnival, as well as smaller upscale luxury lines, let’s explore the norms and expectations surrounding formal nights on these voyages.

Royal Caribbean Dress Code

Known for its innovative ships and exciting onboard activities, Royal Caribbean encourages a relaxed approach to formal nights. On their “smart casual” evenings, passengers can opt for more informal attire, such as dresses, skirts, or pantsuits for women, and slacks, collared shirts, and blazers for men.

However, if you prefer a more formal experience, Royal Caribbean also allows for traditional evening wear, including tuxedos and formal gowns.

Per Royal’s website, here are their suggestions for dressing:

Casual: You’re on vacation – relax! Jeans, polos, sundresses and blouses are all the right amount of laid back. Please keep swimwear on the Pool Deck. Shorts are welcomed for breakfast and lunch.

Smart Casual: Think of this as a step up from your typical dinner wear. Dress to impress with collared shirts, dresses, skirts and blouses, or pantsuits. Jackets, sports coats and blazers are snazzy and welcome.

Formal: Make it a night out in your best black-tie look – suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses or evening gowns. There can be 1-3 formal nights during a sailing and is at the ship’s discretion.

Depending on the length of the voyage, the number of formal nights will vary:

3/4/5 night cruises – 1 formal night

6 and 7 night cruises – 2 formal nights

8 to 10 night cruises – 2 formal nights

11 to 14 night cruises – 3 formal nights

15 + night cruises – 3 or 4 formal nights

The number of formal nights is at the ship’s discretion and can vary. Know that bare feet are not allowed at any time and tank tops are not permitted in the Main Dining Room or Specialty Dining venues for dinner.

Disney Cruise Line Dress Code

Disney Cruise Line has a specific dress code policy for formal nights, which they refer to as “Optional Dress-Up Nights.” These evenings provide an opportunity for guests to showcase their formal attire and take part in a more elegant atmosphere.

Here is a general description of the formal dress code on Disney Cruise Line:

For adults and older children:

– Men typically wear suits, tuxedos, or dress pants with a jacket and tie. Some guests choose to wear a formal kilt, while others opt for a more relaxed dress shirt and tie.

– Women often wear evening gowns, cocktail dresses, or elegant pantsuits. Some guests also choose to wear dressy skirts or separates paired with a blouse.

For young children:

– Boys often wear dress pants with a dress shirt and a tie, or a suit if preferred.

– Girls typically wear party dresses, formal dresses, or dressy skirts paired with a blouse.

It’s important to note that Disney Cruise Line encourages guests to express their personal style and does not enforce strict formal dress code guidelines. However, they do request that guests refrain from wearing swimwear, tank tops, shorts, or casual jeans during dinner or in the dining rooms on formal nights.

There are some adult-only restaurants on Disney Cruises, and the dress code, per their website is: Adult-exclusive restaurants aboard Disney Cruise Line ships are elegant dining experiences.

Guests are requested to dress in a manner consistent with the restaurant’s atmosphere. Formal or semi-formal attire is recommended. Dress casual attire with a polished look is permitted (such as dress pants, jeans in good condition, collared shirts and blouses and lifestyle shoes).

Check out this video that gives you a glimpse at Disney’s Palo restaurant and its dress code:

Celebrity Cruises Dress Code

Celebrity Cruises has a dress code policy that includes both “Smart Casual” and “Evening Chic” attire. Here’s a description of each:

Smart Casual:

Smart casual attire is the suggested dress code for most evenings on Celebrity Cruises. This includes stylish and comfortable clothing. Examples for men include slacks or nice jeans with a dress shirt or a polo shirt. Women may wear casual dresses, skirts, or pants paired with a blouse or a stylish top. T-shirts, swimsuits, and flip-flops are generally not permitted in the main dining venues during the evening.

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Evening Chic:

Evening Chic nights offer an opportunity for guests to dress up a bit more formally, although it is less formal than traditional formal nights on other cruise lines.

During Evening Chic nights, men are encouraged to wear dress pants or slacks with a dress shirt, sports coat, or blazer. Ties are optional, and some guests may choose to wear a suit or a tuxedo.

Women often wear cocktail dresses, elegant skirts or pants with a stylish blouse, or even formal gowns.

It’s important to note that Celebrity Cruises does not strictly enforce formal dress codes like some other cruise lines. Instead, they focus on creating an elegant and stylish atmosphere while still allowing for individual preferences.

However, guests are generally expected to adhere to the suggested dress code guidelines for each evening, especially in the main dining venues and specialty restaurants.

If you want more details, go here on Celebrity’s website: https://www.celebritycruises.com/faqs/onboard-dress-code

Check out this video about the dress code on Celebrity for both daywear and at meals: Celebrity Cruises Dress Code & Packing Guide

Carnival Cruises Dress Code

Carnival Cruise Line has a relaxed and casual dress code policy, but they also offer themed nights and optional dress-up opportunities. Here is a general overview of the dress code on Carnival Cruise Line:

Cruise Casual:

During most evenings, the dress code is referred to as “Cruise Casual.” This means that guests can wear comfortable and relaxed attire such as shorts, jeans, t-shirts, sundresses, and casual skirts. Swimsuits, tank tops, and flip-flops are generally not allowed in the main dining venues during dinner.

Cruise Elegant/Formal:

Carnival Cruise Line also offers one or two “Cruise Elegant” or “Formal” nights, depending on the length of the cruise. On these evenings, guests have the opportunity to dress up more formally, although tuxedos and formal gowns are not required. Men often wear suits or dress pants with a dress shirt or a collared shirt, while women may choose to wear cocktail dresses, elegant skirts or pantsuits, or dressy separates.

Theme Nights:

Carnival Cruise Line also organizes various theme nights, such as “70s Night,” “White Night,” or “Mexican Fiesta Night,” where guests are encouraged to dress according to the theme. These nights provide a fun and festive atmosphere, and guests are welcome to participate by wearing costumes or themed attire.

It’s good to note that Carnival Cruise Line aims to create a relaxed and casual environment where guests can feel comfortable. The dress code is generally more informal compared to some other cruise lines that have formal nights.

According to the Carnival website concerning their dress code, “All guests are expected to ensure their clothing and accessories are respectful to fellow guests.

Specifically, items worn during the cruise should not contain any message that may be considered offensive or contain nudity, profanity, sexual innuendo/suggestions. In addition, clothing/accessories should not promote negative ethnic or racial commentary, or hatred or violence in any form.”

Check out this video that talks about Carnival’s menu changes: Carnival Changes Dining Menus ~ With Emeril Lagasse!

Norwegian Cruise Line Dress Code

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has a flexible dress code policy known as “Freestyle Cruising,” which allows guests to dress as they feel comfortable during their dining experiences. Here is an overview of the dress code on Norwegian Cruise Line:

Resort Casual:

The standard dress code for most dining venues on NCL ships is “Resort Casual.” This means that guests can wear relaxed and casual attire, such as shorts, jeans, t-shirts, sundresses, and skirts. Swimwear, tank tops, and flip-flops are generally not permitted in the main dining venues during dinner.

Specialty Dining:

For specialty dining restaurants, the dress code is also typically “Resort Casual.” However, some specialty restaurants may have slightly more formal or specific dress code requirements. It’s advisable to check with the specific restaurant or consult the dining guide on board for any additional guidelines.

Optional Formal Nights:

NCL does not have mandatory formal nights. Instead, they offer optional dress-up nights called “Norwegian’s Night Out” on select sailings. Guests who wish to dress up can wear more formal attire, such as suits, dresses, or dressy separates. However, it’s important to note that formal attire is not required, and guests can choose to dress casually on these evenings as well.

NCL’s Freestyle Cruising concept allows guests the flexibility to dress as they please, emphasizing a relaxed and casual atmosphere throughout their cruise experience.

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However, it’s recommended to review the specific dress code guidelines provided by Norwegian Cruise Line for your particular cruise, as there may be specific requirements or recommendations for certain onboard events or specialty dining venues.

Check out this video; at the very beginning he talks about dress code requirements: Don’t make these Dining Mistakes on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)

MSC Cruises Dress Code

MSC Cruises has a dress code policy that includes both “Casual” and “Formal” evenings. Here is an overview of the dress code on MSC Cruise Line:

Casual:

Most evenings on MSC Cruises are designated as “Casual” nights. This means that guests can dress in comfortable and relaxed attire such as shorts, jeans, t-shirts, sundresses, and skirts. However, swimwear, tank tops, and flip-flops are generally not permitted in the main dining venues during dinner.

Formal:

On select evenings, MSC Cruises holds “Formal” nights, also referred to as “Gala Evenings.” During these evenings, guests are encouraged to dress more formally. Men typically wear suits, tuxedos, or dress pants with a jacket and tie. Women often wear evening gowns, cocktail dresses, or elegant pantsuits.

MSC Cruises has different dress codes for different ships and itineraries. The number of formal nights can vary depending on the length of the cruise, with longer cruises typically featuring more formal evenings.

Additionally, some sailings may include themed dress-up nights, such as “White Party” or “Black & White Night,” where guests can choose to participate by dressing according to the theme.

On their website, MSC has a page on what to wear on a cruise, and it gives you tips for daytime, evening, theme parties, dress restrictions and other information on their dress code.

Check out this video for the type of food you can expect when dining on MSC: MSC Divina Cruise Ship Dinner. Main Dining Room Food with All Menu Items.

Holland America Dress Code

Holland America Line has a dress code policy that includes different dress codes for different dining venues and evenings. Here is an overview of the dress codes on Holland America Line:

Smart Casual:

Smart Casual is the suggested dress code for most evenings on Holland America Line. This means that guests can wear stylish and relaxed attire such as slacks or dress pants with a collared shirt for men.

Women may choose to wear dresses, skirts, or dressy pants with a blouse or a stylish top. Jeans, shorts, t-shirts, swimwear, and flip-flops are generally not allowed in the main dining venues during dinner.

Formal:

Holland America Line offers Formal nights on select evenings, usually one or two nights during a 7-night cruise. On these nights, guests have the opportunity to dress up more formally. Men often wear suits, tuxedos, or dress pants with a jacket and tie. Women typically wear cocktail dresses, elegant gowns, or dressy pantsuits.

Gala Nights:

In addition to Formal nights, Holland America Line also hosts Gala nights, which are less formal than Formal nights but still require a dressier attire compared to Smart Casual nights. Guests may choose to wear dress pants with a collared shirt for men, and dresses, skirts, or stylish pantsuits for women.

Holland America Line’s dress code policy may vary slightly depending on the specific ship and itinerary. However, they generally maintain a more traditional and elegant atmosphere during dining experiences.

In this video, Christina Marie talks very earnestly about what to wear on Gala night on Holland America:

Cunard Dress Code

Cunard Cruise Line is known for its elegant and traditional atmosphere, and they have a formal dress code policy in place. Here is an overview of the dining dress code on Cunard Cruise Line:

Formal Nights:

Cunard places great importance on formal evenings, known as “Gala Nights.” The number of formal nights can vary depending on the length of the cruise, but typically, there are several formal nights throughout the voyage. On these evenings, guests are expected to dress in formal attire.

– For men, formal attire includes tuxedos, dinner jackets, or dark suits with a tie. Some guests may opt for white or black tie attire.

– Women often wear evening gowns, cocktail dresses, or elegant formal separates.

Semi-Formal Evenings:

Cunard also has semi-formal evenings, where guests are required to dress in smart and sophisticated attire.

– For men, semi-formal attire consists of a jacket and tie.

– Women typically wear dresses, skirts, or stylish pantsuits.

Elegant Casual:

On non-formal evenings, Cunard’s dress code is referred to as “Elegant Casual.” This means that guests are expected to dress in a sophisticated and stylish manner.

– Men may wear collared shirts, slacks, and closed-toe shoes.

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– Women often choose dresses, skirts, stylish pants with a blouse, or dressy separates.

Cunard maintains a more formal dress code compared to some other cruise lines. The dress code is strictly enforced in public areas after 6 p.m., particularly in the main dining venues and evening entertainment areas.

Cunard’s website gives you guidelines on their website. You can read about it here: Our packing guide – Ship dress code – Cunard cruises

Virgin Voyages Dress Code

Virgin Voyages takes a more relaxed and casual approach to its dining dress code, reflecting a modern and laid-back atmosphere. Here is an overview of the dining dress code on Virgin Voyages:

“Come as You Are”:

Virgin Voyages follows a “Come as You Are” policy, which emphasizes a carefree and casual vibe. This means that guests are welcome to dress in comfortable and relaxed attire for most dining experiences.

No Formal Nights:

Virgin Voyages does not have formal nights or strict dress codes that require formal attire. Instead, they encourage guests to express their personal style and dress in a way that makes them feel comfortable and confident.

Evening Glamour:

While formal attire is not required, Virgin Voyages does offer an opportunity for guests to dress up in what they call “Evening Glamour” if they choose to. Evening Glamour provides an opportunity to showcase your unique style and dress up a bit more elegantly for a night out on the ship.

Virgin Voyages is designed to provide a more relaxed and contemporary experience, breaking away from traditional cruise norms. The focus is on individual expression and a carefree atmosphere.

Go here on Virgin Voyages Website for more information on their: Dress Code. They say: “We always want all of our Sailors to feel comfortable. We encourage you to wear more than a bathing suit if you go to a restaurant and kindly consider shoes, but your style is your style.

Who are we to judge? Dress Up. Dress Down. Just Dress. At Virgin Voyages we’re all about Sailors feeling free to express who they are and we know personal style is a huge part of that. Prescribing formal attire requirements just isn’t our style.”

Check out this video from a pair of cruiser on what to expect on a Virgin Voyage:

Tips on Planning Your Cruise on Virgin Voyages | 7 Dos & Don’ts

Viking Cruises Dress Code

During dinner, the suggested dress code is typically “elegant casual.” This means that while formal evening wear is not required, guests often opt for stylish and refined clothing. Men might wear slacks or trousers with a collared shirt, while women may choose dresses, skirts, or dressy pantsuits.

Viking Cruises promotes a relaxed and informal atmosphere, so you won’t find formal nights with tuxedos or evening gowns as you might on some other cruise lines. Instead, the focus is on creating a sophisticated yet comfortable environment for guests to enjoy their cruise experience.

Per Viking’s website: “During the day, dress is casual including shorts (if the season is warm), slacks or jeans and comfortable shoes for walking tours. There are no “formal nights” in the evening; recommended evening dress is “elegant casual.”

For ladies, this may include a dress, skirt or slacks with a sweater or blouse; and for gentlemen, trousers and a collared shirt. A tie and jacket are optional.

Some shore excursions visit religious sites that require modesty of dress. To avoid being denied entry, we recommend men wear long pants and refrain from sleeveless shirts; and for women, clothing that covers the knees and tops that are not sleeveless or too revealing.”

Check out this video that gives you an idea of being on a Viking cruise. If you are just interested in hearing about the dress code, skip to 9:20: Viking European River Cruises – 6 Key Must-Knows Before You Go

The Bottom Line:

Dressing up on formal nights aboard a cruise ship varies across different cruise lines, catering to a range of preferences and atmospheres.

Major lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer a more flexible approach, allowing passengers to embrace both formal and smart casual attire.

Upscale luxury cruise lines such as Cunard Line tend to emphasize the elegance and tradition of formal evenings, with stricter dress codes and a refined ambiance.

Whichever cruise line you choose, formal nights provide an opportunity to add an extra touch of glamour to your vacation while enjoying the enchanting atmosphere of the high seas.

This page contains affiliate links for which we may receive financial compensation when a purchase has been made through one of our affiliate partners.

 

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About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

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