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AAA World | Travel
What to Wear on a Cruise


AAA infographic on cruise line dress codes

A ball gown? A tux? Perhaps even a top hat and tails? While passengers in old episodes of The Love Boat may have dressed to impress, most cruise lines today have relaxed dress codes that favor casual over formal wear day and night. Still, while you can leave the pearls and pocket squares at home, there are some generally accepted guidelines when it comes to proper cruise attire. Here’s what to know: 

Two women and a man board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 playing shuffleboard Aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2; Photo courtesy of Cunard

  • Dress codes may vary not only by cruise line but also by ship as well as by onboard venue. Check with your travel advisor or cruise line for specific requirements.
  • Remember the saying “no shoes, no shirt, no service.” If you’re not in, at or close to a pool, most cruise lines ask that you cover up your swimsuit. Also, when exploring the ship, wear an appropriate top, bottoms and shoes.
  • When the sun goes down, the expectations for dressier attire go up. That means leaving the shorts, flip-flops, sleeveless T-shirts, ripped jeans and baseball hats back in the cabin. • Buffets are famously casual (jeans are typically fine), while specialty restaurants are a fancier affair.
  • Most cruise lines define their dress codes in the main dining room and specialty restaurants with phrases such as “smart casual,” “elegant casual” and the like. For smart casual, think a little dressier than dining at the local Applebee’s. (Collared shirts, dresses and even blazers are a go.) For elegant casual venues, suits, cocktail dresses, sport coats, pantsuits, and skirts and blouses are usually acceptable.
  • If a cruise has formal nights, suits and cocktail dresses or even tuxedos and evening gowns may be de rigueur. The length of the cruise often determines the number of formal nights. A five-night cruise may host one formal night, whereas a 14-night sailing may see three. Also, many cruise lines may host themed nights, such as Black and White (your chance to re-wear that tux!), Roaring Twenties or Masquerade Ball night.

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Whatever the dress code, wear what’s not only appropriate but also comfortable; you’re there for the cruise, not the couture. Of course, if your style is dressing to the nines, don’t hesitate to don that designer brooch or ascot. After all, there’s no such thing as being all dressed up with nowhere to cruise.