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Daytime, Formal Nights & More


When it comes to cruising in style, packing the right attire for every occasion is essential. Including a few key versatile items on your cruise packing list will prevent your suitcase (and the limited closet space in your stateroom) from becoming overcrowded – and keep you looking appropriate for all events.

Although most cruise lines outline their suggested dress codes in the FAQ sections of their websites, be sure to also review the specifics of your cruise itinerary. Not only will the destination and weather factor into what you should wear on your cruise, but you’ll also want to know if formal nights require black-tie attire, themed dress parties need costumes or shore excursions necessitate unique clothing or footwear.

Whether you’ll be lounging by the pool or attending a glamorous dinner, our list of must-have items and suggestions from industry experts will help you navigate dressing for your next cruise vacation.

Daytime

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For relaxing sea days, prioritize comfort above all else. Depending on your planned activities, any of the following casual options are considered acceptable attire:

  • Sundresses
  • Skirts or skorts
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts and tank tops
  • Breezy lounge pants
  • Bathing suits
  • Cover-ups 
  • Sun hats or baseball caps
  • Sneakers
  • Flip-flops

Travel writer Jill Schildhouse always packs her VOTEPRETTY sundress. “This is my go-to cruise workhorse,” says Schildhouse. “It’s light and breezy, and the pockets come in very handy.” She adds that the sundress can be worn to casual dinners on the ship or on shore excursions, and it can even double as a swimsuit cover-up. “I’ve taken it all over the world and it always arrives wrinkle-free,” she says. Schildhouse has received many compliments on this classic sundress, which is available in multiple colors.

Sheri Griffiths, host of YouTube series CruiseTipsTV, suggests wearing comfortable, broken-in shoes on a cruise. She recommends avoiding brand-new footwear during your voyage to prevent blisters and daily discomfort. A basic sneaker can be worn for just about any cruise itinerary, from Alaska to the Caribbean. Griffiths says, “We love these Adidas Stan Smiths because they wear in quickly and have a timeless style.”

Nighttime

Mature African American couple, standing and leaning on railing on deck of a cruise ship, looking off into the distance.

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In the evening, most cruise ships adopt a dress code in their main dining rooms and specialty restaurants that incorporate smart-casual or resort-wear attire. The following clothing choices will suffice:

  • Maxi dresses
  • Skirts
  • Elegant tops
  • Sweaters
  • Long pants
  • Dark jeans
  • Long- or short-sleeved button-down shirts
  • Polo shirts
  • Blazers and ties (typically optional, unless otherwise stated)
  • Shawls or wraps
  • Closed-toe dress shoes
  • Sandals or heels
  • Jewelry

Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief at Cruise Critic, shares her best advice for cruise footwear. “I always pack my Rothy’s shoes for any cruise because they’re infinitely comfortable, work as both a formal and [an] informal shoe and can be tossed in the laundry if they get dirty.” She notes that she has several pairs, but two of her go-to styles are The Point and The Ballet Flat. McDaniel adds that the shoes work in every occasion, from strolling along the ship decks to perusing cobblestone streets on shore. “I bought both [pairs] 5 years ago, and they look as new today as they did out of the box despite literally hundreds of hours of wear,” she says.

Jason Leppert, founder of YouTube channel Popular Cruising, always packs his signature Hawaiian shirts to wear day or night. He says, “I love the RSVLTS collection because they can play casually with shorts or more dressy with slacks for dinner.”

Formal Nights

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While more casual these days, cruise formal nights still call for a bit more sophistication and style. Appropriate options include:

  • Cocktail dresses
  • Evening gowns
  • Tuxedos
  • Dress shoes
  • High heels
  • Jewelry

Ashley Kosciolek, senior cruise writer for The Points Guy, always packs a gown or a fancy cocktail dress for a formal night. “I work from home and don’t have a reason to dress up otherwise, so I look forward to it.” Still, Kosciolek is a firm believer that travelers should wear what is most comfortable for them while on vacation. She adds, “My dinner won’t taste any better or worse based on what others are wearing.”

Mikkel Woodruff, editor of cruise site Sometimes Sailing, always brings her Omega Sailing Bracelet on cruises. She says, “I like to bring jewelry that reminds me of the ocean and being on the sea.” Woodruff appreciates the bracelet’s versatility, noting how easily it can go from shore excursions to formal evenings to everyday activities.

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Shore Excursions

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When heading off the ship for a shore excursion, opt for comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear to make the most of your adventures on land. Consider packing the following items:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Mesh water shoes
  • Shorts
  • Skirts or skorts
  • T-shirts or tank tops
  • Sun hats or baseball caps
  • A waterproof jacket

Freelance travel writer David Swanson shares his favorite versatile cruise shoes. He discovered a comfortable pair of Danner multitasking shoes that worked for dinners, casual events and multiple days of cycling on a recent European cruise. “I didn’t think I’d find something to do dual duty, but I love this comfy pair from Danner, an outdoor brand [that is] new to me but has been around since 1932,” says Swanson.

Paul Thornton, host of The Joy of Cruising Podcast, always packs his Coofandy linen shirts and shorts for hot Caribbean days and breezy cruise ship evenings. “I love Coofandy because they enable this senior to look ‘youthful’ on the beach and excursions,” says Thornton. He adds that the brand is also his go-to retailer for White Party-themed nights on board.

Cruise Line Dress Codes

Dress codes can vary significantly from one cruise company to the next, so it’s a good idea to check with your specific line before filling up your suitcase. Once you’re on board, be sure to read the daily program for reminders about the dress codes required at the events and dining venues during your voyage.

Azamara Dress Code

  • Daytime: Fairly casual attire is suitable throughout Azamara‘s ships during the day. However, baseball caps, distressed denim, tank tops and bathing suits cannot be worn at Discoveries, Aqualina and Prime C restaurants (and shoes are required).
  • Evening: At night, women typically wear casual dresses, skirts, pants, capris, blouses and knit tops, while men are welcome to wear collared golf and polo shirts, shorts and pants. Sport coats are optional. Note: There are no official formal nights on Azamara’s voyages.
  • Themed Nights: Be sure to pack an all-white outfit for Azamara’s signature White Night dinner and deck party.

Carnival Cruise Line Dress Code

  • Daytime: Pack casual, comfortable attire to sail with Carnival Cruise Line, such as T-shirts, polo shirts or relaxed tops paired with shorts, capris, khakis or jeans. Athletic wear paired with a lightweight sweater or jacket are suitable for those looking to stay active. 
  • Evening: After 5:30 p.m., attire ranges from “cruise casual” to “cruise elegant.”
    • “Cruise casual” attire for men typically suggests longer dress shorts, pants or jeans and a collared polo shirt. Women usually wear sundresses, blouses, skirts, dress shorts and capri pants.
    • “Cruise elegant” typically translates to dress slacks, dress shirts and sports coats (suggested) for men, with some wearing suits, ties or tuxedos. Women choose dresses (party or cocktail), pantsuits and elegant skirts with blouses, while some may wear evening gowns. Kids should follow the adult dress code, opting for school dance- or party-appropriate attire. Note: Jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, shorts, T-shirts, sportswear, exercise clothes, baseball hats, flip-flops and bathing suits are not permitted. The number of “cruise elegant” evenings varies based on the length of the cruise.
  • Themed Nights:
    • Carnival Journeys cruises feature a “Throwback Sea Day,” where guests can relive the ’80s by day (outfits included) and dress up for a themed Captain’s Cocktail Party by night. 
    • Cruises between early December and Christmas Day feature an “Ugly Sweater Contest.”
    • Costumes are suggested for Halloween cruises between the end of September and October. However, when choosing a costume, keep in mind that full masks are prohibited (masks covering half of the face are allowed).

Celebrity Cruises Dress Code

  • Daytime: During the day, smart casual resort wear is suitable throughout Celebrity Cruises‘ ships. (Think: sundresses, shorts, polos and button-down shirts paired with sandals, low heels and loafers.) Bathing suits with cover-ups, T-shirts, tank tops, hats and sunglasses are only appropriate poolside. Cruisers should avoid wearing these items in the dining areas.
  • Evening: Most evenings, guests are expected to wear comfortable yet tasteful attire. This entails dresses, skirts, long pants or jeans, stylish tops and button-down shirts. Shorts and flip-flops do not meet the evening dress code. Depending on your voyage, there will be one or two formal nights that require “evening chic” wear. Passengers can dress to impress in formal gowns, tuxedos, cocktail dresses, dressy jeans or blazers.

Costa Cruises Dress Code

  • Daytime: During the day, Costa Cruises‘ passengers may wear casual clothing like T-shirts, shorts and sundresses. Beach clothing and flip-flops are not permitted in ship restaurants. Depending on the itinerary, some shore excursions may have specific dress codes.
  • Evening: Most nights require resort attire; however, Costa hosts one or two Elegant Evenings per cruise, when men may wear dark suits or tuxedos and women can wear evening gowns or cocktail dresses.
  • Themed Nights: Costa recommends that guests pack white clothing for its White Night events and white, red and green clothing and accessories for its Italy-themed evenings.

Cunard Line Dress Code

  • Daytime: Shorts, T-shirts and sundresses are appropriate daytime wardrobe options on sailings with Cunard Line. Swimwear is acceptable by the pool but should not be worn in indoor dining areas.
  • Evening: In the evenings, passengers are asked to wear smart attire, which includes dress shirts and trousers for men, and cocktail dresses or sophisticated tops and skirts for women – similar to what you’d choose for dinner at a trendy restaurant or a special occasion. Voyages lasting seven nights host at least two Gala Evenings, during which guests are requested to adhere to a more formal dress code. 
  • Themed Nights: Gala Evenings employ themes ranging from specific colors (such as black and white or red and gold outfits) to the roaring ’20s to masquerade balls.

Disney Cruise Line Dress Code

  • Daytime: On Disney Cruise Line sailings, cruise casual attire is acceptable during the day; outfit options include sundresses and shorts and tees. Swimwear and tank tops are not permitted in dining venues.
  • Evening: After the sun sets, polished attire like collared shirts and jeans without rips are acceptable. Bathing suits, tees, tank tops and sports attire are not allowed. Adult-exclusive dining venues on Disney ships call for elegance; formal or semiformal wear is recommended.
  • Themed Nights: On three- and four-night sailings, there is typically a pirate-themed deck party and one optional dress-up night for guests of all ages. Sailings lasting seven nights or longer add one formal and one semiformal night, when women may wear a formal dress or pantsuit and men can opt for a suit or dress pants with a jacket.

Holland America Line Dress Code

  • Daytime: Plan on wearing casual attire aboard Holland America Line‘s ships during the day. When indoors, guests must wear shirts, cover-ups and footwear.
  • Evening: On most nights, smart casual clothing is acceptable. However, in table service restaurants, shorts, bathing suits, distressed jeans and tank tops are prohibited. Grand Voyages cruises host formal nights, when suits and dresses are appropriate.
  • Themed Nights: Once per cruise, Holland America hosts an Orange Party in celebration of King’s Day. Pack your favorite orange clothing and accessories for this event, which honors the cruise line’s Dutch heritage.

MSC Cruises Dress Code

  • Daytime: Guests of MSC Cruises dress fairly casual during the day in T-shirts and shorts.
  • Evening: Collared shirts, dresses and tailored pants are expected at night in the main dining rooms, specialty restaurants and entertainment venues. There is one optional Gala Night, when varying levels of elegance are acceptable. Guests should wear what makes them feel comfortable, ranging from tuxedos or ball gowns to dressy jeans and polo shirts.
  • Themed Nights: MSC hosts a White Night Party (where guests wear all white) and a Sunshine Party, where guests don cheerful colors.

Norwegian Cruise Line Dress Code

  • Daytime: During the day, plan to wear cruise casual attire like summer dresses, jeans, khakis, shorts and casual shirts on Norwegian Cruise Line voyages. At the buffet and outdoor restaurants, swimwear can be worn with a cover-up and footwear. In dining rooms and specialty restaurants, Norwegian does not permit tank tops for men, jeans with rips or tears, flip-flops, baseball caps or visors.
  • Evening: In Norwegian’s upscale specialty restaurants, smart casual attire is the norm. Women can wear slacks, jeans, dresses, skirts and tops, while men should opt for jeans or slacks, a collared shirt and closed-toed shoes. Children ages 12 and younger may wear shorts in all restaurants. On each cruise, there is one particular “Dress-Up or Not Night,” when guests can wear fancier clothing (if they choose).
  • Themed Nights: Pack an all-white outfit for the White Hot Party and formal attire for Norwegian’s Night Out.

Princess Cruises Dress Code

  • Daytime: In Princess Cruises‘ restaurants and public spaces, casual resort wear is required. Shoes must be worn in the dining areas, and pool or beach attire, ball caps and frayed jeans are prohibited in restaurants.
  • Evening: On most nights, smart casual attire is acceptable in restaurants. However, on formal evenings, women may wear evening gowns, cocktail dresses or elegant pantsuits; while men may opt for tuxedos, dark suits or dinner jackets with slacks. The number of formal nights per cruise depends on the length of the sailing.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Dress Code

  • Daytime: Elevated resort wear, including jeans, shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes, is appropriate before 6 p.m. on Regent Seven Seas Cruises‘ ships.
  • Evening: At night, elegant casual attire is recommended. Women typically dresses, pantsuits or slacks paired with blouses or sweaters; a collared shirt and dress pants for men is the norm, with the option for sport jackets and ties. On cruises lasting 16 nights or longer, there are two evenings when guests can choose to wear formal or semiformal attire. Wardrobe choices include dark suits and cocktail dresses or tuxedos and gowns. Note: On the last night of every voyage, the dinner dress code is “relaxed casual” to accommodate guests packing for early morning flights.

Royal Caribbean International Dress Code

  • Daytime: A relaxed, casual style is acceptable during the day on cruises with Royal Caribbean International. However, swimwear should be limited to the pool deck. 
  • Evening: On most nights, guests wear smart casual attire, which includes collared or button-up shirts, dresses, skirts, blouses and pantsuits. Jackets, sports coats and blazers are encouraged but not required. On formal evenings and for the Chef’s Table dining experience, cruisers are expected to wear black-tie attire, which includes tuxedos, suits with ties, cocktail dresses and evening gowns. The number of formal nights per cruise depends on the length of the sailing.
  • Themed Nights: Offered on cruises lasting four nights or longer, themed nights may include toga parties, masquerade balls, decade themes and black and white nights.

Silversea Cruises Dress Code

  • Daytime: Casual attire akin to what you’d wear at a five-star resort is suitable during the day aboard Silversea Cruises‘ ships.
  • Evening: Evening attire is categorized into three groups: casual, informal and formal. On casual evenings, women wear pants, blouses, skirts, and casual dresses, while men wear open-neck shirts and slacks. On informal evenings, ladies often choose dresses or pantsuits, and gentlemen typically wear jackets (ties are optional). Formal night is always optional; if you choose to participate, outfits may include cocktail dresses, gowns, tuxedos and suits. The number of formal nights per cruise varies by voyage length.

Seabourn Cruise Line Dress Code

  • Daytime: Casual resort wear like jeans and shorts are welcome in all lounges and dining venues on Seabourn Cruise Lines‘ ships. Athletic apparel and swimwear should only be worn in the pool area, on the deck or at the spa and fitness center.
  • Evening: After 6 p.m., the dress code is “elegant casual.” Men are expected to wear slacks with collared shirts or sweaters (jackets are optional), while women can choose pants, skirts, pantsuits or dresses. Elegant jeans are allowed in all dining venues except The Restaurant. On formal evenings in The Restaurant, men may wear tuxedos, suits or slacks and jackets, while women can opt for evening gowns and cocktail dresses.

Viking Ocean Cruises Dress Code

  • Daytime: On Viking Ocean Cruises‘ ships, casual daytime clothing such as shorts, pants, jeans and comfortable walking shoes are acceptable. Athletic wear including exercise clothing, swimsuits and cover-ups may only be worn in the fitness center, pool zones and sports deck.
  • Evening: While there are no dedicated formal nights, the dress code after 6 p.m. calls for elegant casual attire for all dining venues, lounges, bars and theaters. Jeans are not permitted (with the exception of the World Cafe, where the dress code remains casual in the evenings). For women, wardrobe options include dresses, jumpsuits, skirts or slacks paired with elegant tops. Jackets and ties are optional for men, but trousers and collared shirts should be worn in the evenings.

Virgin Voyages Dress Code

  • Day or night, cruisers on Virgin Voyages‘ ships are encouraged to wear attire that expresses their personal style. Just note: In restaurants, bathing suits are not permitted, and shoes are necessary. There are no formal nights; guests can dress up or down, depending on what makes them feel their best.
  • Themed Nights: Pack something scarlet red for the Scarlet Night Party, which occurs once per voyage.

Why Trust U.S. News

Dana Freeman is a highly experienced cruise writer who embarked on her first cruise with her grandmother when she was just 12 years old, and she hasn’t stopped since. Having sailed on more than 20 different cruise lines and completed over 30 voyages, Freeman’s cruise expertise spans from small ships accommodating only eight passengers to massive ones accommodating over 5,000. To curate this article, she leveraged her extensive knowledge of the cruise ship industry, combined with her strong research skills.

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