What to wear on a cruise?

What to wear on a cruise?

Dress code and the right attire on your cruise

The dress code aboard your cruise ship depends on the cruise line’s policy. Some cruise companies have strict guidelines while others leave you more or less free what to wear. In general the dress code on a cruise is casual during the day and more formal during evening and night.

Some cruise lines provide freestyle cruises. It gives you more freedom and eliminates such traditional elements on cruise like formal dress and set dining times (the most popular is Norwegian Cruise Line). There's more of a casual atmosphere out there. Other cruise lines are more formal or semi-formal. In this case men are expected to wear a business suit and women can wear a nice cocktail or evening dress.

In general following rules apply:

Dress for the day

You will spend your day time mostly ashore while making excursions. Therefore wear comfortable casual clothes (cotton fabrics, sneakers, etc.) suited for the weather conditions. Some excursions may require a special dress code (visit religious sites, outdoor activities, off-road adventures, etc.) Check it before you go. 

When you stay onboard to enjoy the ship’s facilities like swimming pool, spa, gym etc. you can dress accordingly. However during lunch time most cruise lines will ask you to cover up a little (e.g. no tiny swimming trunk or naked torso) when going to the buffet restaurant.

To eat a snack on the outside deck near the swimming pool you shouldn’t worry about your dress code. 

Dress for the evening and night

In the afternoon the dress code is still casual, but after 6 pm most cruise lines require a semi-formal to formal style, especially when going to dine or attending a show. Don’t expect to wear a tuxedo or cocktail dress every day, but rather smart casual. In almost all cases shorts and slippers are not allowed during evening times. When going back to your room after using the spa facilities in the evening better wear a bathrobe to avoid standing half-naked next to a nicely dressed up couple in the elevator.

Dress for special events

Some cruise lines have one or more formal nights (captain’s cocktail, gala evening, etc.) with a strict dress code (tuxedo for men, cocktail dress for women). If so, you will get this information in advance. And of course it’s never obliged to attend those special evenings if you don’t like.

Cruise lines dress code policy


  • Norwegian Cruise Line: Freestyle cruises. No official formal nights.
  • Princess: Formal and smart casual dress. Dark suit for men and evening dress for women is required.
  • Costa Cruises: Most of the cruise ships are informal. In the evening shorts and beach shoes are not allowed. There are 1-2 gala evenings per cruise.
  • Holland America Line: Mostly formal and smart casual dress code.
  • MSC Cruises: Casual dress. There are few formal evenings per cruise.
  • Oceania Cruises: Casual dress. After 6 p.m. elegant casual is recommended.
  • Royal Caribbean International: Formal, smart casual and casual dress code.
  • P&O Cruises: Smart and evening casual dress.
  • Silversea Cruises: casual, informal dress. There are few formal nights per cruise.
  • Seabourn Cruise Line: Formal and elegantly casual dress.