Is this the return of cruise dress codes? We undress the myths of dressing for your cruise

It’s the age-old question that once plagued cruisers. What should I wear onboard my cruise? Gone are the days of ballgowns and tuxedos, formal attire and no denim – most cruise lines have relaxed their rules to allow cruisers to express themselves.

While luxury lines often have suggested dress codes, one cruiser was left confused when she thought Princess had updated their dress code policy.

One cruiser, Karen Staffen recently wrote on a Princess Cruises passenger forum: “Apparently Princess has recently updated information on their website. I noticed because I actually read the email about ‘getting ready for your cruise’ instead of just deleting it. Initially, I saw the first screenshot below, so I followed the link, which had me going down the rabbit hole of Princess formal dress expectations.

“I also know that people will still do what they want. So be it. I did find it interesting that they are listing their dress expectations all over, and even – for the first time I’ve ever seen – pointing out that if you don’t want to dress formally on formal nights, that is fine, as you do have other dining options.

“I wonder if this means that they are wanting to be known for being a more traditional cruise line again?”

Cruise Passenger clarified these concerns with a Princess Cruises spokesperson who confirmed that no policy changes have actually been made and formal nights are still opt-in.

The spokesperson said: “There have no changes to formal nights. It’s all business as usual.”

It was also clarified whether guests have to dress up or not.

“Formal nights are always opt-in, although we do enjoy them onboard.”

For more clarity here’s the fine print on Princess’s formal nights and dress codes.

“Enjoy dressing to impress? You’ll love formal nights on your cruise. Pack your evening gown, cocktail dress, slacks, tuxedo, suit or dinner jacket and slacks for a meal to remember in our main dining rooms.”

As a bit of extra advice they also say: “A wrinkle-free fabric is highly recommended which will survive long hours stuffed in a suitcase.”

“Collared polos and khakis are suitable for casual events, but you’ll also want to have formal pieces on hand to wear to special occasions and certain restaurants on board. Woman can consider packing an elegant evening gown or pant suit, while men can opt for a tuxedo.”

How many formal nights will happen on your Princess cruise depends on the length of your cruise. If your cruise is one to four days then there won’t be any formal nights, if its five to six days, there will be one formal night, if it’s seven to 13 days then 2, then generally one additional formal night per week of cruising. 

However, if formal nights aren’t your preference, or you just aren’t feeling it on the night, even on dedicated formal nights you can still have other options. 

Princess Cruises has dedicated casual dining venues, where even on a formal night, there is not expectation to be dressed to the nines. These are the World Fresh Marketplace at Horizon Court, On-Deck favourites, Vines Wine Bar, Ocean Terrace Sushi and International Cafe. 

If you’re feeling edgy about what to pack or prepare for your cruise in terms of formal wear, here are the basic dress codes of some other leading cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean 

How many formal nights you face on a Royal Caribbean cruise will depend, but you can generally expect from one to three on your sailing. If your cruise is five nights or less then generally only one formal night will happen, if it’s from six to 10 nights then you can expect two formal nights and 11-nights or longer cruises will generally have three formal nights.

Formal nights apply only to the main dining room, meaning there are other dining options if you don’t want to opt formal. It is also generally not harshly enforced.

Royal Caribbean describes its formal dress code as: “Make it a night out in your best black-tie look – suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses or evening gowns.”

However, Royal Caribbean Blog writes: “Evening wear for formal night will vary, and you will see some guests wearing tuxedoes and gowns. It is our observation that most guests tend to dress a bit less fancy than that, with men wearing suits or sports coats and women wearing cocktail dresses.

“Essentially, it is clothing that is a bit nicer than you might wear on other nights of the cruise.”

Carnival Cruises 

Carnival Cruises will have ‘Cruise Elegant Nights’ where the dress codes are as follows: “Men: Dress slacks, dress shirts, and we also suggest a sport coat; men may also wish to wear a suit and tie or tuxedo. 

“Women: Cocktail dress, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses; ladies may also wish to wear an evening gown.

“Not permitted in the dining room: Cut-off jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, shorts, t-shirts, sportswear, baseball hats, thongs (flip-flops) and bathing suit attire.”

The elegant days will generally be the second or third day of the cruise, and if there are two, another on the second or third last day of the cruise.

If your cruise is two to five days, expect one elegant evening, or two on cruises of six days or more.

P&O Australia

On a three to six night cruise, there will be one cocktail night on a P&O cruise, and maybe more on longer sailings.

Formalwear is option but the recommendations are: “On our cocktail nights, it’s time to get your frocks out and join in the fun! We suggest women wear an evening or cocktail dress and men wear a suit or similar.”

Furthermore, even on the average day, after 5:30pm you are asked to dress ‘smart casual’ in public loungers and restaurants.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises brand their formal nights as Evening Chic. Any cruises seven nights or longer will have at least two of these nights, and at least one on sailings six nights or shorter.

Their website reads: “Women should feel comfortable wearing; a cocktail dress, skirts, pants or designer jeans with an elegant top.

“Men should feel comfortable wearing; pants or designer jeans with a dress shirt, button-down shirt or sweater, optional sport coat or blazer.”

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line does not have dedicated formal nights, however, there may be themed parties depending on your cruise.

In the more formal dining rooms, smart casual wear is expected, but otherwise you can generally dress casually across most areas of the ship.

However, the website does read: “We want you to be comfortable, but tank tops for men, thongs, baseball caps, visors and jeans that are overly faded, with holes or tears and worn below the hips are not permitted in main dining rooms or specialty restaurants.”

Regent Seven Seas

As a more luxurious line, Regent Seven Seas expects an elegant casual dress code after 6pm. Longer cruises of 15 nights or more will generally have two or more formal nights, but these are optional.

“While guests are welcome to dress each evening as per the Elegant Casual dress code, during Formal Optional evenings, guests may opt for a more formal choice of clothing including gowns and cocktail dresses for ladies; tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suit with tie for gentlemen.”

Oceania Cruises

Oceania’s dress code is slightly more relaxed than other luxury lines. They generally don’t have dedicated formal nights. Country club and resort-style attire is request for evening dining.

Some of the more formal dining venues won’t allow casual wear at anytime.

Cunard

Cunard has formal nights on all cruises, they’re referred to Gala nights. There will generally be around one formal night per week of cruising.

On Gala nights: ”

On Gala (or formal) nights ladies should wear an evening or cocktail dress, smart trouser suit or formal separates. Men should wear a dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with either a tie or bow tie.”

After 5:45pm each day, smart attire is expected.

“On Smart Attire nights ladies wear blouses and skirts or stylish trousers and dresses. On the other hand, men dress in trousers with a collared shirt. A jacket and tie is optional. Cunard liken it to the sort of thing you’d wear to a stylish restaurant or the theatre.”

Ponant

Ponant cruises contain a ‘Captain’s dinner’, where more formal attire is required.

“It is a well-known tradition amongst experienced cruisers that passengers dress up for captain’s night. The event, which is hosted by the captain, is an opportunity to meet the key members of the crew over an elegant dinner.

“This is your night to shine so ladies should remember to pack an evening dress and elegant shoes, whilst men should bring a suit, dark tie and dress shoes. Tuxedos and long gowns are not required.”


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