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The fashion scene at the Rising Tide aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

The fashion scene at the Rising Tide aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

Cruise outfits: What to wear on each cruise line

A rundown of what kind of wardrobe works best on your cruise

Trying to decide what outfits work best for an upcoming cruise? After many years of cruising, and seeing many style trends come and go, I can attest that your cruise wardrobe comes down to just three things: Your cruise line, your itinerary and your fashion mood.

You should know that many cruise ships assign a designated evening dress code each day — casual, informal, formal — that takes effect in public rooms and restaurants from 6 pm onward. Daytime, thankfully, is always an easy-breezy casual look.  

istening to live piano with a cocktail in hand in Martinis on board Oceania Insignia.
Courtesy of Oceania CruisesCountry club casual: The look in Martinis lounge on board Oceania Insignia.

Don't think that the Fashionista Police are on the lookout for violators at every turn — you're on vacation, after all! And some ships are more rigorous about enforcing the dress guidelines than others. But nobody wants to be tapped on the shoulder by a maître d' with a gentle suggestion to slip on a more appropriate sport coat.

The "Before You Go" section, available on cruise lines' websites after you've booked your cruise, usually provides details along with fashion suggestions. Typically on a seven-night ocean cruise you can count on two formal nights, a couple of casual evenings and one or three or four semi-formal occa­sions. Mediterranean cruises generally prove dressier than Carib­bean, Mexican Riviera or French Polynesia journeys.

For river cruises, the vibe is more casual, given that there's one lounge on board and no one is expecting you to slip on an evening gown or three-piece suit.

Remember, you can always skip out of formal nights on ocean ships by dining at one of the casual eateries on board or ordering in — a choice we've made several times in our balcony staterooms with sumptuous views of the sunset.

What ‘look’ to expect on the major cruise lines

Here's our take on how to match your Fashion IQ with the following cruise lines. We'd love to hear what your experience has been, so please weigh in below in the comments!​

Celebrity Cruises

Casual by day, resort chic at night. The line also has formal nights but leaves the option up to the passengers if they want to wear a tuxedo or not. Many women like to doll up a bit and some men will do the same. Almost all cruise lines that offer formal nights no longer make it mandatory to wear a tux, of course.


Costa Cruises

Casual by day, not overly dressy at night.


Getting cozy in a Pool Pod on Crystal Symphony.
David Martinez / Courtesy of Crystal CruisesGetting cozy in a Pool Pod on Crystal Symphony.

Crystal Cruises

Stylish resort wear by day, elegant by night. Men can get away with a dark suit, though you'll spot lots of tuxedos on formal occasions.


Guests in formal attire in the dining room of Cunard's Queen Mary 2.
Courtesy of Cunard LineGuests in formal attire in the dining room of Cunard's Queen Mary 2.

Cunard Line

Dress codes on Cunard tend to be a little stuffier than most.. The look is still informal in the day in public rooms and casual on deck, slightly formal at restaurants at lunch and  more dressy at dinner.


Days are for playing with the kids. But at night you can spiff up a little at Keys, an adults-only piano bar on Disney Magic.
Courtesy of Disney Cruise LineDays are for playing with the kids. But at night you can spiff up a little at Keys, an adults-only piano bar on Disney Magic.

Disney Cruises

Casual by day and resort casual by night.


Holland America Line

Casual by day as is the case of most ships. Evenings are smart resort wear. The line does a casual elegance theme on some nights when some guys will don a tuxedo, but more opt for a sport coat, dress shirt and dress slacks or a business suit (with and without neckties). Women are asked to wear cocktail attire, evening gowns, elegant skirts, pantsuits and blouses — but can pretty much go as they choose. Personally I like to get dressed up on those nights; it just feels good.

MSC Cruises

Casual by day, chic resort wear in evenings to dressy duds on formal nights.


The vibe is informal, but not scruffy, at Cagney's on Norwegian Dawn.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineThe vibe is informal, but not scruffy, at Cagney's on Norwegian Dawn.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Casual by day, typical cruise wear at night, maybe a little dressy at Cagney's but not overly so. 


Attire is upscale but casual in Oceania Riviera's Red Ginger restaurant.
Courtesy of Oceania CruisesAttire is upscale but casual in Oceania Riviera's Red Ginger restaurant.

Oceania Cruises

Country club casual is the theme night and day, no tuxedos ever required.


The focus is on relaxing in paradise during sailings to French Polynesia on the Paul Gauguin.
Roger Paperno / © Pacific Beachcomber/Paul Gauguin CruisesThe focus is on relaxing in paradise during sailings to French Polynesia on the Paul Gauguin.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

All you need by day on Tahitian cruises are bathing suites, shorts, sarongs and jeans. By night the women often opt for chic tropical outfits (think French Riviera casual chic) while the guys slip on aloha shirts and slacks. For shore excursion or touring on your own, you'll see lots of shorts, T-shirts and even bathing suits.


Guests who choose a Balcony Stateroom on a Princess cruise get to dress as they'd like and soak up the views on their private veranda.
Courtesy of Princess CruisesGuests who choose a Balcony Stateroom on a Princess cruise get to dress as they'd like and soak up the views on their private veranda.

Princess Cruises

At Princess, the style is casual by day, smart resort wear at night. About half the men don tuxedos on formal nights, others wear suits or jackets and ties. About half the women I’ve seen on more than three dozen cruises dressed up, while too many others donned muumuus or silly frocks. (Come on, ladies, up your game!)


Attire ranges from the upscale to the casual — but not overly prim and proper — at 150 Central Park aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.
Michel Verdure / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean InternationalAttire ranges from casual to dressy — but not overly prim and proper — at 150 Central Park aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean

With thousands of guests on all sorts of large ships, the general rule of thumb is casual by day, a mixed bag at night, leaning more to suits than tuxedoes on formal night. 


Enjoy pre-dinner and after dinner music played on the piano at the Observation Bar aboard Seabourn cruises.
Courtesy of Seabourn Cruise LineEnjoy pre-dinner and after dinner music at the Observation Bar aboard Seabourn cruises.

Seabourn

Casual chic by day, tres chic by night. More than half the men will wear tuxedos and every woman will dress to the nines either in a cocktail number or long gown.


Silversea

Casual chic by day; striking and stunning at night. Lots of tuxedos and gorgeous gowns plus plenty of bling on display, especially on formal nights.


Walk barefoot in the surf during a Windstar Cruise odyssey to the tropics.
Courtesy of Windstar CruisesWalk barefoot in the surf during a Windstar Cruise odyssey to the tropics.

Windstar Cruises

Yuppie, Gen-Xer, Armani, Gap — nary a tuxedo or suit in sight. You’re OK with Dockers, jeans, Aloha shirts, sundresses, preppie pants for men at night and linens or casual silks for women.

Your take

What has been your experience? Any different?

Patti Pietschmann
I'm the LA Travel Diva and spend time cruising with first mate Richard, traveling the world, reviewing fine restaurants, going to plays, movies and events. It's the good life.

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