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Decoding the Dress Code: What to Wear on a Cruise

So you’re going on a cruise! Your tickets are paid for, your excursions are booked, and your bags are… still not packed. What are you going to wear? Have no fear, Hanz is here.


Going on a cruise is an exciting experience, filled with new destinations, delicious food, and thrilling activities. But your clothing choices can greatly enhance your overall experience. Dressing appropriately for each event can not only ensure you feel comfortable and prepared, but also add to the fun and glamour of the cruise. Whether you're attending a formal night, lounging by the pool, or exploring a new city, your outfits can reflect your personal style while meeting the cruise's dress codes. So, let's decode those dress codes and pack your bags with style!


When packing for a cruise, consider the following scenarios:

  • Formal nights: Most cruises have at least one formal night where passengers have the opportunity to dress up. Consider packing a suit or cocktail dress.

  • Casual attire: For the majority of the time, casual attire such as shorts, t-shirts, and comfortable shoes will be suitable.

  • Excursions: If your cruise includes stops at various destinations, pack appropriate clothing and footwear for these excursions, considering the climate and activities involved.

  • Swimwear: Don't forget to pack swimwear for poolside lounging and beach excursions.

  • Workout clothes: If you plan to use the cruise ship's fitness facilities, pack workout clothes and shoes.

  • Weather-appropriate clothing: If you are cruising to a colder climate, don't forget warmer clothing and vice versa for hotter climates.


Demystifying Cruise Dress Codes

On a cruise, you'll commonly encounter three types of dress codes: casual, formal, and themed. Casual dress code typically applies during the day for activities such as exploring the ship or lounging by the pool. It can include shorts, t-shirts, and comfortable shoes. Formal dress code usually occurs during the evenings, especially for dinner or special events. For these occasions, you might wear a suit, cocktail dress, or other sophisticated attire. Themed nights are special events that encourage passengers to dress up according to a specific theme, such as a tropical night or a 70s disco party. The cruise line will usually provide details about these dress codes in advance, so passengers can pack accordingly.


Daytime Cruise Style

For daytime activities onboard, you should aim for a blend of comfort and style. When exploring the ship or engaging in outdoor activities, opt for breathable and flexible clothing like cotton shorts, tank tops, or athleisure wear. Be sure to carry a lightweight hoodie or jacket, something you can throw on when the wind picks up. If you plan to lounge by the pool, bikini and swimsuit cover-ups, maxi dresses, or rompers can offer both style and functionality. Don't forget to wear comfortable footwear, like sandals or slip-on shoes, which are perfect for walking around the ship.


In order to pack the most in a small space, be sure incorporate basic pieces that can be easily mixed and matched for different occasions and activities.


When dressing for a cruise, it's essential to incorporate sun protection into your attire as you are most likely outside a lot of the time. Always pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen with high SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. In addition, consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection and to add a stylish touch to your outfit.


Sunglasses are also a must-have to protect your eyes from the sun and add a cool, chic element to your look. Remember, your accessories not only complete your outfit but also provide necessary protection from the sun.

Evening Cruise Elegance

Young woman in a fancy pink dress with mother and son in the background
Izzy showing off her Style

Evening events and dinners on a cruise can have varying dress codes, ranging from casual to formal. Casual dress code may include comfortable clothing like trousers and blouses or shirts, while a formal dress code could require attire such as cocktail dresses, suits or tuxedos. It's important to check the specific dress code for each event to ensure appropriate attire.


Usually dinners in the main dining room are formal; think a cocktail dress or a tailored pantsuit could be a great choice. A classy jumpsuit can also fit the bill perfectly. For semi-formal or casual dress codes, consider dressy separates. This could include a nice blouse paired with a skirt or dress pants, or even a stylish jumpsuit. Remember, the key is to feel comfortable and confident in what you're wearing, while still adhering to the dress code.


While adhering to the dress code, express your personal style! For instance, a formal dress code does not necessarily mean boring. You can add your unique flair to your formal attire by accessorizing with statement jewelry, wearing a suit in a bold color, or choosing a cocktail dress with a unique print or design. Remember, it's all about feeling comfortable and confident in your attire while showcasing your personal style.


Theme Nights and Special Events

Theme nights on a cruise are a highlight that adds to the excitement and fun of the journey. From tropical nights, where you can wear vibrant, colorful outfits and hula skirts, to '70s disco nights that bring out the bell-bottoms, sequins, and funky patterns, or Vegas nights that call for glamorous cocktail dresses and sharp suits, these events provide a chance to step out of your comfort zone and have a blast. It's a great opportunity to get creative with your wardrobe and express your personal style while enjoying the immersive atmosphere. These theme nights not only add a different kind of entertainment but also create memorable moments and photo opportunities.


For theme nights, consider the following tips to nail the theme while staying true to personal style:

  • Use popular silhouettes from each era and put your own twist on it.

  • Take a common pattern and wear it with pride

  • Use and dress up a statement piece such as cowboy boots

  • Dress up with your friends!

It's crucial to plan ahead and pack accordingly in order to fully participate in and enjoy special events on your cruise.

Packing Tips for a Fashionable Voyage

  1. Roll Your Clothes: Rolling clothes instead of folding them can save a lot of space and reduce wrinkles.

  2. Use Packing Cubes: Packing cubes can help organize your suitcase and make the most of the available space.

  3. Pack Versatile Clothing: Bring items that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits.

  4. Limit Shoes: Shoes take up a lot of space. Try to limit your footwear to a maximum of three pairs: casual, formal, and comfortable walking shoes.

  5. Utilize All Space: Don't forget about the space inside shoes and in the corners of your suitcase.

  6. Avoid Overpacking: Remember, you'll likely buy souvenirs during your cruise, so leave some space for those items.

  7. Pay Attention to Weight: Baggage fees are often based on weight, so avoid packing heavy items if possible.


Some versatile items that can be mixed and matched for different occasions include:

  1. A neutral-colored blazer that can be paired with different tops and bottoms.

  2. A white button-down shirt that works for both formal and casual settings.

  3. Black or dark blue jeans that can be dressed up or down.

  4. A classic black dress that can be accessorized differently for various events.

  5. Comfortable flats that are suitable for both formal and casual wear.

  6. Lightweight rompers and dresses to save space and make for a cute one and done outfit.

Two sisters dressed up fancy for a cruise
Hanz and Via

When preparing for a cruise, consider packable accessories such as lightweight scarves or statement jewelry that can transform a basic outfit into something special. Opt for wrinkle-resistant fabrics like polyester and knit blends that can withstand packing without losing their shape. Lastly, creative storage solutions can maximize your suitcase space. For instance, use shoe bags to separate footwear from clothing, and packing cubes to compartmentalize different types of items, and a hanging personal bag to hold your toiletries. These can help keep your suitcase organized and make unpacking easier.


The biggest lessons for understanding and adhering to the cruise dress codes, which typically feature casual, formal, and themed attire are packing versatile and weather-appropriate clothes for various activities and events and incorporating sun protection into the outfit. Expressing personal style is also important while adhering to the dress code, Participating in theme nights and special events can be fun when you are comfortable and prepared.


Embracing the dress codes on your cruise is not just about adhering to rules, it's a fabulous opportunity to showcase your personal style and enhance your overall cruise experience. Remember, the key to looking great is feeling great, so confidence in your attire is essential. Always prioritize comfort to ensure you can fully enjoy all the activities and events your cruise has to offer. So go ahead, pack that vibrant dress or suave suit, and prepare to make unforgettable memories on your stylish voyage!





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