Cruise Dining Dress Codes: What To Wear And When

Are you planning to embark on a luxurious cruise vacation but find yourself perplexed about what to wear for dinner? Look no further! In this article, we will guide you through the various dining dress codes you may encounter on a cruise ship, ensuring that you always dress appropriately for each occasion. So whether you’re dining at the elegant formal restaurants or indulging in a more casual affair, we’ve got you covered with all the tips and tricks you need to make a stylish statement while enjoying your delectable meals on board.

Casual Dining

Casual dining aboard a cruise ship is all about comfort and relaxation. During the day, you can enjoy a laid-back atmosphere where no specific dress code is enforced. You can wear your favorite shorts, t-shirts, or jeans, and just focus on having a great time. Whether you’re exploring the ship’s amenities, lounging by the pool, or enjoying a leisurely meal, daytime casual attire allows you to be yourself and feel at ease.

In the evening, the casual dress code still applies, but with a slightly more refined touch. You can opt for a dress or a skirt paired with a blouse for women, and slacks or khakis with a collared shirt for men. This relaxed yet polished look is perfect for enjoying the ship’s various casual dining options, such as buffet-style restaurants or casual eateries. So go ahead and dine in style while maintaining the casual and friendly vibe of the cruise experience.

Formal Dining

Formal dining nights on a cruise offer a perfect opportunity to dress up and enjoy a touch of elegance. On formal nights, you can expect a more sophisticated ambiance, with special menus and additional decorative touches. These evenings provide an opportunity to showcase your style and grace.

During formal nights, women often opt for cocktail dresses, elegant evening gowns, or dressy pantsuits. Men typically wear tuxedos, suits, or dress shirts paired with slacks and a tie. These classic and timeless outfits create a glamorous atmosphere and make formal dining a truly memorable experience. So take advantage of the formal nights on your cruise to dress to impress and feel like royalty for a night.

Informal Dining

Informal dining offers a middle ground between casual and formal, providing a relaxed yet presentable atmosphere for your dining experience. Smart casual attire is appropriate for informal nights. This dress code allows for a stylish and fashionable look without being overly formal.

For women, smart casual might include a stylish dress, a skirt or pants paired with a blouse, or a blouse and slacks combination. Men can choose from a well-tailored jacket or blazer with slacks, a dress shirt with slacks and a tie, or a stylish sweater with khakis. This dress code strikes the perfect balance between comfort and sophistication, ensuring you feel confident and at ease while enjoying an excellent meal in a refined setting.

Resort casual dining is another option for those looking for a more relaxed atmosphere while still maintaining a touch of style. Resort casual attire is similar to smart casual, but with a more vacation-oriented vibe. Think sundresses, linen pants, and polo shirts. This dress code is ideal for those hot summer evenings when you want to feel comfortable and effortlessly chic.

Specialty Restaurants

specialty restaurants offer a unique dining experience with a focus on expertly crafted dishes and personalized service. Upscale casual attire is typically recommended for these establishments. This dress code allows you to enjoy a refined dining experience while keeping a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

For women, upscale casual might involve a fashionable dress, a skirt or pants paired with a stylish top, or a polished jumpsuit. Men can opt for a suit without a tie, a dress shirt with slacks, or a blazer with khakis. By adhering to the upscale casual dress code, you can fully immerse yourself in the upscale ambiance of specialty restaurants and savor the culinary delights on offer.

Resort elegant is another dress code commonly seen in specialty restaurants. Resort elegant attire strikes a balance between formal and casual, offering a sophisticated yet relaxed look. Women can choose from elegant cocktail dresses, dressy pantsuits, or stylish separates. Men often opt for a tailored suit, a dress shirt paired with slacks, or a blazer with dress pants. Embracing resort elegant attire allows you to enjoy the luxurious atmosphere of specialty restaurants without the strict formality of formal nights.

Poolside Dining

When it’s time to grab a bite to eat by the pool, comfort and relaxation are key. Casual swimwear is perfectly acceptable for poolside dining during the day. After all, you’re there to enjoy the sun and take a dip in the pool, so why not dress the part? Feel free to wear your favorite swimsuit or swim trunks and embrace the vacation vibe.

While casual swimwear is ideal for daytime poolside dining, remember that cover-ups are required when dining near the pool in the evening. This is to ensure that all guests remain comfortable and respectful of the dining environment. So when enjoying a poolside meal after sunset, simply throw on a light cover-up over your swimsuit for a more appropriate and considerate look.

Theme Nights

Theme nights add an extra element of fun and excitement to your cruise dining experience. On these special evenings, the dress code often aligns with the chosen theme or costume attire. It’s an opportunity to let your creativity shine and join in the festivities with fellow cruisers.

Costume or theme attire means dressing up in accordance with the designated theme for the evening. This could mean anything from Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts for a tropical theme, to pirates and sailors for a nautical-themed night. The options are endless, and it’s all about embracing the theme and having a blast while enjoying your meal.

Resort wear is another dress code commonly seen during theme nights. This dress code encourages cruisers to channel a relaxed and vacation-oriented style. Think breezy dresses, linen shirts, and colorful accessories. Resort wear captures the essence of a tropical getaway and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the cruise’s festive atmosphere.

Dining Etiquette

While dress codes play an important role in cruise dining, it’s also essential to consider dining etiquette to ensure a pleasant experience for everyone. Table manners are an essential part of dining etiquette and involve practicing good hygiene, being mindful of personal space, and respecting fellow diners.

Basic etiquette tips include using your utensils correctly, chewing with your mouth closed, and engaging in polite conversation. Additionally, it’s important to arrive on time for your dining reservation and be considerate of the waitstaff and their service. By following these basic guidelines, you can contribute to a positive and enjoyable dining experience for yourself and those around you.

Packing Tips

Now that you’re familiar with the various dress codes and dining etiquette, it’s time to pack your suitcase accordingly. Mix-and-match outfits are a great way to maximize your outfit options without overpacking. Choose versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down, creating different looks for every dining occasion.

Additionally, don’t forget to pack dressy accessories to elevate your outfits and add that extra touch of elegance. Accessories like statement necklaces, bow ties, or a stylish belt can instantly transform a simple outfit into a sophisticated ensemble. So be sure to include a few key accessories that can easily be paired with different outfits, allowing you to showcase your personal style throughout your cruise.

Common FAQs

What if I don’t have appropriate attire?

If you find yourself without appropriate attire for a specific dress code, don’t panic. Most cruise ships offer onboard shops where you can purchase clothing items suitable for the desired dress code. Alternatively, you can inquire with the cruise ship’s staff to see if they can provide any assistance or suggestions.

Can I wear jeans to dinner?

Jeans can generally be worn for casual and informal dining. However, it’s important to check the specific dress code requirements for each dining venue onboard your cruise ship. Some specialty restaurants or formal dining nights may have restrictions on wearing jeans. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and dress slightly more formal if in doubt.

Can I wear flip-flops to dinner?

Flip-flops are generally not considered appropriate for dinner attire, especially for formal or semi-formal nights. However, for casual dining or poolside dining during the day, flip-flops can be a comfortable and acceptable choice. Just remember to check the dress code requirements for each dining venue to ensure you are appropriately dressed.


Dining aboard a cruise ship offers a variety of dress codes to suit every occasion and ambiance. From casual to formal, each dress code provides a unique experience, allowing you to express your personal style while enjoying delicious cuisine and memorable dining moments. By understanding and adhering to the dress codes and dining etiquette, you can make the most of your cruise dining experience and ensure a pleasant time for yourself and your fellow cruisers. So pack your bags, embrace the different dress codes, and get ready to indulge in a culinary journey like no other. Bon appétit!