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What To Wear On A Cruise In The Evening

Before you can start packing for your cruise, you need to know what you’re going to wear. So, in this post, we’re sharing ideas for what to wear on a cruise in the evening.

Cruise lines have become much more relaxed about “expected” clothing for guests. But generally speaking, most guests tend to get at least somewhat spiffier in the evening. While some folks go all out, regardless of whether it’s formal night.

Although you can generally wear what you want walking around in public areas (within reason), many cruise lines have rules on what to wear in the evening at the dining room or specialty restaurants. 

Evening Cruise Attire

Main dining rooms and specialty restaurants are where you’ll most likely spend at least some part of your evenings on your cruise. Most cruise lines offer a dress code on their website, specifying what you’re allowed to wear for all times of the day, so you can have a look to clear up some questions. 

Formal and semi-formal attire is the standard evening dress code, with casual and theme nights sprinkled between the schedule.

What To Wear On A Cruise In The Evening -Formal Options

Evenings on a cruise are ideal for putting your best foot forward and dressing to impress (but it’s not necessarily required).

Feminine Evening Wear For A Cruise

You can’t go wrong with a stunning dress in your clothing itinerary. A little black dress, cocktail dress, evening gown, or even a long summer dress can do the trick. 

You can pair this with a pretty scarf and formal shoes like heels or dress shoes. If you’re not the kind of person to wear a dress or would like some variation, a statement pantsuit is a viable option.

Other formal clothing includes blouses and dress shirts paired with tailored pants or a skirt. If jeans are a permitted clothing item, or not mentioned as a problem, you’ll need to opt for non-ripped denim. 

To keep warm, a formal jacket or wrap will be perfect for evening cruise wear. It would be best if you left sweaters for casual nights. 

Formal attire is the time for accessories to shine, as nothing completes an outfit like some accessories. Pack in your necklaces, earrings, and bracelets to complete your look. You can also bring a formal clutch purse or small handbag to keep the style sleek and fancy.

In summary, your formal, feminine evening options are:

  • Cocktail dresses
  • Evening gowns
  • Semi-formal summer dresses
  • Pantsuits
  • Blouses or dress shirts
  • A coat
  • Formal jackets
  • Scarfs
  • Formal shoes like heels
  • Accessories
  • A fancy clutch purse or small handbag

Masculine Evening Wear For A Cruise

Some people find it harder to dress fancy with masculine wear, but there are just as many options for a formal look as feminine wear. You can’t go wrong with a fine tuxedo or suit. If you have one from a past wedding or dance, now’s the time to shine in one again!

Tuxedos can be paired with a bow or regular tie to compliment the look, but they can be left out too, which is most common on cruises nowadays. Tuxedos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, which isn’t a problem. 

Tailored pants, chinos, or trousers with a button-up or collar shirt look just as formal. Cargo pants and sweatpants are a no-no. Some cruise companies recognize polo shirts as semi-formal wear.

On casual nights you can wear non-ripped jeans if the cruise liner allows them at dinner locations. The shoe options include boots, loafers, or other dress shoes. It would be best if you packed in a blazer, coat, or formal jacket to compliment your outfit and keep you warm on a chilly evening.

What To Wear On A Cruise In The Evening

In summary, your formal, masculine evening options are:

  • Tuxedos
  • Suits
  • Bow ties or regular ties
  • Tailored pants
  • Chinos
  • Trousers
  • Button-up shirts
  • Collared shirts
  • Polo shirts
  • Blazers
  • Coats
  • Formal jackets
  • Boots
  • Dress shoes like loafers

What Not To Wear On A Cruise In The Evening

Beautiful cruise sunsets warrant a more polished style, as the evening dress code (or guidelines) on cruises is usually formal or semi-formal attire. There are also casual nights sprinkled on the travel plan, but certain clothing items are still frowned upon. (Note that kids usually have more flexibility and usually won’t trigger the side-eye.)

If you wear the wrong clothing, you might get turned away from dinner to do an outfit change. You might still be allowed in, as cruise staff don’t enjoy turning people down, but it’s best practice to go with the flow to prevent the chances of being rejected entry!

Whether you’re eating at a casual place on the cruise for the evening, or a specialty restaurant, beachwear is not an option. Crop tops and sandals also don’t fit the formality of the dining hall and restaurants. T-shirts may also be an issue for formal restaurants on the cruise.

Jeans have been given the green as an option nowadays but check the dress code rules on the cruise liner’s website to be sure. Jeans are commonly prohibited as evening wear as it is too casual. If you are allowed to wear them, they should be non-ripped.

Shorts are also usually a formality issue when choosing what to wear on the cruise in the evening. Caps and beach hats are commonly discouraged too.

To sum up, the clothing items you should avoid for the evening are:

  • Beachwear
  • Crop tops
  • T-shirts
  • Sandals
  • Ripped jeans
  • Shorts
  • Caps 
  • Beach hats

Types Of Cruise Line Dress Codes

Cruise lines have different terminology for their dress codes, so it’s best to understand each concept better.

The common types of dress codes are:

  • Formal – Dress as fancy as possible, like tuxedos and formal dresses
  • Semi-formal – You can dress the same as formal but leave out the tie and wear a less fancy dress.
  • Smart casual – Smart casual is the same as semi-formal.
  • Casual/ Cruise casual – Your everyday wear like T-shirts and jeans are welcome, but still no beachwear in the dining halls and restaurants.
  • Gala night – Gala night is whatever you feel most comfortable in but still abide by restrictions besides jeans.
  • Theme night – Here, you dress according to a theme the cruise provides, such as a Caribbean night or 80s theme.

Closing Thoughts

Dressing for evenings on your cruise shouldn’t be stressful, just check the dress code with your cruise line beforehand. It’s a great opportunity to have a little fun, show your style, and show off those pieces of formal wear that you don’t always get the occasion to showcase. Plus, you’ll have opportunities for some very nice photos.

David Chapman


David is a seasoned international traveler with a diverse hospitality background. He loves cruising in Asia and the Mediterranean.

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