Haute Couture on the High Seas- Guidelines and Tips For Packing For Your Next Cruise Vacation

On the glamorous ocean liners of days past, long gowns and tuxedos used to be de rigeur for dinner. While some passengers – especially on luxury liners – still opt to get all “decked out”, the rules have become significantly more relaxed, and many of the old guidelines have fallen by the wayside.

With things constantly changing in the world of cruise “fashion”, it’s often hard to determine what to pack for a cruise. What’s appropriate can vary by cruise line- and even by ship! However, no matter which ship you’re on, it’s still important to dress tastefully for every occasion, even if fashion is not your “thing”.

Plus, let’s face it – everyone likes an excuse to go shopping, and your upcoming cruise gives you the perfect opportunity to refresh your wardrobe. If you’re stumped for ideas, designers like FendiPradaBande Noir and others feature chic cruise wear, so you might want to skim through their websites for inspiration.

One thing to remember, the cruise lines will typically list what they deem appropriate dress, so be sure to reference the guidelines on their websites and confirm them with your agent when booking your cruise.

Here are some standard terms to help you decipher the cruise line dress codes:

1.  Casual – Sport shirts for men and anything casual, but no torn or cutoff jeans. For women, any resort attire, including nice slacks and casual tops.

2.  Business casual, Resort casual, Cruise casual, Smart casual, Country Club casual – All mean similar things. For men, slacks and shirts are a good option. Polo shirts are fine on most lines, though some prefer button-down shirts. For ladies, skirts, dresses, nice slacks and sweaters.
Both men and women should check out the latest resort/cruise collections featured by designers such as ChanelFendi and Valentino.

Tip: Women should plan to mix and match separates to create different outfits and to avoid over-packing. A simple black dress can be jazzed up with a jacket, shawl, jewelry and accessories for a more formal look. Sandals with a casual skirt and an elegant blouse easily transform into cocktail attire when you add sparkly jewelry, so be sure to bring some “bling” with you.

3. Elegant Casual, Cruise Elegant, Evening Chic, Semiformal – For men, dress slacks, dress shirts and jackets are preferred. For women, chic clothing of any type, including dress slacks.

Tip: This is another case where bling can add some extra glamour.

4. Black Tie, Gala Attire & Formal – Formal attire for men refers to a tuxedo, a suit and tie or a sport coat with tie and nice slacks.

For women, formal attire means evening gowns, cocktail dresses and dressy resort wear – at a minimum. A sparkly top and black pants would also do the trick.

Some passengers relish wearing tuxedos and evening gowns on formal nights, but most opt for suits and cocktail attire. Others prefer to stick with the minimum requirement – such as slacks, a sport coat and a dress shirt. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you’re dressing tastefully and within the guidelines. If you do decide to get all “decked out” just know that you won’t be alone as many of your fellow passengers will be doing it, too.

Tip: For some truly breath-taking cruise wear, check out Gucci’s “2020 Cruise” collection, recently showcased at Rome’s Capitoline Museums.

Should I expect to have to dress formally?

Proper dining attire varies from ship to ship, depending on the itinerary and length of the voyage. One-week cruises typically have one or two formal nights, and luxury cruise lines with longer itineraries will be more apt to have additional dressy evenings.

Ultra-luxury cruise lines include:

Dining room dress guidelines:

While dining room dress guidelines have relaxed over the years, there are still basic standards. Cut-off or ragged jeans and shorts (including gym and basketball shorts), flip-flops, bathing suit attire, hats, caps, and sleeveless shirts (for men) are generally not permitted. Dress requirements for children in the dining room are normally the same as for adults but do have a little more leeway.

Cruise lines offer various dining options, so – depending on where you decide to go for your meals – you may not have to dress up if you don’t want to. Food is offered at buffets on deck and in cafés and restaurants throughout the ship, and most lines offer 24/7 room service.

Tip: Dining areas other than the main dining room – especially the buffet – tend to be more casual.

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