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Do I Need to Bring Formal Clothes on a Cruise?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Deciding whether to bring formal clothes on a cruise has much to do with the nature and length of the cruise you plan to take. On dinner and dancing evening pleasure trips, you don’t so much bring formal clothes but instead wear your clothes to the cruise. Since these cruises only last a few hours, you don’t need to bring an extra supply of clothes, though you might want to take a warm jacket if the weather is uncertain.

Many cruises lasting several days may have a few formal evenings, or a formal dining room. In these cases you should plan to bring formal clothes on a cruise. Actually, what you are really striving for is semi-formal or dressy clothing, in most cases. A dressy dress for women, and a suit (not a tux) for men is usually all that is required. Some dining rooms on cruise ships may have jacket and tie requirements for men, so at the very least, men should bring a nice sports coat, slacks, a dress shirt, and a coordinating tie.

If you have any doubts about whether you should bring formal clothes on a cruise, it’s a good idea to consult your travel agent or contact the cruise line directly. Typically, the cruise line will have an itinerary of events and can advise you on any special clothing requirements. There may be opportunities to purchase dressy clothing at stores on the ship, but these purchases can be pricey. Therefore, being forewarned allows you to pick something suitable from your own wardrobe.

Under a few circumstances, you might actually need to bring formal clothes on a cruise. For women this means full-length or tea length gowns, and for men, this usually means at the last, a tuxedo. Very long cruises on the larger ships may hold special parties or events like dances that require your best special outfit. In most cases, though, you merely need one or two dressy outfits for special dinners.

Women should give some thought to the expense of clothing when they bring formal clothes on a cruise. You may not want to pack an exceptionally expensive designer dress, since theft does occur on cruise ships. Similarly, it may be better to pack costume jewelry that can dazzle and sparkle, rather than expensive real jewelry. Again, theft unfortunately happens on cruise ships and it would be a shame to have a pleasure trip ruined by the loss of expensive items.

When preparing for your cruise, remember to consider the importance of packing the best laundry detergent sheets. While formal clothes are crucial for specific cruise events, maintaining the freshness and cleanliness of your wardrobe is equally significant. Opt for laundry detergent sheets that excel in stain removal and garment preservation. Whether you're bringing attire for elegant dining evenings or other dressy occasions, having trustworthy laundry detergent sheets on hand guarantees that your outfits stay impeccable during your cruise. Some cruise ships offer self-service laundry rooms, and having these laundry sheets will ensure that your vacation is full of "good, clean fun."

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By manykitties2 — On Oct 04, 2011

Does anyone have any tips for an ideal packing list for your trip? How many bags are a good idea if it is your first cruise, and there is a formal night?

Right now I have two large suitcases coming with me, and I feel like I may be bringing too much. I have a variety of pool wear, some casual clothes, and several dresses to choose from, including three formal ones because I can be a bit indecisive when my back is against a wall.

As for my partner, he is insisting that he doesn't need to bring mens suits because there will be a formal hire available. I sure hope so, because I don't want to get stuck leaving him in the cabin.

By Mae82 — On Oct 03, 2011

When going on a cruise I think that you should check out the cruise liner's website for tips on packing clothes. A lot of the top cruise lines offer help with trip packing and provide a very detailed itinerary if you ask.

I know when I went on a cruise with my husband it was recommended that he bring some suits for the more formal dinners, and for myself some nice cocktail dresses. This was actually a lot of fun for us because we normally don't have any reason to really dress up.

If you really want to go all out, you can also get your hair and makeup done on the cruise ship. There are usually a lot of beauty salons.

By sneakers41 — On Oct 03, 2011

@Bhutan - A few years ago I went on a cruise and I have noticed that more people are dressing down and are not quite as formal as before. I have seen a lot of women wear dresses that they might wear to work instead of wearing a formal evening gown.

I really wish that the cruise lines would be stricter about the dress code because I think that it is really nice when everyone dresses up and when some people do not put in the effort it sort of takes away from the atmosphere.

I know that cruise ships offer multiple dining options so that if someone is not up to wearing formal attire, they would not have to but they would have to eat at a different restaurant. This is why I don’t understand why people that are not dressed correctly still show up to these formal nights at the main dining room wearing any old dress from their closet with virtually no effort at all.

By Bhutan — On Oct 02, 2011

I have been on a lot of cruises and I will say that men don’t have to worry about packing formal attire because most cruise ships offer tuxedo rentals. Usually when you book the cruise you will receive an itinerary and it will tell you which nights will be the formal nights and what attire is expected.

Men don’t have to rent a tuxedo. My husband just packed a suit and another jacket because one night was semi-formal dining and the other was formal. It just gives you another option when packing for your vacation.

I have seen a lot of men take advantage of these rentals because many do not want to travel with a suit, but renting a tuxedo should really be done as soon as you get on the ship because it is a popular option for a lot of men.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia...
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