Cruising is a great way to explore several exciting destinations, with tropical getaways a favorite among first-timers and veteran cruisers alike. Add to that the value of bundling accommodations, entertainment, drinks, and dining into one bill, and it can be a great way to budget a sunny sojourn. All that sunshine lends to an easy-breezy wardrobe—or does it? When it comes to packing your clothes, it’s important to review your specific cruise line’s dress code, particularly when it comes to evening dinner attire. And during mealtime, there is some basic fashion etiquette to follow regardless of where your journey takes you. Read on to discover what travel experts say should never wear to dine on a cruise.
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While days at sea may be best spent poolside with a fruity cocktail in hand, it’s best to ditch swimwear before sitting down to dinner. “Cruisers should not wear a bathing suit when dining on a cruise ship,” says Marcello De Lio, co-founder of cruise website High Seas Cruising. “Although you are on vacation and might want to spend every minute of the day lounging by the pool, swimwear is generally not considered appropriate dining attire on cruise ships.” Most cruise lines don’t allow swimwear in the main dining room. “Even when it is allowed, you will get looks from the other passengers,” he adds.
Even at casual walk-up eateries on the pool deck, a smart coverup will be more appropriate than dining in your bedazzled bikini. De Lio explains that wearing a bathing suit while dining is not comfortable, “especially if it’s still a little damp from that afternoon swim.” Wearing a bikini or going shirtless, he adds, is also never a good idea: “Not only is it unhygienic, but it is completely impractical, especially if you choose a messy meal.”
While shorts or coverups may be appropriate at poolside eateries in the daytime, up your game for evening meals. Not all cruise lines require formal attire, but even when the onboard vibe is super chill, you’ll want to feel and look your best when sitting down to dinner.
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Some cruise lines feature gala nights, so cocktail dresses or jackets and ties should be on your packing list. For most venues in the evening, though, smart-casual essentials like polo shirts and summer dresses are on par with cruise line dress codes. Even when opting for a more casual approach to evening dinner wear, keep in mind one fashionista’s trend piece may be another’s dowdy duds. “Jeans are allowed on casual resort wear nights, as long as they aren’t torn or ripped,” according to cruise ship reviews site Cruise Critic.
It’s also important to consider the environment you’ll be dining in. While casual pieces may be acceptable, Karon Warren, editor of the travel blog This Girl Travels, says “if you’re sailing with a cruise line that caters to families, pack your family-friendly clothes and leave the adult humor and theme attire at home.”
Experiencing the variety of meal spots on cruise ships is one of the perks of sailing, so long as you know what attire to avoid in the dining room. When packing, aim for a balanced range of casual resort wear and wardrobe capsules you’d feel comfortable in when dining among friends or family. “You’re on vacation, so, of course, you should be comfortable,” says Warren. “That being said, if you plan to eat in the main dining room on elegant or formal nights, dress for the occasion. You don’t have to wear black tie, but don’t show up in your shorts and flip-flops, either. Sunday dress works.”
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