Dress-code on the cruise – Part I

Today some thoughts about the dress-code during holidays, especially when they are as unique as the cruise. So, how to dress up when you’re aboard and where is it coming from – that’s all in the Part I.

In the Part II – coming soon – some inspirations and outfits I worn during the cruise.

Cruises have a long tradition, back to the mid XIXth century, when the world accelerated and became much smaller thanks to the enormous technological progress and industrial revolution. People started to move around to discover new places. Of course what we are talking about here is pretty limited group of those who could afford travelling, mainly aristocracy, rich burghers and businessmen, so – intellectual and property elite. Those were also the people who followed quite strictly the etiquette and the rules of the dress-code.

One of the first cruisers, that was supposed not only to transport people but also to offer them a little bit of comfort was famous Britannia, operated by Cunard Line. It was regularly sailing between Liverpool, Halifax and Boston. The cruise was taking 14 days. Interestingly, the ship was embarking with a cow on board to supply passengers with a fresh milk every day.


The golden age of cruising started at the biginning of XXth century when the company White Star Line launched their three majestic ships: Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. Those ships have been built for one and only goal: to transport people from Europe to the North America in the ultimate comfort and luxury. Unfortunately the catastrophy of Titanic that sank early morning on the April 15th 1912, had a very negative impact on the whole cruising industry and the outbreak of the World War I stopped it completely.

Titanic leaving the port for its maiden and last cruise – April the 10th 1912..

20-ties and 30-ties were – again – a golden age of cruising, stopped – again – by the war. The cruisers came back on the seas just after, but everything has changed in 1958 with the advent of the first commercial non-stop trans-Atlantic flight to Europe.The times of the big ships operating between Europe and North America as the only way to travel were over.

After few difficult years, when many crusing lines failed, the new era has begun. The companies that survived completely changed their business model and created a new industry – cruising for pleasure. The main goal wasn’t anymore to transport passangers from A to B, but just to cruise for fun and relax, offering them luxury. comfort and entertainment on board.

Today this type of spending time for holidays is getting more and more popular, especially in the USA but also in Europe. The cruisers of our time are, in fact, floating cities where you can find absolutely everything you would think about for your holidays.

One of the biggest cruisers in the world – Freedom Of The Seas, from Royal Caribbean. 14 decks, 3 pools, casino, theater, entertainment center, many restaurants and bars. Capacity – 4560 passangers and 1300 crew members.

Because of the glorious tradition even today the companies operating the cruises are encouraging passangers to follow the rules of etiquette and dress-code on board. I thought that’s worth to see it on my own eyes 🙂 So, today we will talking about what to wear when you’re cruising.

General rule is that before 6:00 pm there are no rules… Everybody can wear whatever he/she wants, just taking into account the activities they are planninig: pool. casino, theater, shore excursions etc. The onyl thing is that you’re not allowed to go the the bars or restaurants in your swimming suit and flip-flops but besides that – heaven can wait!

It is different in the evening though. On every ship there are many restaurants where you can go for dinner. The first seating is usually at 6:30 pm and the second – at 9:00 pm. For the dinner there is a dress-code, announced by the captain earlier in the day. Basically there are 3 dress-codes that apply during the dinner:

  • Smart Casual (long trousers and shirts for men – jackets are optional, cocktail dresses for women)
  • Formal attire (tuxedos or formal suits for men, evening dresses for women)
  • Captain’s Evening, also called White Night (tropical black tie for men – tuxedos with the white jacket and white dresses for women).

I find the las one especially interesting because for this evening all the passengers are hosted by the captain and all officers, of course if the weather conditions allow their abence in the bridge. It looks impressive as all of them are wearing formal, white uniforms, hence the name of the event and the dress-code. That’s why it is expected that also the passengers are coming in white if possible.

For the men it could be a white suit (very popular in the past, now – very rare) or tropical tuxedo, a combination of a white jacket and black trousers.

James Bond in white tuxedo
James Bond in tropical back tie attire featured by Sean Connery…
Daniel Craig in white tuxedo
…and Daniel Craig.

I personally think that’s a beautiful tradition coming from the times when it was just obvious to dress up accordingly to the occasion and the dinner out was perceived not only as an entertainment but also a formal occasion requiring a specific attire.

Below you can find my interpretation of all three dress-codes suggested for the evening. I hope you will like it 🙂

That was my choice for the first Smart Casual evening:

There was only option for the Formal Evening:
black tie on the cruise

And that’s how I sorted out the question of the dress-code for the Captain’s Evening:
tropical black tie by Polish Dapper

What do you think about those proposals? Did I make the right choices? Do you like it?

Stay tuned as the Part II is coming soon… You will find there more detailed description of my outfits for the Smart Casual evenings and few others for the inspiration.

Bartek Górzny
Bartek Górzny

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