Why Casual Cruises Are On The Rise

What do you picture when you think about a cruise?

Glistening chandeliers and ball gowns? Or long lazy days by the pool in your robe? Or maybe you see a little bit of both!

While cruises have traditionally been quite formal, requiring you to carefully pack your finest formalwear and jewelry for anything from glamorous dining rooms to balls, galas and auctions, many cruise lines have eased up on formality requirements.

Why Are Many Cruise Lines Becoming Less Formal?

In the past, cruises were considered to be a luxury vacation where people would prepare for days or even weeks to present themselves as elegantly as possible. But as cruises became more accessible and family-friendly, so did their dress codes.

Many cruise lines are discovering that a large amount of today’s cruisers prefer to be a bit more casual. The focus for cruise passengers seems to be changing from formalwear and elegance to adventure and comfort — and the less bags required the better.

This division in preferences has been made clear on many formal cruises. When formalwear is required, it can cause tension when some people have a different definition of what formal should look like.

Giving cruise passengers the choice of casual or formal environments is an attempt to help ease this tension and allow for everyone to be happy with their experience, regardless of clothing preference.

The Alternatives

This shift in formalities doesn’t mean all dress codes are eliminated and people can start dining in their wet swimsuits. It simply means the options have been expanded.

Many cruises have gone from having a formal attire night to having a less strict version, like “elegant casual,” where women often opt for pantsuits or skirts, and men go for slacks or jeans with collared shirts and no tie.

Other ships go for “resort casual,” where any gender can wear nice jeans or slacks, sundresses, or casual skirts. Again, no ties or other formalities are required.

How To Be Prepared

While you should always look into the dress code for your cruise before setting sail, there are a few staple items you can pack in order to help you cover all the bases:

  • Nice jeans with no tears
  • A skirt that can easily be dressed up or down depending on the shirt and accessories you pair it with
  • Casual shoes that can work for the beach or at dinner (faux leather is good for this), or one pair of formal shoes to be safe
  • Small accessories like a nice clutch or watch that can help dress up any outfit

Casual Cruising Options

If you’re on the same boat as many other cruise passengers and you’d like to enjoy your trip without worrying about violating a dress code or being judged for dressing casually, there are plenty of options for you.

If the idea of no formal night whatsoever sounds like your way to relax, opt for a cruise line that has eliminated them completely. These include:


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If you’d prefer something where you have the option of dressing up now and then, you can book a cruise on a ship that has various attire options. These cruises offer optional formal nights, as well as access to dining rooms that allow for casual wear:

Formal Cruising Options

For some cruisers, the chance to show up in your finery and enjoy a night of elegance is part of the appeal of cruising. Plenty of cruise lines still provide high-class formal nights and a glamorous setting.

Cunard, for example, asks for formalwear in all bars, and hosts two to three gala nights where you can go all out on your attire.

Crystal Cruises offers several options for dining and entertainment, but most lean toward formal attire. In fact, after 6pm, no casual attire is allowed!

On Crystal Cruises, dress code options have evolved from “formal only” to what they call Crystal Casual. Women are asked to wear dresses or blouses with dressy slacks and skirts, and men are asked to wear collared shirts with dress pants and a sport coat. The other option, “black tie optional,” means women wear a cocktail dress or evening gown and men are required to wear a jacket and tie.


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The fantastic thing about the attire rules shifting for cruises is everyone gets more options! Casual travelers have plenty of trips to choose from where they don’t even need to pack dressy slacks. And fashionistas can flaunt their finest attire on glamorous cruises. People who like a little taste of both worlds can switch as they please.

And while the desire for casual wear or formalwear can differ, there’s one thing that seems to unite us all: a love for wine.

Take a peek at the best wine cruises in the world >

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