My first Cunard cruise
I recently returned from my first Cunard cruise and the dress code was well, an experience! I am more used to cruising with NCL where there are no dress codes at all. For some reason, I had assumed that the dress code onboard Cunard ships would be applied just in the dining rooms, however, the dress code applies in all public places after 6pm, asides from the buffet.
Please note that after 6:00pm, shorts and blue or worn denim (for men and women); sandals and sleeveless tops (for men) are not considered appropriate within the ship.
During this post I discuss the following dress codes:
- Formal nights male/female
- Informal nights
- General day time dress
- Afternoon tea
Having professional photos taken always seems like one of the best things about formal nights, we always manage to take loads! Below is a photo of me and my brother.
As a general rule of thumb, I would say that anything you would wear to a wedding is suitable for Cunard’s formal nights. A wedding/prom outfit seemed to be the ideal look. I saw some gorgeous dresses and some very impressive headpieces, I don’t think it is possible to be overdressed for the formal nights.
Evening wear consists of an evening or cocktail dress or smart trouser suit for ladies. A tuxedo, dinner jacket or dark suit with appropriate neck wear for men or you may wear formal national dress and military uniform.
Before my first Cunard cruise, I had no idea how seriously some people take the dress code. I recently was on cruise critic forum where I saw a women say that her holiday would be ruined if another guest took off his jacket while at dinner! Madness.
Formal dress – Men
For men, the dress code is a dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit. 95% of people seemed to stick to this when I was onboard. Anybody who didn’t really did stick out. I doubt the staff would say anything unless you were extremely scruffy but you probably would get some evil stares from fellow guests.
Formal dress – Women
Women really go all out on formal nights. It is a brilliant chance to dress up. I saw many floor length gowns with lots of sparkles. For my 7 night cruise, I bought 3 dresses which I would call ‘nice’ dresses. They took up most of my suitcase! I also brought a couple of smaller shrugs to keep me warm. I did find the dining room to be a little chilly, (I suppose they have to have it that way as the men aren’t meant to take off their jackets).
I bought a pair of smart sandals and one pair of black heels which I wore on the formal nights. The dress code seems to be quite traditional in the sense that women all seem to wear dresses/skirts, but if you don’t want to that is completely fine. Just make sure that you have a smart pair of trousers and a dressy top/blouse.
- Dresses (long or short, but think elegant)
- Skirts/Trousers with nice tops/blouses/shirt
- Smart sandals/heels or flats
- Small shrug to keep your warm
- Bling up your outfit with any jewellery that you have, a cruise is a perfect opportunity to go a bit mad and try new things. Why not try wearing something you’d never normally wear. You won’t see anybody that you know!
To me, informal = jeans. THIS IS NOT CUNARD’S DEFINITION.
Evenings would consist of a required jacket and optional tie for gentlemen, whilst ladies should wear cocktail dresses, stylish separates or equivalent. No jeans or shorts.
Informal nights onboard Cunard are still more formal than most formal nights on other cruises. They certainly are a lot more formal than I would ever dress in my normal day to day life. The only real difference with informal nights is that men can wear a normal suit and can take off that dreaded bow tie (phew!). Women can put down the prom dress and pick up one which is almost as nice… maybe a little bit less sparkly. Think an evening out instead of a wedding. I honestly didn’t see much difference between the formal and informal nights, maybe that’s because I rarely cruise with formal dining and as a result, it all seemed a bit posh for me!
I honestly missed my jeans by the end of the week… (sorry hardcore Cunarders!)
Daytime dress code?
When walking around the ship in the daytime I did not make any special effort to dress up. Most of the time I was in my jeans and a tshirt/hoodie. I would think twice about wearing anything particularly skimpy or revealing but in general, you can wear whatever you want during the day. The whole of the ship was so grand that I did feel a little out of place running around in my casual clothes!
Dress code for afternoon tea.
I believe there is a dress code for afternoon tea although it didn’t seem to be enforced. I managed to get into afternoon tea wearing shorts (although I don’t think you are meant to) oops! Onboard the Queen Victoria afternoon tea was in quite an open area so you could just sit down and be brought tea and cakes. I didn’t feel pressured to dress up for afternoon tea as I did in the main restaurants.
I loved afternoon tea, it was one of my favourite things about Cunard by a million miles. To read a full review of afternoon tea click here: Cunards Afternoon Tea
Would I do it again?
I did enjoy dressing up and having my photograph taken. It was interesting to walk around the ship and see what everybody else was wearing. However, I did find the dress code annoying in the sense that it applied in all public areas. I am more comfortable in jeans and not being able to wear them after 6 for a whole week was tough!!
For a week or less I would definitely consider cruising with Cunard and dressing up for dinner, however, I don’t think I would like to dress as formally for any great length of time. Cruising Cunard was a really interesting experience, which I am glad that I did. I don’t think formal dress/dining is for me though. I am just too lazy and formal dining involves way too much organisation and packing!
So what should I wear?
In regards to clothing, I would say wear what makes you feel happy and confident. There are some guests which take the dress code incredibly seriously but they probably aren’t going to be looking at you anyway… After all, it is your holiday! Enjoy yourself. Don’t forget that the room service on Cunard is completely free and really really yummy. If you ever get fed up with the formal dining you can always eat on your balcony and watch the world go by.
Have you ever taken a Cunard cruise? Please let me know what you thought of the dress code in the comments. Make sure you visit the Cunard section of my site here: Cunard where you’ll find food reviews, first time Cunard tips+ lots more!
Fancy finding out a little more about my Cunard experience? Check out the video below: