Cunard dress code – What to wear (Updated 2018)
In this post I discuss the following dress codes:
- Formal nights male/female (now ‘gala nights’)
- Informal nights (now ‘smart attire’ nights)
- General daytime dress
- Afternoon tea
This post contains real examples of outfits from across the web and we also have a number of examples at the end of this post from members of the Cruising Isn’t just For Old People facebook group community.
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Formal nights (now ‘Gala nights’)
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 dress seems 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. (Ideas for what to wear below!)
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.
Visiting the ‘wedding’ section of any website would be a good place to start if you really want to embrace the dress code. None of these outfits below would be out of place onboard a Cunard ship on a formal night. The dresses shown below can be found here: Green, Red, Pink.
If you are a woman you could consider the following outfits:
Midi dresses (I would not consider wearing a dress much shorter than knee length).
- There are plenty of options for Midi Dresses. Below is a dress that I wore onboard P&O’s Britannia for formal night that I could quite comfortably wear to formal night onboard Cunard. The main aim of Cunards dress code seems to be to look elegant and classy, as a result, I would try not to have TOO much skin on display. Of course, this is your decision but this is my personal preference.
Midi Dress Examples:
I LOVE a lace dress as you can see from the photo above. I like how the below dresses have little sleeves. Cruise ships can often be really cold and I don’t like to have my shoulders uncovered. The following Midi dresses can be found here: Red, Blue, White.
Bodycon dresses are always classy and can actually be quite comfy. Just make sure that these are not too short because sometimes they can be. I am a fan of bright solid colours (usually red) but you could also pick a floral pattern or spots/stripes! These dresses can be found here: M&S Bodycon Dresses*
Long dresses floor length dresses (Maxi dresses)
- There are a number of different styles of maxi dresses but I would avoid wearing anything that could be worn to the beach. Dresses with straps/no straps shouldn’t be a problem. Below is a photo of me onboard the Queen Victoria.
- Long dresses are also a bonus because the ships can be pretty cold. The air conditioning is usually good so having something to cover your legs is a good idea.
- If you are wearing a dress like the one I am wearing below make sure you bring a shrug or cover up. The restaurants are pretty cold.
Maxi dress examples:
When buying maxi dresses it is important to avoid buying ones that look too ‘beachy’. Some will have crisscrossed back straps or generally be made of a t-shirt material. I would say that these would not be suitable. If you could wear it to the beach you probably shouldn’t wear it to a formal night onboard Cunard. The below examples can be found here: M&S maxi dresses*
Skirts (again not higher than the knee) and a blouse/top.
- You cannot go wrong with a nice skirt and a top! There is a complimentary laundry onboard which means that you can wash and re-wear clothes. I was really impressed by this as on other cruise lines you often have no other options than to pay to have your clothes washed. For other things that I wish I knew before my first Cunard cruise click here: 8 tips for your first Cunard cruise.
I would normally go for a fitted skirt. Usually in a pencil type style. Again I would try and make sure that this isn’t too short and you don’t have to constantly pull it down. There isn’t a lot more annoying than being unable to walk two steps without having to pull down your skirt. Your main concern should definitely be your comfort. The below skirts can be found here: M&S Pencil Skirts*
Full skirts can also be really pretty and classy when paired with the right top. I rarely wear long skirts (not really sure why). I imagine that they’re very practical when you head to the theatre after dinner and the air conditioning is up high. I’m always freezing. M&S Full Skirts*
- If you are reading this and thinking, ‘oh no! I hate wearing dresses/skirts’ fear not. You don’t have to wear a dress. A pair of smart trousers and a blouse/top will be just fine. (If you’re still not sure what to wear, why not join our Facebook group of 1500+ members? We would love to answer any questions you have or give you some ideas! Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People – Facebook Group.
Smart trousers examples:
Wearing smart trousers doesn’t mean wearing black trousers! I often avoid wearing trousers because I feel as though I’m going to work/school but that doesn’t have to be the case at all. The following trousers can be found here: M&S Coloured Trousers*
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.
Bow tie’s are highly recommended!
If you are a man you could consider the following outfits:
- This is the most popular type of dress worn by men onboard. You can’t really go wrong with a suit in black/dark navy/dark grey. This is what the majority of men onboard wear.
Dark suit examples:
The following suits are from M&S and can be found here. M&S Men’s Suits*
Light suit examples:
Just because you’re wearing a suit doesn’t mean you have to stick to traditional colours! My favourite suit that I’ve ever seen on a man is pink. White/Cream suits can also look amazing and I think particularly good on cruises in warmer climates! Sometime’s it’s nice to wear something that you wouldn’t wear in normal life. M&S Light Suits*
Formal national dress (get out your kilts!)
How handsome do these guys look?! Love love love Catherine’s sparkles too! (More photo of this gorgeous bunch at the end)
What should I pack for formal night with Cunard? (Now ‘Gala nights’)
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. The dining room was 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.
When packing consider the following:
- 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!
Shrug/Cover up examples:
A shrug is really just a little cardigan used to cover up your arms when it’s cold. I would 100% recommend buying one of these for your cruises. I have a black one like the middle picture which I take on every cruise with me. It’s black so it goes with most of my outfits and it’s so useful around the ship. M&S Shrugs*
Jewellery is really personal and I don’t see how you could go too wrong with it. I tend to like my jewellery to match (matching earrings and necklace) for example but this doesn’t have to be the case. I usually try and keep my jewellery understated rather than bold but if you are somebody who can pull off a pair of colourful earrings feel free to go for it! The necklace is the perfect way to glam up any outfit. M&S Necklaces.
I usually just wear simple earrings but dangling earrings can also be nice and really compliment an outfit. If you are really planning on going ‘all out’ you could even coordinate your earrings with your shoes or bag! That’s definitely an advanced move though and far beyond my fashion skills most of the time. M&S Earrings.
How many formal ‘gala’ nights will there be on my cruise?
On a 7 night cruise, there will be two or three. Every three or so nights is usually a good formula to use. If you are taking a short cruise you may only have one formal night.
REMEMBER: This is YOUR cruise and you are there to have a good time. Wear whatever makes you feel happy!
How formal are Cunard’s informal nights? (Now ‘smart attire’ nights)
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!)
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! We cruised around the greek islands so it was pretty hot.
“Children under 18 do not have a dress code but should adhere to the daily dress code where possible.”
Many children do partake in formal nights and it can be a fantastic opportunity to have photos taken. I love it when children wearing matching suits/dresses as their parents. It can be really cute! M&S have suits from 3 months! Babies first tuxedo…
Children’s formal dress examples:
Because there are no official dress codes for children you can play around with the level of formality. A jacket or blazer paired with a smart pair of trousers can be perfect for boys. A full tuxedo and bow tie is also acceptable! If you do have children onboard I would recommend that you try to ‘dress up’ even though the dress code isn’t enforced. Boys suits can be found here: M&S Boys Suits*
I would say that anything appropriate for women for formal night would be appropriate for girls. Midi/Maxi dresses, skirts or formal trousers. Again there is no enforced dress code for girls but it can be a great opportunity to dress up and should definitely be taken if possible. When shopping online if you select ‘party dresses’ these are probably the most appropriate. The dresses below can be found here: M&S Girls Party Dresses.
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.
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 a little 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 it.
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.
Queen Victoria – Greek Isle cruise – My thoughts on the dress code
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.
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.
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.
Below are some examples of outfits that would be acceptable to wear onboard Cunard on formal nights. These pictures have come from the members of our Facebook community. If you’re still not sure what to wear, why not join our Facebook group of 1500+ members? We would love to answer any questions you have or give you some ideas! Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People – Facebook Group.
(Thank you all so much for letting me share these photos with the world, you’re a gorgeous bunch!!!)
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!
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