Cruise Tips: Dining and Dress Codes

When planning a cruise for the first time, travelers often have a lot of questions about dining and dress codes on board. What is the difference between “traditional” and “freestyle” dining? Is the dress code formal or casual? Here is some cruise information to give you an idea of what to expect.


Ships have two main places to eat: the main dining room and the buffet area (commonly know as or the Lido). People tend to take breakfast and lunch in the Lido and have dinner in the dining room. However, both rooms tend to be open for all meals, so travelers can choose which room to dine in.

Traditionally, passengers had to choose between early (around 6:00 PM) and late (around 8:00 PM) seatings for dinner in the dining room. Tables were assigned prior to arrival and passengers dined at the same table, with the same people and server for the entirety of the cruise. This “traditional dining” is still an option on most cruise ships. The benefit of this style of dining is that you get to know your table mates really well, however, if you choose a more freestyle type of dining, you will meet a lot more people. Most ships now offer “anytime” dining in the same dining room, or a separate dining room. The same food is served, but there assigned seatings. Reservations for anytime dining are not necessary, but it is a good idea when cruising on a large ship.

Today, most ships also offer “alternative dining” restaurants that offer higher quality cuisine or more specialty cuisine than that served in the dining room. Meals typically range from $15 to $35 per person. While this may seem expensive, it is often much cheaper than what you would pay for cuisine of the same quality on land.

Dress Code

While most cruise ships still have a dress code, it is much less strict today than in previous years. Cruising is now a much more casual experience on most cruise ships, however, most cruise ships have at least one formal night onboard. The best cuisine tends to be served on these nights, so its a good idea to get dressed up and participate! The most appropriate attire for men is a jacket and dress shirt, pants and shoes; and a cocktail dress for women. On occasion, a neck-tie will be required for men, but this will be specified in your cruise documents.

Although most ships have a casual dress code, you should never wear jeans, shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops or tennis shoes into the dining room, whether it is a formal night or not! Men should wear a shirt with a collar, slacks and nice shoes (not sandals). Women can wear a pantsuit, a nice dress or a skirt with a dressy top. Make sure to confirm your ship’s dress code prior to packing with your travel agent or the cruise line.

2 Responses
  1. These are great tips for dining etiquette and dress code while on a cruise. Those who are in the marine paneling industry who are considering to take this kind of trip will surely find these information helpful. Thanks for sharing.