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Cruise Attire

A heavily-debated topic amongst cruisers, cruise wear is something of a grey area and one of those things that experience can teach you well.

Cruise Ship Dress Codes

A good place to start is by checking your cruise operator’s specific dress code. Websites and brochures contain this sort of information, and cruise-related discussion boards or community forums are great places to go to hear advice from those with experience.

For every dress code, there are always some who try and bend the rules to fit them. If a tux is required for dinner, someone will try and get away with just a suit, but there are cases of people being turned away from the dining rooms for not being dressed appropriately.

Cruising Formalwear

A remnant of a bygone cruising golden age, the requirement for formal wear at dinner is merely a tradition that is favoured amongst regular cruisers and it all adds to the experience. More modern budget lines are looking to cater for those who don’t own formalwear and still want to cruise, meaning that each cruise line has its own set of rules.

During the day, no matter what ship or cruise line you are on (varying only due to itinerary), you’ll find men dressed in t-shirts, polo shirts and shorts or khakis. Women are similarly dressed in casual day dresses, skirts, shorts, t-shirts and cardigans. It’s only the dining time that the ship’s crew ask passengers to dress up for. Shorts are generally a no-no, but a smart-casual dress will probably cover more possibilities if you’re not sure what to pack.

Luxury lines are more likely to ask you to ‘suit up’ for dinner, whereas the more mainstream lines will either have dedicated formal nights or dressing smart-casual will do.

Embarkation Day

If this is your first cruise, embarkation day can be a blur of queue after queue and trying to remember a lot of information all at once, which can be stressful especially when within a limited amount of time.

Checking In

Make sure you arrive at the port with plenty of time to queue for check-in and boarding of the ship. Some people choose to fly to the port of departure the night before in order to sleep at a hotel and leave enough time for everything required to board, without the rush or panic of leaving from home. If you’re driving to the port, leave enough time to park, stop for food or toilet breaks and any other unexpected delays you might come across on the roads. Missing the ship’s initial departure means you miss out on a lot and it can cost a lot of money to ‘catch up’ with it at the next port.

Passengers with suites or members of exclusive cruise clubs or loyalty packages tend to get priority check-in, with special queues and lounges or faster embarkation. You can pay extra for this privilege when you book your tickets.

Be well-prepared for the queues to be huge. Bring water, and snacks if you’re bringing children.

Make sure you’ve got all the right required documentation and any prescriptions you may need before you turn up to check-in.


Arriving Onboard

Cruise operators don’t allow their passengers to go straight to their accommodation upon boarding the ship until a certain amount of time has passed. This time is for the crew and staff of the ship, allowing them to get your luggage to your cabin safely. Most people head straight for the bar, buffet or pool if they’ve put their swimwear in their hand luggage. You can check out the shops or other amenities during this time, too.

There is a safety departure day ‘muster’ drill, which must be attended by all passengers as part of every ship’s safety regulations. This might put a downer on beginning your holiday but the knowledge involved in the drill is life-saving and should you find yourself in a situation, it’s better that you know it.

Memorise your cabin number as soon as you are issued with one. Cruise lines don’t publish them on cruise cards or tickets for security reasons, so memorise it before you board and you won’t find yourself lost or with no idea where to go without checking your ticket.

Embarkation day is a famous day amongst regular cruisers. You board the ship and get an embarkation ‘Bon Voyage’ drink specific to the cruise line. Often described as one of the most delicious drinks you’ll ever have, don’t be fooled into thinking this drink is complimentary – it isn’t, but it adds greatly to the atmosphere and is all part of the experience.

Cruise Holiday Packing Tips

Cruises are filled with fun activities such as surf simulators, tennis courts, swimming pools, zip-wiring and not to mention the excursions you can book once your ship is in port. So when it comes to packing, it’s okay not to know where to start.

Planning ahead when it comes to luggage is essential, especially if you’re taking a flight to board your cruise at a foreign port. Battling with bulging bags can mean you incur excess charges when it comes to checking the bags in, so pack lightly to benefit!
Flying before your cruise also means keeping an eye on your hand luggage. Pack it wisely and include a change of clothes, essential documentation, medication and chargers should your luggage not arrive on time


  • Clothes are likely to fill your case quicker, so keep in mind the dress code for your ship or cruise line (available to view on the cruise line’s website) so no packed clothes remain in your cabin wardrobe for the entire trip and waste space in your suitcase.
  • Bring clothes which will allow you to dress appropriately for both your cruise’s destination and itinerary. Ships sailing round the Caribbean and French Polynesia have a much more casual dress code than those sailing round Europe.
  • Wear sensible clothing and footwear for any excursions or activities you intend on participating in.For example, wearing flip flops on the beach but packing more practical shoes for walking, hiking or sight-seeing onshore.
  • Consider doing your laundry on-board. Most ships offer a laundry service and although they might be pricier than you expect, it might be worth the extra weight and space allowance in your luggage. If you want to skip excess charges, one great idea is to pack some travel detergent or Febreze in with your bags to get more than a day’s wear out of one outfit, which comes in handy on longer cruises.
  • Leave your bathrobe and towels at home as these will be provided by the cabin steward upon your embarkation.


  • Remember the basics – things like alarm clocks are not provided by the cruise operators, so if you intend on getting up early, either bring an alarm clock with you or use your phone, but remember that most mobile networks have roaming charges in place.
  • It’s handy if you pack things that won’t be provided on-board (or if they are, at an excessive price) so items such as extra hangers and other things to ensure you make the most out of the limited storage space your cabin has, any medication and prescriptions you need throughout your trip, memory cards, sunscreen, ear plugs and plastic bags for holding electronic equipment are all great items which could save you both time and money.
  • Power strips and extension leads are commonly named as the most-needed-not-packed item amongst regular cruisers, as there are limited sockets within your cabin and with today’s reliance on phones, cameras and tablets to all be ready to go, you’ll need room to plug in and charge these at night.
  • Small bags and backpacks prove practical on shore excursions by carrying important documentation, cameras, sunscreen and the all-important water bottle.


  • Music players such as mp3 players or iPods can be useful on board or when you’re travelling to keep boredom at bay.Cameras and video cameras can be used to capture your holiday sights, although most phones these days come with a decent quality camera, so you might not need these as well. Portable game players keep children and teens entertained for hours on end and white noise machines can drown out the sounds of the roaring engine or particularly loud groups of people if your room is located in a noisy area of the ship.


  • If you’re usually a bookworm on holiday, there won’t be a need to fill your suitcase with heavy and space-consuming novels, or even your e-Reader, as many ships have on-board libraries. For beach and water-based cruises with younger children, inflatable water toys are ideal to pack as they provide days of entertainment on the water and also pack away easily into your luggage. If you intend to scuba-dive, snorkel, ski or play golf, it’s recommended you bring your own equipment unless you want to hire some. For wildlife-orientated cruises, it’s essential that you bring a camera and a decent pair of binoculars so you don’t miss any of the animal action.


  • Similar to a hotel, all cruise ships provide shampoo and soap in their cabin bathrooms. Most rooms include a low-wattage hair dryer too, so there isn’t any need to bring your own. Personal medications and sunscreen should be packed with your hand luggage and bring enough of it to last the entirety of your holiday.Medicine is often hard or expensive to acquire once your ship has set sail and sunscreen is sold at a higher price both on-board and in the ports of call.
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