In this article, we look at the dress codes onboard Cunard’s ships. They have some of the most strict dress codes at sea – particularly on their transatlantic sailings.
What should I wear on Cunard’s Formal Nights? (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.
For women, 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 with Cunard.
For men, a Tuxedo or dark suit and tie is generally worn.
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.
Which dresses can Women wear on a Cunard cruise?
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 Celebrity Edge that I could quite comfortably wear to a formal night onboard Cunard.
- The main aim of Cunard’s 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:
Cunard dress code examples – Lace dresses:
I LOVE a lace dress. 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.
Cunard dress code examples – Bodycon Dresses:
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! Dresses can be found here:
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 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:
Visit the Wedding Wear section of any website for inspiration!
Visiting the ‘wedding’ section of any website would be a good place to start if you really want to embrace the dress code.
- 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 had known before my first Cunard cruise click here:
Cunard dress code examples – Pencil skirts:
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.
Skirts can be found here:
Cunard dress code examples – Full 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.
Can Woman Wear Trousers on a Cunard Cruise?
- 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.
Smart Trousers Examples:
Cunard dress code examples – Coloured trousers:
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.
Trousers can be found here: M&S Coloured Trousers*
Find Other Examples of Dresses I Wear on Cruises Here:
What Should Men Wear on a Cunard Cruise?
For men, the Gala night 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. Bow Ties are highly recommended!
If you are a man you could consider the following outfits:
- A Suit
- This is the most popular thing 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.
- Cunard themselves say a formal suit, shirt, and tie of any colour is acceptable, but In my personal experience, I haven’t seen many men in bright colours. I did once seen a man in a pink suit – he looked amazing!
Dark suit examples:
The following suits are from M&S and can be found here.
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 or Cream suits can also look amazing – and I think particularly good on cruises in warmer climates!
Sometimes it’s nice to wear something that you wouldn’t wear in normal life.
Can you wear national dress/kilts on Cunard cruises?
Yes! You can wear National Dress.
Cunard dress code examples – Formal National Dress (get out your Kilts!)
How handsome do these guys look?! I love Catherine’s sparkles too! (More photo of this gorgeous bunch at the end)
What should I pack for the Formal night with Cunard? (Now ‘Gala night’)
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 formal nights.
Cunard Packing List:
- Dresses (long or short, but think elegant)
- Skirts/Trousers with nice tops/blouses/shirt
- Smart sandals/heels or flats
- Small shrug to keep you 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…
A shrug is really just a little cardigan used to cover up your shoulders and 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.
Cunard dress code examples
Cunard dress code examples – Necklaces:
Jewellery is really personal and I don’t see how you could go too wrong anything.
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.
Cunard Dress Code Examples – Earrings:
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!
Find my favourite cruise bags here:
I bought my first Mia Tui bag in 2017 and I've not used another brand since. They come with me on every cruise and are FANTASTIC. They are beautiful, almost indestructible and have so many pockets and useful parts.
How many formal ‘Gala’ Nights will there be on a Cunard 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! You can always eat in the buffet if you would rather avoid dressing up altogether.
How formal are Cunard’s Informal Nights? (Now ‘Smart Attire’ Nights)
Informal nights onboard Cunard are still more formal than those on other cruise lines.
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 of 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!
To me, Informal = Jeans. *THIS IS NOT CUNARD’S DEFINITION.
Evenings would consist of a jacket and optional tie for gentlemen, whilst ladies should wear cocktail dresses, stylish separates or equivalent. No jeans or shorts.
I honestly missed my jeans by the end of the week…
Can You Wear Jeans on a Cunard Cruise?
During the day guests are able to wear jeans on Cunard cruises.
Jeans would not be appropriate for formal or informal nights and would not be allowed to be worn around the ship in the evenings.
Cunard’s Dress codes apply ship-wide from 6pm, but the buffet and the pub are excluded
What is the daytime dress code with Cunard?
When walking around the ship in the daytime I did not make any special effort to dress up.
I would think twice about wearing anything particularly skimpy or revealing but in general, you can wear whatever you want during the day.
The ship was so grand that I did feel a little out of place running around in my casual clothes, even in the day time!
What should children wear on a Cunard cruise?
Many children do join in with formal nights and it can be a fantastic opportunity to have photos taken.
I love it when children wear matching suits/dresses as their parents. It can be really cute! M&S have suits for babies from 3 months – Baby’s first tuxedo…!
Children’s Formal Dress Examples:
Cunard Dress Code Examples – Boys:
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:
Cunard dress code examples – Girls:
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.
When shopping online if you select ‘party dresses’ these are probably the most appropriate.
What is the dress Code For Afternoon Tea On Cunard?
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)
Onboard the Queen Victoria afternoon tea was in quite an open area so you could just sit down and be brought tea and cakes by waiters wearing white gloves.
I didn’t feel pressured to dress up for afternoon tea like I did in the main restaurants.
I loved the afternoon tea – it was my favourite thing 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.
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 but I don’t think I would like to dress formally for any great length of time.
I would like to take a transatlantic cruise on the world’s last-ever Ocean Liner, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 – It is on my “Wish List.”
Ocean Liners are different from modern cruise ships, find out how here:
I was lucky enough to take a short cruise to Germany on the Queen Mary 2. Find out what I thought of her here:
Before my first Cunard cruise, I had no idea how seriously some people take the dress code. I recently was on a Cruise Critic Forum where I saw a woman say that her holiday would be ruined if another guest took off his jacket while at dinner…
More Examples Of What People Wear When Sailing With Cunard
Below are some examples of outfits that would be acceptable to wear onboard Cunard on formal nights, they are members of our Facebook Group. You can join that here:
Thank you all so much for letting me share these photos with the world, you’re a gorgeous bunch…
Dunk Chrissie and baby E! (Twitter: @HeliDonut)
Before You Go
Find out how formal Royal Caribbean’s formal nights are here:
Find out about MSC dress codes here: