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What to Wear on a P&O Cruise – 39 Examples and Enforcement

Before I took my first P&O cruise, I was aware that they had dress codes and formal nights, but had no idea what the dress code actually entailed.  In this post, you’ll find dress code guidelines for all parts of a P&O cruise, including the following:

  • Daytime Wear – Onboard the ship
  • Daytime Wear – On Shore
  • Casual Nights
  • ‘Formal’ (Celebration/Black Tie) Nights

We will also look into if the dress codes are actually enforced.

This post is based on my personal experiences cruising with P&O Cruises.

Is There a Daytime Dress Code When on a P&O Cruise Ship?

There is no daytime dress code on P&O cruises.

When within the ship guests do have to wear a T-shirt of some sort and shoes but I don’t think this can really be classed as a dress code. When on the pool deck it’s fine to walk around in just your swimwear. More about this later in the post.

Below are examples of everyday dress:

emma cruises on p&O iona
Me onboard P&O’s Iona

The dress code during the day is just your typical holiday wardrobe. T-shirts, shorts and sundresses are all fine.

It can be chilly on deck and breezy in the evening, so be sure to pack plenty of light layers even if you are going somewhere warm.

I always recommend flat shoes for strolling the decks.

This is pretty standard within the cruising industry, even the cruise lines with the strictest evening dress codes do not have dress codes during the day.

emma cruises afternoon tea on p&O cruise

Dress Restrictions on P&O Cruises (At All Times)

P&O do have some dress code restrictions

  • Away from the pool area, they ask for shoes to be worn.
  • No pool wear in the ship’s lounges, inside bars, restaurants or reception.
  • No fancy dress! (Costume dress)
  • Clothing that features inappropriate or offensive language, including novelty clothing with printed images or slogans, will not be allowed on board. 

P&O’s Infamous Fancy Dress (Costume Dress) Clown Incident

Reportedly, a passenger dressed as a clown sparked a mass brawl on a P&O cruise ship.  A passenger on the cruise said he heard the trouble started when another passenger appeared dressed as a clown.

He said:

“This upset one of their party because they’d specifically booked a cruise with no fancy dress. It led to a violent confrontation.” 

Allegedly, families fled as a group of passengers used furniture and plates as weapons on board the ship. 

No wonder fancy dress is now banned on board all P&O ships!

P&O Do Have Theme Nights, on Occasion

The only exception to the no fancy dress rule is on the official P&O Cruises theme nights – for example, 70s disco, 80s pop, colourful tropical, black and white nights, or seasonal events such as Halloween and Christmas. 

We did have a Christmas jumper day on our Christmas cruise. Interestingly it was the day after Christmas and we were definitely in the minority wearing our Christmas jumpers.

Dressing up for these theme nights is not compulsory!

Set up and log in to your P&O online account to see details of theme nights before your cruise so that you can prepare. 

Whilst on board you can check the P&O “my holiday” digital pocket planner to keep up with daily dress codes.

Do P&O Provide Dress Code Guidelines For The Ports?

Some countries’ cultures may require you to cover up more than you normally would on holiday and if this is the case, P&O will usually remind guests and let them know in the daily schedule.

It’s always important to be aware of the traditions in the countries you are visiting. 

In some countries modesty in clothing is expected and P&O suggest you pack plenty of light and loose clothing that covered the tops of your arms and legs.

They advise ladies to avoid wearing any shorts or tight-fitting clothes and to take a head covering ashore.

If unsure about the countries you are visiting, P&O suggest you visit a Government foreign travel advice website for further advice regarding dress codes.

Asides from this there are no dress codes.

The moment you step off the ship, you are just like any other tourist.

Comfortable shoes are essential for exploring ports of call, especially if the paths are uneven. It’s always sensible to take a light jumper or layer up, so you will be prepared for all eventualities. 

Take the weather forecast into account before you leave the ship – sunglasses, hats or even rainproof jackets may be needed.

What is The ‘Evening Casual’ Dress Code?

“Stylish resort or leisurewear is ideal for Evening Casual nights, for example casual separates or dresses for ladies and open-neck polo shirts and casual trousers for men.”

P&O Cruises

Shorts usually aren’t allowed in the main dining room.

A jacket and smart trousers can be worn but are not compulsory. Smart dark denim is also fine, but not trainers or sneakers, football shirts or tracksuits. 

In reality, if you are wearing dark trainers/denim this is fine, they just don’t want guests in ripped blue jeans and bright white trainers.

Do P&O Have Formal Nights?

P&O cruises do have ‘formal’ nights and these are usually referred to as Celebration Nights or Black Tie nights.

“Our Celebration Nights and Black Tie nights offer a chance to get dressed to the nines in glamorous evening wear. Don your favourite cocktail dress, tuxedo, ball gown or dinner jacket, or alternatively a dark business suit and tie. You may also wear formal national dress or military uniform.”

P&O Cruises

It is always possible to avoid the formal night dress codes, if that is something that may be of interest. Check out this post: You Can Skip Formal Nights on a Cruise – Here’s How

p&o cruises dress code formal night examples

What is The ‘Formal/Celebration/Black Tie’ Dress Code?

Celebration Nights and Black Tie nights offer a chance to get dressed up in your poshest evening wear. Wear your favourite cocktail dress, tuxedo, ball gown or dinner jacket, or alternatively a dark business suit and tie.

You may also wear formal national dress or military uniform.

p&o cruises dress code formal night examples

How Many Black Tie Nights Will There Be?

Cruise LengthFormal Nights
7 NightsAt least 1
9-14 Nights2-4

P&O say to expect at least one black tie night on a 7-night cruise and between two and four on cruises of 9-14 nights.

If you are lucky enough to be cruising for longer, there is likely to be one black tie night per every 7 nights so pack accordingly.

On shorter cruises, there may be one Black Tie night on a 2-4 night cruise and one or two on cruises of 5-7 nights.

p&o cruises dress code formal night examples

Does The Dress Code Vary by Ship?

When we took a Christmas Cruise on P&O Ventura, we had two formal nights each week.  This could be due to the fact it was over the Christmas holidays, or because older P&O ships are more formal than newer ships, such as Iona. 

Certainly, passengers who have travelled on Iona have reported back that the dress code is more informal than on ships such as Azura and Ventura. 

You can expect only one formal night whilst on a week’s cruise on Iona or Arvia.

Is Dressing up Compulsory on Formal/Celebration/Black Tie nights?

Whilst not compulsory, it is recommended that guests follow the evening’s dress code in restaurants and bars from 6 pm.

It’s unlikely that you’d be prevented entry or refused service, but you might feel uncomfortably under-dressed or face the disapproval of fellow guests who have dressed up and made an effort! 

If you really prefer casual dress you can dine in the buffet on Black Tie nights, where it is more relaxed, or take advantage of room service. 

Below are examples of black tie dress:

p&o cruises dress code formal night examples

Do P&O Cruises Enforce Their Dress Codes?

76% of P&O cruisers said that they didn’t feel as though P&O’s dress codes were enforced.  P&O’s dress codes are just recommended.

The survey conducted in our Facebook group – 130 people voted for no, 41 for yes.

Guests are reminded in the daily Horizon or the “my holiday” planner what the dress code is for that particular evening, however, if dressed within reason (as in not overtly casual/scruffy) it is unlikely that staff will want to offend guests by reprimanding them on improper dress.

p&o cruises dress code formal night examples

That said, it is policy and therefore they are quite within their right to do so.

are p&O cruises dress codes enforced?

Does the Dress Code Apply to Everyone?

The dress codes apply to everyone over 18 years of age. 

For children aged 17 years and under, the dress code in the evening is always Evening Casual, regardless of the adult dress code.

They do ask, however, that no denim is worn on Black Tie nights.

For boys: Generally speaking, boys would probably be fine to wear a polo shirt and chinos on the formal/smart casual nights. 

For girls: Any dress/skirt or smart trousers/top would be fine. The main thing is to look presentable and like an effort has been made. This doesn’t have to be expensive!

Some families love the opportunity to dress up and I’ve seen small children wearing full tuxedos and bow ties which are adorable. On casual nights anything goes for kids.

What Should Teenagers Wear on Formal Night?

The formal night dress code doesn’t apply to those under 18 but many teenagers do enjoy dressing up for formal nights. Most teenagers will either wear a dress or a shirt/trousers, some with a tie or jacket. A more relaxed option like a casual shirt with a collar may be a good option too.

It really is up to the teenager.

If your teenagers don’t want to take part in formal night but you do, that’s no problem.

I used to cruise as a teenager and I loved being able to go to the buffet with my cousins rather than go to the main dining room with my parents. Cruising as a teen gave me a lot of freedom and I loved it.

Does the Dress Code Apply When Visiting Speciality Restaurants?

The dress code on P&O cruises does apply to the majority of speciality restaurants.

p&o cruises dress code examples

Some speciality restaurants, like the beach house which is located in the buffet, may have a different or more relaxed dress code.

During my Christmas cruise on Ventura, some of us dined in the beachhouse on formal night to avoid the dress code.

Check on the daily planner before you book to see if the dress code applies to your chosen speciality restaurant.

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