Cruise ship attire has changed a lot in recent years with even the most luxurious of cruise lines becoming more casual than ever before. The days of dressing in your Sunday best whenever you set foot out of your cabin are long over, mainly thanks to a generation of laid-back, jean–wearing millennials.

While most cruise lines today still impose a dress code for certain occasions, passengers are mostly free to wear what they want.

A closer look at the evolution of cruise ship attire over the last century is not only exceedingly thought-provoking but also gives us valuable insight into just how much, and at what speed, the ‘acceptable’ dress code has changed.

The twenties were all about dressing up

Up until the Roaring Twenties, formal dress wear for both men and women were an absolutely necessity after the clock struck 6 p.m.

This rule applied not only to the dining room either, but all public rooms found throughout the ship. While the female passengers would proudly don their evening gowns, the men would look dapper in white tie, a practice that was popular until after the war when black tie became the required dress for male passengers.

It was only during the 1960s and the advent of modern-day cruising that cruise ship dress code evolved drastically.

An effort was made by cheaper cruise lines to accommodate passengers who didn’t even own formal wear while the larger ships started to alternate formal evenings with ones that were significantly more casual, allowing for variance while still enforcing a fairly strict dress code.

A significant change was noted in the 1990s

The biggest change in cruise ship dress code came about in the late 90s and early 2000s when an increasing number of industry leaders became more relaxed as far as their prescribed dress code was concerned.

While the majority of cruise operators implemented these changes only in the main dining halls, others started to experiment with varying dress code policies applicable to all areas of the ship, excluding the cabins.

Regardless of the extent of the revised dress code guidelines, the subsequent variations created a huge headache for cruise ship staff members as more and more passengers either misunderstood what was expected of them or simply did not bother to adhere to the rules and regulations.

Not all cruise lines share the same dress code policies

Silversea Cruises are by far one of the most luxurious cruise lines as far as dress code is concerned. Suitable attire is expected regardless of whether you are visiting the on-board casino or enjoying dinner in one of the ship’s restaurants.

On formal nights, women are required to wear cocktail dresses or evening gowns while men should be clad in dinner jackets or dark suits with ties or full tuxedos. On casual evenings women can wear trouser suits or dresses while men can wear jackets with optional ties.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines have the same dress code for their formal evenings although sundresses, blouses, jeans and polo shirts are allowed on casual nights. Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruises have both adopted a very laid-back approach to their casual nights, allowing shorts and t-shirts to be worn.

As with everything else in life, cruise ship dress code was destined to evolve over time. While passengers may still not be able to attend dinner in the beach-wear, they can at least relax knowing they don’t have to pack countless formal outfits leaving very little space in their luggage for anything else.

Read how the cruise ship dress code has changed over the years and find out what the current policies usually are for cruise lines.