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What to wear to dinner on your Royal Caribbean cruise

29 Jul 2013
Matt Hochberg

What to wear on your Royal Caribbean cruise is a source of controversy among fans and a never-ending source of debate. Nonetheless, dinner time on a Royal Caribbean cruise comes with suggested dress attire and for first-time cruisers, what you should and should not wear can be confusing.

The good news is cruising these days is a far cry from the "old days" in the last century when it was ball gowns and tuxedos with tails and top hats.

Royal Caribbean is pretty open about what you can wear throughout the cruise but at dinner time, there are still a few elements of formality left to consider. And for those who don't want to dress up beyond t-shirts and shorts, Royal Caribbean has options for you as well.


Matt in the MDR

The casual dress code is defined by Royal Caribbean as, "Sport shirts and slacks for men, sundresses or pants for women." 

This basically means its clothing that is a step up from what you might wear around the ship during the day. Often during the day, guests will wear shorts, t-shirts, and other pool-friendly clothing. The casual dress code means it should be nicer than that, with the suggestions we see above.

In our experience, we see men wearing long pants with polo shirts with khakis or "nice jeans" (no holes) and a collared shirt. 

For women, we often spot sundresses or just a nice blouse. The best way I can describe it is what you would probably wear to visit your grandmother on a holiday.

Main dining room family

Casual night dress code is the most common dress code you will find on your cruise and it's the easiest to pack for.

Also, Royal Caribbean states, "Please keep swimwear to the pool deck. Shorts are welcome for breakfast and lunch. Bare feet are not allowed at any venue. Tank tops are not permitted."

Smart Casual

Main dining room

The smart casual dress code is the next step up from casual. Royal Caribbean defines it as, "Jackets and ties for men, dresses or pantsuits for women."

For men, you can swap out the polo shirts for collared shirts and add a jacket with a tie. 

Royal Caribbean states, "Jackets, sports coats, and blazers are snazzy and welcome."

For women, this can be dresses, skirts, blouses, and pantsuits.

Smart casual clothing is the sort of clothing you might wear on a religious holiday to a place of worship. 

Formal Nights

Family in dining room

The formal night dress code is the most stringent in terms of formality (hence the name) and Royal Caribbean defines formal clothing as, "Suits and ties or tuxedos for men, cocktail dresses for women."

Formal night clothing is what you would probably wear to a traditional wedding and should be a step up from any other night's clothing. You may see some men wearing tuxedos, but a vast majority of men on Royal Caribbean cruises these days opt for a two or three-piece suit.

For women, it's an opportunity to dress up as much as possible, with evening gowns, cocktail dresses, and lots of accessories. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean formal night: What to wear

How often formal nights are offered depends on the length of your cruise and the itinerary. This also differs from ship to ship. Generally, it follows this pattern:

  • 3-5 nights: 1 formal night
  • 6-7 nights: 2 formal nights
  • 8-10 nights: 2 formal nights
  • 11-14 nights: 3 formal nights
  • 15+ nights: 3 or 4 formal nights

Chef's Table enforces a formal dress code policy.

What about kids?


Children are expected to follow the evening's dress code just as closely as adults. There may be a little more leeway in terms of the degree of formality for children's clothing, but at the same time, children are expected to be dressed up more than what they would wear during the daytime. 

For boys, polo shirts and nice pants will suffice for most evenings and girls can wear dresses, skirts, and sweaters.

Specialty Restaurants

Family eating at Chops Grille

The specialty restaurants onboard have their own dress code each evening, which supersedes what the main dining room dress code may be. Of course, you can always overdress for these restaurants by wearing more formal attire, but that's up to you.

A trick some veteran cruisers will try is booking specialty restaurants on formal nights of their cruise with the rationale that if you have to dress up anyway for the specialty restaurant, then you may as well do it on a formal night and "kill two birds with one stone."

What are the theme nights?

Couple in main dining room

On a typical Royal Caribbean cruise, you will find in the Cruise Compass there is a certain dress code in the Main Dining Room every night. Here are some examples of theme nights you will see:

  • Casual: Jeans, polo shirts, golf or Bermuda shorts, t-shirts, blouses
  • Dress To Impress/Dress Your Best/Formal: Suits, sports coats, cocktail dresses, gowns
  • Caribbean/Tropical: Tropical prints, pastel colors, linen shirts, Bermuda shorts, sundresses
  • White Night: Casual attire, but white!
  • 70s/80s Night: Bell-bottom jeans, polyester suits, wide lapel shirts, maxi dresses, mini skirts, knee-high boots, platform shoes
  • Country: Flannel tops, jeans, cowboy boots, cowboy hats

What if I do not want to get dressed up?

Matt on Freedom of the Seas

The fact is you do not have to dress up at all for dinner on your cruise. 

Royal Caribbean gives you the option of dining in your stateroom (room service is complimentary), at the Windjammer buffet, or at another casual restaurant onboard like Sorrento's or Playmakers.

In either case, you can wear anything other than swimsuits (with shoes) to dinner and it will be perfectly acceptable.

Read more: What to wear on a cruise that works for all dress codes

Is the dress code enforced?

Matt dining solo in the Main Dining Room

Officially Royal Caribbean states they will enforce the dress code every night, however, the reality is the staff cannot screen everyone and what they are wearing.

There are plenty of cruisers out there that will tell you about people they have seen at a restaurant wearing shorts or a tank top. Moreover, people may cite what others are wearing isn't formal enough for the suggested dress code of the evening. Inevitably, it's a decision the Royal Caribbean staff will make depending on the situation.

The dress codes offer suggestions but they are starting points for what to wear. Because Royal Caribbean does not explicitly list everything that you may not wear, there's room for interpretation by passengers. Nearly every description of dress codes for Royal Caribbean cruises mentions passengers should not wear shorts, but you will likely see someone on your cruise wearing shorts in the restaurants.

Cruise outfits for dinner on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost experts on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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