P&O Cruises Bianco White Nights party
P&O Cruises Bianco White Nights party

CRUISE CODE: How to pack when you're heading out to sea

A MAJOR selling point for sea holidays is that you only have to unpack once. But what to pack?

The dilemma of what to wear to dinner and, it seems, just as importantly, what fellow passengers will be wearing, faces everyone as they prepare to pack for a cruise.

Each day at sea, the dress code is published in the ship's newspaper, usually delivered to your cabin the night before, but obviously it's too late then if you have forgotten something you need.

When I worked as a journalist in the public relations department of what was P&O-Orient Lines in Sydney in the early '60s it was all so easy.

That was the golden age of cruising in Australia when first class really was first class.

In those days you knew there would be many formal nights, when men wore dinner suits, women long gowns and the British officers mess jackets with decorations.

I travelled around Australia, compering fashion shows of shipboard wardrobes in department stores that are no longer with us, such as Farmer's in Sydney and Boans in Perth.

I also wrote a pamphlet called A Woman's World at Sea that said: "Knowing what to wear when on the high seas, you're sure to have a wonderful trip."

One of my helpful hints would upset animal libbers today: "Don't forget a little fur wrap or woollen stole for after-dance deck-strolling."

There was lots of fur then and lots of deck-strolling.

A woman from New York who I met on a cruise had serious jewellery.

"I would probably be mugged if I wore these pieces back home, but I feel completely safe at sea," she said.

"Besides, no thief is likely to make a quick getaway jumping overboard."

Another woman travelling on Queen Mary 2 famously booked an additional suite just for her clothes.

Formal nights on-board the Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: Cunard
Formal nights on-board the Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: Cunard

Passengers still dress to the nines on Cunard ships which have big band balls. In fact, QM2 has the largest ballroom afloat.

However, dress has become much less formal in many of today's cruise ships and some lines don't even require ties and jackets.

As every cruise line has a dress code - except for the nudist charters - executives of some lines that will be in Sydney this summer have some advice to offer.




We have five resident ships in Australia - including Pacific Jewel, Pacific Eden and Pacific Explorer - and we have replaced formal nights with theme parties.

There is the Gatsby Party, with all the glamour of the roaring twenties, the Bianco White Party and the Back to School Party.

Costumes are not a must, but they are encouraged.

- Sture Myrmell, P&O Cruises Australia president


Australians prefer a more casual approach when it comes to what to wear on board.

At NCL, we recommend the same dress code as any sunshine resort, both during the day and in the evenings. Smart casual is recommended for evening dining, but definitely there is no jacket or tie requirement.

- Steve Odell, senior vice president of Norwegian Cruise Line



It's all about fun in the sun for Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas, Explorer, Voyager and Radiance of the Seas. Casual clothes are perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Windjammer cafe.

Dress options move between casual and smart casual in the main dining room and most of the specialty restaurants at night.

There are typically two formal nights for black-tie and cocktail dresses. Resort casual is the dress code for Azamara Journey throughout the entire cruise.

Evening Chic nights aboard Celebrity Solstice give passengers the chance to wear glamorous clothes in the main dining room.

Sports coats and blazers are optional, as well as black-tie and formal gowns which are available for hire on board.

Smart casual is the code for all other nights.

- Adam Armstrong, managing director of Royal Caribbean Cruises


As a cruise line with a long history, formal nights are a great tradition of Holland America Line. Our guests really embrace the elegance of a black-tie dinner. At least one will be held on each sailing of Maasdam and Noordam in Australia.

- Tony Archbold, director of sales for Holland America Line



On every Princess cruise ranging from seven to 13 nights, there are two formal nights where men are requested to wear dinner jackets or dark suits and women long gowns or cocktail frocks. A cruise is a special holiday and getting into your finest gear makes it a special night.

When the code is "smart casual" on other evenings, passengers should dress as they would for a fine restaurant ashore.

- Stuart Allison, president of Princess Cruises Australia

News Corp Australia

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