“God help you, if you arrive in a cream Paul Smith jacket when the invitation dictated a tux,” whispered one passenger who habitually cruises Cunard, his face suffused in horror.

The legendary British line has one of the most elaborate dress codes anywhere – and you are more than expected to dress by the rule book. Cunarders take their dress code seriously.

Dress codes on a cruise
On some cruises, you are more than expected to dress by the rule book

Too seriously? Cunard’s Simon Palethorpe doesn’t think so. He says it’s the “sense of occasion” that has led to record bookings, including those from Australia where Queen Elizabeth will start a record 101 day season at the end of the year.

In case you are harbouring any doubts, Cunard’s website features a helpful “What to Pack” section. There are even pictures of what to wear for daytime, smart casual and the highlight of every itinerary – the formal gala evenings. Right down to the labels.

Clothing brands picked by Cunard are predominantly British, with a smattering of American and European designer names.

For evening smart attire for women, for instance, Cunard suggests a Joseph dress with Kurt Geiger shoes to a Karen Millen jumpsuit. Men should be decked up in a Howick or John Rocha blazer with chinos and a Ben Sherman shirt.

Cunard dress codes
Cunard’s website features a helpful “What to Pack” section

For gala evenings, men should wear a velvet jacket with cravat by Peter Christian, a gentlemen’s outfitter based in a rural village of Partridge Green, or a dinner suit by Hugo Boss with a Thomas Pink shirt.

Women, will do nicely in an Adrianna Papell evening gown to a jacket and trousers ensemble by Damsel in a Dress – another British brand.

Thankfully, no-one has to dress like a Cunard bell boy – “tastefully” unformed Down Under in red tailored jacket with gold nautical buttons and black cuffs, 100 per cent cotton black twill pants, handmade leather belts and R.M.Williams’ most recognised boots, The Craftsman, in striking Cunard red. All topped off with an Akubra.

Queen Elizabeth funnel
Queen Elizabeth’s famous Cunard bellboys

You wouldn’t get away with that on Seabourn, the line which gives guests free caviar but bizarrely charges for internet.

On its formal evenings, men are “requested” to wear a tuxedo or dark business suit while “ladies attire may range from evening gowns, cocktail dresses to formal ensembles.”

For elegant casual evenings, Seabourn expects guests to be in slacks, shirt and jacket for men, skirt/pants or blouse for ladies. Men are not expected in wear a jacket or tie for casual evenings while ladies can be in a dress, skirt/pants and blouse/sweater.

Seabourn dress code
Seabourn expects guests to be in slacks, shirt and jacket for men, skirt/pants or blouse for ladies

Silversea’s “appropriate” formal eveningwear requires men to wear tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits with a tie. For women, an evening gown or cocktail dress will do perfectly.

On informal evenings, men are still required to wear jackets but a tie is optional. Ladies usually wear dresses or pantsuits.

On casual evenings, men should wear open-neck shirts and slacks while ladies can wear more casual dresses, skirts, pants and blouses.

Dress codes are more relaxed on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, ranging from casual to formal optional. For daytime, casual wear like jeans, shorts, t-shirts and tennis shoes are fine when the sun is up but “not appropriate” after 6pm.

The recommended evening wear is “elegant casual” which means slacks and collared shirts for men while ladies can wear a dress, pantsuit, skirt, slacks with a blouse or sweater.

For formal evenings, men are expected to wear tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits with tie while ladies can deck themselves up in evening gowns and cocktail dresses.
Crystal Cruises have a comprehensive dress code for all occasions.

For Black Tie optional evenings, men have to wear a dark suit with tie or tuxedo while women are expected to be in a formal cocktail dress, evening gown or “dressy” evening separates.

Throughout the day, guests can wear a mix of active resort wear but donning swimsuits, cover-up robes, baseball hats and denim cut-off shorts are not allowed in waterside dining venues.

After 6 pm casual daytime wear is “not appropriate” and jeans may not be worn in any dining venues and lounges including the Casino on Crystal ships.

Cunard is also very specific about what cannot be worn when the sun sets.

“ For casual outfits during the evening, we do ask that guests refrain from wearing torn or tattered clothing, shorts, sandals or sleeveless t-shirts,” Cunard says.

So it looks like when the sun goes down, the style goes up.

It’s about dressing for the occasion. You really don’t want to make a faux pas in your choice of attire – it’s just too embarrassing for everyone.