Cruise Quick Links – Questions and Answers
What To Wear on a Cruise
The question is not: What to wear on a cruise? – But is: What to bring and when to wear it! Cruise dress codes fall into three categories casual, informal and formal. We will define these categories later, but for now just remember that a cruise is an elegant experience that everyone should experience. Watching the sun go down behind the ocean’s horizon will truly cast a spell on you and your partner, a memory never to be forgotten.
Cruises have a defined evening schedule. The dress codes for the scheduled events are strictly adhered to, so it is important that you are prepared with all the necessary attire to get the full benefit out of your holiday. Daily dress codes take affect after 6pm. Before 6pm every day is casual.
Included in the final documentation for your cruise should be a schedule. This schedule is a complete itinerary of your time on and off the ship. More important however it will clearly define the theme for each day/evening and what the expected dress code will be for each event.
A typical 7-day cruise will consist of:
- Two formal nights
- Two casual nights
- One to four informal nights
Plan for success-Make a list
You will typically have limited luggage space unless you are planning on paying for extra luggage so careful planning is in order to ensure you have enough outfits for every event. Wearing the same cocktail dress twice will never be noticed if you accessorize it differently. Changing your purse, jewelry, shoes and a shawl will give a different look for any outfit.
Some people wear long gowns on cruises, but a shorter formal dress is just as acceptable unless you’re on the most exotic cruises.
Casual Wear-Informal Wear-Formal Wear
Before we proceed any further, we need to differentiate between casual, informal and formal wear. This will allow us to put the dress codes in prospective.
Casual wear should be comfortable. Depending on your plans for the day your clothing should match the activities. Warm weather on the ship will require your choice of swimwear, cover-up and sandals. Day trips ashore will dictate shorts with tee shirts or polo style shirts and comfortable strolling shoes. You can also plan on buying tops while you are shopping however keep in mind that you need room to bring them home. Mix and Match will save packing room and give you a different look as your cruise progresses.
Evening casual is slightly a different story. Shorts are not considered acceptable evening casual wear. A women’s evening causal wardrobe consists of skirts, tops, pant outfits or sporty dresses. Focusing on two colors that can be combined, you can mix and match with different accessories for a completely different look for every casual event.
Keep in mind the first night and last night are typically casual nights. You likely won’t have your luggage before dinner on the first night and your luggage will already be packed for the last evening.
Some cruise lines discourage jeans in their dining rooms on casual evenings. For the most part you can get away with them, but you will likely feel out of place. Use common sense when it comes to jeans. plus, jeans are hot; you should consider a lighter material.
A word of caution, short shorts are only acceptable in the fitness center and while you are at the pool. They are strictly shunned upon while walking around the cruise ship so make sure you have a cover-up if you plan on walking around the cruise ship in your swimsuit or short shorts.
Informal wear is a grey area when it comes to cruise lines. Your best bet is to review the definition of “informal wear” defined by the cruise line you are traveling on. This definition can be found on their website and travel brochures.
The general rule for informal wear is that it only applies to evening activities. Informal wear consists of a dressier dress or pants outfit. Many cruise lines have dropped the informal category and replaced it with resort casual, which is slightly more formal than casual wear.
The formal night on cruise ships for lack of a better term is the Cinderella effect. The dress code for women will range from simple cocktail dresses to the most formal shimmering gowns. If you have been to a graduation, wedding or similar formal gathering your outfit will surely meet the dress code and make you shine.
The most important piece of formal wear a woman can own is a pair of silky black dress pants. They take up no room in a suitcase, can be mixed and matched for different occasions and typically have an elastic waistband which comes in handy as your holiday progresses while eating all the rich food typically provided on a cruise.
Cruise ships keep their indoor temperatures on the cool side and evening temperatures on the deck will cool off so include a wrap in your wardrobe to fend off the chill after a day in the sun.
A cover up will save you a great deal of time on a cruise ship. You can wear your swimsuit by the pool, throw on your cover up and venture into the lunch buffet without going back to your cabin to change.
Comfortable shoes are a must for sightseeing, deck shoes with a rubber type sole will be an asset for strolling aboard the ship.
High heels are permitted but remember cruise ships are big and you will spend a good portion of your day strolling from place to place. Comfort is the key.
Wearing a hat will ward of the sun but keep in mind that the prevailing winds will send your hat abroad if it is not well fitted.
Packing For a Cruise
- Additional Items for your Packing list
- MP3 player
- Bottle corker
- Memory Stick to offload videos and photos from your phone
- Motion sickness
- Prescription medications if required
- Sunburn creams
- Nausea medication
- Extension cord, ship cabins have limited outlets
- Hair dryer, ships hairdryers are typically small
- Hair Conditioner, saltwater and ocean spray will dry your hair
- Body wash
- Electrical adapters may be required on foreign cruise lines
- Extra sunglasses
- Cell phone, ship phones are very expensive; your cell phone will be considerably cheaper. A word of caution, however, check with your cell phone service provider before using your cell phone in foreign countries. Many countries have different regulations pertaining to privacy and your personal information could be at risk.
Final Words of Advice
1) Pack a carry-on bag with one outfit, a swimsuit and your essentials. Luggage does get lost and if you have the minimum basics with you, shopping for a couple of essentials while you are waiting for your luggage to show up will not be as stressful. Most important, don’t let the temporary loss of your luggage ruin your cruise, go with the flow, it will usually show up at the next port.
2) When on shore, keep your clothing simple, t-shirts with funny sayings or logos might not only be offensive to the local community but advertise you are a tourist
3) Don’t wear extravagant jewelry when you are off the ship. This will attract unwanted attention and cold have a disastrous outcome
4) When sightseeing, be careful when entering churches and temples, many will enforce a strict dress code so long shorts, loose skirts and tops with long sleeves are the safest approach
5) In Muslim countries, women will need to cover their heads, shoulders and legs before entering a mosque. This dress code is enforced, and violations will not be tolerated.
6) Don’t insult fellow passengers by rushing back to your cabin after a formal dinner and change back into your shorts or swimwear. Go with the flow and enjoy the evening as it is planned.
7) If formal wear is not your style, there are cruises that are strictly casual and will give you a more relaxed atmosphere however you will be missing a great opportunity for luxury and relaxation. Everyone should take one formal cruse in their lifetime; if for nothing else just to have the experience.
8) Last but not least, relax, enjoy and respect your fellow passengers. Many people meet lifelong friends on cruises. The combined experience of open ocean air and daily port excursions will make your cruise a memorable one.
Question: Can I wear a thong bikini on a cruise ship
Answer: Unless it states that you can’t then for the most part you are ok to wear a thong. The only real exceptions are cruises that are focused on family entertainment for example Disney Cruises and Cruise excursions that are focused on the 50 and above age group. Keep in mind that same rules apply to thong bikinis as do for any type of swimwear mentioned above.
Cruise Ship DO’s and DON’Ts
DO start your cruise off with a fancy drink to get in the mood. The little umbrella and plastic sea monkeys will add to the ambiance as the ship leaves port. Just be careful of the costs, don’t get carried away.
DON’T call the cruise ship a boat, it’s a ship and the crew take this very seriously and they will correct you each time.
DO take a tour of the ship on your first day. Locate the gym, spa, bars and eateries. This way you won’t get lost and feel comfortable in your surroundings. Also start at the top of the ship and work your way down, it’s a lot more fun.
DON’T get fooled by the uniforms, all the cruise ship staff are dressed to perfection in their uniform. Your first encounter with a crew member will likely be a from the support staff, but their uniforms make them look like the captain, trust me when you meet the captain, you will know he’s the captain.
DO take plenty of photos, the sunset over an untouched ocean is spectacular. Unlike a resort vacation, you will see so many things on the cruise that you won’t want to forget.
DON’T be late because the cruise ship will not wait. These ships run on very regimented schedules. Ports are busy places; one ship needs to leave so another can arrive. If you are planning on flying into your departure port, make sure you fly in the day before to avoid a delayed fight and miss the boat all together, also on day excursions, make sure you are back on the boat on time.
DO schedule your spa appointments as soon as you can. The premier times will book up quickly leaving you only the off or less desirable hours.
DON’T assume everything is covered in the cost of your cruise. Recently some cruise lines have taken on all-inclusive pricing, but these are far and few between. Assume you are paying for your room, transportation and your food once you are onboard the ship, everything else is extra including your alcohol and spa trips.
DO pack a change of summer cloths in your carry-on bag. There is nothing worse than getting on a cruise ship and waiting around for your luggage to get to your room so you can slip into something cooler and more appropriate. Hit the ground running with a change of clothes.
DON’T get blindsided by the cost of the drinks at the end of the cruise. I can tell you that so many people are floored when it comes to settle their booze bill at the end of the cruise. Beer is not too bad, but those fancy drinks are very expensive. Second tip is to purchase your drinks directly from the bar, the drinks you get from the waiter are far more expensive because you are paying for the service. Note: I should not tell you this, but many people rinse out shampoo bottles etc. and fill with booze then get a soft drink card for the cruise. Again, I did not tell you this.
DO keep a bathing suit in your carry-on bag also. Most people will be waiting for their luggage on the first day. The pools and hot tubs will be virtually empty you can have them to yourself, sit back and relax.
DON’T plan on heading to the buffet when you first get on the ship. As the ship embarks on your journey, it is typically the busiest time for the eateries. Relax and tour the ship first and have a drink, wait for the crowd to subside. There is nothing worse than waiting in a lineup on the first day of your cruise.
DO make your specialty dinner reservations immediately if you have not done so in advance, again, like the spa, the premier times will be booked quickly.
DON’T take the elevator if you don’t absolutely need to. The elevators are a busy spot with crew members moving luggage etc. and with patrons thinking they are taking the quick route. The stairs are much quicker and hey, better for you.
DO book your day tours quickly as many of the tours will have space limits and you don’t want to miss out.
DON’T settle for undesirable dinner seating. The maitred’ is typically available to make changes, if possible, on embarkment day. If you desire an early dining but got a late seating, switch it from set-seating to flexible.
DO purchase an alcohol card if you are a drinker and a soda card to get the most out of your cruise. Before you buy mind you, do the math, how much do you think you will drink, and compare to the price of the card.
DON’T assume your cabin or quarters are in pristine condition and working order, turn the TV on, flush the toilet and turn on the lights; check for bed bugs; sanitize anything you feel you need to.
DO reserve any free space on the fee extra decks. These decks are the by far the best seats on the ship and are typically held for the higher priced rooms, but if they are not full, you can pay for a day in paradise.
DON’T miss the muster drill. It provides important information in case of an emergency. Plus, it’s a mandatory function on every cruise no matter how many ships you have been on, they are all different.
DO make your last phone calls and send texts. Do not use your phone internet. Satellite internet and phone service is very expensive as it relies on direct satellite contact, not tower contact when you are on the ocean, or contact your phone service provider and see if any packages are available for cruise ships while at sea.
DON’T miss the sunset, I am going to say it again, DON’T miss the sunset. It’s a spectacular view that you will never forget.
DO head up on deck as the ship departs for your voyage. It’s festive time with live music and flowing drinks, and it’s a fun way to kick off your cruise.
DO unpack your suitcases immediately, get that task out of the way early and get your cabin organized.
DON’T forget to meet your cabin steward and inquire about any special needs you may have. Many travelers tip their cabin steward on the first day to ensure good service throughout the cruise (but this is not mandatory nor required).
Things YOU Should Know but the Cruise Line Will never tell You
Cruise ship balconies are for the most part overrated
Typically costing approximately 25% more, rooms that are on the exterior of the ship and have balconies are not necessarily all that they are cracked up to be. Many experienced cruisers swear by them, but this little sliver of freedom comes at a costly price.
If you decide that a balcony is part of your plan then make sure that there are no obstacles in front of your balcony for example, by the pool deck overhang or lifeboats or you’re not too exposed to other passengers to enjoy any privacy. You may also be downwind of a smoker. All ships prohibit smoking, but it can happen.
All cabins are not the same
When it comes to choosing a cabin, not all cabins are the same. Many ships have in excess of 30 different subcategories of rooms and spread over 9 decks or more. Many cruisers take whatever is offered after they have made the choice of an “inside, outside, balcony or suite” option.
Things to think about are:
- You don’t want to get stuck near
- An elevator
- Pool deck
- Dining room
- Dance floor
- Laundry room
In all these cases you will be bothered by loud foot traffic, late-night dwellers or mechanical noises.
Cabins located at the front and back of the ship will have a different layout than the standard staterooms. If you think you might be susceptible to seasickness you should choose a lower cabin as the higher you go on the ship, the more motion you will feel. If you go onto the internet, you will be able to find the ships layout in detail and choose your room wisely.
To Casino or not to Casino
Think about it, the ship is for the most part on international waters with no gaming commission or government agency overseeing the operation. These casinos are huge profit centers for the cruise lines and the odds are less in your favor than on land. Yes, you will see people winning, but these people are limited, and the intent is to drag more people in by the excitement. Stay clear of the casinos if you are not prepared to lose some money.
Don’t Miss the Boat
If you read the small print on EVERY Cruise Line agreement, it will state that they are not responsible for you being late. The ship leaves on time from all ports with no exception and they will not refund your money because of your tardiness. Same with day trips, if you are late and miss the ship, you are responsible forfinding your own way home.
Crime at Sea
Don’t think for a minute that a cruise ship does not experience crime, in fact it is the opposite. Think about it, you have thousands of passengers and crew all on one ship. Petty and not-so-petty crime is all around you including theft, sexual assault, missing persons, murders, piracy and port robberies to name a few. Cruise lines will not talk about it and the statistics are far from accurate because the ship is again on international waters. Since 2012 thousands of crimes have taken place yet only 41 are reported on the coastguard website.
Understand that crimes are more likely to happen on land then on the ship, but they do happen and calling 911 is out of the question, you are at the mercy of the onboard security who are employed by the cruise line. If it is a serious crime, the FBI may be called in but they effort is far from what you would expect.
This is not to scare you but more to make you aware. Be smart:
- Hide your money when you are on and off the ship
- Don’t leave your group when ashore
- Never stray alone
- Do not wear expensive jewelry when leaving the ship, you are now a target.
What about my Waistline
Yup you’re going to gain weight. You are surrounded by 24-hour bars, and food courts. Your dinners will consist of 5 or more yummy courses that are virtually impossible to resist. The average person gains between 5 and 10 pounds on a seven-day cruise.
The Private Island is not so Private.
Think about it, you have a deserted island on your itinerary. To be honest it may very well be deserted but think about it, as soon as that ship docks and upwards of 3000 patrons’ step ashore, that island is no longer deserted nor private.
Cruise Ships have a huge impact on the environment
During 2018 the 17 major cruise lines created over 1.2 billion gallons of sewage which most of it is either poorly treated or not treated at all. One cruise ship has the capability of producing over 13 million cars worth of C02 in one day if they are under power.
Grey water, sewage and dirty bilge water can be dumped into the sea at the tree mile marker offshore in international waters right in front of your favorite vacation hotspot. Now with this said, to be honest the cruise lines are working on purchasing energy efficient ships with much better treatment systems, but it will take years for these older vessels to be taken out of service.
Seats by the pool are not easy to come by
Unlike a resort vacation reserving a seat by putting a towel on it is not allowed. So, don’t think because you are an early bird you can save five seats together by the pool for a group of people. The cruise ship employees are on the lookout for these early risers and will either tell you to remove your towels or remove your belongings themselves.
Sickness is always a concern on a cruise ship or resort vacation
It’s not that the cruise ship is more venerable to sickness, but it is the fact that everyone is in such close quarters and you can’t guarantee the hygiene of the person next to you. A viral infection that would struggle spreading on land, can spread like wildfire on a cruise ship.
People Do Go Overboard
Falling off a cruise ship is not easy to do and to be honest is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. In almost every case alcohol is involved partnered with a suicide attempt or a balcony climbing acrobatic act that went terribly wrong. Since 2001 there have been over 95 cases most of them men in their forties and mostly on the last night. and in most cases the outcome is not good, unfortunately 90% of these cases are fatal.
Be careful of your budget
Thinking that you have paid much of your cruise upfront is a mistake. There are the cocktails, endless wine choices, photographers at every corner, sensational cappuccinos, afternoon sodas, endless specialty restaurants, spectacular jewelry shops, amazing art auctions, daily spa treatments, hours in the casino, day trips and excursions and so much more, all of which will quickly empty your pocketbook. Be cautious and keep track of your spending so you don’t end up with a shock and a ruined vacation when it is all over.