Deciding whether to bring formal clothes on a cruise has much to do with the nature and length of the cruise you plan to take. On dinner and dancing evening pleasure trips, you don’t so much bring formal clothes but instead wear your clothes to the cruise. Since these cruises only last a few hours, you don’t need to bring an extra supply of clothes, though you might want to take a warm jacket if the weather is uncertain.
Many cruises lasting several days may have a few formal evenings, or a formal dining room. In these cases you should plan to bring formal clothes on a cruise. Actually, what you are really striving for is semi-formal or dressy clothing, in most cases. A dressy dress for women, and a suit (not a tux) for men is usually all that is required. Some dining rooms on cruise ships may have jacket and tie requirements for men, so at the very least, men should bring a nice sports coat, slacks, a dress shirt, and a coordinating tie.
If you have any doubts about whether you should bring formal clothes on a cruise, it’s a good idea to consult your travel agent or contact the cruise line directly. Typically, the cruise line will have an itinerary of events and can advise you on any special clothing requirements. There may be opportunities to purchase dressy clothing at stores on the ship, but these purchases can be pricey. Therefore, being forewarned allows you to pick something suitable from your own wardrobe.
Under a few circumstances, you might actually need to bring formal clothes on a cruise. For women this means full-length or tea length gowns, and for men, this usually means at the last, a tuxedo. Very long cruises on the larger ships may hold special parties or events like dances that require your best special outfit. In most cases, though, you merely need one or two dressy outfits for special dinners.
Women should give some thought to the expense of clothing when they bring formal clothes on a cruise. You may not want to pack an exceptionally expensive designer dress, since theft does occur on cruise ships. Similarly, it may be better to pack costume jewelry that can dazzle and sparkle, rather than expensive real jewelry. Again, theft unfortunately happens on cruise ships and it would be a shame to have a pleasure trip ruined by the loss of expensive items.