Do You Have to Dress Up on Holland America Cruises And do Men Have to Wear a Suit

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a suit and tie on a swinger

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Being a Diamond Latitudes member with NCL (i.e. I have spent a LOT of nights at sea with the cruise line) I am very comfortable and familiar with the concept of “free style cruising” that is, you really don’t ever have to dress up at sea unless you want to. You can go to main dining and specialty restaurants for dinner in just about anything other than a swimsuit. Even at their coveted Le Bistro I have seen folks in shorts (this is frowned upon – but you would not be blocked).

a restaurant with a spiral staircase

I like this type of cruising as I wear “dress” clothes enough in my life and the idea of putting on a tie for dinner is something that I simply don’t care to ever think about. But would I need one for my first ever Holland America cruise on the Eurodam? Notice what is posted on the cruise lines web site:

“Dress Codes: Shipboard dress is casual during the day. Shorts and tasteful T-shirts are acceptable even in the dining room. At dinner, dress codes will vary daily, among the following:

Smart Casual: Skirts/dresses, slacks and blouses for ladies; Slacks and collared shirts for men.

Formal: Evening gowns and cocktail dresses for women; tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits with a tie for men.

Most 7-night cruises will have two formal nights, and longer cruises will have additional formal nights.” – BOLD MINE

Ugh! 🙁

This is what I was afraid of and I packed accordingly, that is, as you see above, a dinner jacket and tie ready to get spiffed up for dinner when the daily planner alerted me to the following:

a blue menu with red arrows pointing to the top

We were on an 11 day cruise and were told there would be two nights that were “dressy” nights. The first few nights of our journey were “casual” in the main dining room.

a restaurant with a table and chairs

Now you and I may have different definitions of what “slacks” are for example is it OK to wear blue jeans to dinner? The answer is YES!* Why the asterisk? If your jeans look like they fought a fight with a wild animal and the animal won i.e. you have more holes than jeans you are likely going to be discouraged from wearing that kind of attire. But for most men jeans and a golf shirt are going to be just fine.

Well what about the formal nights? For the first one I dressed up (but did not wear a tie) and my wife wore what she normally does that is a flowing comfortable broomstick skirt (great for cruising comfort btw ladies).

a large room with tables and chairs

When we got to the dining room we found a mix of folks dressed “to the 9s” and the rest really not so much and simply wearing the smart casual they had worn any other night.

Well how about that!

a plate of food on a table

The bottom line is, despite the scary wording on Holland America’s website, you simply don’t EVER have to dress up on a cruise with them. You may if you want to but as long as you are not wearing a swimsuit to formal night you will be just fine.

The second formal night I wore a comfortable, but smart IMO, Hawaiian shirt and jeans. I did the same type outfit for our two visits to the specialty restaurants and that also was just fine.

So if you are someone who likes to go on a cruise to dress up and look your best (for photos or whatever) then by all means do so. If you are more of “no way your are going get me into a tuxedo and tie” then you have nothing to worry about and enjoy your cruise dressed as you please.

a yellow sweater and cardigan on a swinger

Oh, I have one thing you may want to consider for fun before your Holland America cruise. One night they have their “orange night” with a nod to the national colors of Holland. That night you will see a, no pun intended, sea of orange throughout the dining room and even folks in T-shirts that are vividly orange. Again this is not a must (we did not bring anything orange) but if you want to blend in – bring something orange for that night of your cruise! – René

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13 COMMENTS

  1. for the first night the formal dining room did not enforce the dress code. after that you needed a shirt with a collar, as best that i could determine. i was always dressed “properly” with a shirt with collar and a jacket.

  2. The cruise lines need to stop with the “color” nights, Orange night, White Hot whatever nights, etc. It’s lame.

    As far as dressing fancy on cruises, it seems to be a thing of the past that is slowly going away. I enjoy it sometimes but other times you just want to relax. I say wear what you want but if it’s a formal night I’d avoid the main dining room if you just want to relax in casual clothing. There are plenty of options.

  3. That isn’t dressy. HAL won’t kick you out. But dressy means, at a bare minimum now, khakis, a dress shirt and a blazer or jacket. For your wife, it means a skirt or dress ( not a sundress), or nice pants. Jeans dont count for dressy. You should have worn khakis. Jeans are now smart casual. They didn’t used to be. I’ve sailed 130 days on HAL. I’ve watched the standards of dressing for dinner fall. In Alaska, the standards are lowered, but only there. It isn’t asking much to wear khakis and a blazer for the dressy nights to dinner. Everyone will soon end up wearing T shirts and shorts to dinner. And that’s very sad. Most all of us like the formality of dressing for dinner as its part of the excitement of cruising. You wouldn’t dress like that to a fancy restaurant. This is the same thing.

    • @Stephanie Woods – Oh I agree for some dressing up is part of the excitement of cruising but for others not so much. It is nice that one does not have to wear a jacket or tie if one does not want to.

      • By no means would I define jeans as slacks. So for casual nights jeans are fine. But not for dressy. No one will say anything, because HAL is classy. But years ago you would not have been allowed in. And really, would it have killed you to wear a pair of slacks instead of jeans? You already were not wearing a blazer, tie or a button down shirt.

        And were there formal nights? Is that what you wore to formal nights? Jeans and a Hawaiian shirt? Just because other people broke the dress code you did too? If other people jumped off a cliff, you would as well? No, jeans are not slacks. Not by any stretch of the imagination. If they were, they would not have a separate name of jeans. And they don’t look remotely dressy at all. Not even the fancy expensive ones. The dress code says slacks, not jeans.

  4. DaninMCI – Orange night was far from lame on our recent Grand Africa Cruise. That was one of the most lively “color nights” I have ever seen on a HAL ship. Both passengers and crew were really into it. Your experience may depend on the length of the cruise and composition of passengers.

      • I once had a HAL crewmember – in total seriousness – tell me the most challenging part of her day on-board was at 5pm, negotiating the crushing line of walkers, wheelchairs and electric scooters along the Lido Deck, headed for the buffet. However, the highlight was that nearly every passenger was in bed by 9pm, so the crew had more time to themselves

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