What To Wear at the Main Dining Room on a Cruise (And What's Prohibited) - Cruise with Leo

What To Wear at the Main Dining Room on a Cruise (And What’s Prohibited)

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what to wear cruise main dining room

The main dining room is one of the most elegant areas on a cruise ship.

Generally, passengers go there for dinner and are expected to dress appropriately for the place.

During the day many people prefer to have lunch at the buffet, to eat something quickly, or they even don’t have lunch on the ship because they are visiting a city.

On the contrary, dinner is the time when everyone gathers, enjoys a relaxed meal, and spends time with their travel companions.

But how should one dress for dinner at the main restaurant? Well, the recommended attire can change every night, and this can be a bit confusing.

Keep reading the article and I will explain exactly what to wear and what would be best to avoid.

The dress code for the MDR

Before going to dinner, check the requested dress code for that particular night.

You can find it on the Cruise Compass (if you are on Royal Caribbean) or any other daily program that is provided by the cruise lines.

You usually find it on the bed, through the company’s official app, or through a QR code that is in the room.

In general, there are 3 main suggested dress codes on cruise ships.


Remember that you’re on vacation, so just relax! Jeans, polos, sundresses and blouses are all the right amount of laid back. Please keep swimwear to the Pool Deck.

Shorts are usually welcomed for breakfast and lunch, but avoid them for dinner at the MDR.

Smart Casual

Think of this as a step up from your typical dinner wear. Dress to impress with
collared shirts, dresses, skirts and blouses, or pantsuits.

Jackets, sports coats, and blazers are snazzy and welcome.


Make it a night out in your best black-tie look – suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses, or evening gowns. There can be 1-3 formal nights during a sailing and is at the ship’s discretion (we will see this in more detail later on).

Formal nights

You have probably heard of formal nights on cruise ships.

During these nights passengers should dress very fancy and there is usually a more sophisticated menu with finer ingredients.

The number of formal nights varies by ship and cruise line.
However, I decided to share with you a schedule that applies to many ships; it may be useful to get an idea:

  • 3/4/5 night cruises: 1 formal night usually on day 2
  • 6-night cruises: 2 formal nights usually on days 2 and 5
  • 7-night cruises: 2 formal nights usually on days 2 and 6
  • For longer cruises: the number can change according to the itinerary

What not to wear to the main restaurant?

It’s unlikely you will be denied entry to the MDR. Cruise lines are often very flexible and respect the freedom of dress of all passengers.

There are only a few things that are forbidden and with which they might not let you in.

These things are swimsuits, flip-flops, men’s tank tops, clothes that have controversial political messages, and clothes with writing or symbols that may offend someone.

During my many cruises, I have only once seen people denied entry. Two girls had shown up at the restaurant in swimsuits covered only by a short sarong.

The worker at the entrance (I don’t know if he was a waiter or the maître) kindly asked them to go change in the cabin and told them that they would keep the table reserved for them.

To avoid these unpleasant situations also check the list of the 7 clothes not to wear on a cruise.

Is it mandatory to dress up for the formal night and does everyone participate?

It’s not mandatory at all.
I am actually seeing more and more people not following the dress code.

If you don’t want to dress too fancy, you can opt for something simpler while still keeping it classy.

For example, a man may opt for a stylish shirt if he does not want to wear a suit.

And a woman may choose a short, more comfortable dress if she doesn’t want to wear a long, overly elaborate one.

With that said, I usually wear starched khaki-type pants and a button-down or a polo.

On formal nights, I have worn a suit/tie, and I rented a tux on prior cruises (fairly
inexpensive and saved the packing room).

After seeing khakis and button-downs (i.e., Hawaiian shirts) on formal nights, I figure almost any man will be fine with a button-down and tie or button-down and jacket/no tie.

If nobody in your party feels like dressing up at all, there is always the buffet, other
casual dining options, and smaller food venues (pizza, sandwiches, etc).

For the ladies, I just wanna say that you will never be under or over-dressed in the main dining room with an average “Sunday” dress on, even for a formal night.

With that said, if you have semi-formal dresses, this is your chance to wear them! You’ll see older ladies with long, formal, sequin gowns on, and younger ladies with club
dresses on.

You’ll fit right in with just about anything in between. The only problem you’ll have is fitting your clothes into the suitcase, but we’ve already talked about that in the article on the mistakes everyone makes when packing for a cruise.


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