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We're looking for a laid-back/informal cruise - which is best?

Many cruise lines now offer a more flexible approach to dining, onboard facilities and entertainment with some even offering a 'smart casual' dress code to match. Find out our Top Three Picks as recommended by our Cruise Experts below. 

Each year as more and more people discover the benefits of cruising we are seeing an increase in the launch of newer and more flexible options for dining, onboard facilities and entertainment.

Gone are the days of dressing for dinner every night – almost every cruise line will now offer some sort of anytime dining option – and whilst they still maintain their more formal option for those who wish, it’s more of a choice than a necessity.

There is a perception that cruising is a very formal experience but these days it is a very different experience. Whilst there are still some cruise lines who maintain the traditional dining approach of assigning a specific dining time, table and tablemates there are many others such as Princess Cruises and Holland America Line who offer both options with the belief that you don’t need to join in if you don’t wish to.

Many of the Mainstream and Luxury Cruise Lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Azamara have a completely flexible dining option and encourage a ‘smart casual’ dresscode. This means that the main restaurant is open in the evening during specific hours and guests can arrive for dinner any time within these hours. 

Our Cruise Experts have selected the following as their top three picks for laid back and informal cruise options: 

Norwegian Cruise Line

For an informal and relaxed cruise holiday our Cruise Experts top recommendation would be Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian Cruise Line were the first and are the only mainstream cruise line to truly specialise in Freestyle Cruising and are a top pick for families with young children and teenagers.

Not only do they offer a laid back relaxed onboard experience their ‘Freestyle Dining’ option gives guests the flexibility to dine where and when they wish without the need for traditional formal dress. Guests can choose from multiple restaurants, as well as having the choice to dress up or dress down without feeling out of place. The flexible dining option also applies to breakfast so you can enjoy a long lie in bed and not have to worry about getting up in time for breakfast!

Daytime dress code is ‘Cruise Casual’; dresses, skirts, capri pants, shorts, jeans and tops for women and jeans, shorts and casual shirts for men. Swimwear is acceptable at the buffet and outdoor restaurant, but a shirt or a cover-up and footwear are required.

The dress code in the main dining room is more ‘Smart Casual’; so slacks or jeans, dresses, skirts and tops for women and jeans or slacks with a collared shirt and closed-toed shoes for men. Tank tops, flip flops, baseball caps, visors and jeans that are faded, with holes or tears or worn below the hips are not permitted.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises offers the best of both worlds with the choice of Traditional Dining, or Anytime Dining with the flexibility to dine when and with whoever you choose. These cruises are particularly popular with couples or small groups.

The classic traditional dining option allows you to dine at set times with the same table mates and waiting staff each evening. Anytime Dining offers more flexibility, providing the freedom to dine when and with whoever you choose, anytime between 5.30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

You should dress for a Princess cruise the same way you would for any stylish land-based resort. Casual sportswear, including shorts and lightweight trousers is the order of the day both at sea and ashore.

There are however still two dress codes which should be observed in the evening  in both the Traditional Dining and Anytime Dining restaurants; Smart Casual and Formal.

Smart Casual evenings should include skirts, dresses, trousers and sweaters for ladies and trousers and open-neck shirts for men.

Formal evenings should include evening gowns and cocktail dresses for women and tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits with a tie for men.


Oceania is another cruise line which offers a casual dining and dress code onboard. Oceania offers more of a ‘Country Club’ feel and is popular with couples of all ages looking for a high standard of onboard service.

All onboard dining is open-seating, allowing guests to dine where and when they choose. Another benefit of Oceania is that regardless of which restaurant you select there are no dining surcharges so you can enjoy authentic Italian dishes in Toscana or a steak in the Polo Grill all as part of your cruise fare. Oceania also offer free room service, available 24 hours a day.

The onboard dress code is ‘Resort casual’; polo shirts, dress shorts, slacks, open-neck shirts for men and sundresses, linen trousers, skirts, button up tops and dresses for women.

For evening dining, ‘Elegant Casual’ resort wear is suggested; blazers, trousers, collared shirts for men and dresses, linen trousers, skirts and blouses for women. Jeans, shorts, t-shirts or tennis shoes should not be worn at dinner.

Our Cruise Experts are here to assist you in choosing the right cruise for you. Call us today on  0800 197 8050

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