River Boat Dining Room Table Dress

Q – We have signed up for our first cruise on Tauck and we are getting concerned about the dress code and just how formal it will be. Can you tell us what we should bring on this cruise and just how dressy it gets. We went on one of the big “forum” sites and everyone seemed to think that Tauck was really dressy. Some even said they would cancel their booked river cruise if ties were required.  What is the truth here?

A – Every river cruise line, like every cruise line, comes with a “Sophistication Score” as well as a “Redneck Rating”. They vary. Unfortunately, brochures really don’t describe what your fellow passengers will be like in any helpful ways. Brochures are usually made using models who look like the kind of guest the company would like to attract.

Tauck has a high sophistication score, partially because many of its guests are worldwide travelers who have been with the company on several of its global journeys. Here are the unstated rules of river boat dress requirements:

01 – No riverboat line has formal nights. Leave all formalwear at home. Never rent or even borrow any clothing for a riverboat journey. It is never necessary.

02 – Longer cruises on the Rhine and Danube will include evening events where a suit or sports jacket and tie are appropriate. We do not believe that a suit for gentlemen is ever really necessary on a riverboat. We would suggest that gentlemen bring one tie. On cruises of ten nights or longer, men should bring two sports jackets and ladies can bring a blazer, or two, one or two simple dresses, and pantsuit outfits. Always bring a light scarf or sweater as the air conditioning on river boats is designed to confuse the brain into thinking you are traveling to both Africa and Antarctica on the same journey.

03 – The dress naysayers are generally correct: You can do a river boat cruise with pants and a shirt and no one will ask you to leave. The Sophistication Index closely follows the ratings. If your spouse is a qualified redneck simply say “no formal nights at all” and let it go at that. Riverboat men should expect that they will want to wear a sports jacket with an open-collar shirt to dinner. The problem comes in when you are socializing with other guests or attending special evening events ashore. People who believe that they can travel anywhere outside the United States without recognizing that other countries are generally dressier than we are, might do best to just vacation in the trailer park and save a good deal of money.