Cruise Ship Formal Nights

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By ,   January 16, 2016 ,   Tips & Tricks

Cruise ship formal nights are for many travelers the elegant highlight of the cruise. On formal nights, the splendor of the ocean glitters along with the gleaming jewelry, polished shoes and fabulous gowns of fellow passengers. The evening's entertainment is above other nights. To truly enjoy the best of the formal nights, it's vital that cruisers be prepared for the event.

What is a Cruise Ship Formal Night?

Formal night is an evening aboard the cruise ship when guests have the chance to dress in their finest attire and try the most sumptuous dishes the gourmet chefs can create. Vacationers are able to pose for innumerable photographs in order to commemorate their cruise vacation. 

Formal nights are unique to cruise industry, because while land-based resorts or restaurants may require some standard of dress, they won't offer elite activities and photography as well. For many cruisers, formal nights are reminiscent of the golden era of transatlantic cruises, when patrons had to dress formally each evening.

What Do Cruise Ship Formal Nights Offer?

Major cruise lines feature different guidelines for organizing a formal night during each sailing, but the event will not be held on either the first or the last evening of the voyage due to luggage handling concerns. Some lines schedule formal nights on sea days, guaranteeing that guests have ample time to prepare. On other cruise lines, it's a set evening such as the voyage's second night.

Depending on the length of the sailing, there may be more than only one formal night. Most 7-day cruises feature two formal nights. The first one, however, is the most elaborate event. Contact the cruise line or ask at the beginning of the cruise for the exact date(s) of the formal night.

  • Dining on Cruise Ship Formal Nights: Formal night dinners are among the best of the cruise. This is the night when luxurious entrees such as prime rib, lobster, duck a l'orange, and a variety of other delicacies are served, as well as unique appetizers and exotic desserts. Every night on board a cruise ship offers opulent fare, but formal nights are known for going beyond normal dining.

A note of caution for those who wish to dress casually and forgo formal wear on this night: while the buffet-style restaurants may offer similar choices, the more elaborate dishes may be lacking the same refinement as the main dining rooms selections.

  • Formal Night Activities: Formal night is no different from any other night on a cruise and it is also filled with entertainment. Casinos are open, movies are shown, and lounges are bustling. However, formal nights offer some additional activities.
  • Special Events: A lot of cruise ships schedule elite special events on formal nights, such as captain's welcoming speech. Passengers are able then to meet and mingle with the officers. Other special events include group events, cocktail parties, past passenger receptions. Because of the limited time available for such events, interested passengers may forgo some smaller events or photographs in order to attend these ones.
  • Shows: Scheduled shows and performances on formal night will continue as on other nights. Times may be adjusted to accommodate photography sessions. The performances may be more elaborate, but the entertainment is as enjoyable as during other evenings. Despite the fact it is formal night, cruise passengers don't typically have to be dressed formally to see the shows.
  • Photographs: A mainstay of cruise ship formal nights. Why to take the time to dress elaborately with no pictures to commemorate the event? Photographers will set up different backdrops for individual, couple, and group photos in ship's public areas. Scenes may include a tropical beach, a stock image of the cruise ship, neutral backgrounds, or picturesque area of the vessel itself. While it takes only a minute for each individual/group to pose for a couple of shots, there will be a limited number of photo opportunities and many more vacationers than usual partaking of them. As with any photos taken aboard, there is never a charge to view the selection, even if you don't buy any of the images.

What to Wear for a Cruise Ship Formal Night

Turn the process of determining what to wear for a cruise ship formal night into a lot of fun! You shouldn't worry about such an experience being boring or too much work. The formal cruise evening is a time to come out in the finest of yours and to show how stylish you can be.

For those who are not sure about the level of elegance on cruise ship formal night, a place to learn more is your cruise travel agent. Some travel agents take voyages on the lines they book with and may have been on the cruise you're planning on to take. They are a valuable resource for what to wear.

Proper Dress for Cruise Ship Formal Nights

"Formal" attire is different for each cruise line. Actually, the more relaxed the company, the less restrictive the dress guidelines are. On most mainstream lines, including Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises, men's formal attire includes at least a shirt, tie and suit jacket. 

  • Formal wear for men should be as classy for formal night. On some lines where the evening is top of the line, a tuxedo is the most appropriate clothing. In most cases, however, a well-tailored suit will do as well.

Wear a tie. On almost all formal nights on cruise ships men are required to wear a tie, which is a sign of formality. The cruise company may supply you with one for an additional charge, if you forget yours.

Check with the itinerary to determine if you have to wear your jacket to cruise ship formal night. In most cases, the line will request you do so.

  • Ladies are expected to wear cocktail dresses, dress slacks or skirt suits. Here are some ideas for the women on dressing for formal cruise nights: 

Most cruises want ladies to wear an evening gown. However, the description of what it is ranges widely. Choose a gown you feel comfortable in. A cocktail-style dress is ordinarily formal enough on most cruises.

For women who don't want to wear an evening gown or  formal dress, a formal style woman's suit works well. a pant suit is acceptable as long as it's considered dressy. Dress slacks and an elegant blouse will also work well.

Use jewelry to dress up your look. Most passengers don't carry much jewelry when they sail, but a few pieces make many outfits look more formal. Choose classic items like diamond earrings and necklaces, pearls and perhaps a nice watch.

Don't forget the shoes. While you pack take a pair of comfortable and quality heels (why not flats) to wear during formal nights. Keep comfort in mind as you may be dancing.

  • The "Formal" dress code for kids and teens is the same as for adults. If your child has worries about being alone wearing formal attire, explain that all other guests are wearing the same thing. On some lines, kids will not attend the formal night but instead may enjoy a separate get together on board. Since most guests want to take advantage of cruise ship formal nights, these can be great for a romantic dinner. On other lines, formal nights include children. When they do, kids should be dressed up. Girls wear nice dresses and dress shoes, and boys should be in a suit, including dress shoes. 

When the line does not require the most formal attire, many passengers indulge in elegance with ball gowns, suits and tuxedos. More reserved cruise lines like Celebrity and Cunard, have stricter requirements for dress. The maitre d' of the main dining room can offer advice if guests have any doubt about proper attire. All cruise lines have rules that forbid casual shorts, t-shirts, swimwear and jeans in the restuarants.

Many passengers choose to arrange spa treatments like facials, hairstyling and manicures during the day of the formal night in order to look their best. Many cruise ships offer special packages or discounts during that day, particularly when the ship is in port.

  • For those who don't want to be formal

Like any event on a cruise, formal nights are entirely optional. Even if the most formal accessoires in your wardrobe are a new pair of sandals and a souvenir t-shirt from the last port of call, you're still welcome to see the show, pose for portraits and attend most special events. The only restriction most cruise ships employ is that formal dress is required to enter main dining rooms that evening, though there are many casual dining options available.

What Not to Wear for a Cruise Ship Formal Night

  • Don't wear t-shirts, shorts or other beach wear during cruise formal nights;
  • Ladies and gentlemen should not wear logo apparel;
  • Keep the sweater off, unless you are very cold;
  • Don't wear sandals or sneakers unless they are formal enough and match your attire;
  • Denim shorts, jeans and other casual attire are not permitted in the dining room.

For passengers who forget to take formalwear or want to rent appropriate attire, larger cruise ships are equipped with tuxedo rental shops offering classic formal options for both women and men. Styles and sizes are often limited, so passengers who choose the option should visit the shop earlier during the cruise to make proper arrangements.

Knowing what to wear for cruise ship formal nights can help you decide what to pack for an elegant evening that will be memorable.