Cruise Passengers

What People Really Wear on Cruise Formal Nights (Photos)

Are you wondering what to wear to dinner on cruise formal nights? Do men really need to wear tuxedos? Do women really need to wear formal ball gowns? As someone who has been on over 25 cruises and experienced most of the major cruise lines, I can tell you what passengers typically wear on these formal nights. Below, I will share my personal experience and observations on what to wear on formal nights during a cruise.

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

What to Wear on Cruise Formal Nights

Most cruise lines typically have one to three formal nights, depending on the length of the cruise and the itinerary. In my experience, dressing up for formal nights is optional, but most people do get a little dressed up. They don’t go all out formal with a tuxedo or a ball gown, but it’s common to see people look smart. And definitely no jeans, shorts, or sweats! 

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

What Men Wear on Cruises at Formal Nights

On formal nights during a cruise, I find that men tend to dress up a bit. While some may go all out with tuxedos, it’s not the norm. Most men will wear dress pants, a dress shirt, and a jacket, or a suit. Most people do get a little dressed up for dinner even though they don’t go all out formal. 

It’s also typical for people to coordinate with their tablemates, so the entire table tends to dress similarly. For example, you may have a table where everyone is dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns or an entire table where the women are in cocktail dresses and men are in suits. 

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

What Do Women Wear on Cruises at Formal Nights

From my experience, most women wear dresses on cruise formal nights. Wearing a super formal ball gown or a long evening gown is not the norm. Instead, cocktail dresses paired with a shawl, heels, and an evening bag are commonly seen. 

For older women, a nice pantsuit with dressy shoes is often the go-to option. Most older women don’t wear heels. If you want to avoid appearing too matchy-matchy with your pantsuit, wear a silky blazer or a sequined blazer paired with a nice blouse and pants. 

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

Why Dress Up on Cruise Formal Nights?

I always make it a point to dress up on formal nights during a cruise. I don’t go overboard with it, but I do put on a nice dress, and my husband wears a suit. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a nice family photo. It’s also an excuse to get dressed up and feel fancy while on vacation! 

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

Formal Night Attire by Cruise Line

Each cruise line has its own dress codes, and below, I have compiled a list of formal night dress codes by cruise line.

Carnival Cruise Formal Night

At Carnival cruises, formal nights are “cruise elegant” evenings. Men wear suits or dress slacks with a sport coat and dress shirt. For women, cocktail dresses, pantsuits, or elegant skirts and blouses are appropriate. Some guests like to go all out with a tuxedo or ball gown.

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

Celebrity Cruise Formal Night

Celebrity cruise formal nights are called “Evening Chic.” They ask their guest to “look their absolute best.” The Celebrity Cruises dress code for Evening Chic nights is cocktail dresses, skirts, pants, or designer jeans with an elegant top, or dress shirt, button-down shirt, or sweater, and an optional blazer. There’s no need to wear a tie unless you want to.

Disney Cruise Formal Night Attire

At a Disney cruise, dressing up is optional, but they recommend dress pants with a jacket or suit for men and a dress or pantsuit for women.

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

Holland America Formal Night Attire

At Holland America, formal nights can range from evening gowns to cocktail dresses for women. As for men, tuxedos, dinner jackets, or dark suits with a tie for men.

MSC Cruise Formal Night Attire

MSC is more casual where you don’t have to dress up. On Gala Night, it’s dress to impress! “Whether that means a tuxedo, suit and tie, evening gown or cocktail dress, or perhaps it’s your very best jeans and polo shirt, your attire should fit your own level of elegance. The only thing required is your smile.”

Cruise Passengers on Formal Night

Norwegian Cruise Line Formal Night Attire

Norwegian Cruises takes pride in its freestyle cruising, which allows passengers to dress up or go resort casual as they please. While there is an optional Norwegian Night Out, where passengers can get dressed up, they also have a White Hot Party where everyone wears an all-white ensemble.

Princess Cruise Formal Night Attire

Princess cruise formal nights are optional, but from personal experience, I do see people dress up, with men wearing blazers and women in cocktail dresses or pantsuits. On their website, they don’t explicitly say what to wear, but they do say what’s not allowed—”Pool or beach attire, gym shorts, ball caps and casual jeans (with fraying and/or holes) are not welcomed in the dining rooms. Shoes must be worn.”

Royal Caribbean Formal Night

Royal Caribbean calls its formal night attire “a night out in your best black-tie look.” On its website, it says suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses, or evening gowns are all acceptable options. Its Chef’s Table dining experience also enforces a formal dress code policy.

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