Cruise Ship Formal Nights
For many passengers, cruise ship formal nights are an elegant highlight of the voyage. On formal nights, the true splendor of the sea glitters along with the polished shoes, gleaming jewelry, and fabulous gowns of fellow cruisers, and the evening's dining and entertainment are exemplary even above other nights. However, to truly enjoy the best of cruise ship formal nights, it is vital that vacationers be prepared for the event.
What is Formal Night?
Formal night is exactly that: an evening aboard the ship when passengers have the opportunity to dress in their finest attire, try the most sumptuous dishes the ship's gourmet chefs can devise, and pose for innumerable photographs to commemorate their vacation. Formal nights are unique to the cruise industry, because while a land-based resort or restaurant may require a particular standard of dress, they will not offer photography and elite activities as well. For many passengers, formal night is reminiscent of the golden age of transatlantic cruises, when patrons were required to dress formally each evening.
When to Expect on Cruise Ship Formal Nights
Different cruise lines have different guidelines for placing formal night during each voyage, but the event will never be held on either the first or last evening of the cruise because of luggage handling concerns. Some cruise lines schedule formal nights to occur while the ship has been at sea all day, guaranteeing that passengers have ample time to prepare for the gala event. On other lines, it is a set evening such as the second night of the voyage.
Depending on the length of the cruise, there may be more than one formal night. Most seven-day cruises offer two formal nights, but the first is usually the most elaborate event. For the exact formal night date(s) on a particular cruise, contact the cruise line or ask at the beginning of the voyage.
Proper Dress for Formal Night
"Formal" dress is slightly different for each cruise line. The more relaxed the line, the less restrictive the attire guidelines will be. On most mainstream cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean , men's formal attire requires at least a shirt, tie and a suit jacket. Ladies are expected to wear dress slacks, cocktail dresses, or skirt suits. While the most formal attire is not required, many passengers choose to indulge in elegance with suits, tuxedos, and ball gowns. More reserved cruise lines, such as Cunard and Celebrity, have stricter requirements for dress, and the maitre d' of the dining room can offer suggestions and advice if passengers have any doubt about the proper attire. All cruise lines have rules that forbid swimwear, casual shorts, t-shirts and jeans in the restaurants.
Deciding what to wear on a cruise means considering many different factors: your cruise destinations and their climates, the activities you’re going to pursue onboard and on shore and your opportunities for formal dining. Deciding what to wear on a cruise to Alaska will of course be quite different to picking out what to wear on a cruise to the Caribbean.
The "Formal" dresscode for children and teens is the same as it is for adults. If your child or teen has worries about being alone wearing formal clothes calm him/her down and explain that everyone else is wearing the same thing.
For passengers who forget their formalwear or want to rent appropriate clothing, larger ships are equipped with a tuxedo rental shop offering elegant tuxedos and classic formal options for both men and women. Styles and sizes may be limited, however, and in order to insure the best selection, passengers who choose this option should visit the shop early in the cruise to make proper arrangements.
Many guests also choose to arrange spa treatments such as facials, manicures, and hairstyling during the day of formal night in order to look their best that evening. Many cruise ships arrange special discounts or packages during that day, particularly if the ship is in port.
Dining on Cruise Ship Formal Night
Formal night dinners are typically among the best of the voyage. This is the night when luxurious entrees such as lobster, prime rib, duck a l'orange, and other delicacies are likely to be served, as well as tantalizing appetizers and exotic desserts. While every night on a cruise ship offers sumptuous fare, formal nights are known for going a step beyond normal dining.
A note of caution for passengers who wish to forgo formalwear and dress casually on this night: while the buffet-style casual restaurants may offer similar dishes, the more elaborate choices may be conspicuously missing or lacking the same refinement as the selections in the main dining rooms.
Formal Night Activities
Every night on a cruise is filled with activities and entertainment, and formal night is no different. Casinos will still be open, movies will still be shown, and lounges will still be bustling with revelry. In addition to those nightly events, however, formal nights also offer several additional activities.
Packing for days of beach going and shopping will call for different outfits for adventures like horseback riding, zip lining and ATV tours.
It’s most important that your cruise outfits are comfortable. Remember, there’s only so much room in your suitcase and stateroom, yet you’ll need enough clothing to take you from arrival to departure and every excursion in between.
Take your time and put some thought into packing for a Carnival Cruise and you’ll be ready to dress perfectly for every cruise occasion.
Photographs are a mainstay of formal nights. After all, how many passengers want to take the time to dress elaborately without pictures to commemorate the event? In public areas, photographers will set up assorted backdrops for individual, couple, and group photos. Scenes may include a stock image of the ship, a tropical beach, underwater reef, plain neutral backgrounds, or some picturesque area of the ship itself such as a grand staircase or archway. Black-and-white photos may be offered as well.While it takes only a minute or two for each individual or group to pose for several shots, passengers must be aware that there will be several photo opportunities on formal night and many more passengers than normal partaking of them. Photo sessions typically start up to an hour before the first dinner seating, and if you would like to try each scene, you should plan on being prepared for dinner early in order to accommodate lines. Other photo sessions may be offered throughout the cruise, but formal night is naturally the most photogenic event and a good number of the scenes will not be available at other times. As with any of the photos taken aboard the ship, there is never a charge to simply view the selection, even if you choose not to [[Cruise Price Inclusions| purchase any of the images]].
On formal night, scheduled shows and performances will continue as they have on other nights. The times may be adjusted slightly to accommodate photography sessions and the performances may be slightly more elaborate, but the entertainment is just as enjoyable as during other nights. Despite the fact that it is formal night, passengers do not typically need to be dressed formally to enjoy the shows.
Many cruise ships opt to schedule elite special events on formal night, such as the captain's welcoming speech when passengers can meet and mingle with the ship's officers. Other special events may include past passenger receptions, group events, or newlywed cocktail parties. Because of the limited amount of time available for such events (they are often located in lounges or other areas that will be needed for evening entertainment), interested passengers may have to forgo some photographs or smaller events in order to attend these special celebrations.
For Passengers Who Don't Want to be Formal
The most important thing to remember about formal night is that like any event on a cruise, it is entirely optional. Even if the most formal thing in your vacation wardrobe is a new pair of sandals with the souvenir t-shirt you bought at the last port of call, you will still be welcome to see the show, attend most special events, and pose for portraits. The only restriction most ships employ is that formal dress is required that evening to enter main dining rooms, though there are plenty of casual dining options available.
Formal nights on cruise ships epitomize the grandeur of the ocean blended with the glitterati of the passengers. From spectacular wardrobes and exquisite dinners to elite events and portraits to capture every moment, formal night is one occasion that most cruise passengers will never forget.
WHAT TO WEAR ON A CRUISE
On most of the evenings, the dress code will be casual (Cruise Casual).
But there will be one or two evenings during your Carnival cruise, where you´ll have the opportunity to present your elegant apparel (Cruise Elegant). For those who want to dress more casual on these evenings, the Buffet Restaurant on the Lido deck with its relaxed atmosphere is an appropriate alternative.
Gentlemen: dress pants, jeans, elegant shorts, polo shirts
Ladies: casual dresses, skirts or trousers and blouses, summer dresses, capris, elegant shorts, jeans
Please no tracksuit trousers, basketball shorts, flip-flops, bathing clothes or cut-off jeans.
Gentlemen: elegant dress pants, shirts, sports jackets as well as suits, ties and tuxedos.
Ladies: cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts, blouses and evening gowns.
Please no shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops, bathing clothes, jeans, cut-off jeans, sportswear and baseball caps.
Where can I wash my clothes?
Each ship has at least 2 self-service launderettes located on the stateroom decks. Each launderette is equipped with at least 2 washers, dryers, iron and ironing board. Small boxes of detergent and water softeners are available from vending machines. The washing machines will be closed while the ship is in port.
In addition to our self-service launderettes, there is a valet laundry service on board for washing and ironing. This service is handled through the Cabin Steward. Dry cleaning is not available on board. Please ask your steward.
What to Wear: Warm Destinations
Wondering what to wear on a cruise to the Caribbean, The Bahamas or another warm destination? Packing for a cruise somewhere hot and sunny is relatively easy, and the good news is that warm-weather clothing tends to take up much less room in your suitcase.
It’s still a good idea to pack items of clothing that are versatile, for example sundresses or shorts that can take you from the beach to dinner, or shorts that work for both hiking and hanging out on deck. We suggest you pack the following:
- At least two or three swimsuits – most passengers cruising to a warm destination spend lots of time in the pool or ocean. With multiple swimsuits you’ll never need to wear one that’s still wet.
- Shorts – several pairs in a few different styles
- Short-sleeved shirts, T-shirts, tank tops and/or blouses
- One or two sundresses or skirt-and-top outfits for women
- Several swimsuit cover-ups e.g., a cotton sundress or caftan
- A light outer layer in case of cooler evenings e.g., a pashmina, thin cardigan or light jacket
- Sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats
- Sandals or flip-flops plus comfortable walking shoes
- A lightweight, packable waterproof jacket in case of rain
Packing for Warm Destination Excursions
Some excursions in warm-weather destinations require extra items in your suitcase. Sturdy, comfortable hiking or athletic shoes are obviously needed for hiking excursions, such as the Scenic Coastal Hike in St. Maarten or the Hop-on, Hop-off trolley tour in Key West. Also know that closed-toe shoes are mandatory for zip-lining and most horseback riding, ATV and bike tours. Check for these kinds of requirements before you set sail.
Sturdy water shoes are great for activities that take you from land to water, such as the Rainforest and Waterfall Hiking Adventure in Maui, excursions to the world-famous Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and any other adventures.
What to Wear: Cold Destinations
If you’re cruising to a destination with a cold climate, such as Alaska or parts of Europe, it’s important to pack clothing that will keep you warm on the ship as well as on shore. Even if you’re cruising to Alaska in the middle of summer, expect temperatures to range from the mid-50s to mid-60s (degrees Fahrenheit) during the day.
Of course it’s colder at night, and during the earlier and later times in the cruise season. Rain is always a possibility too.
When packing outfits for a cruise to a colder destination, plan to dress in layers to help you adapt to changing temperatures from day to night, as well as on and off the water. We recommend the following items:
- Long pants in several styles e.g., jeans, khakis, fleece-lined leggings, cargo pants
- Shorts for warmer days
- Sweatshirts in a few different styles and weights
- T-shirts, both long- and short-sleeved
- Thick wool socks and thinner socks
- A lightweight, packable rain jacket
- Swimsuits for the sauna or spa
- Workout gear if you plan to hit the gym. (A tip: Bring workout clothes that double as everyday wear.)
- Comfortable walking shoes e.g., sneakers, hiking shoes, plus sandals for warmer days on board
Packing for Alaskan Excursions
Many shore excursions available on Alaskan cruises require some additional clothing items, especially outdoor adventures. Do some research on the excursions you’re considering and make sure you have the appropriate footwear and clothing to stay safe and comfortable.
Double up on the warm layers and include a heavier jacket or coat if you’re planning an excursion out on the water, such as the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour or the Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer. Also add a warm hat, scarf and gloves to your packing list. These items are essential as well for glacier excursions like Dog Sledding on Mendenhall Glacier via Helicopter.
If you’re going hiking, biking or ATV riding, especially in a rainforest or glacial region, don’t forget a rain jacket with a hood and comfortable, waterproof hiking boots or shoes.
Clothes for Special Occasions
Cruise ships have a wide variety of restaurants onboard, and some of our restaurants enforce dress codes. Be sure to include at least one outfit that fits every requirement so that you can enjoy any restaurant you desire. At any restaurant and any time of day, you at least need to cover up your swimsuit and wear flip-flops.
Avoid having to go back to your stateroom to change between pool and restaurant by bringing along cover-ups like sundresses or shorts and T-shirts.
In the evenings, some of our ships enforce a “cruise casual” dress code. For men this dress code can call for longer dress shorts or pants (jeans are OK too) and a collared polo shirt. For women, the dress code may ask for sundresses, skirts and blouses, dress shorts and capri pants are acceptable.
Don’t wear flip flops, sleeveless shirts (for men), cut-off jeans, T-shirts or gym shorts.
If you want to attend a “cruise elegant” evening, bring a fancier, more formal outfit. Men can 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.
Ready to Pack Your Bags?
When packing for a cruise, it’s important to dress for the occasion. The great thing about cruising is that so many different “occasions” are packed in to one vacation, from formal dining to snorkeling and sipping cool drinks by the pool or trekking through a rainforest.
Spend some time planning your outfits and we’re sure you’ll find room in your suitcase for everything you need. Remember to save a little space for souvenirs!
Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.