The Essential Cruise Formal Night Guide

The Essential Cruise Formal Night Guide

I get asked a lot about how to pack and what to bring for a formal night on a cruise. Being an officer wife, I go to a lot more formal nights than the average person, usually two days a week for 3/4 months!

This is your essential cruise formal night guide for the newbies and regular cruisers who still need help!

If you have never been on a cruise before, this is a daunting experience, especially for women. As they are worried if they are going to be overdressed or underdressed.

It is a lot easier for men as a suit or tuxedo is the dress code. Formal attire for women is another can of worms!

The Essential Cruise Formal Night Guide

What the Cruise Lines Say

Formal attire on most cruise line websites says:

Women – Evening gown, cocktail dress or elegant pantsuit.

Men – Tuxedo, dark suit or dinner jacket and slacks.

Very easy for men! Most women will be thinking about which option is best.

I would say it depends on the time of year as well, if it is the holidays, you might like to go all out and go for the long evening gown if you have space in your luggage!

The best option is a cocktail dress as they are easy to find and easier to pack! No one wears a pantsuit. If a dress is not your thing though, you can get away with smart pants and a smart top.

Keep it simple! Simple flatters every age and size. Navy is less harsh on the skin than black. Also, one block colour is better on most body shapes.

On a seven-day cruise, there are usually two formal nights. So either bring two dresses or one and change the accessories.


What do I wear

I stick to cocktail dresses or a lightweight long dress. I have jewellery to match my dresses and I keep it simple with diamonds or pearls.

I only bring nude high-heeled shoes and a matching clutch as that colour goes with everything. So even if it is not a formal night I can wear them with smart black pants and a smart top.

I always paint my nails as that finishes off an outfit. Either come onboard with your nails done, have them done onboard or do what I do and do it yourself!

I love Sally Hanson Gel Nail Polish. It is quick to do and you do not need a UV light to dry, just natural or artificial light. I use either Red Eye or Redgy and the top coat. I find it does not for chip 4 – 5 days and you can take it off with regular nail polish remover.

I wear my favourite evening perfume Chanel Chance and I wear my hair either pinned up or loose.

If I wear it loose, I straighten it, I could not live without my GHD’s, best invention! Also, you have the option to have your hair done professionally onboard in the salon.

I wear slightly more makeup on a formal night to feel more glam. Then you are camera-ready if you would like to have a professional photograph taken by one of the photographers onboard with one of the many background choices.

You may enjoy reading The Game-Changing Travel Beauty Guide and download your free Travel Beauty Checklist for your next cruise vacation.

Travel Beauty Checklist

I hope you found the Essential Cruise Formal Night Guide helpful. If you have any questions or have a great formal night tip, please comment below.

Also, if you enjoyed reading please share on your Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest so your friends and family can enjoy reading too, sharing is caring!

Happy Travels

Love Lucy x

The Essential Cruise Formal Night Guide


  1. September 24, 2017 / 7:39 am

    Hi, couldn’t see anything in the suggestions section

    • September 24, 2017 / 4:47 pm

      I have just checked on my devices and I see the suggested selection, maybe it takes a little more time to load. Let me know if you can see it now. Thanks for reading!

  2. September 24, 2017 / 11:08 am

    Great advice šŸ‘šŸ»

  3. October 7, 2017 / 4:37 pm

    This is really helpful. Packing as a female (especially one like me who loves fashion) can always be a little stressful, so this is really helpful! Great idea to pack one dress and change the accessories on the 2nd night to save room.

    • October 8, 2017 / 9:27 pm

      Thank you šŸ˜Š I feel like I have helped someone! ā¤ļø

  4. October 7, 2017 / 5:11 pm

    So many good tips here because, unless you’ve done it before, you really don’t know what to expect. I am such a casual dresser, we’ve tried to avoid cruises that require formal nights. I think many of them are getting rid of that tradition.

    • October 8, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      Thank you šŸ˜Š Formal nights are a cruise tradition and only the very short cruises on some lines do not have them, but it’s all part of the fun of cruising!

    • October 8, 2017 / 9:30 pm

      Thank you šŸ˜Š Nude shoes have been a game changer for me as they go with every outfit and they make your legs look longer!

  5. October 8, 2017 / 5:06 am

    A cruise has been on my bucket list for far too long to not cross if off of it. Your post is just the motivation I need:) And thanks for the dressing code heads up!

  6. October 8, 2017 / 7:37 am

    We were discussing lately if we’d be ready to go on a cruise as we are traveling a lot but don’t care much about our clothes. Thank you for your post! It shows that we are definitively not. We’ll have to upgrade our wardrobe massively šŸ˜‰

    • October 8, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      Thank you šŸ˜Š Formal nights are a cruise tradition, but it is all part of the fun!

  7. October 8, 2017 / 12:01 pm

    In all the years I’ve been traveling, I’ve never actually been on a cruise, I’m sure it would be quite delightful. i never even thought there would be formal events on one unless you were on it for that specific reason. Luckily as a man I will just need to take a suit with me šŸ˜€

  8. October 8, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    Packing for a cruise is tough, I never have enough space for what I want to bring. Love the matching nude shoes and purse!

  9. October 9, 2017 / 3:04 am

    Thank you for the tips! Great article.

  10. October 12, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Cocktail and long dresses will never go wrong. The color nude is also a safe color to pick, I’d have to agree! Glad you had a great time!

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