The Ultimate Cruise Formal Night Guide

A formal night on a cruise is a subject that a lot of people are unsure of as it is a feature of old style cruising that is still around.

Formal night can be the part of a cruise that you are nervous about as you don’t know what to wear. In the ultimate cruise formal night guide I’m going to walk you through it.

I wrote about cruise formal nights last year, but I have been asked a lot again through emails and Facebook messages about this subject, so here it is an updated version.

Cruise formal nights are something I go to more than the average cruiser, being a travelling wife of a cruise ship officer. (Read more about my cruising life on my about page).

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I average around 2 formal nights a week over 3/4 months, twice a year so approximately 60 formal nights a year. I spend two months of my life all dressed up!

Most cruise lines have at least one or two formal nights on a seven day cruise, more on longer cruises. Just check the information with your cruise itinerary with the cruise line you are sailing on.

If you like dressing up or never get the chance at home this is your chance to dress to impress. But if you are a little unsure this will guide you whether it is your first cruise or you have not cruised for a while.

The ultimate cruise formal night guide, will guide you on what you can wear on a cruise formal night, so you can enjoy the night and not worry.

(This post may include affiliate links for more information see my disclaimer).

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Cruise Formal Night Guidelines

Each cruise line has their formal night guidelines, which are normally sound like this:

Ladies: Evening gown, cocktail dress or elegant pant suit

Gents: Tuxedo, dark suit or dinner jacket and trousers

What Should I Wear on Formal Night?

So you have read the guidelines but are still unsure, what really is acceptable? 

For men a tuxedo or suit is the best option and it can be worn again on the second formal night. 

For ladies an evening gown or cocktail dress are the best options. If you never wear dresses and prefer trousers wear trousers with a elegant top/blouse that looks more fancy than a smart causal night.

Cruise Formal Night Outfit Suggestions

The best way to show you formal night outfit suggestions is by showing evening gowns, cocktail dresses and trouser/top examples. Here are some suggestions for you:

What to Never Wear on a Cruise Formal Night

The formal nights are nights to dress to impress and look gorgeous, so make the effort and enjoy the evening. 

What you should never wear on a formal is jeans, shorts, leggings, trainers/sports shoes, flip flops, beach attire, tees, polo shirts, gym clothes, causal outfits.

If you are going to wear these types of clothes and not take part in the formal night you will not be able to dine in some parts of the ship, so do not be surprised when you are turned away. 

The Ultimate Cruise Formal Night Guide

What do I Wear on Formal Nights? 

Usually I bring three formal dresses with me and I rotate them. Some times I will wear the same dress twice and one notices. So if you want to just bring one formal dress, do it!

I prefer cocktails dresses as I’m short and I find it hard to buy long dresses. Also cocktail dresses are easier to pack as they are smaller. I try to buy dresses that do not wrinkle too much when you pack them. 

The Essential Cruise Formal Night Guide

My current dresses are one royal blue cocktail dress, one navy cocktail dress and one gold/pink long evening gown. 

I bring one pair of shoes to go with all three dresses as that saves space in the luggage too. I bring a pair of stilettos in nude as they go with everything and I pair them with my smart causal outfits as well.

The evening bags I have are two small zip up purses one in bronze and other is a Kate Spade multi coloured stripe. These two combinations work well with all my formal and casual night outfits.

You may also enjoy reading 

I recently collaborated with the blog On Travel Mode and co wrote ‘Family Cruises: 13 Reasons Why You Must Go On One’.  If you are thinking of going on a family cruise this article will convince you! So, read it now!

Family Cruises: 13 Reasons Why You Must Go On One



I hope this has given you a better understanding of cruise formal nights and has given you ideas of what to wear. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to comment below or send an email/Facebook message.

Please share on Facebook and Twitter so your friends and family can read too or pin for later on Pinterest.

Happy Cruising 

Love Lucy x

P.S. Sign up to the mailing list and never miss a blog post by receiving my monthly newsletter with all the latest posts, what is happening behind the scenes and travel tips, just complete your name and email below:

The Ultimate Cruise Formal Night Guide

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