Depending on the length of your cruise, you will likely have one or two formal nights that take place in the dining room.
For dinner in the dining room on formal nights, your cruise attire should be on the formal side.
Even if what you wear is not enforced, you may feel out of place if you aren’t up to the dress code. This may vary by cruise line.
So if you’re wondering what to wear on formal night and what the cruise attire is for dinner in the dining room, then for most cruise lines, it’s safe to dress up!
Many people will change out of their cruise formal wear immediately after dinner, but you’ll find plenty of people dressed up for the rest of the night.
Formal night is also a good time to get an official cruise photograph when you’re in your formal wear!
There are other things to do think about besides formal night when it comes to what to wear on a cruise.
And things to know for your first Carnival cruise formal night.
Be sure to check far below for the list of what your cruise line tells you to wear on cruise formal night!
Scroll down towards the bottom of the page to go straight to the list of what YOUR cruise line tells you to wear on a cruise!
First, here’s the quick list of things you might want for cruise formal night:
With affiliate links taking you away for your browsing fun! 😉
- For women: one of these dresses or one of these dresses can work out for cruise formal night. You might also like one of these dresses with more plus size variety too.
- For men, have a look here where you can find a sport coat or blazer to go with one of these shirts or one of these shirts.
- This to minimize the wrinkles from packing your clothes in your suitcase. (Works especially well for dress shirts!)
For what to wear on a cruise when it’s not formal night, including beach outfits, see the cruise packing list!
Don’t stress too much about if you’re wearing “appropriate” clothing for formal night!
If you think it’s a nice outfit, it probably will be just fine for formal night!
Of course, this may depend on the cruise line. But I say this based on seeing many many (many) formal nights on Carnival cruise ships. (80+ formal nights to be somewhat exact — I used to work on a cruise ship.)
There will be some people who go all out and truly do look “elegant” and wear proper evening gowns.
Then there will be other people who are dressed up but not so much so in the sense of that full on elegant evening gown, and may opt for the still appropriate cocktail dress.
Whether or not your outfit is “good enough” for formal night isn’t something to stress out too much about, because as long as you’re dressed up, it probably is good enough!
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Alternative to formal night
For longer cruises when your cruise has more than one formal night, if you’ve had enough of dressing up for a single week, you can choose to opt out of the dining room and eat at the buffet instead.
For most cruises based out of the U.S., you don’t need to be dressed up to go to the normal buffet even if it’s elegant evening.
Well, you can do this for the first formal night too if you don’t want to wear formal attire at all during your cruise!
But you should consider going to at least one formal dinner for the experience!
Formal nights in the dining room do tend to have a little something extra when it comes to food.
The buffet applies to any night of the cruise.
If you’d rather have freedom in the timing of your evening meals instead of your assigned time every night, you can always opt for the buffet instead of the dining room.
But many families choose to use dinner in the dining room as a time to regroup and spend time together when kids, teens, and adults are off doing separate things on sea days or evenings after dinner.
What to wear on cruise formal night, according to the cruise lines
Most cruise lines generally have the same guidelines for formal wear, but here are what the different cruise lines say officially about what to wear on formal night!
The links below will take you directly to the cruise line’s official policy or suggestions about what to wear on a cruise formal night.
– Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival officially now calls their formal night “elegant evening.”
Women: Cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses; ladies may also wish to wear an evening gown
Men: Dress slacks, dress shirts, and also suggested is a sport coat; men may also wish to wear a suit and tie or tuxedo
~ What to wear – Evenings, Carnival Cruise
– Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity now has their formal nights as “evening chic.” In fact, they say they are done with formal night!
Evening chic means that you can get glamorous and be sophisticated in your own way. While dressier than smart casual, evening chic is intended to be less dressy than formal attire. If you would like to still wear a tuxedo or formal gown on evening chic nights, you absolutely should.
Women: Cocktail dress; Skirt, pants or designer jeans with an elegant top
Men: Pants or designer jeans with a dress shirt, button-down shirt or sweater; Optional sport coat or blazer
~ During your cruise, Celebrity Cruises
– Disney Cruise Line
Shorter cruises on Disney don’t have formal nights. 7 day Disney cruises officially have one formal night and one semi-formal night. Even so, formal cruise attire is generally considered optional.
Women: Dress or pantsuit
Men: Dress pants with a jacket, or suit
~ Dining dress codes, Disney Cruise Line
– Norwegian Cruise Line
There are no formal nights on a Norwegian cruise! The closest thing to a formal night on a Norwegian cruise is “Norwegian’s Night Out,” which is slated as an evening of cocktails, fine dining, and great entertainment.
~ What to pack, Norwegian Cruise Line
– Princess Cruises
Women: Evening gowns and cocktail dresses
Men: Tuxedos, dinner jackets, or dark suits with a tie
~ What to pack – Clothing recommendations, Princess Cruises
– Royal Caribbean
Women: Cocktail dresses
Men: Suits and ties, or tuxedos
~ What to pack, Royal Caribbean
How to get your formal cruise attire wrinkle-free
Well, part of the challenge in having formal nights during your cruise is getting your formal cruise attire onto the ship looking presentable! Here are some ideas!
– Shower steam
You can go with the classic shower steam method to get the wrinkles out of the clothes you pulled from your suitcase!
– Laundry room
Some cruise ships have self-service laundry rooms which may be equipped with an iron. Check with your cruise line to see if your cruise ship will have an iron. Remember, irons and steamers are among the banned items of what not to bring on a cruise so it’s best not to pack portable steamers or irons in your suitcase.
– Packing folders
Pack your formal attire (and other cruise attire!) in a packing folder so you can keep your cruise outfits perfectly folded to minimize wrinkles when it’s time to unpack your suitcase on the ship!
To pack more than just your formal wear nice and neat, try out the packing starter set with packing folder, packing cube, and toiletry kit organizer. (See the picture demo at that affiliate link!)
– Wrinkle releaser spray
Put a wrinkle releaser spray on your cruise packing list. You use it by spraying it onto your clothes and then pull gently. You then smooth your fingers over the wrinkles to lessen those wrinkles. This may not be as good as ironing your outfit, but it can work as a convenient solution when you’re pulling wrinkled clothes out of your suitcase without an iron during vacation.
For more to go with your laundry travel kit, take a look at:
- Pocket-size liquid soap packets with a sink stopper so you can wash clothes in the sink
- Liquid pen stain remover for that unexpected coffee spill
– Rent a tuxedo for your cruise
With cruise formal wear for men, you may also consider renting a tuxedo for your cruise. Not all cruises may cater to this, but if this sounds appealing to you, it may be something to look into! This is one way to save space in your suitcase from that never ending cruise packing list. 😉
The place you can rent a tuxedo for your cruise is called Cruiseline Formalwear. For the best experience, consider getting your measurements at a local tuxedo rental location so you can provide accurate measurements for the cruise rental.
More cruise tips:
Cruise tips on Pinterest: Follow the Cruise Travel board!
Best shoes for your active vacationHit search at the top for any of these items to get more variety on Amazon through these affiliate links!
- Walking: These types of hiking sandals. For walking in hot weather, they are more breathable than shoes, while still giving you necessary traction on the trails. Also see these travel sandals.
- Beach: These types of beach shoes. For beach walking, wading in the water, and rocky shorelines, they can prevent cuts from hidden rocks or when bumping into coral reef.
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- What to wear snorkeling
- What to wear on a cruise formal night
Best things to pack for active travel- First-time snorkelers love full-face snorkeling masks.
- These UV protection shirts are a hit so you don't have to keep re-applying sunscreen and don't have to worry as much about getting sunburn!
- These types of small backpacks are perfect for a day out so you can carry essentials... and snacks!
- And these popular packing cubes can be a life-saver when you're traveling!
Don't get your valuables stolen when you travel- On city excursions: This neck pouch that tons of people love. It makes it harder for money to be stolen, and RFID-blocking feature stops thieves from scanning your credit card info when they are close to you.
- At the beach: This type of pouch that you can easily take your wallet in the water with you, instead of leaving on the beach.