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What To Wear On A Cruise Formal Night

Formal night can be a much-anticipated event on many cruises. It is not compulsory to attend the formal night on a cruise, but it is a memorable part of the experience. You’ll want to look nice. Especially if you are having photos taken! So to help, we’re sharing what to wear on a cruise formal night.

Ladies can wear evening gowns, cocktail dresses, or elegant pantsuits. A little black dress with sparkly accessories is also a timeless look that can be dressed up or toned down to fit the dress code. Shoes should be smart but comfortable. Gents can wear suits with ties, dinner jackets, or tuxedos. 

You want to dress up and be noticed at the formal night but for all the right reasons. Let’s explore how much is too much and whether there is any fashion faux pas to be avoided so you can stride out confidently and enjoy every moment of your trip. 

What To Wear On Cruise Formal Night

A formal night on a cruise is the evening when you get to dress to impress. You can pull out all the stops and feel like a movie star on the red carpet in a way you could never do in your regular life on dry land. 

It is important for cruise guests to note that cruise lines may differ in their dress codes. Even if you are a frequent cruiser, it is worth looking through the dress code of the specific cruise lines as some are super formal, while on others, ladies can feel comfortable wearing a smart dress, and gents can wear an open-neck shirt with a jacket. 

Formal night, which may be two nights or more on longer cruises, goes by different names. Take note that in addition to the formal night, there may also be themed evenings or party events with specific dress codes. So you will want to plan your overall cruise evening wear accordingly.

Check out the links below under the formal night dress code section for more details on what to wear on a cruise on a formal night according to each cruise line: 

Cruise LineName Formal Dress Code
Royal CaribbeanDress To ImpressBlack Tie Look
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Night Out  Cocktail Attire
Carnival CruisesCruise ElegantCocktail dresses, evening gowns, elegant skirts, pantsuits
MSC CruisesGala NightDress smartly and according to comfort. While tuxedos and evening dresses are listed, smart jeans are also acceptable.
Disney Cruise LineShort cruises may include 1’ dress up’ night. 7-day cruises include a formal night.Smart dress or pantsuit for ladies and jacket or a suit for gents.
Holland AmericaFormal nightBlack tie attire, including evening gowns or cocktail dresses. Dinner jackets, tuxedos, or dark suits with a tie.
Celebrity CruisesEvening ChicModern, chic, sophisticated. More formal than traditional formal attire but a step up from casualwear.
Princess Formal nightCocktail dress, evening gown, or pantsuits for ladies. Suits or dinner jackets for gents.

Unless you are cruising solo, it is a good idea for partners to coordinate their outfits. While you don’t necessarily have to match up, check that you both have a similar level of formality.

Best Attire For Ladies On A Cruise Formal Night

Formal night ladies’ attire usually consists of a cocktail dress or evening gown. An elegantly detailed pantsuit with lace or glitzy detailing is also a good option. 

A practical option for anyone who doesn’t want to buy a special outfit is to wear a neutral black cocktail dress and jazz it up with glitzy earrings, a pretty evening wrap, and an elegant purse. You can even use the same dress for more than one formal night by taking two different wraps. 

What To Wear On A Cruise Formal Night

Dressing appropriately for a formal night on a cruise is about feeling glamorous and comfortable. Choosing the right shoes and breaking them in before your trip is an absolute necessity. You want to be able to dance the night away or enjoy the entertainment in your formal attire without getting blisters. 

There are professional photographers available on formal nights on cruise liners. It is an excellent opportunity to soak up the luxury of the cruise experience and take home some special memories from the trip. 

Best Attire For Gents On A Cruise Formal Night

Depending on the cruise line’s dress code, gents’ wear for the formal night can range from full-on black-tie tuxedos to smart pants with a collared shirt. A safe middle ground for those who aren’t sure of what to wear would be a dark color suit with a tie.

Gents who prefer something a little less formal but don’t want to lower the tone should consider dress pants with a dinner jacket over a collared shirt. If you need some inspiration, check this article about how to pull off the perfect dapper dinner jacket look that will be sure to turn heads. 

Couples should collaborate to achieve a coordinated look for cruise formal nights. Check that outfits that match in formality, don’t clash in color scheme, and one partner doesn’t outdress the other.  

Items To Remember To Pack For A Cruise Formal Night

The excitement and anticipation of a cruise begin long before you leave the dock. While planning for a formal night, it helps to lay out your full outfit including accessories and shoes, so you don’t leave anything behind. 

These are some things you may need to remember to pack: 

Strapless bra – depending on the dress you have selected, don’t forget to pack the required undergarments.Dress shoes 
Stole, pashmina, or evening wrap – to drape around
your shoulders
A smart belt for dress pants
Comfortable shoes that go with the outfitCuff links – for gents who are going all out
Formal purseTie or bow tie

Can I Get My Makeup Done On A Cruise? 

Hair, makeup, nails – you can really spoil yourself with a day of pampering ahead of the formal evening if you so desire. Just keep in mind, though, that you may need to make bookings for these services early. Also,  they may be pricey, especially ahead of the formal night.

Getting your makeup done yourself can be a snap if you have practiced and have all your supplies on hand. There are plenty of formal makeup application tutorials available online.

Closing Thoughts

What to wear on a cruise formal night depends on the specific cruise, but in general women should bring a cocktail dress or gown, and men should plan to pack a suit or a tuxedo. Have fun getting dressed up for the occasion and enjoy this special evening on your cruise!

Tyler Bowman


Tyler has sailed dozens of cruises, always with a keen eye for value. She loves getting the most fun out of the fewest dollars.

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